renforshort is prioritizing mental health more than ever on Dear Amelia
For rising artist renforshort, there’s a price to pay for constantly jumping between her hometown of Toronto and Los Angeles for work — namely a lack of sleep. But 20-year-old Lauren Isenberg, who woke up for this interview, wouldn’t have it any other way — and that impressive work ethic doesn’t just come from her Taurus sun and Gemini rising.
After finishing up a quick tour with the Band CAMINO, the alt-pop singer-songwriter played a packed show at Toronto’s historic Danforth Music Hall the night before, a tribute to the place she used to call home. But nostalgic memories of The Six aren’t the only thing on Isenberg’s mind. With her debut album, Dear Amelia (out July 8), and a newly announced tour, the young artist is pushing the vulnerability of her music and message around mental health further than ever before.
This is your first interview with AltPress, but with nearly 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify, you certainly aren’t a new artist. How would you describe the sound and the vibe you’ve tried to curate for potential new listeners?
I’d like to believe my music is relatable to a lot of people. I really prioritize putting my emotions into words, all while having a fun, guitar-forward sound. I want to have a good mix of relatable lyricism and modern sounds. It’s a real party. As someone who didn’t necessarily feel heard or seen in the media while growing up, I just want to give people what I didn’t have. It’s super cathartic to write down how I feel and just push it out, and I think a lot of the pop music I’m hearing today is super positive and happy. I want to show that vulnerable, honest music is just as important.
You mentioned in another interview that you came from a musical family, and you were sort of a theater kid growing up. Do you hear any of that musical lineage in your own work?
My parents always wanted their kids to be involved in music — all three of my brothers are also talented musicians. It started as a hobby when I was younger and just blossomed into my passion. I had always loved being onstage and singing. I would write songs on the piano about how I felt, which is where a lot of my first few singles were conceptualized. I’m really just so grateful for my parents' influence.
Do you have any early memories of performing that really stick with you?
Around ninth or 10th grade, I used to go to open mic nights all the time. Every Tuesday after school, my mom would bring me and my friend, Evan, and we would perform — it was the best night of the week. One night, Evan couldn’t make it, but I was super determined to play an original song. That meant I had to play guitar and sing onstage alone. I remember getting up there and being so nervous. It was like time had totally stopped. I managed to get through the entire thing, and everyone was so excited. That’s when I realized, "Oh, I’m OK at this. This is something I can do."
So, I know you’ve had a number of singles and EPs, but in terms of recent releases, you’re coming off Teenage Angst in 2020. How would you say you and your music have changed since turning 20 and no longer technically being a teenager?
To be fair, I just turned 20 within the last few weeks. So, I haven’t really written anything since no longer being a teenager. A big pivotal moment for me was when I turned 18, but my writing has always matured with age. When I switched to "adulthood," it really felt so much different. Although nothing really changed physically, how I viewed the world and how I viewed myself changed. For a long time, it felt like I was too young for so many topics, and then as time went on, I started to really have this understanding around being authentic to myself and my feelings. Especially after being in the industry for so long, I realized I could do whatever the fuck I wanted with my music.
I’m told that your new album, Dear Amelia, coming out July 8 is about mental health, which is a huge subject to tackle in 2022. How have you approached such a personal project?
The first songs I ever wrote were always about [mental health]. Growing up, the most constant feeling I had was thinking that there was something wrong with me — that there was something different about me. Meanwhile, it’s so common to struggle with these issues. All of my projects have been about mental health, so it just felt right to continue that idea with this project. That’s my “thing,” that’s my topic. Over these last few years, my mental health has taken a massive decline, which I didn’t even think was possible. This is so present in my life right now [that] I really can’t write about anything else without sacrificing authenticity.
Who is Amelia?
Amelia is a lot of people — she’s basically the personification of parts of my brain. I put a lot of stress on myself because I’m not good at communicating my feelings outside of music and tend to bottle them up until I’m at my breaking point. At that point, I can’t even understand those feelings myself. So, [the album] is basically an analogy for being open about your feelings and not keeping it inside because that’ll really destroy you. [Amelia] is also based on real people in my life that I’ve lost to suicide. She’s like this two-in-one character, but I feel like we’re best friends.
How would you like to see the conversations surrounding mental health go in terms of people interacting with your new project? Is there a specific message you want people to take away from it?
Don’t be afraid to talk. Talking is the best thing you can do. One of the biggest parts of this project is our “Letters to Amelia” initiative, which is where you write down everything you’re feeling and mail it to Amelia. All of the letters are discarded for anonymity, but it’s a great way to get these things off your chest — sort of like a warm-up for therapy and talking about your issues. I felt so much better in terms of my own mental health after talking about it. And I know it’s not going to cure the problem, but collecting resources and having a support system is just so good for you.
You also have a tour coming up for the album. Can you tell us a bit about that?
We’ve planned a pretty big North American and international tour that I’m so excited about — excited but nervous. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m so ready to play this album live. I’ve been on tour for the past two months [with the Band CAMINO], and I’ve really learned a lot, but now I’m ready for the next step. I couldn’t tour at the beginning of my career because my first EP came out when the lockdown was announced. So, I had this huge headliner tour that I had sold out and had to cancel. I’ve had so much time to prepare, and I’m ready to give it my all. Every show is better than the last.
FOR FANS OF: Maude Latour, Chappell Roan, Gatlin
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “moshpit”