In her second piece for VoiceCouncil she opens up about her personal battles and how she is inspiring a new generation.
Connie Lim was an original finalist on The Voice USA, raised $13,000 on Kick Starter to fund her debut album and Buzzfeed named her a top Asian American musician.
Part of your performing life is about healing from eating disorders and depression – how does that work?
Music was my way of navigating through dark waters, and I get hired by intermediate schools, high schools, and colleges to talk about my journey to heal myself through music.
What were your own dark waters?
I gained intimacy with music during my battle with various eating disorders alongside undiagnosed depression. I grew up feeling like a misfit, as I was the musician of a really loving yet conventional Chinese-immigrant family that preferred I choose a safer path. I did well in school and joined a million clubs, feeling that I needed to achieve something in order to mean something to my loved ones, and especially myself.
So many struggles go undetected…
People could not notice my struggles from the outside, as I was student body president and homecoming queen. I dealt with my misfit-ness internally, and my inner voices were literally and figuratively starving to be heard. Once I found that I could play piano and sing at the same time, I immediately started to write lyrics to the piano parts I was composing. I no longer felt trapped. I felt free, and I owed it to music.
How did you go from using music in this way to sharing it with others?
I couldn’t really ignore the passion I had for creating music. I started practicing for hours on end everyday during college. In high school I had piano lessons and I would practice for those, but it wasn’t until college when I was ravenously playing for hours on end. Then I began writing more and more. By summer before my junior year in college, I quit my investment banking internship and decided to spend the summer writing music. To my parents’ dismay, of course! I knew from then on that I was always going to follow my gut. After all these years, I still follow that inner compass to guide me which direction to go.
How do students react when you perform?
I realized I was really on a meaningful path when I was talking to the 8th grade girls of Ridgecrest Intermediate School about my journey with anorexia and music. It was an entire assembly room of girls laughing, asking questions, and singing along. A lot of the girls still keep in touch, and I find it a huge honor to be a part of their life into adulthood.
When did you start this, and what was involved in the planning process?
I started to go to schools to perform after meeting Dr. Greg Allen and his daughter Jesse Allen. Dr. Greg Allen has this organization called Freedom for You, which provides teenagers with venues to perform music. On top of that, FFY provides free counselors to over 7 public schools in my home town. I would have loved to have grown up with an organization like that. Jesse had the brilliant idea to have me sing and speak to the 8th grade girls about choosing healthy, creative ways to battle unhealthy struggles.
Are schools ever reluctant to have you in?
So far all the experiences have been positive, thank goodness. :) I think because of the material I am discussing, and the positive tone of the songs I choose to play, the reception is more uplifted and inspired.
What kinds of response do you get from this audience?
Students who are sitting in plastic desks all day are craving for variety, so when someone goes in to share a story that is raw yet hopeful, they really appreciate it. I think honesty engages any type of audience, and a room full of 8th grade girls is no different. Just a lot more giggling!
Where there any particular artists which helped you through or inspired you?
I remember not being able to sleep without Enya playing on my headphones. I also had Boys 2 Men, En Vogue, Bill Withers, Jewel, Sara Mclachlan, Ben Harper, Tori Amos, and Jack Johnson on repeat. In particular, Jack Johnson’s “On and On” record made me want to be a songwriter. The way he sang about such deep and socially conscious material in such a sultry, groovy way really inspired me. Imogen heap then inspired early adulthood, as she is a self-empowering female musician who can produce, engineer, and write with great taste.
Can you give us a particular example of an audience response you will never forget?
A girl from one of the schools found me on social media and told me that she felt alone and depressed a lot, even though people didn’t notice it about her. I could see a part of myself in her, and knew that it took a lot of courage to reach out. We corresponded over email for a while. I always hope she’s doing well, and that I somehow served a role in reminding her that we don’t have to always feel so alone.
Do you have any advice for artists who are passionate about helping others through their experiences?
If artists want to choose something to help others with, I’d say that the choice is a crucial step. I have always wanted to use my musical abilities to contribute back to society somehow, but wasn’t immediately sure of what cause to really focus on. I started to ponder on my own story and shared those things with my audience.
What about tips for the business-side of this kind of venture?
Self-initiation is huge. If I hadn’t approached Dr. Allen about putting on the fundraiser show for Freedom For You, I wouldn’t have met Jesse Allen, who would have planted the seeds for this idea of performing at different schools! Again, I went with my gut. When I think of Freedom For You, my body feels joy and admiration. I am pulled towards the cause in a very deep way, and I follow that.
Interested in reading more from Connie? Read her previous article: How Creativity Can Combat Demons for Connie
Connie’s love for performing and songwriting makes her known for her dynamic range of styles, both as a performer and songwriter. In fact, Buzzfeed.com’s “20 Asian American Musicians You Must Get Behind” states that Connie can sing “From a bedroom whisper to a stadium belt”.