Can heavy metal music be intimate and spiritual? Yes, it can.
With a new alternative rock ballad to her name, Crystal Joilena has found her footing. Granted, the ethereal songstress has known who she is and believed in what she can do for quite some time. It is through honing in on her presence and understanding the emotional toll of such that she has been able to make her mark… and be proud of it. She no longer underestimates her power or overlook her heart. By combining those two things, as well as growing stronger inside the industry, Joilena has become who she is today: the “High Priestess” of passionate, soon-to-be legendary rock and roll.
The Aquarian caught up with Crystal Joilena right as this new single dropped in order to get an even closer look at the variety of inspirations that it came from and led to.
You’re a New Yorker, so you know this city has a little bit of everything. As an artist, that lends itself to finding inspiration everywhere. Have you ever met someone, seen something, or been somewhere that has, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, made its way into your art?
Yes, I have. Traveling inspires me. Every human experience inspires me. If I had a memorable interaction, that ends up in a song; a melancholy feeling can become lyrics. I have an overactive imagination, so anything can happen. I’ve written about the first time meeting someone, and I’m unsure if that made as much of an impact in someone else’s mind, but those are the questions we may not ever find answers to – that’s alright because it created amazing art that is here forever and that is the most important part.
What are you hoping “The High Priestess” tells the world about you? As someone with notable features and covers, such a fierce solo number must feel a bit different in terms of the weight and meaning that it carries.
Everyone can each have their own meaning to a single piece of art, but, for me, this song represents the Divine Feminine and the struggles we face in every male-dominated industry that has tried to tell us we are not good enough to succeed. It’s about discovering hidden truths in others, shadow work healing, and constantly battling so many other factors in life… killing off your old self, the thoughts and patterns you believed in and making space for a new being, aside from all the trauma you’ve experienced, mistakes you have made, and how other people have made you feel. It represents fighting back when even your own body/physical health is betraying you; reclaiming your power that has been lost. I also see it as a diss track against the music industry, if you will. There’s a lot of deceitful behavior that is overlooked a lot. There are many individuals who are not as they appear and you can’t really trust many people – the only thing you can do is hold the people you can trust close to you. I’m really grateful for the amazing experiences I’ve had, but it’s a scary world out there, especially for feminine beings. I hope others can see the struggles I’ve faced and how I still wake up every day, never give up on my goals, and keep building a legacy for myself to my best ability. I want to inspire the people who relate to me to feel the same.
You are no stranger to spirituality and are frequently intertwining it into your music, visual persona, career, and every day. Why do you feel so connected to that realm and those methods, if you will, of storytelling?
I grew up worshipping God/Allah, and when I was around 12 I didn’t know what or whom I believed in for a bit of time, so I couldn’t identify my true religion. Despite my uncertainty about how I felt, I still believed that there has to be something out there. There’s no way we live in a floating planet next to a ball of fire and there’s nothing magical out there – that doesn’t make any sense to me. I always believed in good karma and manifestation and was very fascinated with crystals and rocks. It took years of inner healing and finding myself to decide that I actually believe in a little bit of many things, and I also don’t agree with a few things, so I would absolutely consider myself polytheistic, the belief in many different religions, and I do practice light-work, tarot reading (My cat also reads tarot!), and I believe in past lives and energy healing. I have ADHD and thousands of thoughts run through my mind constantly, I have strange dreams a lot and a hyperactive mind, so a lot of the writing comes from that, sometimes I feel my dreams are letting me know what’s happening in a different universe, or even the future. I am very connected to Egyptian and Greek mythology, so it appears in my work a lot.
What is the key to a solid, stars-aligning collaboration? Is it sonic, coming down to the blending of sounds, voices, and narratives? Is it more personal and emotional? How do you know when a collaborative project is right for you and repertoire?
The energy has to be right, it has to be with people who can easily understand me and what I’m trying to put into words and it has to be right for the sound I hear in my mind. I only ever decide to collaborate with those I feel complete comfort with and a heavy musical connection to, and everyone I’ve worked on music with in the past six years has provided that for me. I am very privileged in that sense and have built some amazing friendships through music alone.
Being a woman in this industry, and especially a woman in rock, can come with unnecessary expectations and hurdles. For all the other females with music in their hearts, how do you find your voice and persevere?
At first, it used to have a major effect on me. It was very difficult to push through all the issues with not being taken seriously, men not treating me like I belonged, saying negative things about me. My mental health was becoming worse because of it along with many other struggles in life, and especially when there were people trying to take advantage of me and, of course, higher up people stealing my ideas and using me as a mood board. This was very difficult to accept, especially since I work hard and spend a lot of the money I earn on music and my creations. I had to have a lot of lower moments before I felt more secure in myself and stood with conviction, but through growth and age I decided that I’m my own person with my own unique identity. I don’t listen to expectations and I don’t compare myself in a negative light because I don’t feel a need to, so finding my voice has now come a lot easier to me, and I’d like to think that will only improve with strength and time.
Something I’d want to share with all feminine artists out there is that you don’t need anyone who does not see your worth. You don’t need a massive label to tell you that you’re good enough or to validate you. All you need is your talent, ambition, and drive, collaborative teams and PR who will help to push you to be your best self, and to save up enough money to put in your music fund because success is never free and without hard work. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the right people for you. You should never give up on your true calling, no matter how much you want to sometimes and how much rejection and hardship you have faced. I’ve faced many challenges and insecurities that did make me want to give up in the past, but I decided to keep pushing and striving to be my best self and keep putting my work out there because I know that there’s a place for me in this industry.
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