TRACE is just getting started with her career, but she's leading with her heart. Two years after Low, her debut EP that introduced her honesty and raw talent, the rising musician is getting candid about her mental health experience with a new single, "Anxiety," for which she is partnering with NAMI California to raise awareness. With its thoughtful lyrics and R&B-meets-pop sound, the track displays as much openness as vocal chops, hinting that she is an artist set to connect with and move listeners.
The video for "Anxiety," released yesterday, shows two silent people stalking TRACE as she eats a cake, lays awake in bed, and struggles to sit still on a couch. This choice helps to communicate the constant presence and lack of control she feels regularly, following her as she fights against it but never quite becomes free. But beyond simply communicating this experience musically and visually, the artist has written an essay detailing her experiences, which she shared with L'Officiel USA. From the moment she first experienced anxiety at the age of eight to the ways she deals with it through music and discussion, the piece serves as a relatable account for those who have similar mental health struggles and a moving explanation to those who don't. Watch the video and read the essay below, and get inspired by TRACE's honest talent just beginning to make its mark on the music scene.
Anxiety by TRACE
The first time I met Anxiety, I had shampoo in my hair. There wasn’t enough water mixed in, so the stuff was pretty sticky on my hands; it felt kind of like honey and it stuck to me. I was eight years old. This very moment was a defining one, for Anxiety has stayed faithfully with me through all the growing up I’ve done, all the lessons I’ve learned, and all the relationships and careers I’ve been through. However, it wasn’t until four years ago that Anxiety finally felt like it had some purpose. Four years ago, I started to write music.
As a singer/songwriter who is generally comfortable emotionally unraveling for anyone with ears, my latest song, appropriately titled (and about) “Anxiety" feels a tiny bit more gut-wrenching than usual; The opening line: “Eyes are tired, looking for a sign, of anything that might give relief…” As I prepared to share this piece of myself, questions flooded me: “Where do these feelings come from?” “Why do I operate the way I do?” “Does anyone feel this way?” I know our past is a huge indicator in who we find ourselves to be in our current state, and though I prefer to never look back, writing this song pulled me in deep and way back to that specific memory when I was eight:
My mom had been away for work and my aunt was watching me. It was a particularly eventful day for young me because I spilled milk all over the living room table and in front of the TV. Eating usually took place in the kitchen, but I got away with things when mom wasn’t home. Yet I ruined that when I knocked a large glass over—all over the table, all over my Teddy Grahams, and all over my self. I got yelled at, and much like me today, 8-year-old me was extremely sensitive so I ran straight to the shower to find a door to shut behind me.
There I was, shampoo in my hair and filled with anxiousness for the first time. I let my aunt down, I let my mom down, and I let myself down by having poor hand-eye coordination. In this state, I turned on the shower and tried to dilute my thoughts of failure, hoping the water would wash off the milk and mild misdemeanor. I remember wishing my mom was home so I could explain everything to her. I felt like I needed her to see what had happened and tell me “It’s OK”, but then my mind drifted to the thought of her never coming back and that worry suddenly turned into thoughts of death. I couldn’t tell you why death came to mind, but it didn’t take much, and it stuck onto me like honey. Mom may not come home. What if she dies? What if I die? What happens when we die?!
Are all small spills this BIG?
That’s the thing about Anxiety: one minute you’re enjoying a snack in front of the TV, and the next you’re in the shower, bawling, thinking about death. Personally, Anxiety takes me away from the present and puts me in a harmful future. It makes me worry about things I cannot control or things I might not understand (like death, my career, my relationships). Growing up, it would occasionally creep up on me, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s like I truly live with it as an ever-present part of me. Sometimes it’s dramatic, and other times it’s subtle, but it’s always there. It’s a part of my DNA and I can feel it with my eyes closed in the darkest room.
As an adult, an “it’s OK” usually doesn’t make things “OK” like it used to. I’ve found myself needing way more than that, and so music has become an outlet and a safety blanket for me to cling onto when it all feels too much. In the process of writing “Anxiety” and preparing for its release, I had a number of candid conversations with friends about their own Anxiety in hopes to gain further insight about my own experiences. Through these dialogues, I have gotten to know and better understand my own Anxiety and felt less alone and a bit less hesitant in sharing this piece of myself. So, I hope this song is maybe a way to invite a spark, a thought, a dialogue to anyone who feels the same. I’ve also learned that Anxiety created some rare and precious moments in life and I don’t actually mind its company, which is strange considering I like being alone so much.
TRACE has partnered with NAMI California for the release of “Anxiety” to raise awareness around mental illness and offer support to those in need. Visit NAMICA.org for more info and resources