SAN DIEGO -- In the late 90’s, the Billie Myers musical hit, Kiss the Rain, was a dance floor favorite at hundreds of clubs and it inundated airwaves around the world. Her album Growing Pains also sold millions of copies, turning Myers into a platinum recording artist.
She catapulted to international fame, the top of the musical charts, and shared the stage with various artists like Sarah McLachlan and Bob Dylan. However, when the touring was over, Myers brutally fell into anonymity; hitting rock bottom financially, professionally and personally.
Tea and Sympathyis her triumphant return after a seven-year hiatus. She is back, both figuratively with her new album and literally, by publicly breaking her silence for the first time on the depression that nearly took her life.
After Universal dropped her from their label in 2000, Myers created her own - Fruit Loop Records. She has since embraced guerrilla-style promotions and PR techniques by successfully utilizing the internet and all its social platforms as marketing and distribution tools.
The album’s first single I Hope You're Happy Now was released exclusively on iTunes and within 24 hours of its release, Tea and Sympathy scored the #15 spot on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart.
Tea & Sympathy
In Tea & Sympathy she remains true to the expressive vocals and incisive lyrics that earned her a loyal fan base and ongoing critical acclaim. Myers also broke musical ground by collaborating with UK producer Dee Adam and fashioning a unique collage of sound that intertwines electronica, bluesy guitars and trip-hop beats around her acoustic, rock roots.
SDGLN recently spoke with Myers about her new album and the troubling times during her hiatus from the music world.
SDGLN: Talk to us about the album title.
Billie Myers (BM): Sadly and in a nut shell, it comes from the fact I arrived at an ex-lover’s house earlier than they expected. I didn’t find them with another person, but found them looking disheveled and denying having been with some else. And when I walked into the bedroom there was indeed a cup of tea with incriminating lipstick on the side; so many of the songs in the album pertain to that person, not every single one of them, but a lot of them.
SDGLN: Do you have a personal favorite?
BM: Honestly, it really depends on the day. They all have their traits. If I’m all upbeat it would be Dear God cause it has that semi-dance section, Anonymous always makes me feel like I’m moving around in a James Bond movie, and Not another Love Song simply makes me smile. Not sure that I have an actual favorite though, it depends on the day.
SDGLN: Let’s talk then about the first single I Hope You’re Happy Now, on what kind of day did you write it?
BM: The song was written about a year and a half ago, but the poem it’s based on was written earlier. In every relationship when it ends, there is always one person that does not want it to end. In the case of the song, it was me. You have that fantasy that the person will leave you, realize how important you were and come back, but that does not actually happen.
In my case, she had found someone else and she was very happy. I remember seeing them and thinking, - ugh - they are f**king happy - so part of it pertains to my anger at how happy they were and their indifference at how unhappy I was. I am known for my sarcasm, and in all honesty, what you actually hope is that that person is not happy. The song is incredibly sarcastic.
SDGLN: What about Send me an Angel, like many of your songs it is very poetic, can you tell us about the inspiration for those lyrics?
BM: When you’re lying in bed unable to sleep, you have far too much time to think and at the time that I was writing it, I was in the middle of a real deep depression. You get to a point in your life where you just have to wonder, “Is God there?” I mean people like to believe in God and karma and that good things come to good people, but there are times when you just sit there and you absolutely have to wonder if that is just a bunch of rubbish.
There is a line in there that says, “I’m running out of things to live for…” and that’s basically where I was. There are only so many of those days you can take and at some point you need someone to intervene and be your angel. This song and Anonymous are probably the most really honest portrayals of when I have been in a very bad spot.
SDGLN: Let’s talk about something you have already alluded to – depression. How did it begin for you?
BM: After Universal and myself parted ways, I somewhat näively thought I would get resigned. I was wrong about how difficult it would be. And I think the female singer/song writer kind of went out of fashion for a while.
I went to meetings and tried really hard. People would say they loved my music, my hits, but production-wise, that wasn’t working for radio anymore. At one point someone suggested that I take a look at Eminem’s production style and honestly, I have to say that was the final straw for me.
