From the moment we connected for 6/8 Music’s Women on a Mission: International Women’s Day feature, we knew we had happened upon a very special artist in X. Ari. X. Ari is the definition of a thoughtful, and thought-provoking artist. She blends her own personal experiences and struggles with mental health directly into her rich, haunting pop sound. Beyond her music, X. Ari is a staunch activist for mental health awareness, from contributing to dialogue to help end harmful stigmas about mental health, to partnering with organizations like Jack.Org to ensure necessary access to mental health resources to those who need it. X. Ari is also the founder of her own campaign called Pain Into Power, which continues to bolster mental health awareness. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, we think that everyone could learn a thing or two from the wisdom of X. Ari.
So without further adieu, please enjoy our chat with the incredible X. Ari!
For those who are unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe your musical style?
I would say my style is music with a message and sonically it’s electro alt pop with a splash of hip-hop influence.
When did you first get into music? What was the catalyst to start making your own?
The first time I was in the studio was when I was ten years old. I recorded an Elvis Presley song (“Teddy Bear”). I’ve always been enamoured of music, especially singing. I started writing poetry at fourteen and song writing at fifteen and I haven’t stopped being creative ever since. I’ve been in cover bands since I graduated University, but I always prefer to sing my own songs and to collaborate with other artists and producers. Collaborations, in my opinion, serve for the best creations – that’s where the magic happens.
Your brand new EP, Dis-Order, is out July 19th. We’d love to know how these songs came to be.
Dis-Order is a collection of songs that tell a story about relationships, my struggle with mental health, breakdowns, and breakthroughs. It’s meant to be listened to in order of the track listing. These six songs came to be after two years of writing for my second EP. I wrote about thirty tunes and then trimmed them down to 12 and then had my friends, family, and music colleagues, help me decipher the top six to include on the record. They all ponder tragedy and hope, and come from a place of raw emotional empowerment.
I truly hope that this record helps bring people who feel stuck in the dark into their own light. To help them find their way of turning their pain into power when they feel like all odds are against them. We all have the ability to find ourselves when we feel lost and that’s my goal – to let people know they aren’t alone. I hope to inspire people to spark up their own creative endeavours and channel their challenges into an outlet, whether it be creative or something else.
We absolutely love “Cattle Call”, the haunting first single from Dis-Order. Tell us about the writing and production process behind that song.
Thank you! “Cattle Call” is actually my first Instagram collaboration. Mr. Oz (@nhile.ribbons on IG) messaged me about working together and he sent me a few of his tracks in 2016. I wrote to two of them, one of which became “Cattle Call” and was reproduced by my friend and collaborator Drew Skinner (also known as Dusk Rider).
It’s about overwork exhaustion and the impact it can have on our relationships. The song lyrically serves as a reminder for balance in a chaotic world, especially for those who tend to wear themselves thin because of high demands and pressure from the society we live in. I tend to do that myself at times.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
This is a hard question. Bjork, Sia, Eminem, Twenty One Pilots, Santigold, M.I.A, Son Lux, Pink Floyd… and so so many more. I could l just keep going and going like the energizer bunny – I’m a fan of so many artists and styles of music. I love pop, alt pop, jazz, R&B, alternative, dance, soul, rock, hip hop…. And more. Finding my own style came from an accumulation of obsession with multiple genres and my need to blend them together – I blame and thank my ADHD for that.
Your art is deeply intertwined with your passion for mental health awareness, and it ties directly into the title of your new EP. Tell us a bit about how your interest in this cause came to light for you.
