Boston Sports Desk recently got to chat with breakout alternative rocker Mandi Crimmins, and we heard all about her songwriting process, experience studying at Berklee College of Music, happy accident with hair dye, and one very sassy Easter Egg in her latest video. Read on for all that and more below!
***Edited for clarity***
AS: Angelina Singer (interviewer)
MC: Mandi Crimmins
AS: Today I’m chatting with new up-and-coming alternative rock musician Mandi Crimmins, all about her new single “Making Me Hate You”. I want to start by hearing about how you came from a place of repentance and moving forward (as seen from your last EP release Metanoia) to a place of more anger and frustration (as seen in the new single).
MC: Yeah, it [Making Me Hate You] is an angry song. Honestly though, it was one of those songs like I wrote it, and there was so much like, I don’t know. Every time I write it just definitely heals me, as soon as I write it. And it feels like this release as soon as it’s done. I was kind of revisiting like an old wound – one of those really deep ones that I’ve found, in my experience – they heal but they’re always still a little tender, you know? So it’s one of those times in my life that was really influential, both good and bad. I tend to think back on it a lot and sometimes the songs are angry, sometimes they’re more of like “hey, I’m so happy I’m here and not there”. But yeah, this was definitely one of those like I needed to get it out, to just be angry for a minute. Like wow, nope.
AS: It’s a beautiful song! And I couldn’t get over just the sheer amount of musicality in it. I mean you have just incredible vocals – incredible range. How do you attack your lyricism, what do you do to start writing that kind of stuff?
MC: I find the more I write, I can’t just, like pull it out [of thin air]. Like when I try to write, I end up not liking anything that I write. It has to really come from something that has brought me back to some feeling that’s related to what the song is about. And I’ll kind of steel myself from wherever I am, if it’s in public or whatever, and I’ll kind of jot down what’s in my head. I just try to piece all my jumbled brain thoughts together. But yeah, it all comes from a very real place. I just was reminded of these feelings back when I was writing this song this year. I had this time when I was reminded of how I felt during that period, and trying not to repeat the same mistakes in my life, you know? I have to be feeling it – it’s hard to explain.
AS: Totally! And I noticed you have these beautiful chords and just a massive, kind of a key lift toward the end [of the song]. I read that you went to Berklee [college of music in Boston, MA] so you have a lot of musical background. Tell me a bit about how Berklee groomed you for some of that intricate writing that most people can’t do as easily.
MC: Berklee was an incredible time in my life. And I’m just like, still shocked that I’m old enough to even have graduated from a college [laughs]. I don’t go there anymore! But it was a crazy beautiful time in my life. And everyone who comes in there is so talented, and everyone has so much potential, and they both nurture that, and make sure you know that you deserve to be there, but at the same time they push you so hard, and they just break you in the best way. So my whole time there just built on, every year, coming out of my comfort zone, writing lyrics that were harder or a that were little too personal. And I thought I wanted to write, but then you know it opens up all these doors. Chord-wise, everyone does the same chord progressions, so it’s like “what can you do that’s a little different, but still catchy?” Yeah, they prepare anybody for everything.
AS: Yeah literally! And listening to your EP Metanoia, and your song “Ashes”, that song is like everywhere. I thought it was gonna zig and it zagged, it structurally blew my mind. Like “what even is that” but I loved it!
MC: Thank you!
AS: It’s cool to see that you’ve continued that sort of stretch, because obviously “Making Me Hate You” is a straight pop song – it’s pretty pop. There’s rock in it, but Metanoia has more post-hardcore, dare I say punk influences – which I also loved! So it’s interesting how you’ve taken these influences and blended that into a pop song. And yet it is still sonically your style! It’s cool to see that. So how do you make sense of these feelings you had? You said you had some anger – I won’t pry too much, but you can share as much as you’re comfortable, no pressure! What happened in your life that pushed you in that direction?
MC: Yeah I try to be open about it while also maintaining a bit of privacy, but I was just in this really toxic relationship for a few years, and you don’t know when you’re in it. So it just kind of robbed me of these years, and it was this whole mess. And as soon as I got out of it, I just looked back, and there’s just like so much that happened internally and externally. So I write about this time period a lot because it definitely changed me for, I think the good, but it definitely changed me. So I’m grateful for that time period. But I find that when something is pulling on me a lot, I try to write about it because it helps me make sense of it. Like if it’s all very confusing. So if I write songs about it, and if I kind of put feelings to words / words to feelings, it kinda connects on my brain. And I can lock that box up, put it on a shelf, and I’m content, I’m good.
