They say ‘you write about what you know.’ Songwriters typically reflect themselves in their music, so you really hear the “soul” of a musician when you hear their sound, especially in their own original compositions.
Such is the case of recording artist Daphne Willis, who spent Friday visiting and singing in Southaven for whoever would listen to her.
Willis describes her music as something like “Pink meets Jason Mraz,” she said Friday. “It’s a kind of soul pop, but with the acoustic guitar, it’s got a little bit of an Americana feel. I was in Nashville for awhile so I’ve got a little bit of that vibe, but not much, though, because I’m from Chicago.”
Beyond the music style, it’s the message Willis wants listeners to especially hear. She very much knows what she is singing about, and did sing, to residents at Turning Point drug and alcohol resident treatment center in Southaven during her day there Friday.
That’s because Willis has traveled a similar road to what the residents are going through in their recovery from addiction. Southaven was the first stop on what Willis calls a “recovery tour” around the country in connection with Addiction Campuses, and in Southaven, Turning Point.
“I’ve been in recovery for about three years now,” Willis said. “A lot of what I write about for my own personal artist brand has to do with addiction and mental health. I have a brother and other family members that have also struggled with addiction throughout their lives, so it’s something that I just know really well.”
She’s been a songwriter and musical artist for several years, a good share of that time dealing with her own addictions while singing and writing.
“I was self-medicating with cocaine and alcohol for about 10 years and was trying to control it,” she said. “I faced some near-death experiences, including a seizure one time from a withdrawal from a bender. When I was in junior high and in high school, I had been sexually abused by a classmate, which led to some PTSD trauma that I didn’t talk about.”
But as with everyone who is dealing with recovery, Willis said there always comes a “rock-bottom point” where the issue hits you squarely in the face.
“About three years ago, I finally just hit my point where I took a look around and saw I was hurting people that I cared about in a way that wasn’t deliberate,” Willis said. “But they were so worried about my health and well-being that caused me so much pain seeing how much worry and pain I was causing people. That was my rock, my rock bottom, you can say.”
The Recovery Tour, which will also stop in the Dallas, Texas area, Ohio and Massachusetts, will be featuring a new single release from Daphne centering on mental health and addiction.
In Southaven, Daphne spent the day touring the Turning Point facility, visiting with residents individually and in groups. A concert which was open to the public ended the day Friday afternoon, where Willis was joined by another musician, Brannon Heath.
“Every time I go out and talk about my process, someone will say something to me that adds another layer of another dimension to the issue that I hadn’t thought of,” Willis said.
Willis has a publishing deal with Sony TV and writes for other artists, for film and television, but it’s when writing for herself, she gets to reveal a side she hopes others will learn from.
“I feel like my own experiences and the things that I have been through with my brother’s recovery, with my own recovery, also being a performer and meeting and talking with many people from all walks of life who are affected by these issues,” said Willis. “It’s like these songs have almost been written millions of times in my brain and in my experiences. To share them and to be able to share them with the world is amazing.”
Willis will quickly remind you that what she is going through is not just a condition to be waved away.
“It is a disease, it is a physical ailment,” she stressed. “It’s a chemical reaction in your body, much like cancer or HIV. One of the biggest problems around the stigma is that people often get blamed or blame themselves for being addicted.”
Brett Martin, Public Relations Manager for Addiction Campuses, noted several of their locations have musical therapy programs.
“It really is about putting feelings down on paper and then at the end of your time here you can see and hear what you have created,” Martin said. “It gives you that sense of accomplishment. We know music is a big part and we’re just thrilled that Daphne was willing to take some time here. She’s learning about what we’re learning and that’s helping her recovery, as well.”
Willis said she hoped that through her visit and her music, more people will take addiction out of the shadows and give it more attention.
“We have 5K runs and all kinds of fundraisers and public social events for other diseases but there is not really much going on for recovery,” she explained. “There’s a big need for this right now and I’m really excited to see that people are really starting to come around to it.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.