In recent months the media pages have again been filled with high-profile, and horrifying stories of abusive relationships including Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson. All of the stories have a tragically familiar ring to them for many people all over the world. One person who has first-hand experience of this is Atlanta songwriter Nadia Vaeh. Having written about her past experiences on her emotional new single, “Spellbinding,” we spoke to Nadia about how she came through such a difficult period in her life.
Thanks for your time Nadia, how is life treating you at the moment?
Nadia Vaeh: “Life is as always, a combination of amazing, scary, fun, creative, exciting, and exhausting moments. I am living my dream of being a full-time singer-songwriter which some days can come with major anxieties and overwhelm, but c’est la vie. I love this life and the people I get to spend it with. I am in a better place mentally than I have been for a while.”
So, you’ve just dropped your brilliant new single “Spellbinding.” What inspired you to write about your past experiences?
“I really don’t think I have a choice but to write about the areas in which I need to look at from my past. Songwriting gives me the ability to gain a better understanding of what happened, where it hurts, and why. It is my teacher and my healer.
“‘Spellbinding’ tells the story about my struggles escaping the hold of a past lover who seduced me with an enticing ‘weird magic.’ I was in a very vulnerable place at this time and easy to influence and addressing it in my art has helped me heal. I think this was something I was beating myself up for so long. Hearing how my listeners may have experienced the same or similar pains and struggles really helps me close these old wounds and hopefully inspires others to begin to do the same. Songwriting for me bridges the gap between my highest healthiest self and the version of me that been beaten down by life.”
The single delves into your past experiences. How difficult was it revisiting those experiences?
“It is always difficult revisiting past experiences, especially those that are traumatic or personally stressful. I am slowly getting more comfortable in my own skin and am growing as a person through my art and my life experiences. The song touches a sensitive part of my life, but a part of my life from where I have learned and grown so much. It is difficult, but it is completely necessary. I think with each song I am growing more and more comfortable in my skin. The evolution is real!”
What did you learn about yourself from those experiences and also, what advice would you give someone in the same the position you were in?
“I have been humbled and reminded that I am human, and vulnerability is important, but also how to create real boundaries… not walls! I’ve also learned I am resilient and that the difficult or scary life experiences can make me a better person. I now understand that for me it is important to love and be loved, but in a way that is healthy and balanced.”
Toxic relationships and abuse have had high-profile media coverage recently. Firstly, with the Johnny Depp situation and, more recently, Marilyn Manson. What are your thoughts on the media coverage of, not specifically these cases, but abusive relationships in general?
“The media relishes in sensationalizing such issues in large part to grab the attention of viewers and readers. On the good side, high profile examples help bring the issue to light and makes it easier to address on a public forum. We know that the large majority of these abuses are committed by people who were known by the abusee, but the media tends to report that these cases are committed by strangers. The sad truth is most abuse victims are not celebrities and their story will never be told.
Also, the majority of more public abuse cases that are reported are with white victims and hardly reflect an honest gathering of numerical data. Reporting that people of colour experience abuse does not diminish any of the negativity experienced by anyone, but presents abuse in a more realistic light. I hope that as mental health conversations and discussions on abuse become less sensational and just something that is meant to be in the light, more people can get help they need.”
You talk about learning to love yourself. How difficult was that to do at the beginning and what did you do to break the cycle you were in?
“This has been a life struggle for me. I have been abused in many ways, each cutting me pretty deep. To heal you must love yourself even extra in those damaged areas, however difficult this may be. You must accept that you are deserving of love and good things… that you are not the things that may have hurt you.
To break the cycle of self-loathing, I chose to break some of my patterned behaviours, change my situation, and my life path. I ended relationships that were unsupportive to my spiritual growth. I even had to leave situations by, literally, changing my entire environment multiple times because as I was building trust within myself, I needed to be away from all that was toxic for me. Finally, my dream was to be a singer and songwriter and I finally chose to go all-in and pursue this dream, despite initially being met with tons of resistance. I just decided to wake up most days and trust myself.”
We’ve already talked about the theme of the single, is it a theme you will be revisiting in future material?
“Yes, but in a much different light. I think I still have more to uncover about how abuse has impacted the way I move around in this world. I feel the tree branch off of this topic that will be showing up in future songs, stems way back in childhood/adolescence years. Healing isn’t always linear!”
You’ve teamed up with Peace Over Violence. Why did you pick this organization, and can you tell us a bit about what they do?
“Peace Over Violence is an organization dedicated to building healthy relationships between families and communities from sexual, domestic, and interpersonal violence. They enforce their mission through emergency services, intervention, prevention, education, and advocacy.”
Obviously with the pandemic lockdown, the issue of people in abusive relationships has been raised. What advice would you give somebody living through this?
“You are not trapped, no matter what you are told.
Abusers can be charming to everyone else, but toxic when behind closed doors. I would reach out to family and friends and tell those you trust about what is happening to you. I would also recommend making a safety plan and strategy. Pack a bag and try to find a safe house if you can. Take a look at your future self and see what your situation could be if you can change it. Also, look at how things would be without the change. It is so difficult to have foresight when you’re in these kinds of situations, but there is a beautiful life waiting for you and more support than you could ever imagine.”
How have you managed your own mental health throughout the pandemic lockdown?
“I have kept busy and focused on creating. I also focused on my own physical health, with yoga, weight training, and I try to eat the foods that support my best mental clarity. I have also focused on surrounding myself with people who make me a better person, and who are genuinely there for me. 2020 cleared out all the people with bad intentions for me. This is definitely one of quite a few silver linings for me personally. I actually really needed 2020 to get to reconnect with so much about my true nature.”
For as long as it’s existed, people have used music as an escape be it a particular album or a live gig. Who or what is your go-to album or band when you need to escape life?
“These kind of questions always stress me out because it is always changing depending on my mood, the time frame, etc… Currently, I have been really into BANKS’ The Alter album, but tomorrow it might be a 1975 album.”
Looking ahead, what are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of new music, touring etc.?
“I have a full calendar of new songs, EP releases and music video releases, as well as ideas for remixes. I will also be in the UK this year to tour, and I am too excited to be back! I also plan to hit other cities in the USA and maybe France, so stay tuned!”
Thanks for your time Nadia and good luck for the rest of the year. Over to you for the final words…
“Thank you so much for chatting with me and for shining light on what I do!”