INTERVIEW: Sadcore Sundays: “What I Need” by Daniel.

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Daniel. is an emo, folk punk artist in Humboldt, California speaking out about his depression and using music as therapy.

“I can talk to people but I feel like I’m complaining and it just doesn’t…talking doesn’t help as much as expressing it through music so when I can’t express it through that output I kind of go haywire.”

If you’ve ever met Daniel., one of the first things you’ll pick up on is that he’s a lighthearted, jokester, punk kid at heart. This interview dives down into the darker side of Daniel. that he often hides by going “off the grid” for weeks (or months) at a time. He recalls overlooking the first signs of his depression as a teen and chronicles how a recent head injury, being raised as a male in a Catholic, Latino family and the use of marijuana affect his mental health. Since the beginning, music has always been his medicine. His self-produced songs, album artwork and album name “Voice As Tall As Trees” all have deeply thought out symbolic meanings about his mind obstacles. Read his full interview below and listen to his song “What I Need” before he heads out on his first US tour in August.

What is “What I Need” about?

“Because I’m nowhere near
Where I want to be
And I’m having trouble sleeping alone
when it’s all I need the most”
- Lyrics from “What I Need”

This song I wrote a little less than a year ago and it’s cool it’s kind of about me coming to understanding this whole depression thing. I wrote it shortly after I went through a head injury. And so I was just emotionally frayed, on top of that I was just trying to get through everyday life. It’s about hurting and trying to figure out what it is that you need to get out of that funk.

Any specific story that caused you to write it?

It was the head thing, I was finding that the most minimal problems I was facing that I could probably overcome as a not-concussed individual was turning into – my emotions were going from 0 to 60 so every little thing was getting me down and it was just racking up on top of each other. You know, being away from home, feeling dependent or codependent and then just trying to function in everyday life.

When did your mind obstacles start?

My obstacles started…I can trace them back to when I was 16 and trying to get through random experiences in my life and the way I handled them was I would seclude myself and stay in bed for weeks on end. I would be skipping school. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, I just thought I was not caring about anything. I didn’t recognize it as depression until maybe two years ago when I moved away from home and living in a climate that was more gloomy. I’ve lived in Socal my whole life and I moved up to Norcal where it’s just rainy all the time. Those factors definitely weighed in on depression.

How did you cope with it originally and how do you manage it today?

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I would cope with it by writing at the time. And then I was exploring what I was capable of, I was trying to write poetry and then I knew how to play guitar so I just started adding guitar riffs to it and would just songwrite every time. Despite the songs being about terrible situations, I would have a sense of pride in singing them being like, “oh yeah here I am expressing myself.” It was almost rehabilitating to sing my sorrows to other people…even though they might not fully be listening to the word content, they’re just listening to your songs. It felt good.

So you just said how music helps your mental health, how does music not help your mental health?

I find it’s a struggle when I can’t write, if I’m going through a writer’s block, especially if I’m in a dark period and I can’t put the words on paper. I start to panic a little because I have no way of channeling it. I can talk to people but I feel like I’m complaining and it just doesn’t…talking doesn’t help as much as expressing it through music so when I can’t express it through that output I kind of go haywire.

When did you put a label on your mind obstacle?

About two years ago. I went to a doctor once to just try to explain what I was experiencing. I thought I was just getting really sick because I was getting nauseous all the time and really sleepy, I thought it had something to do physically, than mentally. He gave it to me straight and said, “I think you’re just really depressed my friend.” And I was just like WHAT! WHAT IS THAT. *laughs.* He gave me a month of Xanax to level out and suggested therapy.

What obstacles are you currently facing in your healing process?

The healing process has been rather long, it’s been about a year since I wrote that song, since I’ve been experiencing that and I find myself digging myself in a hole constantly. Just finding one thing after the other that ends up hurting me more. Like I think I’m doing myself good and then I end up hurting myself in the decisions that I make. I’m currently trying to figure out how to break out of that habit. It’s consisted of hurting from past relationships, friendships that I’ve had, sometimes it’s hard I just go off the grid from time to time and don’t express myself to anyone. I guess to answer your question, I don’t know how to get myself out of this. I’ve been told to seek help and talk to professionals, but I’m currently in the process of even getting myself to do that. I know in the long run I’m okay, it’s just now.

How have gender stereotypes and being raised as male affected how you cope and manage your mental health?

I grew up in a very strict, Catholic, Latino family where the man is expected to find a wife and take care of her, have kids, and all that jazz. As a kid it was overwhelming because I was like I don’t want to do all of those things. As far as my mental health goes I would brush past everything because if my parents found out they would also kind of brush it off and say “oh you’re fine, you’re just a teenager,” or “you’re just a young adult, you’re just going through these things,” which are true but I’m always kind of bummed out because I don’t think my family engages with the severity of what I’m experiencing. I tend to just ignore the gender stereotypes because I’m kind of queer so I just….I’m pretty queer let’s be real. *laughs.* I’m just rolling with the punches and know there aren’t really expectations of me that I care about unless they are by me so I just go by what I feel. Feelings are nice so I embrace them. *laughs.*

Besides with your family have you faced any stigma?

From time to time I’ll notice sometimes I’m in groups where you find the alpha males and I just find that humorous but it doesn’t affect me emotionally, I just recognize it for what it is.

Yours and this one other interview that I just did are the first interviews I’ve gotten of people with mind obstacles who were raised as male. Men or people raised as male don’t like to talk about it it seems.

