Stitched Up Heart released Darkness on March 13th but the band, fronted by Mixi Demner, took a unique approach to putting the album out into to the world. “We tried this waterfall effect and released a new song every single month until the album dropped officially,” Demner tells American Songwriter. The drop date happened to be the same day the band had to announce the cancellation of the tour planned to support the record. “It was like, ‘It’s Friday the 13th, everything is going crazy, here’s new music,’” Demner jokes. But, as the album takes on the theme of navigating challenging times, the pandemic has made this latest batch of songs resonate strongly with fans. “There are real uncertainties right now and it’s scary and really weird. At least there’s something musically to comfort some of our listeners,” Demner explains.
Darkness walks listeners through some obstacles the band has had to navigate since 2016’s debut, Never Alone. Demner explains that things started out smoothly – they got signed, made a record, had a booking agent and a management deal – “everything was going great. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s gonna be awesome.” But then the lead singer found herself facing some health issues, which left her unsure of if she would be able to continue fronting the band. “I’ve been working my whole life for this. So it was really scary,” she says, equating the experience to having the rug pulled out from underneath her.
But Demner held on and eventually went on to infuse her battle into the lyrics of the new album. “I write as life is happening and lyrically, it’s what I was going through and so you can hear it in the words,” she explains. She wants fans to take away the message that “if you want something bad enough, keep fighting for it and you can make it through it.”
Darkness, says Demner, is very introspective. She tackles being lost in her mind as she worked to overcome her ailments as well as the idea of not being comfortable in her own skin. “Everything that I went through is sprinkled throughout the entire record,” she explains. “I wanted to ultimately come out of the darkness with the strength to get through it, but also bring that darkness to light knowing that everybody goes through these times, and it’s what makes us stronger in the end.”
The album features “Lost,” a track on which Sully Erna from Godsmack lends his vocals. Demner went back and forth over which track to include him on, ruled out the concept of a cover, and it wasn’t until the record was done that she finally was listening to “Lost” and recognized that it would be the ideal track. “He liked it and so I flew out to Nashville, he tracked his vocals, he wrote his lyrics for it,” she reveals, calling it an unforgettable partnership.
Demner, who admits she can often get stuck inside her own head, has found that clearing her mind is key to getting her into the songwriting groove. “These days, I start with a meditation,” she reveals. And she rarely writes things ahead of time. “I’ve journaled and stuff but I never use anything from there,” says Demner. Sometimes she’ll jot down a line or something she’s picked up from life, a movie she recently saw, or a conversation she overheard. But she typically starts off with just a simple concept in her head. “When we go into the studio, nothing’s been created yet. I just kind of let the producer and the guitar player go with the music as they’re writing and recording them. And I vibe with that and find the melodies and find the thing I want to say. So it is all usually happening as it’s being written right there,” she says, adding that she doesn’t like to dig from things she’s written in a different time because lyrics feel more authentic when they’re current.
Before the “Dirty Secret” session, Demner did a creativity-focused meditation. “It was all about closing your eyes, imagining there’s a box in front of you. What does the box look like? What color is it? How big is it? What is the texture? What’s inside that box? And you create this whole entire thing but somebody else’s box might be completely different,” she says. This inspired her to start the lyrics with “you keep it locked in a box inside your mind.” “It was what I saw in the meditation and how I started that creative flow for that,” she says, revealing that she always gets something out of taking a break from her typical “go go go mentality.” Another trick she uses is to listen to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins before diving into writing. “He’s one of my favorites,” she says.
On every album, Demner strives write a track in honor of the military. This time, it was “Warrior.” “My grandma asked me to some songs for our veterans and so I’m doing her and my grandpa justice by writing something about PTSD and how challenging it can be to fight for your country,” she explains.
While living in quarantine, Demner says she and guitarist Merritt Goodwin, are writing “basically a song a day” and getting a jump on album number three. “I think there’s gonna be really cool music that comes out of this,” she says. They’re in the beginning stages, as the band tends to overwrite for every album. On Darkness, they wrote 50 tracks and only used the last 10, “when the sound got to where we wanted it to go.”
The singer admits that the tour cancellation was a pretty devastating blow. So the second she got the news, she signed on to foster some kittens in need. “If I’m not on the road, I feel like I’m not getting stuff done and I will get in my own head and get really depressed. Having the babies around honestly helps me more than I even help them,” she admits. If you’re finding yourself stir crazy in lockdown, Demner invites you to DM her. “I’ll definitely hook you up to foster with Kitten Rescue!” she exclaims.
Photo: Stitched Up Heart Facebook