It went on like for a few years and I knew I was feeling bad, but not necessarily in a bad spot. Then without knowing how, I had slipped into such a place, it became so much easier for me to stay home. To not have to go out and lie to people when they would ask, what are you doing and be all excited and I would have to try and pretend that I was excited about something that I was not actually doing (“when is the next album coming up?” “oh, I’m working on it”) what are the songs about etc. it took so much effort just to lie.
Eventually, I became very isolated and very morose. I’ve looked at some of the stuff that I had written during that time, and I’m kind of half joking but if I were to put all those lyrics to music, it would sort of be like the funeral that never was. I look at those lyrics and they all have the same dark, lonely thread. They’re bizarre. One song was sort of a funny parody, although it didn’t read that way, of the many different ways in which you can kill yourself.
SDGLN: Where did you find the courage and the strength to overcome the depression?
BM: I didn’t. I wish I could say it was courage but it was me having really good friends that recognized that something was wrong with me; bravery and courage, not so much.
One day, I think it had just gotten bad; I made some comment about never wanting to wake up. And my friends had been saying for a long time, “we understand you’re in a bad spot but this is beyond being in a bad spot” and they began to indiscreetly intervene. On one occasion, I told them about playing chicken in my car and later one of my friends who had this gaudy Lexus convinced me to switch cars with her temporarily.
[It didn't occur] to me until years later, when my friend told me that they knew if I was driving someone else’s car, I wouldn’t play chicken. Then eventually they convinced me to go see a psychiatrist and he informed me that I was depressed, at which point I said he was incorrect and it went back and forth. I would try tablets, they would work for a minute, but it was all cyclical.
SDGLN: Is it an ongoing battle?
BM: Yes. I take my pills. If I didn’t take them, I would most likely become depressed. Do I have down days? Absolutely. I have to be careful, you can have a down day and just be down, it doesn’t mean you’re depressed, but because I am pre-disposed to depression, I have to watch where that leads. I live with depression, I am not cured.
But there is something to be said about talking about it and taking away the power that it has. When you hide at home, you become stigmatized and sink back into it. You have to ask for help. Depression is such an insidious condition that so many have and don’t know that they do. I’m out there now working with the JED Foundation.
SDGLN: Do you have any advice for other musical artists who despite successes have been dropped by major labels?
BM:You have to be patient and maintain a positive attitude that things will go your way. You almost have to write on your wall that you are one “yes” away from being successful. You also have to lose the sense that you’re going to be a huge rock star and make a ton of money. That’s not the world we live in. You have to go into it with a realistic concept. The independent music industry is completely different than the major labels, you have to be patient, be a real go-getter and of course writing a good song is always a good start.
SDGLN: Are you coming to San Diego anytime soon?
BM:At the moment we are trying to get it all together to do a tour and yes San Diego would be on that tour.
Fans can listen to the new single as well samples from Tea and Sympathy and Myers’ entire repertoire online.
More about Myers:
Myers' life is inspirational. She puts a face to many different social, gender, ethnic and psychological issues that currently affect millions of people.
Abandoned by her mother at the age of four, she suffered through seven years of emotional abuse until her biological father and stepmother took her in. As a bi-racial individual (English mother/Jamaican father) she has battled with racism, rejection and discrimination.
Today, in addition to focusing on her music, Myers is also the spokesperson for the JED Foundation - the leading nonprofit organization addressing issues related to mental health and suicide in the college population.
Although she lives in the UK, Myers divides her time between there and her home in the U.S., participating in major events such as the National Equality March in Washington D.C. in October 2009. Accompanied by Dave Koz on saxophone, Myers delivered a phenomenal live rendition of America the Beautiful.
“My nationality does not today trump my sexuality,” Myers exclaimed, addressing the crowd before her performance. “I am a very proud member of the LGBT community. I will not be defined by anybody else. I will not silenced. I am bisexual and I am f--king proud of it.”