Editor’s Note: It is certainly not every day where you get to talk to someone that just blows you away. Ariel Bloomer of Icon For Hire did that to Madness To Creation. Her personality and music is the embodiment of what Madness To Creation stands for and that is merging mental health with their art. Ariel has a viral Ted Talk and Icon For Hire’s music has hundreds of thousands of monthly listeners on Spotify and millions of hits on YouTube. The reason is simple, their message is honest, forthright, and tugs at the heartstrings. In this conversation with Madness To Creation, Ariel Bloomer of Icon For Hire discusses her Ted Talk, Icon For Hire’s latest music, opening up about her depressive tendencies and upcoming album that is due out February 21st, 2021. Fans can find Icon For Hire at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: What was the most liberating thing about the Ted Talk?
Ariel Bloomer: I am so glad that you enjoyed it, it was amazing to talk to a different community. My audience is usually a bunch of kids and people in the emo community, who I love, those are my people, but I was talking to a bunch of dressed up business professionals in their 40’s and to see that they were resonating with the same message and idea, that was really cool to me, that made me feel like my life story made sense, it wasn’t my own weird kind of crazy, it was like that we are all in this kind of community together, and I was kind of worried whether this message would translate or not, it seemed to do that, so that was cool!
Madness To Creation: So it kind of reinforced that we all go through the same struggles?
Ariel Bloomer: Exactly!
Madness To Creation: Icon For Hire has an incredible story, and given 2020, how are you holding up and what keeps getting you through the pandemic and the civil unrest?
Ariel Bloomer: It’s different every day, sometimes I’m going, sometimes I’m not going, I’ve done a ton of self-compassion, I think we all do knowing that life is crazy as it is and you add all this extra craziness on it, and some of us are at our breaking point. The beautiful thing is you keep going, you keep surviving, and you keep living, I think that can really be a beautiful lesson in all of this, when you go past your limitations and you can still hopefully take care of yourself. I’m really practicing self-compassion at this time, meaning if I need to order in food because I can’t make dinner or if I need to watch more shows than usual, or if I need to spend more time zoning out(I try not to), but kind of allow that for myself, I have a lot of thoughts about this time. There’s some good things too, there are some things that I like and that I want to keep when we get on the other side.
Madness To Creation: What are some of the things that you like?
Ariel Bloomer: I really like that I’m detached from the normal world, so like unless I choose to engage with society through social media or checking the news, I can in theory just live in my own little bubble, which generally isn’t really healthy but it allows me to question and examine certain ways and beliefs in living and if there are certain things I want to keep going, or keep doing, are my values the way that I want them to be, the way that I’m spending my time and energy, I need to see if that still resonates with me or do I need to reevaluate that. Now is a great time to reevaluate that, there’s no social pressure, I’m not going to a restaurant, while everyone else is dressing, living, thinking or behaving, I’m not connecting with my normal friend group. In a way, I can get a fresh start internally and put my own ideas on how I want to show up in the world. You don’t really realize that you’re programmed by the things around you, but you do reference our surroundings without even realizing it, so this is a good break from that.
Madness To Creation: Has 2020 influenced your songwriting given the pandemic and the civil unrest?
Ariel Bloomer: Well I haven’t written too much about it, most of the things I’ve written were at the beginning of the year, so before a lot of the amazing social justice changes happening in the summer and a lot of the tragedies as well. I do write from a more personal place, which is maybe selfish and I need to reexamine that, so it’s a good reminder to be mindful of how social issues effect my creative process, but mostly, I tend to stick to the four walls inside of my own head, generally I write about my own instabilities and mental struggles because that is such an overwhelming part of my life that I don’t know how to see past that. I don’t write about relationships, I don’t write about going out and partying, and I don’t write much about current events because I can’t get past my own brain really.
Madness To Creation: I can certainly have empathy with that, as I suffer from an anxiety disorder, from a social standpoint, what are some things that help you get through the four walls inside your head, like you said?
Ariel Bloomer: I always have to remember that there’s ebb and flow in life, and it’s okay. When I’m flowing, I’m really flowing, I am the queen of my life when it’s good for me, and when it’s down, I just have to zoom out and take the bigger picture and acknowledge that I’m in a low point rather than fight it. I used to try to like bully myself into submission and that doesn’t work for me, so it’s almost like the faster that I accept that I’m not doing great, the more that I can surrender to that, and put myself back on a healing path a little bit faster. It’s just a bunch of little everyday things that I do to help me be okay, I sometimes journal compulsively, I like keeping my space clean, I always try to be reading, learning and growing so my brain can think about other things than just my own issues. It’s not something fun, I don’t like feeling like that, I don’t like constantly obsessing over my own brain issues.
Madness To Creation: Icon For Hire has recently released singles for “Seeds” and “Curse or Cure” for the upcoming 2021 release, take us into those singles, and I appreciate how it drives the point home of mental health being a stigma in this country, and what is the most challenging and rewarding aspects for you when you write and make music in the studio?
Ariel Bloomer: I love making music! I’m so glad that I found it and I’m so glad that I get to do this because it really helps me in my everyday life, that self-expression piece and getting to share it publicly and have it be validated by other people, it makes me feel less crazy, so that’s really nice. My creative process is a little different depending on different times in terms of the creative process like you said, it just kind of comes to me when I need it to be there, when I need an idea to surface, it generally does, as long as I make the space for it, but there’s a lot of times where I’m not trying to make anything, there’s no end goal, I just need to go through that process of expressing myself and sit at my piano and just write it down, and that’s my favorite, I love doing that, it gives me so much life when I get to do that, but there’s a few different ways.
Madness To Creation: With your 2021 release, what adjustments have you had to make in terms of promoting it?
