In order to get made, songs often go on long, complicated journeys. Sometimes the initial inspiration is so strong that it rides all the way through the process, resulting in a finished product that’s pretty close to the first draft. Other times, the song becomes so warped by arrangements and production methods that the finished product doesn’t resemble the original song at all. Both of these paths have their merits — ultimately, what matters more is whether the finished product is ‘good’ or not — but, for a listener, it can be fascinating to imagine what kind of journey a song went on before it jumped into your ears. One such song with an interesting journey is Bel Holiday’s “Neurosis,” a single which comes ahead of her forthcoming EP Watermelon.
Holiday is a 19-year-old songwriter from Fort Lee, New Jersey and while “Neurosis” isn’t her first release, it was the first song she ever wrote. Combining her background in musical theater with her pop sensibilities, Holiday sought to use songwriting as a vehicle for speaking out about her mental illness.
“I’ve struggled with various mental illnesses for years,” Holiday said. “I wrote this song in high school when I was at a particularly low, hopeless point. I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my illness, so instead, I would write. The tune is pretty straightforward, and many young people write about their mental health, but I would like it to be known that this is a song I want anyone struggling to relate to, whether they have treatment or not, no matter what their background, race, story or anything may be like.”
The journey that “Neurosis” went on was as colorful as Holiday’s vocal performance on it. See, after writing the song, Holiday went down to Nashville to record it with producer Joe Vulpis (best known for producing Lady Gaga’s first EP) and mastering engineer Randy Merrill (known for records such as Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, Beck’s Colors and more). Despite the dream team of sorts, the track feels a bit incoherent at times, as Holiday’s voice clashes with the quasi-country pop arrangement.
“I would like to continue to write and record music, but moving forward, I would like near-total creative control over it,” Holiday told American Songwriter. “I plan on co-producing and learning to mix moving forward, hiring help as I see stylistically fit. I will no longer put my music in the hands of others, not knowing what will come of it. I have matured and learned a lot since the writing and recording of my coming EP, and I want to be able to assert myself as an artist for the sake of bringing my visions to life for all to see.”
Holiday is young and her career is just beginning. In a recent interview with The Riff, she noted that she’s been hard at work during quarantine writing a new batch of songs which are “very, very different from what I actually have coming out.” In all, there’s a lot of potential here to keep your eye on.
Listen to Bel Holiday’s “Neurosis” below: