Heather Mae Gets Candid About Mental Illness With 'Feelin Crazy': Premiere

Heather Mae
Rah Foard

Heather Mae

Heather Mae is queer, plus-size and bipolar -- and proudly owns all of it. So when she sings about "Feelin Crazy,” premiering exclusively blow from her new album Glimmer, the Washington, D.C.-based singer-songwriter isn't talking about merely being high-spirited.

"'Feelin Crazy' is one of the first songs I wrote for Glimmer," Mae tells Billboard. The song chronicles her decision to go off the prescription medicines she takes to regulate what she calls her "broken brains" while writing the songs for Glimmer, slated for Sept. 20 release. "I let myself experience the deep (emotional) dive and then write through it. ('Feelin Crazy') is about what it feels like to be on the roller coaster of finding the right regimen, 'cause, lord, I have been through a lot of pills." And "Feelin Crazy" is also the next step in a songwriting mission for Mae, who began writing songs about a decade ago, adopted while she was recovering from nodes on her vocal cords, which kept her silent for eight months in 2013.

"I made a literal vow to God or Goddess or whatever it is that if I ever got the chance to sing again I would dedicate my career to writing music that made people want to stay alive and feel empowered and make the world a better place," Mae recalls. She began tackling issues about race, feminism, gender equality, body positivity and the LGBTQ+ community on her 2016 EP, I Am Enough, and mental health became the next frontier for Glimmer.

"I was so open about everything else -- my being queer and being fat and my politics. The one thing I had never really talked about was my mental illness," Mae says. "I realized, through my fans, that was the next thing. That's the next marginalized group I needed to talk about. It was hard, because there's so much f***ing shame around mental illness that we don't talk about it. But there's a lot of people, one in four Americans, that struggle with it, so I thought it was time to say something and write songs about it."

The rest of Glimmer, according to Mae, dives further into her deliberate bottoming out after touring to promote I Am Enough -- which she did with the full knowledge and assistance from her wife, therapist and others close to her. "I had a purpose," Mae says. "I want this record to be a tool in the toolbox for my fans. Therapists talk about how you need to have a tool box so that when you’re feeling low you've got to pull some of those things out -- exercise, go for a walk, get sunshine, anything that can help you so you don't ever dive too deep. I want these (songs) to be tools people can use if they feel on the edge of their life.

"So I had a goal when I was writing these songs -- for (fans) and for me. The messages I get are not 'Yeah, I partied to your songs this weekend and I went on a road trip and blasted your songs.' What I get is, 'I didn't commit suicide 'cause I listened to your song' or 'I came out because of you' or 'I left my abusive partner because of your song.' Those are the messages I get. So f*** this music business; As long as I'm doing the work of keeping people alive, I'm successful."