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Hi Kel! Thanks so much for talking to me today! Your most recent release is the fantastic song ‘Still a Child’ – what was the influence for this song?
It’s such a special song to me, so thanks for the compliments about it, and for asking! I think there are always a lot of influences that come into play, but for this song in particular I was watching a video of myself! My sister had sent it to me and it’s of when I was younger and I just kind of awkwardly singing into the camera, really insecure. I watched it and thought that I’m still that young girl in a lot of ways; I know that in mental health work and psychology there’s a lot of that talk about your inner child. So, I really started to get this idea about singing to my inner child and looking at who I am now against who I was then, but also recognising that I’m still that person and who I am has always been inside of me. It’s really about nurturing that part of yourself and trying to figure out life the best we can, one day at a time!
One thing I’ve found from interviews in the past is that often the most emotional and heavy songs sound the most light hearted. ‘Still a Child’ definitely fits the bill. The strong message carried in the lyrics is contrasted by a melody and beat that is catchy and fun. Is there a reason why you chose to put the song together this way?
Yeah, absolutely! I think firstly having that contrast makes it interesting and fun to listen to, but it’s also showing that contrast about being a kid and being unaware and aloof almost and, as they say, innocence is bliss! That’s where the melody and the track come into play. It’s that childlike innocence, and then the lyrics really go into this idea that life is no joke, things happen and it’s tough! What I love about this song is that it’s really relatable to any time of your life, the chorus talks about feeling alone and being a stranger in your own home and I know that can very be applicable to children. People who haven’t had the support at home can often grow up and reflect and realise that maybe their childhood wasn’t quite as blissful as they thought it was. For me, personally, I had a different experience where I didn’t have the perfect childhood, no one does, but at the same time it was still a pretty idyllic childhood, I was really lucky. Once I became an adult, I started to burst out of that bubble, and it wasn’t until the pandemic that I started struggling with anxiety myself and experiencing mental health in a very intimate way and learning to impact that. Even feeling like a stranger in your own body, it’s something that is just so foreign and is something that was new for me, because I had to learn these lessons later in life once I became an adult. I just love how this song can be applicable to be whatever stage of life you’re in and that’s always my goal in my music, people listen to it and think of themselves, not me.
You’ve been open in the past about your struggle with anxiety, especially during the pandemic. If you could go back now and offer yourself some advice to get through that time, what would it be?
It’s a good question, because being totally honest it’s something I still struggle with. I feel like it almost opened a pandora’s box; I have come a long way and I’m really proud of myself, and therapy is amazing, but thinking about what I’d say to myself? I think I had a mental breakdown last week! What would I say to myself last week! I think what I try to remind myself a lot is that I’m not my thoughts. With everyone having different struggles, for anxiety particularly, what I’ve experienced is my thoughts just spiralling and getting out of control. It’s so bizarre, but I was talking to my sister about it a few weeks ago; it’s like I’m having a battle in my head. There’s the logical, rational and reasonable part of me that’s like an observer, so I know what I’m feeling and that the spiralling isn’t productive or healthy, but the other side of me that is spiralling is also putting up a fight! I think the biggest reminder, whether when I was first struggling or now, is that you’re not your thoughts. Just breathe and pause - sometimes you have to let yourself ride the wave and get through it. For anyone else struggling, it’s also about not shaming yourself for having those moments of weakness and recognising that it’s human. Start developing healthy habits, it’s the little things that can really help you in the end.
You have spoken about how during your anxiety issues, often people would praise you for ‘having it together’ even though you felt as if you didn’t. We often feel a need to mask our issues - how important do you think it is for us to be as open and honest as you have been in this song?
I think the more that you bottle it up, the more it can build up because there’s not a release, and even just having that human connection can make a difference. With my personality, I’ve always been such a high achiever and had a ‘go go go’ mentality, constantly doing 100 things at once. So for me it has been hard to bring down that façade. I think the lyric you’re referring to is ‘Man, she’s got her act together but they don’t know the storms I weather’ but I still find myself putting up that façade sometimes! I don’t think there’s always a problem with that, it’s good to have those boundaries of who you can open up to and when it’s appropriate, but I have found the times I have broken down those walls, let people in and shared my struggles, we always end up closer and better for it. It’s retraining yourself to think that it’s actually positive and going to benefit the relationship and your health and your mind, as opposed to what I think the first thought is, that we can’t show weakness. That’s part of growing up, learning to be accepting that everyone has their weaknesses.
I really relate to that, it’s hard finding that balance! Obviously if a colleague you don’t know too well asks how you are, you aren’t really going to want to go into great detail sharing all of your troubles, so it becomes a constant consideration of how much do you say and who do you tell.
What I will say is that in the ‘downtime’ or more consistent moments, it’s important to work on intentionally building those relationships, when you’re good or more regulated. Making sure you’re invested in the people around you so that it’s not just a case of only calling when you’re having a problem, but genuinely having that friendship.
I’ve written in the past about the difficulties of growing up and the weight of expectations we feel as we get older. I love the verse in the song about dancing to Shania Twain as a three-year-old, and how at that time you were completely free with the whole world in front of you. The theme of this song is very much about looking fondly at the past and wanting to get back to that place of freedom and innocence. How do you think as adults we can try to recapture some of those sentiments? Do you still dance to Shania?!
Yes, I do! I still love Shania! I think that’s a really good point that you bring up, it’s not just getting stuck in the past or analysing the past but creating those moments now. For me it’s giving yourself permission to have fun and be silly. I saw a video about how some people were walking in their neighbourhood and their neighbour was spraying his lawn with a hose and they just asked him if they could run through the hose! The neighbour ended up holding the hose out for them so they could run through the water, they were just two adults having a totally fun moment! I think it’s about recognising that a lot of people have that side to them, that silliness, that playfulness. You have to kind of be brave yourself to ‘run through the hose’! Shedding some of the ego of being together and proper all the time. Just like running on the beach and into the water or blasting the music in my car and not caring if the car next to me is looking at me like I’m a freak! Those little things of being in the moment!
