MUSIC

Damien Styles’ Sensory Overload

L.A.-based artist and “sonic disrupter” Damien Styles told us how he beat anxiety issues through music.

by

Damien Styles: The best show I’ve ever been to was definitely my first sold-out headlining show. Now I know what you’re thinking, how conceited right? But I promise my ego isn’t the reason.

Since I was a kid, I’ve struggled with really bad anxiety, especially in crowds, so when I do show up to events, I’m already anticipating sensory overload. For this reason, I haven’t been to too many concerts and the ones I did attend usually concluded with me having a full-blown panic attack.

Even when it comes to my own concerts, my pre-show ritual includes lots of hyperventilation, pacing, potential puking, and just plain freaking out. But the moment I step on stage, all of that goes away. It’s truly the only time I’m completely free from my mind. Free from my anxiety. Free from it all.

I’ll never forget my first time seeing a line of people wrapped around the building just to see me perform. Hearing them chant my name as I walked out on stage and seeing the excitement on their faces when I finally touched the stage was incredible. This was at a local venue where I’m from called Rock Island, which I had played at a year before to an audience of 20, maybe 30 people so you can imagine the emotions I was feeling this time around seeing a packed house. Hearing a venue full of my fans, as they screamed every word to every song let me know there’s purpose in what I’m doing. These weren’t just kids who liked my songs. These were kids who felt my lyrics to their core, who needed them in order to keep going. I realized in that moment, I wasn’t alone and neither were they.

So that’s why my own show was the best show I’ve ever been to. I gained a family that night. And nothing has ever meant more to me than that.

Damien Styles’ Sensory Overload: Styles’ “Good Job!” single and For All the Times I Fell on My Face album are out now.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.

Highlights