I’ve experienced a few mental health breakdowns in my life and managed to find my true purpose through them – healing and helping others heal through music and performance. I’ve personally had challenges with ADHD, PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic, obsession, bi-polar, sleep disorders, and psychosis. Some say that’s a lot and I think it’s become a blessing in disguise because my difficult times have provided such a deep source of inspiration. I rely on music to get me through thick and thin. It’s a vehicle for my expression and a conduit where I can turn my pain into power through writing and singing. It’s my source for healthy healing and being addicted to creating music is much better than being addicted to drugs, although I rely on medication to live a productive and healthy life. I truly believe struggling with mental health doesn’t need to be a defining feature for anyone or limit us from achieving our goals. I’ve removed the grip mental health used to have on me by putting it at the forefront of my Pain Into Power campaign, and by deciding to find strength in my “weaknesses”. I titled my EP Dis-Order because dis-orders are essentially disorganized order and I strongly believe we are all capable of finding “order” again by separating ourselves from labels and refusing to be dominated by them. OWN your dis-order if you have one and turn it into something special and be proud to be a fighter. It can be hard at times, but with constant work, self love, and support, I really believe anyone can be a mental health warrior.
You’re working closely with Jack.Org (a Canadian charity training that specializes in mental health awareness) throughout this release cycle. How did that partnership come about?
Jack.Org is the only Canadian charity training and empowering young leaders to revolutionize mental health. Through their programs, they ensure that young people in Canada take care of their mental health and get the help they deserve, when they need it. I donate to Jack.org because I’ve had mental health challenges since I was a child and when I experienced my first major depression in grade 10 I had no idea where to get the help I needed. I didn’t have an organization like Jack.org helping the people around me empathize with my struggles and also ensuring that I could access the help I needed. So I’m doing my best to give what I needed then to others who need it now.
I’ve created a self care line coming out in July and I am so excited about it. There will be relaxation candles, t-shirts, long sleeves, and The Self-Reflection Pain into Power journal, which I created because turning Pain into Power by writing about my trauma and sharing it through my music has been one of the most healing and helpful tools for my continual recovery. 10% of proceeds from self care items are going to Jack.Org.
When did you create your Pain Into Power campaign? What can we and readers do to help contribute to the cause?
I kicked off my Pain Into Power campaign for mental health awareness with the release of “Cattle Call” on October 31st, 2017. It’s a two-part campaign with my EP ‘Dis-Order’ and a short film titled ‘Grace’, which we’ve submitted to film festivals across the globe (fingers crossed!).
I created a Self Care Tips page on my site to provide an extra resource for anyone struggling and looking for more assistance with healing as well as a Self Care Sunday series on Youtube where I discuss what’s helped with my own personal healing journey and share tips for healing, such as self acceptance, affirmations and mirror work.
If you want to help reduce stigma spark up conversations about mental health in your community and if you’d like to help empower youth in Canada with the resources they need to become healthy adults, donate to jack.org on their website.
As an artist whose activism is married with your art, what has been the proudest moment of your journey so far? What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your music, and your cause?
My proudest moments would be my most meditative moments when I am performing and am so in the moment that I forget my past and any ideas about my future. It has taken a long time to find my zen zone and I am proud to say that I reach that state when I’m tuned in while performing live. Other than that I’d say any fan or friend who’s approached me and said that my openness about mental health has inspired and empowered them – that is truly the most rewarding part of the process so far – the impact sharing has with others.
I hope to play many big festivals like Coachella and Osheaga and to collaborate with artists like Drake, Sia, Eminem, MO, and anyone who has a powerful message to share through their artistry. I’d like to collaborate with many visual artists as well and make dreams become reality. Through my cause – fighting for mental health awareness, reducing stigma, and empowering others is what I hope to achieve. I’d like to live in a world where mental health services are readily available for anyone who needs them and a society where we don’t live in shame, but embrace all types of people and learn how to support each other better.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in music? Any advice for other female artists out there?
To me, being a woman in music is just like being a person in music. I think everyone is equal and, although the music industry can be a boys club at times, I truly feel like there is space for everyone. I’d like to see more female producers in the future and there are many great ones coming, I can feel it!
My advice for other female artists is to stay strong, be brave, and stand for everything you believe in or else you may fall for anything. Be true to you, dig deep, do your self work so you know what you’re all about and put that directly into your art. When you feel discomfort it means you’re growing. Most of all trust the process, work hard, love and believe in yourself.
Love and light.
Look out for X. Ari’s new EP, Dis-Order, out next Friday, July 19. Keep up with X. Ari on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and her website, and check out her music (including her new Dis-Order EP arriving July 19) on Spotify.
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