With September being Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and October being World Mental Health Month we had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Singer-Songwriter and Mental Health Advocate Mackenzie Nicole to talk about the journey that got her to her latest album Mystic
You released your debut album The Edge in 2018 and although you had great success that part of your life was extremely hard as you dealt with some pretty serious mental health issues and a journey to recovery, when you released your 2020 album Mystic you shared that time in your life with the world in a very honest way through the songs on the album. Can you tell us more about that?
A lifelong struggle with mental illness hit a fever pitch during the first six months of 2018 when I suffered a severe mental breakdown that nearly killed me several times. This violent period thankfully culminated when I finally made and attended my first appointment with my current psychiatrist. Upon that first meeting, she diagnosed me with Bipolar I disorder, and it was the best news I had ever received, for, finally, the beast I had been battling for so long had a face, a name, and a kryptonite (which was and is a carefully curated cocktail of psychiatric medications and therapy at least once a week). Thus, began the extensive process of recovery.
A few months into this process, I had a responsibility to record an album. With creative control over my art for the very first time, I needed to finally do what I’d always wanted to do ─ be authentic. At a time when I felt the darkness defined me, I knew nothing else to write about.
Mystic recounts the aforementioned breakdown in three four-song parts. Part I, “The Rabbit Hole”, is about my rock bottom. Part II, “Purgatory”, is about the hardest decision I’ve ever made ─ the decision to try to get better. Part III, “Oxygen”, is about being on “the other side” (whatever that means).
I always say that I did not create Mystic. She existed somewhere out there in the universe completely independent of me. The universe just chose me to bring Mystic to light. Mystic changed my life. I hate myself, but I love Mystic, and if Mystic is a part of me, that means some part of me is loveable, too.
Since the release of Mystic, you have become an outspoken mental health advocate, due to the honesty in your interviews to your TEDx Ted Talk as well as your work with mental health nonprofits and organizations. Was that by design or did it happen organically and is it something you see yourself involved in for the long haul?
My advocacy was in no way by design. This isn’t some album marketing ploy. This is real life, and it’s entirely organic. I have always been and always will be passionate about mental health, and that passion will outlive the album cycle.
Just before the Pandemic hit you were about to embark on a tour run, we heard you played one show of the tour before everybody was basically sent home. That must have been disappointing, so how did you handle it and what did you do / are you doing to stay healthy in these still uncertain times?
Yeah, one and done. What a tour. What a thrill. I took it pretty hard, not just because of the cancelled performances but also the plans I had made for the weeks that I was supposed to be on the road. I was supposed to meet up with my best friend Kelly who lives out in California (where we were touring), go to a Young M.A concert that first Friday of tour, and many more plans that I had to quietly cancel on the ride home.
When I got back home, I had a super wild manic episode that then led to a depressive spiral that I’m still digging my way out of to be honest. I can’t say I’ve really stayed healthy, but I’m alive at least.
Can you share with us what’s on the horizon from Mackenzie Nicole, have you been working on new music, do you think you will be back on tour in 2021?
Boy howdy, is there a lot on the horizon from Mackenzie Nicole!
I have my next release (notice I said “release” and not “album”) recorded in its entirety (note: this includes one song that my long-time supporters have been harassing me to release for years). The songs that form this next release were, like Mystic, were born entirely by myself and my hero / mentor Seven, our in-house producer. When he asked me what I wanted him to make, I just told him, “Get weird.”. That’s my motto at this point in my career. I just want to get as experimental as possible and see what happens.
I am also three tracks deep into my next album. The best way to describe this album is as follows: my next album is like The Edge if The Edge was actually under my creative control. This record is yellow and orange and looks like sequined 70s bell-bottom disco pants (notice I said, “looks like” and not “sounds like”). It’s very editorial, visually and sonically, and completely different from Mystic. There’s a reason for this evolution; the point of Mystic is that there’s more to life than darkness. So, if I followed Mystic up with another dark album, that makes me a liar and a failure to my supporters. That’s why this next album showcases different facets of myself, my life, and my art. I don’t serve the darkness anymore. But I promise you will still recognize me.
Lastly, while I (unfortunately) can’t predict when touring will be possible, know that I will be on the road as soon as live performances are a viable possibility.
For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words?
Perpetual angst and subsiding darkness.
Where do you draw your inspirations from when you write songs?
I just write my life. Everything I write is from firsthand experience.
What is your motto in life?
I’ll try anything once.
At what age did you start performing and share a bit of your early backstory with us.
I hummed before I could talk, so I was singing as soon as I could speak. Music was my entire life growing up, as my parents started Strange Music (the label I’m signed to) in the basement of my childhood home. I’ve been classically trained to sing opera since I was six, and I was nine when I recorded my first feature, the hook on “Demons” by Tech N9ne featuring myself and Three 6 Mafia. I continued to do features until finally beginning my solo career at age 15, when I released my first single, “Actin Like You Know” featuring Tech N9ne. I’ve been solo ever since.
If you had a soundtrack to your life what song / songs would have to be on it?
The following songs are ordered in chronological order of their relevance in my life
“No Scrubs” // TLC
“Sk8r Boi” // Avril Lavigne
“Hotel California” // Eagles
“Come Gangsta” // Tech N9ne
“Hail Mary” // Tupac
“Teen Idle” // MARINA
“Summertime Sadness” // Lana Del Rey
“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” // The Postal Service
“Happy Together” // Filter
“Maps” // The Front Bottoms
“New York City” // Among Savages
“Trap Queen” // Fetty Wap
“Tiny Cities (feat. Beck)” // Flume, Beck
“Hit ‘Em Up” // Tupac
“Wanna Be A Baller” // Lil’ Troy
“Today” // Troi Irons
“Girls Your Age” // Transviolet
“Errors” // K.I.D
“Pink Tires. Smile Lines.” // Olivver the Kid
“Still Ill” // The Smiths
“Hurt” // Johnny Cash
“Praying” // Kesha
“XO TOUR Llif3” // Lil Uzi Vert
“Candy Paint” // Post Malone
“Family Don’t Matter (feat. Millie Go Lightly)” // Young Thug, Millie Go Lightly
“CAROUSEL” // Aries
“Life is Beautiful” // Lil Peep
“stupid horse” // 100 gecs
“Return of the Mack” // Mark Morrison
“My Girl” // Oshi
If you could perform with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jim Morrison. The end.