Ariel Bloomer: If we can’t tour on the album, there’s so much, obviously we’re going to do virtual live shows like what other bands are doing, and I’m really excited about that, and that’s one of the reasons why it made sense for us to do this crowdfunding campaign that we were doing because that was able to create a bunch of excitement and momentum about the new music. We were able to rely on the funds of the Kickstarter campaign where we had these really great rewards, I was actually spending all day in my room just hand painting these canvases and writing the lyric sheets and all of that stuff. The engagement with the fanbase has activated them so they’re excited and they’re ready for new music, but outside of that, we don’t really know how to go outside our own fandom walls, but that’s okay, all we need is our Icon Army, we’re excited if the album reaches our community and if it reaches others outside of the community, then that’s cool, that’s just a bonus.
Madness To Creation: Icon For Hire has been around for years. Take us into the very first gig.
Ariel Bloomer: We sucked! *laughs* We were so bad but we thought we were so good. Like, I’m the classic overthinker that was waiting for my first show in my whole life, like I literally always wanted to be a musician even as a teenager. I would even practice my “hey, Florida, what’s up, how are we feeling”, I would practice that in the mirror, I had my first outfit for the first show, I was ready to go, I would coordinate the headbangs, I made a bunch of merchandise, like handmade them to sell. It was cute and it was precious that our whole community supported us. It was mostly just friends that we invited, but it was nice, it was a really good turnout. It was a fun show, there was like six or seven songs, that kind of started it for us, we never really stopped touring since then.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say after 40 years, you decide to call it a career, what do you what your legacy to be when it’s all said and done?
Ariel Bloomer: I used to really care about a legacy, I used to think that it was important to leave an impact, and I still want to but I don’t care if it’s me or Cassandra that does it or Bob that does it, I just think that we need to show up in our lives authentically, self-care and also self-service to the world, and I don’t think that I’m going to be remembered when I’m 80 or when I die, that’s just where I’m currently at, it’s just where my current life philosophy is at. It’s all about showing up wholeheartedly, being present, and doing what you can. But I’m not really in that mindspace where “I need to make a lasting change on a generation”, these days I’m not really like that anymore.
Madness To Creation: Give me a moment where you are totally present and your fans or a fan said, “your music helped me get through or your music helped save my life”.
Ariel Bloomer: We have so many beautiful moments like that. One of my favorite moments was when we were young and really touring, grinding and hustling it out, I would be at the merch table for hours after, because at that time, that’s how you supported yourself, and that’s when I really noticed was that the best parts of touring was after the show when I was talking to mostly girls one on one, and we would be sitting down in a corner while mostly everyone was just loading out, and there’s like sticky beer on the floor and you’re just crouched down and I would listen to horrific stories of child abuse or suicidal ideation or self-harm or just the craziness of being a human being, and those moments of getting to hear someone being so vulnerable with me first of all, that’s always really powerful, but also getting to hear how they connected with our music, that made me feel like what we do is meaningful. So, I just kind of take those little moments and those stories and I just tuck them away inside myself and make me feel like what I spend my life on is a worthwhile endeavor. We saw that on Warped Tour as well, where we got to hang out with a bunch of kids and they would just share and open up, that is so meaningful and I don’t take that for granted.
Madness To Creation: Take yourself to the other side of that. Growing up, who did you mark out in seeing and meeting?
Ariel Bloomer: For me, it was Linkin Park, I got to meet them and a few years later, got to know them a little bit more personally backstage, we had the same booking agent and we also shared our former manager, so they just made such an impact on me and so many musicians in the community, and when Chester passed, you saw so many musicians rising up in the community and say, “those guys are why I got into this” or “those guys are the reason why I’m making music”.
Now my favorite shows to go to, well I live in Nashville now so I like going to local shows at Exit In or The Basement, I’m a big fan of Minneapolis based hip-hop artists such as Atmosphere or Dezza, anytime that I see them in town, I have to go. It’s the best feeling to get to be an audience member and just surprised, to be delighted, and to feel all those feelings like, “oh, that’s so cool, this is the best”, I love being on the other side like you said.
Madness To Creation: So, did Chester Bennington give you any pieces of advice or anything?
Ariel Bloomer: I had a conversation with the manager just the other day on the 20th anniversary of “Hybrid Theory” that was just a couple of weeks ago, best album of all-time. We were talking and we recorded it on YouTube and I got to ask him some questions, I don’t want to make it sound like I was tight and best friends with the members of Linkin Park, it’s just in my head in all actuality, but it was cool to get to talk to Rob McDermott and to get to hear about the genuineness of the band members and for the most part, they were always in it for the music, they were always about connecting it with the fans, they still have a really great relationship with the fans, they model for how to connect with your fanbase and it’s cool to look at bands with that level of success and are still quite grounded, and about collaborating on Twitch, he’s not doing it for the money, he’s doing it for the love of the art, I think that’s really inspiring, I really love that.
Madness To Creation: Take us into the other single “Curse or Cure”, what are some memories you have creating that song?
Ariel Bloomer: It’s a song that Shawn really inspired, he’s actually in the other room writing, the song is about feeling broken and how you can expect to overcome and to fix yourself, that stems from a lot of the expectations that society has on us. I love the idea of having solutions on it, it’s really empowering.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add as I know you have other interviews and have to get back in the studio?
Ariel Bloomer: Yes, the album is coming out in 2021, we’re doing a virtual release party on February 19th, we released the music video for “Seeds” and we have three more music videos coming out before the launch, until then, we’re fulfilling Kickstarter rewards and we’re just hanging out, should be really fun!
And there you have it! You can check out this episode via Soundcloud below:
Check out their Icon For Hire’s most recent music video entitled “Last One Standing” below: