I don’t know how to wrap my brain around anything that has happened in the past year. Every time I think the craziest thing ever happened to me, something crazier happens — whether it’s Badlands debuting at No. 2 [on the Billboard 200 in September] or selling out Madison Square Garden in New York. It has gotten to the point where simply stating facts feels like I’m being arrogant.
It happened so fast. I moved into my apartment in Los Angeles in March, right around the time I was supposed to deliver the album. I just became obsessed; Badlands became my life. I had an air mattress, no furniture, nothing. There were just dry-erase boards and pieces of paper. It looked like inspiration art at a serial killer’s house.
“New Americana” is very much of this generation. We kind of make fun of ourselves. I made it as click-bait-y, nursery rhyme-y as I could. I was making this comment on how we have this click-bait culture, but a lot of people took it seriously, like, “Wow, she’s being so buzzword-y!” Ding, ding, ding — that’s on purpose! People missed the intent, and then I watched the irony of that song growing as I turned into a click-bait-y wormhole where everything I was making fun of in the song were things that I was becoming in the eyes of the media.
I’m lucky I have those people that’ll ask, “Are you OK?” Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons would stop me in the hallway when I was on tour with them and be like, “Are you sleeping? You can’t do radio before noon. Don’t eat after 10 p.m. — you’ll get acid reflux.” Totally being my dad.
If I reacted with a normal amount of emotion, I would probably spontaneously combust. You numb yourself so you’re not terrified when you’re on TV at 7 o’clock in the morning with Justin Bieber, who you just met a couple of days before, having to perform in front of millions of people.
When you’re an artist, you’re expected to describe yourself in interviews every day in five words. It’s like, what does that do for your psyche? It dwindles you down to those five words, and the five everyone has been using to describe me are “bisexual,” “biracial,” “bipolar,” “brash” and “opinionated.” I had to fight tooth and nail out of that — I was becoming the click-bait of the year.
*As told to Ray Rogers
This story originally appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of Billboard.