Not gonna lie I’m reluctant right now but I pushed that down. It’s in the back of my head like, “oh you shouldn’t be talking about this,” but I’m going to talk about it.

Tell me about the single artwork.

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So I had recently started dating this girl named Jennifer Griffin and she’s a painter and I had talked to her about creating some artwork to compliment the style I’m going for which is very third wave emo music, where it’s not too heavy but is sad. I want to create a mix of different forms mind obstacles to go with each part of the song because each song that I write is about a certain obstacle that I face. So that one is specifically aimed toward depression. That little box character is supposed to resemble me living in the world and the box is supposed to represent my stubbornness to change. I’m very stuck in my own ways of doing the things that I want to do but at the same time it can hurt me. In that picture it shows me carrying the weight of the world while my colors are dripping off of my body and I’m starting to go black and white and I’m reaching over for that one beam of light that is also starting to decay in color. I thought Jennifer did a really good job in displaying that, it was totally what I was going for.

This song is off of your album “Voice As Tall As Trees.” Tell me about the album name.

I used to be in a band called Anakin and the Fetts we’re on a hiatus because my other band member, my best friend Donovan, we’re currently not in the same area, but we wrote a song together called “Voice As Tall As Trees” and what that song was originally about was breaking out of this feeling of being stuck and not being able to express yourself and being as loud as you possibly can using the simile of voice as tall as trees. Just being so big, big voices like, “I’m going to do things my own way, I’m gonna make it happen and no one can stop me.” We wrote that song together but I had written the lyrics and the title to it so I’m saving that song for when we do actually play music together again but I’m using that title on my album because I feel like it fits really well for what I’m going for.

You played Cannifest on April 15, tell me how marijuana helps or doesn’t help your mind obstacles.

From what I’m told, marijuana is helpful to those that are experiencing depression, anxiety and other forms of mind obstacles. With that said, it has never worked for me. Honestly, it just suppresses all of my feelings and allows me to feel them stronger later. It enhances my anxieties and allows me to dwell on my insecurities so I’ve never experienced that but I know so many people who say “oh yeah it calms me down, it keeps me relaxed, it helps me with my panic attacks,” so it’s a hit or miss. And part of that might actually be from when I went through my head injury because before that I had smoked weed from time to time and it didn’t help me then but it also didn’t hurt me as much then.

What advice do you have for other musicians struggling with mind obstacles?

I wish I could ask myself this one or if someone could give me the answer to that but I would just say keep on writing, you’re very special to have obtained this talent to express yourself through music because there’s not much out there like it. You can express yourself through words, melodies, harmonies and adding instruments so it truly is a remarkable gift. It’s hard to see when you’re sitting there pouring out your pains and sorrows and you like the way it sounds and you like the way it feels when you listen to it but it doesn’t always tell you to get out of your funk. Just stop and listen to yourself for a little bit.

What artists influenced you for this album?

I’ve been jumping on the bandwagon of the new wave emo scene and I really love bands like Modern Baseball, American Football, their singer Owen and I also have some post hardcore influences like La Dispute and random pop artists.

Tell me about the recording process.

Recording has been so much fun, I feel like I’m getting better at recording each day with each song I record but I finally have the equipment necessary to actually produce my song to sound the way I envision it. I’m in my bedroom with an 8-track interface that I’m borrowing from my roommate and I’ll record guitar, bass and vocals all in my room – vocals I’ll record in my closet with a blue microphone and I have a drum set in my living room and I record off of that. It’s been this long journey of spending a lot of money on equipment, sometimes I buy the wrong thing and then I either have to sell it again or just buy a new one. It’s been since I was 17 or 18 that I’ve been racking up this equipment and it’s finally coming together.

What can we expect from you next.

Coming soon is the album “Voice As Tall As Trees” and it’s going to be a hoot *laughs.* Once that is squared away I’ll be off the grid saving some money and in August I will be going on tour. I’ll be touring the country playing with Tea Wiggs and Jeremy Bursich who are two other extremely talented musicians.

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Lyrics to “What I Need”

You give yourself a reason
To let yourself go
You know you’re pretty good at pushing away everyone you know
So what’s it going to take for you
To clean up the mess you’ve made
And where’s the fun in that
I’ll find
It loses its appeal when you know
Who you’re becoming

Because I’m nowhere near
Where I want to be
And I’m having trouble sleeping alone
when it’s all I need the most

A demon’s at the edge of my bed
Haunting me in my sleep
I’ve found no use in struggling now
I can’t even wake up
But when I’m wide awake in this
Cold dark empty house
I can see my breath in the morning
And it loses its appeal when you know
Who you’re becoming

Because I’m nowhere near
Where I want to be
And I’m having trouble sleeping alone
when it’s all I need the most

Because I’m nowhere near
Where I want to be
And I’m having trouble living at all
when it’s all I need the most

Follow Daniel. on Facebook here.

Sending you ++posi vibes++
Shannen (Shay)
Founding Editor-in-Chief
The Strange is Beautiful

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What is Sadcore Sundays?

We’re defining “sadcore” as anything you listen to when you’re sad. Sadcore Sundays is meant for you to set time to indulge in your sad feels and find relief <3 We encourage you to set an intention after listening to do one small goal such as showering or taking a walk <3 <3 <3

Where can I listen?

You can listen on our Sadcore Sundays blog features and interviews or Sadcore Sundays Youtube playlists.

Sadcore Sundays Blog

We feature a Sadcore Sundays song or music video on our blog each Sunday, some of which are accompanied by interviews of the artist. Below are our most recent Sadcore Sundays posts. Click here to see them all xoxox.

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