We are so happy to introduce to you, X. ARI!
Aaron Mannari: Hey X. ARI! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
X. ARI: Hey Aaron! Thanks for having me. I’m an artist, singer, and songwriter from Toronto, and I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the last few years. I recorded in a studio for the first time at 11, joined my first band at 12, and toured and started writing at 14. Then I finished high school and studied Psychology at York University in Toronto, while also taking jazz vocal and participating in the R&B ensemble.
I always sang and wrote during those years, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I knew I needed to get back to music and pursue it as a career. I wrote and performed in bands for a while until I found my artist identity, which was initially ARI. I recently changed my name to X. ARI, and launched my Pain Into Power campaign for mental health awareness. I’ve released the first two singles, “Cattle Call” & “Vapors”, off my upcoming EP, Dis-Order, coming out this May and my short film, Grace, will hopefully premiere at a film festival in the near future.
AM: Wow. You have been busy! So what made you choose to leave Toronto for Los Angeles?
X. ARI: I love Toronto so much! It’s my home, but Los Angeles has opportunities that Toronto doesn’t have for me at the moment. I’ve been able to find so many talented and good-hearted people to collaborate with in LA. I really feel lucky that I’ve found my place both creatively and socially here, although I do miss home sometimes.
AM: I can imagine. You have been releasing some amazing songs, including “Vapors” and “Cattle Call”, leading up to the release of the EP. What can we expect from Dis-Order?
X. ARI: Dis-Order is coming out on May 18th! The record is a mix of alt and indie electro-pop songs that reflect on hope, tragedy, empowerment, and recovery and all tie to mental health in some way directly or indirectly. Half of the songs appear lighthearted, but the messages have a darker tone to contrast the brightness of the production. The other half are a bit grittier, emotionally charged, and raw, with primal screams sprinkled in (screamo is a new thing for me!). My next shows are at The Peppermint Club in LA on March 8th and Drake Hotel in Toronto on April 26th (ticket proceeds will go to jack.org), and my next single is “Stay v Go”, which will go live April 6th!
AM: That is so awesome! We cannot wait to hear the full EP and to donate the proceeds to a worthy cause is always a bonus! The new EP is scheduled to be released in May. Why is May such an important month for you to release Dis-Order EP?
X. ARI: May is Mental Health Awareness month, so it felt like the best time to release it and contribute to the cause. By joining the conversation I hope to raise money for jack.org too. I’m also creating merch, which will have self-care inspired products and will be available in May! I really hope my EP connects with people, and that sharing my story helps people know they can navigate through their own challenges, and that recovery is possible with self-love and practice.
AM: Mental health is something that we here at Lemonade advocate for by trying to remove the stigma from it. How has music helped your battle with mental illness?
X. ARI: I’ve always leaned on music for emotional support. Before I even understood mental illness, I was using music to cope by singing to myself to self soothe. I always just felt good after I sang, so I kept singing and it became a passion and then a profession.
I started experiencing obsession and anxiety as a child and then later depression, ADHD, sleep paralysis, insomnia, panic attacks, PTSD and sadly, went through an acute psychosis. I have this long list of disorders that have affected my life at different times and at different intensities, and music has always been an infinite source of healing for me.
Writing and then performing my songs live is very cathartic for me. It’s a creative conduit that can turn pain into something meaningful. I call this process, turning “Pain Into Power”. Dis-Order stands for separating yourself from labels and not letting any disorder define or limit you. Advocating for mental health this openly is a relatively new thing for me. Sharing my experiences with mental health is helping me integrate and accept my own trauma as part of my story and could help other knows they are not alone. It feels good to be helping and healing at the same time and I feel the fragmented parts of me starting to come back together.
AM: And you have been doing your own advocating as well including fundraising and doing a recent interview to talk about your mental heath story. Why was it so important to share your story?
X. ARI: I think that it’s important to share our stories to contribute towards awareness, ending stigma, and bringing hope to other people who may feel alone or ashamed of their own mental illnesses. I was so embarrassed when I had my second breakdown in November 2016. Several tragic events occurred in a sequence. I was horrified and absolutely felt like my life was over. If I had seen someone else in the world sharing details of their own mental health experiences and how they had recovered and survived, I truly think I would have healed faster and had more ease on myself and hope for my future.
AM: It is brave of you to share your story. I am sure your experiences will help others out there feeling the same way. They now know that they are not alone. With the release of Dis-Order set for May. What else do you have planned for 2018?
X. ARI: I plan on playing a couple shows, getting my short film into festivals, and collaborating on meaningful music with people I love working with. I’m hoping to fit in a trip to India or somewhere that I haven’t been before too. I love to travel.
And check out the single, “Cattle Call”, by X. ARI on YouTube below and do not forget to pick up song on iTunes available now!