We celebrated with Grammy Award-nominated musician Carla Morrison on her latest album #ElRenacimiento, and got deep about healing and mental health.
As told to #WeAllGrow Latina
My intention for my audience when they listen to my latest album El Renacimiento is to listen carefully. If you feel like you can see yourself in these stories, it probably means that there is some work you have to do within yourself that you might not want to confront. The truth hurts, but the truth also sets you free. When I made this album, I isolated myself from the industry, from making music, from my family, and my friends. I just left. It gave me the opportunity to realize a ton of stuff. I feel like the pandemic made all of us do that, and now we’re returning to a new normal and have to make decisions. I hope people can listen and reflect.
As artists, we give ourselves completely over to our work that we [sometimes] don’t grow personally. I had abandoned myself for a long time. So I spent a lot of time with myself, setting boundaries, and working on my music, technique, and vocals. I set the intention to grow, internally and personally. Even though sometimes growing is painful, it was something that I had to do in order to be able to even think about a new album or come back to music. Because if I didn’t try and grow, I would be in the same place.
Talking about anxiety and mental health is something that I’ve already brought into my music in other songs. But this time, I wanted to do it intentionally because many of us have felt very anxious [during the last couple of years]. Plus, in the Latin world, it’s not talked about enough. It’s shameful. If you say that you have ansiedad, or that you’re going through a hard time or depression, we don’t talk about it. We joke around. We talk about how your Abuelita is doing. We don’t talk about you. I think it’s something that [needs to change].
Usually, songs serve as a natural way for conversations to start. For example, one of my fans [could] play the music in the car with their mom and say, “have you felt like that before, mom?” Then they start talking about [mental health] organically. I wish back then, when I was having panic attacks at nine years old, I could’ve seen somebody [singing about] this. But at the end of the day, that also helped me become the person I needed.
I’ve had to accept myself. I’ve learned to accept myself, that sometimes I’m just going to be a ball of nerves, and then the next moment I’m going to be happy, and then the next moment I’ll be going through the deep stuff. It is reflected in my songs, which is good because we live with different emotions. We don’t only fall in love. We don’t only get mad. We don’t only have our weird times. We have good times, and we have all sorts of moments. Balancing [these feelings in the album] wasn’t something I set out to do, but it just came naturally because I practiced it in my daily life, so it was reflected in my songs. It was pretty organic.
The sound [of this latest album] happened because I was shielding myself with the guitar for the longest time and trying to be as safe as I could with my sound. But this time around, I wanted to make my sound similar to the music I listen to. I’m very inspired by Adele, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa. I wanted to allow myself to go to a place that I, as a Latina, could also explore. And it doesn’t have to sound like reggaeton, even though I love reggaeton. It can sound very global and pop. I worked on the sound with my constant collaborator, which is my husband & Damian. We worked on it in a way where we could just be free and make it evolve and change. We knew it was a whole different universe from all my past albums. I felt like I wanted to make this change, grow, and go in another direction. It was a process.
Healing for me looks like a really hard time. Healing is the same as when you get a cut or paper cut. You’re trying to heal it, and it’s annoying, and it hurts. And then you go, “oh, it’s open again.” You put medicine or alcohol in it, and it hurts, and it burns. Healing is not easy. But, after you go through [the process], it heals, and you are better. Healing is not a straight line. It has ups and downs; you feel bad, get up, go down, go deeper, and it’s hard. But it’s supposed to happen.
When I ask for help, it means that I am going through something hard.
It’s hard for me to ask for help, but I just remind myself that I really need to ask for it. And it doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make me somebody that’s not trying hard. I think asking for help makes you brave. I’ve been encouraging my fans to do so because I know how it is to keep it all inside because I did that. And that burnt me out and made me depressed. And that made me move to the other side of the world because I just couldn’t confront myself and tell myself the truth. You don’t want to do that. Say the truth, ask for help, and understand that physical health is the same and as important as mental health and vice versa. One cannot live without the other. As Latinos and people of color in our community, it’s hard to accept it, but you gotta do it. This is why we have community. This is why we have friends. This is why we have family. This is why we create connections. Because we need one another, and that’s okay.
I try to make it a point and schedule [time to nurture my amigas] in my agenda and say, “this day, I’m going to send messages to all of my friends and catch up.” I used to think friendships were more complicated than they are, but sometimes you just have to call them up, text them, send them a voice message and ask them how they are doing. Ask them to open up to you. Because sometimes, we call them because we need to get things off our chest. But we don’t really ask them how that job is? How is that relationship? How do you feel? Those things make your friends feel seen. It’s connection that we’re all craving.
I think the whole point of coming to this world is to grow. Because then we all grow together. We are all stars and shine at our moment. We just share that light. The stars shine because of the sun. It’s part of the understanding that being alive is a shared experience – to grow and keep learning, make mistakes, and keep growing. At the end of the day, when you make mistakes, you’re just growing. So celebrate when people make milestones. And be happy for one another.
Listen to Carla Morrison’s latest album El Renacimiento!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.