AS: Yeah, absolutely! I’m sure a lot of creatives will agree! I wanna ask now about your music video. You have a beautiful concept video for this new tune that I was lucky enough to watch before anybody else. How did you get the concept? Did you come up with that, or did Smash Cut Films come up with the concept for you?
MC: They [Smash Cut Films] were amazing! I had never done a music video before, so I was super anxious going into this – like in a good way, and also in a terrified way. It was definitely like a really good group effort where they really got the song, and they read the lyrics, and listened to it, and totally understood from the beginning, what it was about. So we went into the first meeting, and they already had this kind of basic storyline, and I was like “That’s it! That’s what it’s about. I don’t know how you knew all this!” But yeah, they were fantastic, and they had a lot of those ideas, and then I would bring stuff to the table, our team would bring stuff to the table. It was a good little group effort. I got to include some really personal little Easter eggs in the video…
MC: Probably only my family would know, but yeah there’s a necklace in the video that I wear, and it actually was a necklace that I was given during this toxic relationship. So I kept it, didn’t know I kept it until we were gonna shoot, and I was like “hey can I bring this? Can we do something to this?” So that was, awesome – for me as a human being.– Mandi Crimmins, on music video Easter Eggs
AS: Oh that’s epic, wow! That’s a really good insider look, thank you for that [laughs]. So now that you’ve gone through the process of putting your anger out and making a concept video, and just doing all the things you kind of needed to do to heal and process, do you feel you’ve come to a better place from that experience and putting it out there creatively?
MC: Oh absolutely! It was kind of like, I needed to make sense of feeling totally pulled between loving and hating someone. Because that is a very fine, blurry line sometimes. And I definitely feel like I’ve gotten to this point that I didn’t even know I needed to get to. But after this whole song and this whole experience of the video and everything, yeah, it’s been great.
AS: Yeah absolutely! And do you have any suggestions for fellow creatives, I mean what’s your best advice for anyone who wants to take a similar career path?
MC: Hmm, I mean I always agree with anyone who says “just go for it”. Everyone’s gonna have an opinion, but don’t let that deter you. But also, I think something that’s not said enough [is that] it’s going to take so much sacrifice in a good way, so you just gotta jump into it with everything you have, and just roll with it. And it’s so rewarding! When you just commit, a hundred percent, and you’re just like, “cool, this is what I’m doing. Not listening to anyone.” Yeah, so that’s my advice. Just jump in, and don’t listen to anyone who says anything negative! They’re just jealous!
AS: [Laughs] That’s so solid! And now as we’re finishing up, some last smaller fun questions. Who are your biggest influences? I have a couple that I attributed to you in your article, but tell me, who are your biggest inspirations?
MC: Yeah, okay – biggest influence is definitely Evanescence. Like, hardcore. I was like an angsty nine-year-old [laughs]. I don’t even know how I was so angsty at nine, ten years old but I was! She [Amy Lee] is a huge influence on me. Another more modern one, like Halsey. I love Halsey, I love that it’s alternative and different but still sounds mainstream. One that’s not always on right now, I love Imogen Heap. Imogen Heap is like insanity, and her musicianship, it makes you feel so inferior in the best way [laughs]. She’s so good. So those are my main ones.
AS: Yeah! And I always like to ask people too, just because I find it really fun. What’s your biggest, like “oh my gosh’, awkward moment, from maybe a stage performance, something fun that you can share, for readers?
MC: Well there are so many. My whole life is just one awkward moment, just stuck together, it’s okay! [Laughs] Oh man, I’ve definitely had some awkward stage moments. Oh! I just remembered one, yes. My first show back, after not being on stage for a good chunk, mostly attributed to, finishing college, but also a relationship that I kind of got deterred with. So got back on stage, it was my first show, and I was doing one of my original songs. And I forgot the lyrics – like, the opening lyrics – to the point that I couldn’t even salvage anything to come out of my mouth. And I had to have the band stop, I had to go look at the lyrics. Definitely awkward but, you know. You just roll with it!
AS: Yeah, absolutely! Now that brings me to another question I had. Your production is just out of sight, I wanna know – do you play all the instruments that you hear? Or do you have people that you collaborate with? What’s your process like for that?
