After adding a few more trinkets and accessories to her look, Selah took a seat in her cow-printed seat next to a tall plant in front of a salmon pink wall. A spitting image of her mother, the 23-year-old graced me with her presence on the ZOOM with straight backs to reveal her beautiful face. “I wasn’t sure if I should take them out or not,” she said after I paid her a compliment. Per my usual routine, I asked Selah about the current state of her mental health, to which she responded casually yet hesitantly.
“I’m grinding within reason,” Selah said before taking a pause to explain. “Mental health is in a complex place because on the one hand, I’m definitely grinding right now so I’m a little tired sometimes or stressed or anxious sometimes. But there’s that overall contentment because it’s going towards this larger purpose that I’m happy about and I’m happy to achieve.” She continued to speak about her contentment and gratitude with softness in her voice while being transparent about the anxiety and stress about all the things she had set out to accomplish.
In a nutshell, Selah assured me that her mental health was a mixed bag of exhaustion, satisfaction, and confusion – but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s up. It’s all over,” she admitted. “I’m a person [and] it’s dynamic. It’s dynamic, but overall I’m very happy to just be in the position that I’m in right now.”
Last week, Selah released her single “Safety,” which is two minutes and 30 seconds of her hypnotic multi-dimensional vocals over a deep melodic percussion. The R&B song reflects on the duality of safety in a romantic relationship – both the yearning for protection from her partner as well as the need to look internally for that same security within herself. “I wish I knew what to do when I talk to you, what to do, what to do”, Selah expresses melodically as she uses her artistic expression of music to express her spiritual journey to self-love and internal empowerment.
Below, we dug deep into Selah’s thoughts about mental health, curating safe spaces in the music industry, and how she uses artistic expression to advocate for mental wellness and safety for her listeners.
“Safety is such a multifaceted song and topic…”
“It was originally inspired by this dynamic that I was in and what really inspired it was because I felt like I had finally met a person. I wouldn’t call myself a serial monogamist. That’s extreme, but I’ve definitely had my fair share of relationships at my age. I was in a space where I met this person where I’m still picking up the pieces from the past and this person inspired me again like I’ve been inspired in the past. I’m happy to be friends with everyone and chill and stuff like that, but when it comes to intimacy I’m very particular about mindset relationships, especially when I go deeper and deeper.
“It’s almost like lightning has to strike for me to find someone, so lightning struck and I met this person who really inspired me, almost a little bit too much because I kind of put them on a pedestal – like a celebrity crush type of thing. You feel like the person is a God to a certain degree. I’m very talkative so when I feel like I can’t be my communicative, talkative self with someone, that’s so weird to me. I understood why I couldn’t at that time – it was because I didn’t feel comfortable being myself. I’m kind of crying out in that song for them to open up the floor for that experience which is a little codependent in a way.
“Then it shifts to the space of, ‘I need to make myself feel safe as well and I need to find that sense of security within myself to bring it to you.’ There is a level where this person did make me feel safe as well so maybe a part of it is they made me feel safe, but they couldn’t always be there. When they weren’t there, I missed that protection. I do think that people can help you, but at the end of the day you have to have that self-esteem to a certain degree.”
“I feel safe within myself whenever I feel like I can just be; whenever I’m not feeling…”
“Normally I feel safe a lot of the time. I’m not one to feel very threatened or vulnerable, but that’s why this song was so special because I’m like, ‘Fuck. A vulnerability. Whoa, I didn’t know I had those.’ I feel safe with my friends. I feel safe right now. I feel safe all the time. I think it’s those moments though where there are those triggers for me or those vulnerabilities or soft spots. When a baby is first born, you can’t touch that part of their head – the soft spot. It’s like those soft spots are where I have to be more cautious with myself, but where I find myself being more cautious because I know it’s a sensitive place for me.
“When I was younger and I wasn’t as aware of myself and probably way more codependent, the idea of being broken up with would kill me. I would get into these, me and my boyfriend at the time we get these long arguments. Now I’m crying for three weeks. Now no one can stop me. I’m in a hole now. That one’s not as strong as it used to be, but it is still as soft spot. I’m able to find that safe space for myself because I live by myself. I can always go into my home sanctuary and not be too caught up in the dramas of others, of me with someone else or just the dramas of life.”
“It’s important to normalize those conversations [about sensitivity and safety] period.”
“Artists are always having those conversations however it’s the way that we’re having them. What I’ve realized with a lot of artists is the process of internalization – isn’t that what makes the best art? That someone hurt them and they didn’t go and tell them, they just made a song out of it? I look at art as a form of escapism and I love it, but can you say that to the person that you wrote the song about? I think it’s just about having that real-world connection because it’s very easy to get lost in art.
“They say, ‘necessity is the father of invention,’ meaning that some of the best ideas come out of places where there’s scarcity because you need it. With this music and art, I find that I often create art because it doesn’t exist in my world which is what makes it escapism. You need that outlet and that’s important for artists. I do think artists are having these conversations and feeling these things about themselves. It’s just about internalizing things less and expressing them outwards more to the person you’re talking to because you’re still a person on Earth. I think sometimes with art, it’s a new realm. Maybe you should take a second and process these things – everything can’t always be [an] escape.”
“I think I’m really not only a musician, but also a visual artist.”
“The thing that makes you independent, what really separates it from anyone else is that you are your own label to a certain degree. Granted, I come from a family of it, so people think I should know everything, but my parents have kids; they have other things to do. I’m not getting this constant 101 of the music business. Not to mention my grandfather’s not alive anymore, so there’s a lot of help that I have gotten but you have to do it all yourself. What I found hard about it was just the exhausting element and just not understanding how much goes into it. It was definitely a trial-and-error, learn-as-I-go type of thing, but ultimately it was all exciting.
“The video for ‘Safety’ is coming out and I’m editing that myself. I always have this visual element to everything. The fact that I’m independent, I really get to put my touch on all of it. I always feel the need to announce it because I’m just like, ‘Yeah, I designed that,’ ‘I directed that,’ or ‘I wrote that.’ I think I want to stay consistent with the music and visual art for a little bit, but I really love installation art and design. When I can tap back into that, that will definitely be a thing. The rest of this year will be music, visual art, and more of it. I’m taking it slow, I’m pacing myself, but I’m excited to do it. I have another song ideally dropping late May, early June.”
Photo Credit: Savion Spellman