'We need to normalize the conversation of mental health'

Zie West is an alternative, indie-pop artist from Philadelphia. She is currently working on an EP that is 'a culmination of all her lowest mental health side effects'.

It is important to Zie to start the conversation about mental health. Zie: “I believe, like many others, that we are not going to change the situation of mental health until we normalize the conversation to its fullest extent. It is my responsibility as an artist, no matter the size of my platform, to start the hard conversations, so why not start with my experiences?”

Starting the conversation

Her upcoming EP is a way to start the conversation, as it is a vulnerable record in which Zie opens up about mental health. Zie: “This EP is shaping up to be the epitome of my vulnerability; I want people to know that just because I am chasing a career in a larger than life industry, doesn’t mean that I have everything together or that I am the queen of confidence all the time. I am more of a loner that is driven to make a difference in the music industry.”

“I’ve thought of my art as a way to help others in the way that music has helped me”

Besides showing her vulnerable side through her music, Zie’s goal when making art is to give back to the people around her. “I’ve thought of my art as a way to help others in the way that music has helped me,” Zie says. “It makes me feel better; it gives me an escape from the daily roadblocks and mountains. If I can give that to someone else, then my art has accomplished its purpose.”

Recognition and release

Not only does Zie hope that her music will help others, it has helped herself too. “I find I go through a ‘recognition and release’ process when making art,” Zie says. “I become self-aware of whatever is going on deeper than my immediate conscious. What is eating at me? What burning thoughts am I ignoring? By creating my art, I bring this to the forefront and can address them, or ignore them, depending on where I’m at.”

“Ultimately, I am only as strong as my foundation”

Although making music helps, Zie still struggles with things like depression and anxiety. That is why she wants to build a solid foundation that she can start to grow on. Zie: “Ultimately, I am only as strong as my foundation, and if I want to have a career with longevity, I need to have a cemented foundation first. There are days when my self-doubt feels like its pouring in and this feeds my depression and anxiety. On days like these it is almost impossible to take an active role in my career. Having a solid footing allows me to have career growth in every moment, even if I have to take a step back and reassess how I am doing and feeling.”

This interview is part of a series of interviews with artists about mental health in light of the upcoming festival Atlas Black. For more information about Atlas Black, go to: https://www.secretmidnightpress.com/atlasblack

Lieke Ruesink