Regular self-reflection might seem like it’s part and parcel of being a musician, but as with any career, it’s easy to get bogged down by the everyday responsibilities. Things like touring, writing music and planning future projects might be exciting, but they can be mentally taxing, too. For Jax Anderson, the Detroit-based musician and artist behind Flint Eastwood — an alternative pop group with hits like “Queen” and the anti-conversion therapy “Real Love” — that’s exactly what happened. Years of almost non-stop work left Anderson feeling burned out and in a creative rut. It was only after she decided to slow her pace, reassess her creative goals and take a moment to enjoy career successes that she started to “feel like myself again.”
At the end of last year, Anderson broke new creative ground and released her first EP “Heal” under her own name. Between The Lines chatted with Anderson about the process of healing, unlearning bad mental health habits and feeling comfortable in one’s skin again ahead of her upcoming Detroit show on Saturday, Feb. 8, at El Club.
What prompted you to move away from being called Flint Eastwood and start doing shows as Jax Anderson?
With Flint Eastwood I toured non-stop. I toured for years on end with little spurts of being home and also having to write and rehearse and never actually being able to sit still for more than a couple of days and there was a moment last year after South by Southwest where I had just gotten off of a tour straight to Australia and went from there to South by Southwest and went to LA to do a writing camp. And at the end of that writing camp, I ended up having to cancel the last two days because I was just so burned out. I was just emotionally, physically completely spent. So, one of my friends who is a painter and amazing muralist, she was like, ‘Hey, do you want to drive back from LA with me? It’s going to take like a week and we’re just gonna make art on the way back and not really have a plan and go and see what happens.’ And I think during that process during that road trip I turned my phone off and I had moments of just being there and I realized I had to stop doing what I was doing, which was saying yes to everything and going and going and going without taking care of myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to heal from everything.
Has that change impacted the way that you play live shows at all?
I’ve always really, really loved touring and playing live. And I feel like it’s just been a natural progression over the last few years and it just became more and more of a place that I just felt like it could be my own personal outlet. So, I feel like, if anything, changing the name isn’t going to change the live shows as much. I might feel a little bit more relaxed, but it’s been nice. Again, I’ve always loved it and it just felt like a natural progression to continue the same path that I’ve always been on before and just evolve it a little bit.
What did you learn about yourself when writing the EP?
I wrote it during the entire evolution of wanting to drop the name and wanting to become more myself, and that came with a lot of wounds, and that came with a lot of moments that I needed to grieve, and moments that I needed to evolve. And a lot of unlearning that needed to happen. You know, whether that’d be unlearning that I convinced myself that I couldn’t do things on my own, or relearning that I can have a vision as an artist that’s separate from everyone else and I can be the only voice in the room and that’s OK. And so, with “Heal,” I just really wanted to write a piece of music that kind of just told the story of that moment of transition. Because I feel like a lot of people have to go through that moment of just healing in order to move on from things. So this is just kind of my stamp in time of learning how to heal from a bunch of stuff.
You said that the song “Scared to Death” was your favorite on the EP. Why was that?
I feel like “Scared to Death” was one of those songs that felt like a turning point. To me, this EP, all my previous releases were pretty poppin’, pretty 808-heavy and had a lot of synths and I kind of wrote them with the intention of people dancing to them. Whereas I felt like with this EP I wanted to write something where people could feel a little bit more reflective. And I feel like a lot of people need to know that a lot of the things they were taught as kids might not be accurate, and that’s OK. And for me, I was raised in religion, and for my whole life I was told certain things and as I grew older, I just found that a lot of them just weren’t true. And so I kind of just wanted to write a song that exemplified that feeling of nothing is as it seems but everything is OK.
You also cut your hair and changed your physical look. Was that symbolic of the change, too?
When I cut off my hair, I mentioned in the video that it was the first time I recognized myself in years. It was just this moment of, ‘Whoa, that’s the person I want to be and that’s the person I want to recognize.’ It was a real moment and this is my first record where I feel like there’s a lot of reflection happening but a lot of celebration happening internally. It was a very cathartic record to write.
Is it freeing to just step on stage now as yourself?
Yeah, for sure. I think before, with Flint Eastwood I would also try and create a character. And a lot of times people would talk about how I would do a certain voice on stage that didn’t sound like my normal speaking voice and I felt like I was always — Flint Eastwood felt like a character. And I got to the point where I didn’t want to be somebody else. And I don’t want to write music and be somebody else, and I don’t want to be on social media and be somebody else and I just want to be myself. And it’s like my listeners that have been with me since the beginning I feel like the reason why they’ve been with me for so long is that I’ve shown them that personal connection and they’ve always known me as Jax. So, to be able to be open and honest with everyone all the time is just so much more freeing and it’s so much less of an emotional burden to feel like I have to hold up this character to a certain standard and have to create.
What are your goals moving forward?
I think for me just trying to be present, trying not to look that far forward. Still having a generalized plan of what to do with your life and still having a generalized plan of what you want, but I feel like I was so focused on the end product all the time that I think I lost it. I’m just trying to enjoy the process in every way. I’m just trying to enjoy the photos I take for any social stuff, I’m trying to enjoy the videos that I make, I’m trying to enjoy the process of the music that I’m making and I’m trying not to rush it.
Jax Anderson will be performing on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Detroit’s El Club with Shortly and Who Boy. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 to $22. El Club is located at 4114 W Vernor Highway in Detroit. Find out more online at elclubdetroit.com. To read this full interview, find it online at Pridesource.com.