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Brooke Candy On Addiction, Recovery, And Rock Bottom

“Being alive, the entire life journey is a fucking recovery from something”

by Eve Barlow

Brooke Candy's new track has been two years in the offing, but it couldn't have come at a better time; "Living Out Loud" is exactly the message anyone who's feeling dragged down by society needs right now to feel understood. Even if the solution doesn't necessarily present itself immediately, the words contained within will provide temporary relief: “No one can break me down/ I'm screaming my demons out/ Cuz living out loud is the only way I know how.”

Over sugary pop synths and danceable club beats, the 27-year-old L.A. native hooks up with prolific songwriter and recovered addict Sia, who wrote the track when Candy was pulling herself from a hopeless abyss of substance abuse. We recently caught up with Candy to chat about her kindred connection with Sia, her own drugs battles, and her forthcoming debut album Daddy Issues (executive produced by Sia, naturally) as she headed back home after a boxing class.

Hey Brooke, you okay?

Hey girl, how are you? I woke up with a piece of pizza on me in my bed with no recollection of how it got there. The fucking pizza demon monster comes out whenever I've had a glass of wine or two.

Let's talk about "Living Out Loud." When did you and Sia write the song?

Sia took the reins writing it over two and a half years ago, and I recorded it then. We've mixed and remixed it, and we waited for the right moment [to release it].

Do you remember the first time you heard it? What struck you about it?

I like the sonic composition of it, and it's interesting having me and Sia sing back and forth to each other. At the time I was getting sober, thinking about changing my lifestyle, finding happiness… So it resonated with me because I was looking for that.

Sia hit you up on Instagram initially. Did you both hang out immediately and have some kind of instant spark? What's the thing that connects you?

Oh man, I think we've just been slightly misunderstood [by society]. We're both addicts, we're both eccentric, we're both very kooky, and we're strong women. That's what attracted me to her. She's such a powerful force. Being in a room with her, you feel her energy, and it's so fucking powerful.

The song is an anthem for moving on from mistakes, being proud of your past. Do you and Sia connect on that specifically? Do you discuss mutual struggles with one another?

Yeah, totally. During my very first meeting with her, I confessed that I was totally addicted to pills, I spoke about my family drama growing up. She had so many similar stories and traumatic moments. We bonded over that. I think she saw herself in me and wanted to save me from making all of these horrendous mistakes. She helped me with that.

Is it scary to release such a big literal pop song when you're used to being more of a fringe artist? Do you see it as necessary to confound the taboos around mental health and substance abuse in the pop industry like Sia has?

Totally. Sia's music is so empowering. All of her pop is so fucking uplifting, the message is always positive; it's very angelic and fucking rad. Do I find it nerve-racking to sing a pop song like this as the type of artist that I was before? Yeah, it's fucking terrifying. I'm attracted to all types of music and art, so making pop is just another notch in the belt, another expression. But singing, to me, is very scary, and the song is so sentimental and emotional.

Pop music has such a wider reach than any other genre, and that is a brilliant thing.

And you're literally more powerful than any politician on the planet. As a pop star or a musician with social media and the size of the platform, you can potentially fully sway the masses and shift consciousness. It's crazy. A lot of people don't use their platform for that. They don't recognize it. I don't know if they're afraid to use their platform to create some real social change because they're afraid to give up all of the material bullshit that comes along with the music industry. What you were talking about before, I agree with. The music industry does totally overlook substance abuse and mental health. It works out in their favor if they overlook it. It's so fucking frustrating because every artist I know is so emotionally distraught or they have substance abuse issues. No one's really around to help or challenge that.

Has the industry disappointed you for not supporting your issues?

My health issues? Yeah. That's what's so fucking great about Sia. She recognizes that too. She said this a long time ago when I first met her: "I really believe that I might be the only person that can help you get to the next level." Because she knows how fucked up the industry is, she knows how unsupportive it is, and she knew that I had these issues. She knew all the tricks because she'd already done it. I'd love to be a proponent for mental health and stability and put it all out there that I was just the craziest human being on the planet. I want to share all the tricks.

Are you comfortable talking about your substance abuse now? What led to your spiral?

Totally. I've been thinking a lot about it. Lately, I'm trying to find more balance in my life. If I wanna have a glass of wine, take a hit of a joint, whatever, I don't wanna think about it. I want to have balance and live my life to the fullest. But that came with falling down a hole of fucking misery through hard-core drugs, painkillers, Xanax, heroin, all that, on a regular basis. Then I had to be shaken and hit rock bottom, get completely sober and start working through childhood emotional trauma… a lot of trauma. Then I did ayahuasca, which was the most transcendental experience, and now I'm trying to find some balance here. But I feel like it's all a journey. I don't know, man.

