IAN SWEET ON MAKING MUSIC, MENTAL HEALTH AND TRUSTING HERSELF
Photos / Kristy Benjamin
Styling / Amanda Mariko
Makeup / Kendall Bennewitz
Story / Koko Ntuen
An orchestra of guitars, a fragile yet angelic voice emerges from a sea of sadness or self-doubt or mania, finding herself along the way. Jilian Medford’s solo fete as Ian Sweet is a powerful ode to the cacophony of music and emotions that surround all of us every day. Her debut album Shapeshifter takes us captive into her lo-fi world and allows the listener to sit both comfortably and nervously while she dances and screams around us, unearthing the depths of her surroundings.
Medford seems to be a master vocalist of less is more ala Mazzy Star with her ghost-like segues, but she quickly clashes back into the space around her gaining attention with her unpredictable notes and riffs that underline extreme and mundane narratives in a way that make me want to hold her hand the whole way.
I sit with Ian Sweet while she embarks on an international tour to discuss making music, mental health and the little things along the way.
What is your favorite thing about making music?
My favorite thing about making music is that it is something all my own, and I really just make it for me. It gives me glimpses and insight into my own life that I don’t fully realize until I am writing a song. Writing and performing helps me be to be more connected to myself.
What were your aspirations as a teenager?
I had so many hobbies as a teenager. Sewing classes(thought maybe I wanted to be a fashion designer), photography, painting, skateboarding. All these things I was interested in totally shaped the type of music I make as well as the things I’m inspired by. I find myself now surrounded by incredible artists making things all over the creative spectrum. I wanted to be every one of them.. I guess music was the only thing I didn’t totally suck at lol!
First of all your music is the soundtrack to my soul. What if your astrological sign? I’m a Cancer so I relate so alot of your songs like Hiding, and “Holographic Jesus”
I’m a Taurus, my birthday is 4/20!! (right on the Aries cusp with Aries rising) ! Totally obsessed with being a Taurus.
Was this album therapeutic to release? Were there any direct messages that go to anyone?
This album was really therapeutic to release, I was going through a lot of intense changes in my life both while making it and while putting it out. This record allowed me to prove to myself that I am capable and stronger than I give myself credit for. I was able to write everything on my own and make it come to fruition without the alternate opinions and misogynistic approach of the band mates I was previously working with. There are songs on the album directly related to separating from the band that sound like break up songs because essentially that’s what it was.
Does your inspiration/ mood shift when you are creating in Brooklyn Vs. LA? How?
Usually sad! lol. I will say that right now is the first time I have been single in a while and I have a lot more time to devote to myself. Which I find hard to do in relationships. “Hiding” is about that. Forgetting yourself in someone, or getting completely wrapped up in their needs and desires that you just leave yours behind.
What are you like in relationships?
My modes of making music are completely different in LA vs Brooklyn. I live alone in LA and am able to be expansive and sprawl out when writing. or take a break and take a hike in a quieter area (but sometimes that leaves me restless). In certain circumstances I thrive off of chaos, New York was a healthy amount of chaos at times and it helped drive me, but I also didn’t feel like I had as much space to explore or make space really my own.
How do you write your lyrics (they are so poignant to me) Do you just start jotting now free thoughts or do you have an idea and write like a journalist sitting, thinking, humming?
Lyrics are usually just free thought. In the moment. Not too calculated. Just going off the entire feeling in that moment and making sure to capture it at all angles
Have you had your heart broken or broken hearts more?
Definitely both. I went to a psychic a couple weeks ago that said when I’m 27 I’m going to meet the person I’ll be with forever. So I’ve got 2 years to fuck things up before that!
What are your biggest concerns right now?
My biggest concern right now is how my mom is feeling. My grandpa passed away a month or so ago and she was extremely close to him and it’s been really hard on her. My mom is my best friend so when I’m not around/on tour it can be difficult. She is coming to meet me in Italy after my Europe tour is over and we are going to travel for a bit. That will be really special.
How would you describe yourself as a person? What about as a musician?
My therapist recently told me that I need to surround myself with people who see life as the most precious thing. I think for the last few years I have been rotting in my own insecurity and anxious tendencies and not necessarily being around the healthiest people. It’s been hard to see how lucky I am to be the person I am, to be as privileged as I am. I think I am a patient person with others but not necessarily myself, especially with music. I’m learning every day how to access who I am more and more.
Do you still talk to your other band that you were in before your Ian Sweet project?
Ya! I still keep in touch with people I have played music with over the years.
How do you deal with mental health on a daily basis? Any rituals?
I have been going to therapy twice a week and facetiming with my therapist on tour as well. Something that really helps with day to day anxieties is sitting outside first thing in the morning with some of my crystals and a cup of coffee!
“Hiding” is my favorite song in a while. Can we do a deep dive on how this song came about, inspirations, anyone you want to really listen to it, what you want us to take away from it other than what we already are…?
I wrote “Hiding” while I was spending a summer in LA (deciding if I was going to move here or not). At the time I was dealing with serious issues with my drummer ranging from substance abuse to emotional abuse. It was extremely difficult to trust that anything I was making was good/worthwhile while he was hovering over me trying to change what I wrote about and how I wrote it. I was being controlled and it felt very possessive. This project started as my own but became something else after playing with my drummer for a few years. It warped my perception of myself. I was in LA and he was in Boston, I would send him songs I was demo-ing and he would send them back to me completely edited, chopped up, lyrics changed(???). Hiding is about how this entire time knowing this person made me feel. Even the line “this song has a bird in it” There was an actual chirping bird in the demo version and I loved it … but he told me to take it out that it sounded stupid. There was a period of time where I couldn’t trust myself and was relying on this person out of fear.
What else do you do for fun, projects hobbies?
I play tennis! hike! hang out with dogs! Make art with friends
Will you be my friend? Do you have a close support system that cherish you?
Aww omg this question! DUH! I love making new friends! And yes I really do. And I’m so lucky for that.
Were you nervous to put Crush Crusher out or does releasing emotional music excite you?
I was totally nervous to put it out. I don’t think a lot of people knew what happened with the band or my personal life and this is just putting it on display for everyone. I want people to have insight on what I go through so that they don’t have to feel so alone in it.
Do you ever get nervous to perform?
I get nervous for sure! I’ve been playing solo lately and am about to tour solo in Europe. I’ve been working out the solo act where I have backing tracks and it’s super fun for me to play this way! I just want people to dance!