There’s so much change happening right now. Recently, my aunt made me a face mask out of a Crown Royal bag. Every time I put it on and venture out into the DTLA streets, I try to process what this collective rug being pulled out from society means for all of us.
It’s been fun watching people react to my hand-sewn velvet mask as they notice the cursive Crown Royal logo along my jawline and the striped drawstring ties around my head, laughing in relief at something a little silly amidst all the fear, all of the change. What will this forced change reveal in us? What silver linings, like the LA sky clearing up, will we find?
My new EP, How Did We Get Here, is about change. It’s about renewal and coming back after a tough season. For me, it’s the project I needed to make to step into the next chapter of my life. It’s a statement, to myself, that I can do this. I can pick myself back up; I can move forward. I can embrace confidence and step into my own.
Last year was a huge year of change for me. I moved across the country from New York to LA; I got married; I got dropped from Capitol Records, and I walked away from a difficult business relationship. It was hard. Besides getting married, which was one of the best days of my life, everything else happened quickly and somewhat unexpectedly.
In 2017 and 2018, I was starting to feel my career taking off. I released a song called “More Than Friends,” which went viral, debuting on New Music Friday and getting posted by John Mayer and Chance the Rapper, among others, ultimately leading me to sign with Capitol in May of 2018. I went on tour with Chance in South America, I opened for Thirdstory and PJ Morton, and I started finishing my debut album, produced by The Social Experiment.
Behind the scenes, everything felt like it was falling apart. I was exhausted from a constant emotional roller coaster happening within my inner circle. I got sick on tour, needing to miss a few shows, and taking steroids to be able to sing. I spent all of my energy trying to hide the chaos that was happening internally because I was so scared to disrupt all the good that was happening on the outside.
I wanted to show Capitol how ready I was to release my album and prove to them that everything was fine. But by December 2018, I began losing the thread of why I was even making music in the first place. I knew I needed to make a shift, but I was scared I would lose everything. I was afraid to stop following my plans and choose a different path.
Finally, at the start of 2019, I got the courage to make a change. From my earliest memories as a child singing at my grandpa’s piano, music has always felt like family to me. It’s my place of peace. Music is my “why.” I couldn’t let music become something I related to anything other than that feeling of love and presence. Realizing I could lose that feeling was what I needed to stand up for myself and make a shift.
I moved across the country with my fiancé. I started writing songs again. Songs about what I was going through. And slowly, I began to find my voice again. I started making a new plan. I began scheduling the album rollout with Capitol.
Roughly twelve months later, I learned my label had other plans. At the end of 2019, I got a call from Capitol, letting me know I was getting dropped. At first, I didn’t know how to react. But then, the most incredible feeling came over me: I felt so free. Over the past year and a half, I had stopped realizing how much energy I was putting into trying to prove myself to my label, trying to keep it all together despite everything going on, that I didn’t even know how stressed out I had gotten.
Leaving Capitol meant I was independent again. And I finally let go of everything I had been holding onto so tightly: perfection, approval, false ideas of what it means to “make it.” I let go of it all. And I felt so happy. I could just let go, accept it all, and be myself. I could release music again. I could move forward.
How Did We Get Here is about empowering yourself. It’s about looking back at the path that led you to this moment and choosing to go forward. As I sing in “Queen:” “It was all an illusion, like a life with a plan.”
I didn’t know what curve balls life would throw these past couple years and what unexpected turns would demolish my plans and beg me to start again. But it forced me to find the strength to take my power back. To find beauty in removing what no longer served me. And to find self-love is not waiting for anyone’s approval to follow my truth.