The lyrics point to being a young teen dealing with these issues. How young were you when you got into abusive substances?

I started young. I was maybe 12 the first time I got wasted. I started taking pills really young. I had a lot of trauma that I hadn't dealt with. I was still a child. That's really what it is. That's the root of everything—childhood issues. You have to just work through it. Do the work and then find the balance. Be grateful.

When you had hit your lowest ebb and wanted to overcome it, what were the first steps to pulling yourself out?

I got to a point where I wouldn't leave my house for a week, I would lay in the dark for days, wouldn't answer the phone, I was in so much physical pain from painkillers that I couldn't even feel numb anymore. No dose could handle it. Drugs weren't working anymore. I was fucking all over the place.

When was that?

Two years ago. I woke up every day and wanted to kill myself. I was just was very, very, very depressed. I don't think I had the right people around me. 

That's rough. Did you feel alone in your recovery?

No actually. I felt more support in [recovery] than I've ever felt in my entire life.

When did that process begin? What did it start with?

I was in the darkest demon headspace, so scary. I went to a detox place for two and a half weeks, then I went to a closed-off rehab for more than three months. Sia was involved in all that. She picked the place, took the reins there. My family was really supportive. Since becoming a happy person who's grateful to be alive, I'm now close to my family. All my relationships with friends are real and pure, and it's fucking cool. The process was really, really hard and long. It's still a process.

It's amazing that you're not worried about relapsing when you're out. Do you feel recovered? Does anyone ever really recover from anything?

No. No one ever fully recovers, and you know what? Everyone is addicted to something. Pretty much at this point, space, and time, everything is a fucking addiction. Being alive, the entire life journey is a fucking recovery from something.

In many respects, society functions to push us toward addiction rather than to protect us.

Oh, totally. Society and the mainstream media don't want us to transcend this physical barrier that's reality. They push drugs, sugar, TV shows, and propaganda to keep us asleep. Society doesn't really wanna see healthy.

Tell me a bit about Daddy Issues

Oh, I got so many of them!

Can you talk about the record yet?

I think it's done. I have this one song I want to record last. I felt like I was missing something, and so I hit up Sia and asked, "Do you have the gayest Cher record? I just want to become Cher." She sent me this song that's so fucking sick, so I have to record that, and then it's done.

Is this record an exorcism of demons?

Oh yeah, I was in full demon mode when I made it, I was channeling the darkest energy. I had this one studio session with this rad producer named Matt Koma [Zedd, Carly Rae Jepsen] and I showed up early and I was hysterically crying in the lobby. He walks in and goes, "Hey I'm Matt." And I'm like, "Okay, I'm really setting the tone here." Goddamnit.

Real tears are on this record.

Real sad girl tears.

You've collaborated with huge producers Greg Kurstin and Jack Antonoff on this record too, correct?

Yeah. Real amazing musicians. I literally have no idea why they wanna make music with me. Like, "You guys actually can play instruments, and you're savants and you're so sick. Why? Why?"

Is there one song in particular that you're most excited about?

Actually, that Cher record is the fucking shit, and there's another record called "Volcano." I'm rapping on it, and I love to rap.

In terms of living out loud, you said certain people in the industry don't use their platform enough. What are you prioritizing on your platform in the current times we live in?

Oh my god, the environment is number one. I'm still trying to figure out how to properly infiltrate. I want to become an environmentalist. If I could do anything else, that's what I would do. I think the majority of human beings need to focus all their energy on this. A lot of the political garbage that we're flooded with on the daily lately is a distraction from something much greater: the climate. I wanna save the water. I like to surf. I like living on this planet. I'd like to conserve it. And I'd like to teach people to be conscious and maybe live more minimally and stop consuming. Also, using my platform to promote all the beautiful, fucking talented, and rad women around me is cool. I think I've always been an okay feminist. I could do better, but I love to promote all the cool women. Right now, as artists, we have so much power in this political turmoil. I just wanna be a proponent of love.

Finally, what was the ayahuasca like?

Oh my god, dude. So here's the thing. I get sober, but then I'm still totally paranoid and depressed, and I can't fucking shake that. You take away the drugs, and I'm like, "Oh my god, now I gotta live with the neuroses." Then I did ayahuasca with this shaman at this fucking witch house and the paranoia? Gone. All the fear? Gone. It changed me on a cellular level. If everyone on the planet would just do that all at once, we would all turn into dust or vapor, and all of a sudden everything would be sand, and we'd all be in white loincloths feeding each other grapes. Let's just all sit down, give ourselves the time to trip out, and transcend.