Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.
Bocca: I’ll just say it: 2020 broke me. It was filled with break-ups, breakdowns and breakthroughs. I actually can’t even believe I survived it. I survived all of the bullshit in my own little life all while the world was on fire. It was hard for all of us, and I personally am very proud of us.
My year started off with my 71-year-old father (an actual Earth angel) getting mugged. It was the first week of January, and there we were in the ER. My father was covered in blood, imitating the godfather, surrounded by a bunch of battered and bruised Eagles fans waiting to be seen. And when I think of my dad in the ER that night, trying to make me smile after what he had been through, it reminds me to keep things light. It taught me to be grateful and to not take this shit too seriously. We were all shaken, but ultimately, looking back, I realize why my current state of mind is focused on standing on solid ground.
In March, I had just moved out of my Broad Street apartment and suffered a devastating heartbreak a day before Philadelphia shut down. Moments before getting the call not to come to work, cradling my head in my hands, I thought to myself, “I just wish the world would stop. This is too much.” And then—poof!—it happened, which was the first time I actually got what I wished for. Unfortunately. Initially, I was relieved to have time; I figured I’d accomplish some fitness goals, put some creative pedal to the metal, but instead I did none of that and eventually spiraled.
During this time, my typically busy body was forced to just be. I was without a job for the first time since I was 16. I was not juggling music sessions, live shows, a full-time job and my Disney Princess birthday-party business. I couldn’t even write one song. I had to let go. I had to sit in it. My good ol’ heartbreak remedy of singing at a gay piano bar wasn’t an option. Booking a show that I could rehearse for wasn’t an option. Going to see My Chemical Romance in the nosebleeds for $300 by myself wasn’t an option. Running away wasn’t an option.
Thankfully, I later found that I could funnel this restlessness into protesting, getting wine drunk with friends via FaceTime, cooking up some interesting things and appreciating yoga again. My full-time job became taking care of the people I love, which in some cases backfired. With all of this time on my hands, I fell back into old patterns and neglected myself. Other than the mind-fuck of my love life and feeling empty, things were chill. I was getting hammered in my sweats like everyone else, tried and failed to help my new roommate garden and discovered a newfound love the music of Mac Miller and the shows Dave and Euphoria.
I was mostly feeling uninspired, because my songwriting is motivated by love. I wasn’t making music, and I convinced myself that I was happy and that I wasn’t still heartbroken. Instead of finding a stay-at-home job, I kept putting my time into someone who genuinely didn’t deserve it. And, of course, it ended for the final time. I went down the well-known rabbit hole of “how could I have let this happen again?” etc. I felt weak. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t me. And I wasn’t happy about it. I didn’t feel safe with intimate relationships anymore, and it was my responsibility to figure out where this PTSD was really coming from and how to get my groove back.
I decided to make some changes within my control but without health care. I signed up for therapy. I dyed my hair brown (as we do). I downloaded a dating app. I jumped into a relationship with someone new. I quit my job, which knocked me off unemployment. But I found a new job, moved into a new house with one of my best friends, deleted dating apps, avoided therapy, drank alone with the shades down, bleached my hair and decided not to date anyone in Philly ever again.
I eventually did some emotional inventory. I aimed higher by making lists of what I want, called every friend imaginable and decided to meet my therapist more than once a month. Then, the writing actually began. I started working on songs with Tom Charles, ACP Quest (Brooklyn) and with co-writer/producer Michael Anticoli (Los Angeles) via FaceTime. It literally revived me. I feel like a brand-new artist, a brand-new vocalist.
This is also the first time I have actually worked on pop music for myself—ever—which will make anyone who knows me laugh, because I am the biggest pop-music fan. Honestly, Fine Line by Harry Styles is my album of the year. I find this ironic considering my EP was originally a rock project titled Trying To Get Sober During The Great Depression.
Making pop music saved my life when I was a kid, recording myself on cassette tapes, and after suppressing my love for it for so long, making pop music is what saved my life in 2020. My current project is First Love Records. I never release anything, so now is the time. It feels like the first time for a lot of things in my life since the onset of the pandemic, and for that I’m laughing at how cliché it sounds looking back, but I’m grateful.
Having the time to take a step back and really figure out what I want has been … different and hard. Because when you know what you want, you have something to say—not just in songs, but in your life. I’m cautiously happy to say that my father’s assault really put me in my place. (I’m at his house now writing this, and he just made me a waffle. He’s the greatest.)
It raised a question that I’ve continued asking all year: What do I want for my future? I now have a crystal-clear vision of who I want in my life and what energies I will allow in my life; a real and motherfucking flaming self-respect; and a pop record coming out this spring that I’m not even remotely ashamed of: First Love Records, produced by Michael Anticoli.
Please check out: Michael Anticoli’s On Being A Stone and Tahmahawk & ACP Quest’s Two Thousand And Forever.
Special thanks to: Pieces & Pardons (handmade earrings), Mark Sileo (MUA) and Kathleen Gima Hager (editing).