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SoundCheck: Mental Health Advocacy Paves the Way for a Poet’s Journey into Music

Courtesy of molly.

Poet molly. has been writing since her teen years, but she’s new to performing music. Her first gig was just two years ago.

“So, I started writing poetry as a teenager,” she said. “Kind of a typical, angsty-teen reason for writing poetry. I started struggling with a lot of depression, anxiety when I was about, I’d say 13 or 14. It was hard for me to find a way to express all of the complicated, weird things that I was feeling and thinking and experiencing. I found that when I was able to put a pattern to it, a rhythm to it and a rhyme through poetry, it gave it a structure and kind of a way to come out easier and flow easier. It kind of just gave me a platform in a way to communicate to others and to the world around me what was going on inside of me that I was having so much trouble articulating otherwise.”

Her mental health struggles led her to want to create a safe space for people to feel open to these experiences – that it’s ok to talk about them.

“There’s one spoken word piece that I do called ‘Fight or Flight’ that’s about the experience of having a panic attack. And I had someone come up to me after a show one day they just really appreciated the fact that I was able to communicate that in such a poetic way that could kind of help other people understand what it really feels like when you don’t know what’s going on and your body’s going crazy and you don’t know why and it’s a horrifying feeling,” said molly.

In her day to day life, molly. is a very introverted, quiet person, but when she gets on stage to perform music and poetry, a switch is flipped and she becomes a performer.

“Something I’ve noticed as I’ve been especially been playing more publicly is, it’s almost like kind of putting on a new persona, or putting on a mask of some sort where it’s like this is my platform. And I think maybe part of that might have to do with the whole getting ready for a show process where, you know, I put on whatever I’m wearing for the show, put on my makeup, do my hair the way I want it, get up there and it’s like I’ve transformed into a different person. This is my space to just say and do whatever I want that I wouldn’t normally feel comfortable saying and doing as regular molly.”

Since her first gig at Cider Days two years ago, molly. says that her stage persona has grown and she’s become more comfortable and authentic with herself. Her songwriting has also grown with age. She’s now in her late 20s.

“When I first started writing music, it was a lot of, as much as I hate to say it, it was a lot of stereotypical teen love songs or like really angsty songs. And there wasn’t really any in between there,” she said. “So, I definitely focus a lot more on just the human experience as a whole. Just like, the whole spectrum of human emotions, where like I’m writing a lot about my family, I’m writing a lot about things that I struggle with as far as depression or anxiety. But you know, when you’re experiencing mental illness or any kind of depression, anxiety, things like that, it’s not that you’re angry or sad all the time. Sometimes, it’s that you feel nothing or you feel everything all at once and you don’t know what to do with it. So, I really started leaning more into that as I’ve gotten older.”

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.
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