young forever

Nessa Barrett

young forever

“I wrote this album during the worst year of my life,” Nessa Barrett tells Apple Music about her dark and occasionally despairing first full-length. “I had recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and felt lost and alone. I could feel myself turning against me.” At the time, the alt-pop singer and TikTok star was also grieving the loss of her best friend, fellow social media sensation Cooper Noriega (the song “die first” is a tribute to him). “I didn’t know how to help myself—didn’t really want to help myself,” she says. “The only thing I did to cope was write this album.” young forever is full of stormy, minor-key anthems about heavy themes like death, mental illness, and grief. But the songs are twisted into arrangements that leave room for light (“madhouse” winks at a diagnosis, “lucky star” stretches out a hand). Below, Barrett opens up about the healing powers of songwriting and how making her debut album helped her find her voice. Where it all went down: “North Hollywood. My producer has a studio set up in his living room that is so intimate, comfortable, and relaxed. I think that’s why we were able to tackle such vulnerable, personal topics—I just felt so safe. Whenever we invited songwriters over, everyone said the same thing—it feels like home.” Hardest song to write: “‘lovebomb.’ I wanted to capture what borderline personality disorder really feels like without introducing any stigma or shame, and I wanted the song to be true to my own experience while also properly representing everyone else who has [the illness]. It’s hard to place something so personal in a larger, universal context. I’m still processing it all myself.” Track that almost didn’t make the cut: “‘forgive the world.’ The final tracklist was locked when one of the songs got pulled at the last minute. I have OCD, so I needed exactly 13 songs. When I was told that we only had 12, I started scrambling. I fell back in love with this track but wanted to redo the production; it sounded like a 2000s movie soundtrack while the rest of the album was dramatic and modern. Now I love it. Now it feels like it was meant to be on this album even though it very much slid on at the last second.” Biggest musical influences: “Arctic Monkeys, The Neighbourhood, Lana Del Rey.” Emotional or thematic centerpiece: “‘unnecessary violence.’ I was going through a terrible time while writing this album and felt like the world was out to get me, but I couldn’t see the role that the people around me played in that. It really was a lot of unnecessary violence. This song was the first time I truly spoke up for myself.” Personal favorite: “‘dear god’ symbolizes everything I was going through while making this album. It’s the most personal, vulnerable, and raw song I wrote.” Fondest studio memory: “I have no idea how [producer] Evan [Blair] and I get anything done in the studio. We are constantly goofing off. But there was a moment during our very last session, while we were finalizing the very last vocals, when everything hit us at once. We’d been working on this album for a year and a half, in that exact room, and suddenly it was the final hour. I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.” Biggest lesson learned: “This album changed me. I’m honestly a completely different person than I was when I started it—more in touch with my feelings, more patient, more self-aware. It also taught me how important it is to keep being myself in this industry, to say the things I want to say and make the music that I want to make. Looking back on it, if I had been more impressionable while making this album, I wouldn’t feel as proud as I do.” Go-to food while recording: “Anytime we go into the studio, I have so much adrenaline that I can’t do anything but write and sing. I can finish an entire song in an hour because I’m so focused and motivated. Afterwards, we take a breath and suddenly everyone’s hungry. We try to keep it healthy. Tender Greens. Smoothies. Salmon bowls. It’s still LA.” The message you hope fans take away from it: “That they’re not alone. I don’t want to be an idol, but I do want to be that person fans need when they’re struggling—someone who has been there before and can tell them it’s going to be OK. Life sucks, but it does get better. This album is a safe place.”

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