MC: Jason Strong is the producer on this. He is insanely talented! I went to see him in LA to do this, because I like to be in the same room, to be vibing and creating, and he’s insane, insane, insane. He’s so good. So he was behind a lot of that. I play piano, so cool things that I did, like the demo – kind of here by myself, kind of a while ago after I wrote the song. I just kind of wanted to see what I wanted it to sound like, matching what was in my head to my ear. And so the demo, after I polished it a bit, and I sent it off, we ended up using some of the sound from my demo. And he has a way to extract them, and make them sound way more professional than I had them sounding. So it was really cool to have some of that stuff that I picked out. Like the beginning choir-y opening, I loved those little effects. I love having a hand in the production. I’m not a producer of any sort, but I just don’t want to be like “here yeah, cool, create it.” I definitely like [collaborating with] that. And that’s another Berklee thing – everyone’s wearing twelve different hats. Everyone’s gotta know how to do everything, can’t be one stop, you know?
AS: Absolutely! And it is, a fantastic production job on your music. But it’s cool how you start with that really shimmering, ethereal vibe. And then you don’t return to it. You hear like hints of it throughout [the rest of the song] but it’s so subtle. And there’s something really dark and intriguing about that sort of not returning to it. But then you return to the hook, and the chorus, obviously, with the key lift, and it’s just so good. I can tell you must have had so much fun doing that.
MC: So much fun, so much fun. And I just love things in music – another huge influence is Coldplay. And I love that Coldplay has this way of putting you into a space, and like a texture. That just always gets me into the mood of the song and they always manage to have their songs have a feeling. So that was something I definitely wanted with those effects, especially in the beginning to kind of pull you in. To draw you into this weird like, mood – you’re definitely feeling something. It’s not super happy, you’re feeling something. And it’s deep. So I just love doing stuff like that, so that was our main goal – to create this world around you.
AS: Yeah, it really comes through. It was fantastic! And I mean, now you’re signed to Strega! That’s exciting! And I mean, we’ve seen greats come out of their management which is just fantastic. People like Single By Sunday, just killing the game right now. So many good acts, and I can’t wait to see what you do next! I mean, you’re gonna be fantastic, I’m so excited for you!
MC: Thank you! Aw, I’m so excited. Strega has been incredible, I don’t know what I did without them before this. I can’t imagine not being around them. They’re just all incredible.
AS: Most definitely! Now, last question – why the beautiful red hair? Does it mean something to you?
MC: This is actually a really good story! [Laughs]
AS: Oh great! Shoot.
MC: I’ve always dyed my hair like my whole life. I think ever since I was twelve I started dying my hair, parents were horrified. Not crazy colors, definitely within the realm of “normalcy”, quote unquote. But it was a couple years ago, I went into a salon – I knew I would mess it up. So I went to the salon and was kind of like “I wanna go for this like, auburn, natural red color. Like a normal red. I think I actually showed them a picture of Lindsey Stirling. And it was just this very bright, but natural-looking red and I was just “I’d love to have it, I think it’d look good.” So long story short, this woman had to strip my hair (my hair doesn’t bleach very well because I touch it all the time with hair dye). She ends up actually dyeing my hair fire-engine red. She thought that it would be a lot more subtle, and it wasn’t. And she was like, “oh, whoops?” So for a second, I was like “wow, that’s not what I wanted,” but then it really grew on me! And I’ve kind of made it a little more maroon-colored but it was the best accident! So, yeah. I didn’t even mean to do this! That’s the story of my hair.
AS: Wow, well that’s great then! And it’s kind of a great metaphor for life. Sometimes life happens and you’re kind of like “oh gosh, that was an accident. But hey, it turned out okay!” That’s a great vibe.
MC: Oh absolutely! That is my life. I try to just roll with it, because I’ve learned especially in this climate right now that we’re going through [with COVID-19], you can plan for things all you want. You can have the best calendar, and maybe life events that you’re planning on, like “I’m planning to do this at this time.” But life always has its own plan, and it doesn’t make it worse; you have to just figure out how to roll with that, and make the best of whatever life has dealt you.– Mandi Crimmins, on rolling with life and all the things it throws your way
AS: Totally. Well I want to thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I’m so excited for you, you’re incredibly talented, and I think that about wraps it up. Best wishes for your new tune, I have no doubt it will be received really well!
Watch her latest music video for “Making Me Hate You” HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gqbmr4LaiQ
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