As Toronto alt-pop singer/songwriter ARI gets ready to celebrate the release of her upcoming EP Dis-Order, we got the chance to talk about her release show, the message behind her music, and the importance of ending stigmas around mental health.
To begin, can you introduce yourself to our readers who may not be familiar with you?
My name is ARI and I am a singer/songwriter/Alt Pop artist from Toronto now living in LA writing for myself and other artists. I’ve been singing since I was a kid, in bands since I was 12, and writing since I was 15. My focus is to use music as a catharsis to channel pain into something meaningful and artful. I released my first EP titled Tunnel Vision last summer and just released the first single “Cattle Call” off my 2nd EP Dis-Order, which is part of my Pain into Power campaign for mental health awareness.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming EP Dis-Order.
Dis-Order was a long and cathartic process for me. I’ve struggled with mental health challenges for most of my life. Making this EP was therapeutic and my goal is to help others heal too. I cut the word ‘disorder’ into two because I found that by separating myself from any labels or disorders I’ve experienced, I was able to rediscover order and acceptance, and not let it define me.
You recently released the single “Cattle Call” from Dis-Order. It’s a compelling fusion between pop, electro, and alternative music. How do you balance the combination of genres so that the end product feels cohesive?
I have so many different musical influences, it’s been hard for me to just choose one. I have combined a couple styles to connect it all together. My music is alt pop with hip-hop and electronic influences. Some songs are heavier and more emotionally charged and others are more lighthearted. I feel that it gives it a balance between the dark and light elements that all of us experience. It also satisfies my ADHD, which makes me want to jump from genre to genre!! Fusing electronic and hip-hop sounds with alternative pop gives me the freedom to bend genre lines so I’ll never get bored!
What can be expected of the following singles from the EP? Will they be similar to “Cattle Call?”
“Cattle Call” is one of the more edgy and gritty tracks on my EP. It’s the first song I’ve ever done screamo on, which felt both exhilarating and cleansing. My second single “Miss You” is a more ambient track with Alanis inspired vocals. The song is about depression, especially while grieving loss. It comes out in late January, in time for Bell Let’s Talk. I hope the song opens up more dialogue about mental health and helps people feel like they are not alone in their struggle. Some of the other tracks, like “Stay v Go,” and “Vapors,” are a bit more spirited and reflect on self-growth, vulnerability, and confidence.
The Toronto EP release show will be paired with the premiere of your short film Grace. What was the decision behind pairing your music with your own film?
I wanted to do something bigger than myself, something meaningful for a cause I connect to, and so I decided to produce a short film instead of a music video. I am not in the short film myself. It stars CFC Alumni and was shot in Toronto with a local and dedicated crew. I am the executive producer and my boyfriend Dan Abramovici (Netflix’ Ben’s at Home) is the writer and director.
What kind of story can we expect from the film?
Grace is about a father experiencing severe and debilitating depression through the eyes of his seven-year-old daughter. It captures her innocence and inner change. The short features my music and we plan on submitting it to film festivals in hopes of a festival run so we can help spread awareness and healing through art globally.
Your EP and the film is dedicated to mental health awareness. Can you tell us a little bit more about why this cause is important to you?
Mental health awareness is a cause close my heart. I have struggled with mental health for as long as I can remember. It started with anxiety around 7 years old. I then started having issues with obsession and body image. I didn’t realize until I was older that I was also struggling with anorexia between 9 to 12 years old. I began going through depression in high school and I did everything I could to hide it. I tried to get help but wasn’t able to get the assistance I needed so I suffered in silence with anxiety and depression for many years until it turned into sleep paralysis and insomnia and I couldn’t suppress it any longer. I’ve been diagnosed with many disorders – ADHD, depression, anxiety, cyclothymia, and PTSD. I struggle with some more than others and at different times in life, but have made strong efforts to learn coping skills and practice self care. I was once wrongly diagnosed as bi-polar and incorrectly medicated, and it took me several months to get back on track and feel like myself again. After multiple therapists confirmed that I am not bi-polar, I began to understand what I was going through and started on my journey towards healing. I’ve had some disturbing experiences with the Canadian mental health care system that made me realize how important it is to learn how to go within and support yourself (especially when you feel like you have nothing to grab onto). For mental health, awareness and ending stigma is a good start, but now I think the world is more open and ready to dive deeper and learn how to identify signs of struggle in themselves and learn skills to cope.
The music industry can often be tough on an artist’s mental health. What do you do to take time for self-care?
I make time for yoga, meditation, and listening to a podcast on Buddhism. This morning I watched a youtube video by Teal Swan about opening your heart chakra that I found helpful for healing. I try not to pack my schedule too tightly or overcommit myself. I used to say YES to everything and in turn would burn myself out, but now I only take on what I’m passionate about and have time for. I spend time with friends who are supportive and caring and I try to spend time alone to reflect and journal. Luckily, singing has always soothed me so whenever I’m in writing sessions or singing I am outputting any negative energy inside while turning into something I care about.
The proceeds from your show will be donated to
I found out about Jack.Org when my friend Jesse Hayman began working there. I was immediately attracted to their mission of ending stigma and enriching youth with coping skills needed to live a healthy life.
Why did you choose Jack.org as the organization to dedicate your show proceeds to?
I really believe in their cause and think that teaching youth how to manage stress and cope with mental health is key to building a healthier future for everyone. Like I mentioned above, I began experiencing depression in high school and wasn’t able to access the help I needed. If only I knew about Jack.Org then! Awareness is key, but learning how to take care of ourselves and each other is vital especially since our public mental health care system is far behind. Some waiting lists for professional help are over a year long! I’ve had first hand experience with the system and was shocked that a place that was supposed to make me better ended up making me worse. I think we need to take our wellness into our own hands more. We need to develop internal support, learn how to practice self-care, and identify signs of mental health struggle so we can help ourselves and each other. I hope that we will be teaching these skills as part of the school curriculum someday.
What is your goal with the release of the new music?
My goals are to help others cope and heal, to encourage more dialogue on mental health, end shame, promote self-love, coping skills, and for supporting others to be just as natural as breathing. I’d like people to know that they are not alone and that they too can find a way to turn their pain into power. Music heals me, but it’s a constant process that takes consistent effort. I hope my music empowers people and helps them turn any weaknesses or fears into their biggest strengths.
ARI will be celebrating the EP release in LA at Dirty Laundry on November 14th and at The Piston in Toronto on November 29th.
I’ve been involved in music my whole life and have developed a passion for helping out or working in the industry any way I can. I’m interested in helping talented artists gain the recognition they deserve in this crazy business. I am currently studying Communication Studies at York University in Toronto, and working at a local theatre doing marketing and communications, as well as helping out a local festival called Rock the Coliseum. Indie, alt-rock/pop, and metal are my favourites but I’m open to all music genres! If I’m not at a show, I’m doing yoga, grabbing coffee, or looking for some craft beer.