Music Saved My Life - About Daniel Victor - of Neverending White Lights
“I am drawn to certain vibrations and I believe everything we create resonates on a certain frequency. The ultimate pulse is that of unconditional love. Birdsong is that frequency.” – Daniel Victor
I have been wondering why we are getting so few applications for “free money” – through BIRDSONG Foundation – from artists living with mental health issues who have never had their most personal songs published.
Some musicians I’ve spoken with tell me that most people don’t want the world to know they live with debilitating mental disorders. That makes sense, but at what point in your life as an artist do you pretend you are like everybody else? Artists and musicians are unique – and so many deal with mental health issues. This is no secret.
As I’m pondering this question, I receive an e-mail from recording artist/producer Daniel Victor of Neverending White Lights. He's heard how Birdsong is opening a new conversation for artists who are battling obstacles, and he wants to learn more. Turns out he’s on a mission of his own to help musicians struggling with mental health issues. He's passionate about the matter and wants to work together on ideas to explode the stigma around it.
So, I google his name and listen to his songs and am moved by the fact that he is still surviving and creating incredible music even when admitting to his mental health situation. This discovery elevates my spirit and gives me new hope that there will be applicants that are as amazing and courageous as this – and who will apply. We become instant soul friends.
Victor formed Neverending White Lights as a unique one-man band that collaborates with various artists to create "diversity in the voice, but consistency in the song." He plays all the instruments, and features guest singers on most of his songs. His popular hit The Grace, featuring Dallas Green of City and Colour, was certified a gold digital single in Canada, while The Beautiful Letdown, featuring Switchfoot, reached triple platinum in the US.
In 2011, he released Neverending White Lights’ third studio album, Act III: Love Will Ruin, which proved to be an extremely difficult album for him to write, as he was fighting an uphill battle with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. During its creation he was on a waiting list to receive therapy.
The following are his comments from our conversation that sagely address the monumental effort it takes, for so many musicians and artists, to simply stay alive in this world. Helping others, Victor stresses, is a crucial key to getting better.
“I think many people forget how rare it is to be here, and that it won’t last forever,” he says on the phone from Detroit. “Once we are gone, we are gone. So I believe that while we’re awake, we all need to take full advantage of life. I’m not sure what I would do, or what my purpose would be, if I did not have music in my life. Music defines my existence as it does for many.
“My creative expression is through lyrics and music. I have been approached by many people who tell me my music and lyrics stopped them from hurting themselves and saved their lives. Society tells those who struggle or don’t feel normal, ‘Hey, man! You don’t fit in and you never will.’ Then we dim our lights to be a part of something we don’t feel comfortable with just to avoid ridicule or feeling outcast.
“Society does that to everyone, most just play by the rules and ignore who they really are inside because opening that up to the light can be scary. Our culture thwarts the ambition and abilities we need to come together and realize that a lot of us are experiencing similar feelings.”
This comment floods me with sadness as I can’t help but think about my son David and all the schools he was expelled from for not fitting in. By the time David started high school he had been expelled from four schools, including three private schools.
Back in the 80s and 90s not much was known about treating mental health issues. The “tough love" approach was everyone’s favorite. Today I know better. Often the ongoing damaging comments from school teachers, family and friends – myself included – could have been avoided had there been more information, or an accepted kinder and more compassionate approach. Artists feel all the time that their lights are being dimmed.
“I have been publicly vocal about my difficulty with mental illness since my first album,” says Victor. “I've had to find the inner strength to keep going. Sometimes I do feel like giving up, but I work through it. When it gets really bad, I can get really sick and things start to feel hopeless, so I reach for a new solution.
“I am not a victim to it, it’s just something that I believe is a part of life and we must learn to overcome individually. Mental illness is real, but there is always a balance. Sometimes I feel strong and inspired and I know I can conquer anything.
“I have been out of the music business for a while now but I’m returning with a new album later this year. My main mission right now is to help other musicians like me who have a hard time saying they’re struggling. It is hard to pretend things are good when they're not and that can wear us down.
“Honesty and truth are always freeing for us and we must learn to let go of the fear of being judged by others. After years of personal growth and self-help focus, I want to share my story and ideas of what's allowed me to overcome the difficult times.”
Victor hits the high note with me again as I think about the years of rehabs and doctors and therapists that have put their mark on my family. Some good, some bad. Some greedy fools, some blessed souls. David did not find the village he so desperately needed that would have told him to just play his music and write his songs and not worry about being like everyone else.
He was led to feel he’ disappointed everyone around him. The system around him also reinforced the message of not fitting in. In the end he ran out of life energy.
“I was always open about not wanting to be here,” adds Victor. “Really – who wants to do this dance of being misunderstood? The labels and masks society wants us to wear are slowly killing us."
Most poignant about Victor’s aspiration is how steadfastly he believes that central to succeeding in helping other artists who relate to him, is to convince them to be as open as possible about their dark and light experiences and emotions.
“All illness comes from a place of fear” he says. “But we are not alone in this. If we can accept where we are in our lives no matter how far we think we are from where we would like to be, we can make it easier for others to come forward. From here we can begin to work through the traumas holding us back, and the entire landscape will change. One person letting go of fear at a time can change the entire planet.
“However you express yourself in life, never be afraid to channel the real you outside of the mask you think you’re supposed to be. So much of our pain comes from pretending to not be who we really are. Be yourself and your authenticity will be recognized, and the world will thank you for it!"
Don’t forget. Music saved Victor’s life. He can tell you.
“For me, writing music and lyrics is a transformative thing. When I write a song, I don’t always remember when I started or how it came together. I'm just inside of it. I first have to conjure up the discipline to start the process, but from there it happens very organically. Nothing forced is ever good.
"When I finish a song, I listen to it and often wonder where the lyrics came from – because I honestly don’t even remember the process. It’s a spiritual thing for me. Somehow, I end up channeling and connecting to something and the songs appear.”
But back to the original thought of our conversation.
“I want to help Birdsong,” reiterates Victor. “So I’m here to call out all those musicians out there who want their music and their message to be heard. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. You deserve to have a voice out there and the world needs your creativity.
"Be fierce and independent and shine your light so maybe the world will be lucky enough to hear your words and your songs. You never know how the story ends.”
So, as director of Birdsong, all I can say to those of you who are reading this blog: please spread the word about our Foundation. We are looking for applications for the April 1, 2020 deadline.
Call us if you need more details or drop us a line at: