Toronto native X. Ari seamlessly combines her music with self-care tactics and personal experiences in mental health to create a uniquely open conversation with listeners. Now living in LA, X. Ari uses her growing platform to normalize an important topic and remind fans that they are never alone. As she celebrates the music video release for her new single, “Break-Point,” DCWS connected with X. Ari to learn more about the video’s surprising end scene and what to expect from the new album.
You combine many genres in the music you create; how would you describe your sound?
I call it Electro Alt-Pop. I love a variety of genres so I incorporate different styles often. It's hard for me to stay in one lane so I combine sounds I like from pop, rock, and electronic music. It suits my ADHD.
Your music is deeply intertwined with your personal experiences with and advocacy for mental health and self-care: how has that vulnerability impacted your relationship with fans?
I think it's created a more open environment for communication around mental health and self-care. I've had fans and friends open up to me more since I shared my story and started my Pain Into Power campaign for mental health awareness. I feel like I have a deeper and more authentic connection with people than I did before advocating for mental health.
“Break-Point,” your newest single, centers around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the buildup to a breakdown. Can you share what it was like to work on this song?
Working on this song was extremely cathartic for me. I was waiting to be ready to write about my breakdown that happened late 2016. I wrote this in April 2018 and It's strange that a month after writing it I had another crisis and had a psychosis for the second time. I remember feeling like creating "Break-Point" foreshadowed it.
The video for “Break-Point” is very creative and manages to visually convey a spiral to the breaking point. What the process for conceiving of the video concept?
This video was done in one take on my bedroom floor and it was so much fun to create because of the high stakes. The process of developing the video started off with deciding it would be a close-up and bird's eye view for the entire time. I got the idea to do really random things that people wouldn't expect and just to keep going on and on leaving the viewer wondering what's next. Then the puppets came to existence and it just kept unfolding from there. This is definitely my favourite video so far! I'm really happy that it came out exactly the way I saw it in my head.
What can we expect from your next record, UNI-FI?
UNI-FI is a concept record that focuses on dualities and I'm introducing a brand new character, my alter ego, named IRA. X. He's my male side, a twin flame yin to my yang, and he's featured on 3 out of 6 tracks on the EP. He has his own voice and he's a bit out of control and melancholic. He has his own voice which is mine pitched down and formanted. IRA also has his own single coming out in March! I discuss mental health topics on all the songs and they are mostly mid-tempo, but there's one fast song and one ballad.
What can you share with us about the role of IRA in your life and your story?
He's an integral part of my upcoming EP because he represents my opposite and illustrates the threading theme of dichotomy. ARI is light and uplifting and IRA is dark and psychotic. He plays more of a character in the story I'm creating, but in my real life I am a demi female and I have always felt part male so it's fun and creative to explore being a guy and dressing up as him. I also lost my gender identity when I got ill with psychosis both times. I wasn't sure if I was male or female so it's fascinating to me to give my mental health experiences life and meaning by adapting it into my art.
It’s rare to see an artist marry advocacy and empowerment so seamlessly in their art. What is the main message you wish to communicate with your work?
If I can turn pain into power by creating music and sharing my message anyone can do anything they set their mind to. It's hard to boil down my message into one statement, but I want people to know they are resilient and are capable of healing and recovery. I want to encourage people to find their conduit for healing whether it be through creativity or kung fu. I want people to know they aren't alone and that they have many resources available to them. I want people to prioritize practicing good self-care and to work together and speak up to end stigma by owning our challenges as strengths rather than weaknesses.