How Musician Vōx Finds her Voice through Nature and Cannabis

The musical project vōx — pronounced "wokes" — has been four years in the making. Named after the Latin word for "voice," this Los Angeles-based vocalist serenades her audience with themes of self-discovery and self-worth. "The voice is the most important instrument, and prominent in my music," she says, so the name's strength and simplicity "felt really fitting." Inspired by nature and her own subconscious, vōx uses music, lyric writing, and cannabis, as creative modalities for healing. Now soon to release a new EP this fall with Arts & Crafts Music Publishing, vōx sat down with Civilized in downtown LA before her upcoming European tour to discuss her artistic process, her struggle with anxiety, and how she achieves a feeling of spirituality through sounds, aesthetics, and cannabis.

What are the biggest themes in your music? 

I would say that the biggest themes are probably centered around self-worth, anxiety, rebirth, and growing from your past. I feel like that was the beginning of the project for me in a sense, being reborn and realizing that you are never stuck in any one place as a human. 

How have you come to terms with your anxiety?

I’ve grown up constantly shifting between wanting to hide it entirely and giving in completely to being a victim of anxiety. I think that can be the battle with most mental illnesses in a sense. And because you start relying on it as a narrative in your life you fall into this mindset that you can't change or grow from it. Societally, it can be hard to feel accepted. I’ve always felt that people don't want to make friends with me if I’m anxious all the time. Inside I'm buzzing and outside I'm pretending to be very calm.

Do you use cannabis for anxiety?

I use it a lot for relaxation. And just catching a break from the crazy mind and tension in the body, for sure.

How often do you use it?

Definitely daily. I love a really heavy indica for night time, for sure, to have an hour of like, "I'm awake, but I'm very relaxed." 

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What about during the day? Do you use it for creativity?

Sometimes I do. It really depends on the strain for me. A lot of sativa strains can bring out my anxiety, so when I do find a good one I make a mental note and go back to the same companies and strains.

Describe your creative process

I like to do it very purposefully. I start songwriting by only writing lyrics. And sometimes I’ll brainstorm what to write about, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I'm in a mental space where it's subconscious. I really love that kind of writing. I have no idea where it came from and I have no idea what it's about. Later on I will examine it, like, "No way, I never realized I felt that way."

So what are you most proud of in relation to the vōx project?

I'm most proud of performing live. I never thought that was something I would be able to get through the anxiety of and come out the other side.

How did you get through it?

Being able to pull energy from a character that can be outside yourself is a big part of it for me because there’s a disconnection from the inherent vulnerability of your own private soul. I'm always uncovering new parts of myself through that, which is always interesting. There was definitely a point where I was saying that vōx wasn't me. But I realized recently the true power is that it is me.

What is the overarching purpose of vōx and the main character traits? 

The overarching purpose is giving back to people who need music. I grew up in a very small town in Minnesota. When I was a teenager, I was incredibly anxious and depressed and hopeless about life. Music was the first hope that I had to keep going. So I think that really is the core of what music is to me — why I want to make it, why I want to be as vulnerable as possible, as open as possible, and as accepting as possible. 

Have you had trouble expressing yourself before?

For sure. I think that is the other side of the name, my ability to have a voice. I grew up in a very conservative household — conservative in a lot of ways and especially in communication of feelings and emotions. There was a long time where I had no idea how to have a voice outside of writing music.

When you write a song, do you know how it will sound?

Usually, it's just lyrics first. I guess, in the internal meter of my soul, I secretly know what it will sound like. I know how I would read it and what the flow of it will be, like a poem.

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How does the melody come to you?

I usually write 20 or 30 poems or pages of lyrics before one of them becomes a song because I'm very picky about that first step. Once something feels exciting to me, I'll sit down at the piano or whatever medium I want to write to and it usually comes out very quickly all in one go. And that's the song. I almost never edit a melody after the fact. 

How often would you say cannabis is part of that process? 

I've never written a song — the melody part — high before. That part of the process feels like it needs to be more scientific, more present. But definitely the lyrics. It's night time, I've smoked a little joint. I'm drifting off and writing. 

When throughout the day are you most inspired?

There are two times I like to write: One of them is during the day with the inspiration of laying in the sun. The other time is very late at night. Almost when your brain is falling into the dream state. One is very conscious and the other is very subconscious. 

Do you feel that addressing topics like self-worth and anxiety in your art is a form of therapy?

I am now more able to express the things that i'm feeling and realize where they're coming from. That’s something I’ve learned with time. But in a way, lyrics are still the deepest parts of my soul and I still sometimes surprise myself. There's also a healing in saying things out loud. And there's especially a healing in creating a community around that. It's full circle healing. I write the thing — that's a little healing. I perform it and put it out into the world — that's a little healing. And then getting messages from people, or people coming up to me after a show and telling me their stories, is the most healing. 

Coming from a religious background, how do you access spirituality now?

I'm having a hard time now. The initial access point after leaving Minnesota and not being institutionally religious has been nature. Anything that makes you feel like you're part of a bigger picture, or that you're very small — I think that is very spiritual to me. But I'm trying to figure it out. That's the path I'm currently on: figuring out how to access spirituality without religion. 

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Does weed play a role in that?

Definitely. I can think of so many times, lying around in nature or being in the bath, bawling my eyes out and having a revelatory experience because I'm really high. When I'm really stoned is when I’m the most grateful and focused on what's really happening. 

What is your aesthetic inspired by? What are you channeling? 

I’m always trying to conceptualize the experiences that I've had. The imagery that's about to come out for the EP is religious based because the topics I'm tackling bring me back to being 13 years old on that church stage. I'm also combining a visual representation of power within these moments where before I felt powerless.

Who are you inspirations? 

Kendrick Lamar. I could list so many artists who I vibe with right now, but he's the ultimate for me. He's uncompromising with his vision and the story he knows he needs to tell. I just recently became an obsessive fan of this sneaker company from Paris called Rombaut. They’re vegan and sustainable. I'm coming upon three years being vegan, so it’s important to me to support as many brands that align with that as I can. And fashion forward vegan shoes are hard to come by.

So what do you have in the works?

I just released the first single from the EP, “I Am Not A God”. It’s about accepting your human flaws and realizing your good intentions are enough. I’m playing a few more shows in Europe this summer. I’ll be in Bosnia for Pyramid Yoga Festival July 26-28, and I’m performing in London with Alxndr London at Jazz Cafe Sept 11.

Photos courtesy of Katy Shayne

Follow vōx on Spotify or Instagram

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