Stacy Barthe is ready for the world. The syrup-voiced Motown Recordings artist dropped her first full length last month, and it’s a lush, expansive look at depression and self-medication.
The album, BEcoming, is a sort-of introduction for a singer who’s already dropped a slew of well-received EPs.
Opening track, “My Suicide Note – Intro,” sets the tone. Barthe has talked at length in interviews about a 2010 suicide attempt, and her opening song here puts the listener squarely in her mind during that trying time. On “Here I Am” we hear about nights spent drinking alone, her mind a dizzy mix of guilt and acceptance (“Watch me while I drink my pain away/from the rim of this bottle”).
She already has major writing credits under her belt, too. Remember stumbling into your best friend’s arms at last call while Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That)” blared from the bar speakers? Barthe wrote that one.
Sipping Pinot and getting in your feelings listening to “Adore You,” the opening track from Miley’s latest album? You guessed it. Barthe.
Her new album runs a lengthy 17 tracks, and is her most intimate release to date. We had a surprisingly frank talk at the Motown offices in Hollywood. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I just saw the Amy movie, and I was thinking about the relationship between pain and great music. Do you think that that’s a real thing, or is that something musicians just make up?
SB: I think especially the really talented ones are tortured souls, and a lot of us get bored on Earth. Because we’re so sensitive, and everybody’s not, so it’s hard to kind of find that balance.
I relate to pain. I’m just now starting to make happy music, but a lot of my music comes from some sh*t I went through, or something somebody else is going through.
Do you worry that as you get happier or start to make happy music that you’ll start to lose that brilliance?
SB: No. Cause I’ll never really be happy. Happy is a fleeting emotion. Most of us are miserable most of the time, y’know what I mean?
So it doesn’t matter what you’re portraying to people, there’s always gonna be struggle, no matter how rich you are.
I’ve known some really rich people to off themselves. My theory is you’re gonna die and leave this sh*t here anyways, so what does it matter?
The song that really jumped out to me the most was “Here I Am.” I think it’s rare to hear an r&b singer talk about something like drinking or talk about something that’s not necessarily addiction, but something like that kind of issue.
Did you hesitate to add that kind of thing to the album? Cause that’s a very specific story.
SB: No. It’s my story. It’s part of my story. People get embarrassed, especially in the Black community, about their shortcomings.
They don’t really talk about suicide, they don’t talk about depression. We have a cultural curse on us. We need to open up about a lot.
The Sandra Bland thing happened the day my album came out. I went back and watched her video blogs and I was like oh sh*t she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. She was depressed.
With somebody in that mindset sitting in a jail cell for three days for a traffic ticket and being dragged out of her car—she wanted to make a point. And so she became a martyr for justice.
I’m strangely obsessed with her. Cause I go back and I watch her videos and she’s talking about racism in America and all that.
I’ve never personally experienced racism. But since that situation I’ve just been looking at things a little different.
Listening to the song “Find It,” I was thinking about the link between your music and the blues. Do you see a connection?
SB: My album to me is a culmination of everything I’m inspired by. There’s folk on there. “Hey You There” feels kind of country. “Find It” feels jazzy-bluesy. “Here I Am” feels like Ibiza. Plus I’m Haitian-Dominican so I’m just culturally everywhere. But blues is one of my inspirations for that song.
I think every song feels different. You have a symphony to start with. It’s just a culmination of everything I love.