In the ever changing world of musical landscapes, there are two things that will always be true. The world will always be filled with chaos, and music will always be there to help us work through the madness.
From battle hymns and children’s lullabies to nu-metal, grunge and the blues, music has always been something to help us deal with the more difficult subjects in life. With the rise of mental illnesses across the country, music more than ever has become a way for people to cope with their daily struggles.
For singer Kiersten Lynd, coping doesn’t even begin to cover her relationship with music.
“One of my better songs came out of a panic attack on the floor,” she admits. “Thankfully no one heard that draft but me.”
Lynd, who goes by the pseudonym Maelstrom Magnet (Mael for short), is obviously no stranger to the tumultuous nature of daily life. Her “about me” on Twitter states that her genre is dark pop and that she is “making music in the midst of panic,” which leads to an interesting query. Just what does that sound like?
“I always say that it’s ambient, bass heavy, melodic music with honest lyrics,” she smiled. “If that’s what you like, I got you!”
As far as her origin story, Mael explained to me that she always wanted to be a musician and started learning songs on piano at the age of five and had regular access to keyboards by the age of nine. She says that she started writing music at that point in her life, but never played guitar before she moved to Ohio eight years ago. One of the reasons she moved to Columbus was because the small town she grew up in Virginia had no music scene, and she knew that there were great bands coming out of this city. We tend to agree on that point.
Of course, the obvious question I had to ask was where in the heck the bizarre juxtaposition of the name Maelstrom Magnet came from. Mael described that in her early 20’s she was feeling apathetic and trapped in a maelstrom of environmental and psychological negativity. She says that she felt like she was attracting all of the darker energy around her, and so “magnet” became the second part of her artistic vision.
“There are two meanings for the world maelstrom in the dictionary,” she said, “but the applicable definition for me is a situation or state of violent turmoil.”
The name is so truthful that I’m almost surprised that no one else had ever coined it before. As someone who deals with a multitude of different anxieties, I often feel the strain of surrounding gloomy darkness. Fortunately, music has always been a wonderful outlet for not only creating, but also absorbing positive energy and finding ways to persevere. Mael has been able to use that gift to reach out and touch thousands of others through her many social media platforms. It actually caught her off-guard when I informed her just how wide-spread her reach had become.
“Seven thousand followers?” she laughed while saying, “It makes me feel like I’ve got to really watch what I say now that that number is so big”.
Unfortunately, increased popularity does have its pitfalls. Mael showed me a graphic stating that 81 percent of her followers on Instagram (where she regularly posts videos of her singing and doing covers) are male, and confessed that she gets so many weird emails and direct messages about collaborating and “getting together.”
“Sure, I feel appreciated, but it also feels a bit disingenuous at times,” she concedes.
She later told me that most female singers don’t set the goal for themselves to be known for sex appeal, but that they have to work with what they’re given. It was disappointing to hear how many unwanted propositions she had encountered in her time as a musician, especially since she is such a talented artist. These days, it seems as though the Billboard charts are dominated by auto-tuned Barbie dolls with good producers, rather than truly talented musicians and vocalists.
As far as her lyrical abilities go, you need look no further than her most recent single I Wouldn’t Stop Ya. It’s a dark breakup song about coping with a bad partnership and moving forward. The chorus of “If you walked out that door, I wouldn’t stop ya – but I would change the locks” resonates with anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship.
The song seems simple at first, but the more you listen the more you find it is deeply layered with heavy bass thumps and a soft guitar playing in the background. The hip-hop production style is attributed to producer NibiRu Beatz, one-half of Columbus-based rap duo Reaper Mob. The other single is titled Out of It, which has a heavy atmospheric dose of synthesizers and focuses on being blinded by anxiety. Her voice reminds me of Lorde minus the accent, or perhaps even a less annoyingly-barbed version of Halsey.
So far, she’s played two shows in Columbus and is currently focusing on recording more of her work before venturing out again. Her hope is to make music that people can not only relate to, but also find solace within. She also wants to make sure that people aren’t unfairly labeled and put into a corner just for being different.
“My goal is to talk about taboo subjects in society and get a conversation going about removing stigmas from people with things like anxiety,” she stated.
To that end, she recently paired up with Say “Hi” To Me, a Seattle based clothing company who is also working to end the negative connotations around mental illnesses. They donate 10 percent of their profits to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and focus on positive hashtags such as #itsok, #stopthestigma and #stigmafree. Groups like this are important in getting the conversation started and finding help for people that might not be able to reach out otherwise.
It may not be a popular topic in music most days, but mental health is an unavoidable part of the lives of millions of people across the country and around the world.
If you’re reading this right now, you are probably close to at least one or two people who suffer with issues like depression and anxiety, and you may not even know it. If you’re struggling, I’ve always found it best to incorporate music into my daily regimen for battling through it. You never know what song might end up saving you. To that end, Mael says she’s just doing her part.
“I see Maelstrom Magnet taking me to healthier state of mind,” she adds, “and having a better understanding of myself and the things I’ve been through.”
Maelstrom Magnet – I Wouldn’t Stop Ya
All images courtesy of Maelstrom Magnet