I feel like a great example for our generation is video games. They were a new thing as we were young, so were always associated as being strictly a thing for kids, however, as we have all grown up many of us still use video games as a way to relax. People are coming home from their careers to play games as it’s their way to shut off. I feel like there’s a stigma though amongst the older generations that it is a sign of immaturity or childishness to enjoy these things they’ve always associated with children.
I just started playing ‘Breath of the Wild’! I heard so many good things and I finally got into it! It’s the most peaceful thing! I’ll be there picking up mushrooms and cooking them in a pot, it is really fun! You’re just enjoying the moment and letting yourself relax and unwind! That’s a good point about maturity, I think sometimes we use that word as a weapon. Personally, I believe maybe it’s appropriate in terms of interpersonal relationships and emotional regulation like if someone is immature because they behave the wrong way; but I think it sometimes goes in the wrong way, like this weapon of ‘Oh you play video games, that’s immature’, but it’s okay to be immature sometimes if it’s directed in a healthy way!
The repetition of ‘I’m still a child’ in each chorus, and then especially at the end was very powerful to me, especially when it comes back at the end in children’s voices! Firstly, and slightly off topic, are the kids in the recording ones you know or were they just randomly recruited?
I’m actually really lucky to have a bunch of nieces and nephews! I’m the youngest of five kids and all of my siblings have kids of their own! I messaged them and asked if they could get their kids to say or sing it! I replicated it in my phone, then had them record a voice memo and send it back, then we built it into the chorus that you hear. It was so darn cute! When I got them back, I just thought it was exactly what the song needed! So, they were real children, and they were the cherry on top in terms of the song!
The other thing about the ‘I’m still a child’ line is that I wasn’t sure which way to interpret it. On one hand I thought maybe you were trying to convince yourself and holding onto those happy times of the past, not wanting to let go. The other interpretation I had was that you are trying to tell those people around you who assumed that you were fine and well during your anxiety that actually underneath the surface you are vulnerable and you do need support. The great thing about music is that the real truth is in the mind of the listener, however, would you say any of these interpretations hold some truth for you?
Yeah, those both really resonate. I always feel like a good chorus, or even post chorus, can have multiple meanings. You know, as the first verse comes in it means one thing, then as the second verse comes in, it means another thing, and so on. A song that I resonate with - and I aspire to write these types of songs - is where the meaning evolves and it doesn’t just have one black and white meaning. So, I think both of those could be really applicable, and I also think another perspective could be kind of accepting it yourself! Realising that you are still a kid, despite thinking you should have everything figured out but in reality have no idea what you’re doing, kind of like imposter syndrome. I always love to leave it open to interpretation, because depending on who is listening, they’re going to resonate with their own version of it and that’s really the point.
Another line in the song that really stood out to me was, ‘All at once the future’s unknown’. One thing I’ve struggled a lot with is being a ‘worrier’, constantly focused on the future and having everything planned out, so that I don’t enjoy the present. Do you think that sometimes in life we can spend too much time focused on the destination, and not enjoying the journey?
Oh my gosh, yeah! You’re speaking my language. For me, that’s at the core of anxiety, that’s at the core of when you’re having an anxiety or panic attack, like for me, it’s usually triggered by uncertainty. I’ve really had to learn, and still am learning, that I’m not going to know what’s over the hill. I used to be the kind of person that had my five-year plan, my ten-year plan. When you’re growing up and in school you have very clear milestones that are very laid out, advancing to a different year and recitals or sport events or graduation, then you go off to university. It’s so clear cut that from a young age we are conditioned to have these milestones and structure. For children, that’s very necessary, but then to make that switch is really hard as an adult. What’s my milestone? I think for a long time, personally, I was very tied to visible metrics and optics; I graduated high school early and got my degree in three years, I went and got a corporate job and wanted to climb the ladder and be a CEO. I was so fixated on these external things because it gave me a recipe. Then, I realised I wanted to do music, which has none of that! Everyone’s path as a musician is very different. I definitely have been a ‘worrier’ and still am, it’s just a case of constantly going back to remind myself that I might not know what’s on the other side of the hill, but focusing on taking small steps to be fulfilled in what I’m doing today. But it’s a struggle, dude, I’m still always thinking about that next thing!
I completely relate to that! One thing I’ve learned about myself since finishing my education is that I rely on validation. As you mentioned, there are so many milestones in education that give you that, getting good grades or completing a year, for instance. However, I’ve discovered that being an adult, you don’t often get that, when you do well at work it’s kind of just your job, there’s no good grade for it! I had no idea I relied on it so much until growing up and losing it!
Yeah, totally. You have to learn to validate yourself, right? You get used to having parents or teachers to provide that, and even when you start dating, you’re still using other people for that. It all comes back to learning how to validate yourself. So, there are a ton of personality tests out there and I love them all, I’m weirdly obsessed. One in particular, Enneagram- you should try it - gives you a number and I’m a 3 wing 2. The 3 essentially means ‘obsessed with achieving’ and that’s my main one. Everything you’re saying, you are speaking my language because for someone with my personality type I have tied my success to external measures more than I think has helped me. You should go try the test, it’s a great self-reflection tool.
Finally, one thing we ask all of our interviewees is to name their top three songs that relate to mental health. What would be your top three?
1. 'Breathin' – Ariana Grande
2. 'Morning in America' – Jon Bellion
3. 'What a Wonderful World' – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Added Extra: 'Up' - Shania Twain Kel Adore's latest single,
'Still a Child', is out now on all platforms.
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