VIDEO PREMIERE: McKenna Michels addresses mental health & healing with ‘Survivor’

McKenna Michels

Mental Health is a BIG deal, and McKenna Michels isn’t afraid to address it through her music. Her latest single, “Survivor” – which started as a “pep talk” to herself – is proof of such. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, today she unveils the powerful and important video to her hugely personal track. XS Noize caught up with her to learn more about the song and its visuals, discover how she feels about social media, and be teased about her future plans.

Please introduce yourself in a few words or a sentence. 

Hi, I’m McKenna Michels, a pop singer/songwriter based in Austin, Texas.

Has music always been your passion, or did you have other ambitions before you pursued this path? 

My main passion in life has always been music. As a child, I was heavily influenced by my great-grandmother, who competed nationally in opera. There are videos of me at three years old singing at pool parties, and I went on to take years of choir and receive opera training.

Is there any one particular artist you might say you’re similar to? Which bands and artists influence and inspire you?

As far as style goes, I don’t have one artist that I’m similar to. I sometimes get compared to Adele due to our vocal ranges, which I consider a massive compliment because she inspires me. Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga, and Twenty-One Pilots are other artists influencing and inspiring me.

Tell me about your new single, “Survivor.” Where did the idea for it come from? 

“Survivor” initially began as a pep talk for myself. I’m a survivor of child abuse and talk about it openly on my platform, and this song, in particular, aided me in getting through the more difficult stages of my healing journey. That being said, the song has become much bigger than me, which I’ll explain in a later answer.

You’re appropriately releasing this track during Mental Health Awareness month – how important to you is that you can and do support important causes like this? Would you like to see more of those in the spotlight like yourself doing the same? 

Mental health is extremely important to me and my music. Being a survivor of childhood abuse, I have faced numerous ups and downs. I have two songs that touch on this topic and I perform them at every show. I intend to initiate an open discussion with my audience about forgiving my mother, forgiving myself, and coping with both good and bad times that come along the way.

The most crucial thing I’ve realized by doing this is that I’m not alone in my experiences. I believe that the more people speak out about mental health, regardless of celebrity status, the more we can break detrimental stigmas surrounding such conversations and allow people to heal from their experiences.

You’re also releasing an accompanying comic book later in the year – where did that idea come from, and what can you share about it? How did you come up with the concept for the video? 

The comic is already out and available through my website! As I mentioned earlier, “Survivor” originated as something that was just for me. Once I completed recording the song, my manager introduced me to Michelle, a close friend of his whom he believed the song would resonate with. Michelle suffered a stroke when she was just five weeks old and now deals with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. However, she has always strived to live her life to the fullest despite her health struggles, and art has been a therapeutic outlet for her.

My manager created the brilliant idea of creating a comic to depict her story. Given that Michelle and I are both lifelong enthusiasts of anime and comics, we immediately agreed. This allowed Michelle to express her experiences in a manner that empowered her and helped to eliminate some of the stigmas associated with epilepsy. In the music video, we showcase Michelle and the characters we designed in the comic to link her story to the song better. We have also partnered with the National Epilepsy Foundation and In Your Shoes Foundation to raise awareness for their causes. Witnessing the song evolve from being a personal pep talk to one that motivates any “Survivor” has been an incredible journey.

“Survivor” is taken from your album Enlightenment. If you had to ‘sell it’ in five words, what would they be? 

Renaissance witch heals her trauma, lol.

Which song on the album is your favourite and why? 

Personally, I love my song “Born to Die.” The song was inspired by the Cell Block Tango from the musical Chicago. I’ve always been a huge fan of True Crime and Renaissance fashion, and combining these two passions was a dream come true. The “Born to Die” music video tells the fictional story of how I murdered my imaginary husband for infidelity. The video, directed by Nick Peterson, has been awarded six laurels for “Best Music Video” or “Best Short” at several film festivals and has rallied 16 total nominations.

Are there any tour/performance plans in the works? What does a McKenna Michels show look and sound like?

Tour plans are currently in the works! I have been attending numerous Comic Cons to help promote the comic, so I have an excuse to cosplay. If you come to one of my shows, expect an emotional Rollercoaster (in a good way), Renaissance fashion, and good old-fashioned storytelling.

To what extent do you engage with social media? Is it something you enjoy using, or is it more something you accept as being part of the industry you’re in? 

Personally, I hate social media. I LOVE interacting with my fans and followers, but the requirement to constantly produce content at an overwhelming rate feels silly to me. I love what I do, I’m good at what I do, and I continuously ask myself, “Why are artists held to this impossible, unachievable standard with no promise or expectation of reward for doing so?” If you want to tie in mental health, I feel social media culture destroys it for everyone, especially artists. Instant gratification is a dangerous game for anyone, and feeling that the value of your art is tied to how many people put a virtual heart on it is ridiculous.

Finally, aside from this new single and the comic book, are there any other plans or projects you’re working on this year? Have you already thought about what your next release might be, for instance?

I currently have a new project in the works, but no spoilers at this time! However, if you like women rebelling, stay tuned.

Check out the video for ‘Survivor’ – BELOW:

Xsnoize Author
Rebecca Haslam 93 Articles
Rebecca writes about pretty much any and all music but is a big pop-rock-indie fan. She loves the likes of Panic!. Fall Out Boy and Green Day, but is pretty old school too with Roxette and ABBA on many of her playlists. When not writing, she enjoys travelling far and wide, attending theatre and music shows, reading and spending time with friends.

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