On the grill
Who are you
I’m a singer/songwriter and a mental health advocate. I was the lead singer of the indie-pop band The Oh Wells, and I now perform solo under the name Sarah Jickling and her Good Bad Luck. I know that name’s a mouthful, but it’s my bad luck (aka my bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and OCD) that got me to the good place I’m at now. I recently released my first solo album, When I Get Better, which documents my bipolar recovery journey, and I use my music to spread mental health awareness. I get to sing and educate high school students all over B.C. on behalf of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society, and I also perform with UBC’s Wingspan Dis/ability Arts, Culture, & Public Pedagogy (wingspan.educ.ubc.ca) in the hopes of creating a more accessible music industry for artists with disabilities. You can find me around Vancouver in hospital waiting rooms and pole-dancing studios.
I think my mother took me to a Charlotte Diamond (of “Four Hugs a Day” fame) when I was four years old, but that was the extent of the live music I saw with my parents. My first real concert, the first time I felt the bass shake my entire body and the first time I screamed at the lead singer, was in 2007 in my high school cafeteria. A band full of very cute boys called There Their were playing a set at lunch time, and I was totally swept away by the experience. I practically swooned, and my best friend told me to tone it down because I was embarrassing her. Ten years later, the lead singer of the band, Harley Small, produced my most recent album. He still makes me swoon.
In 2012, I went to see Kate Nash at the Commodore Ballroom. The entire audience was full of girls, who sang along to every single song in a fake British accent. Kate had covered her piano in lights and flowers and was unabashedly feminine. That is the concert where I realized it’s okay to make “chick music.” It’s okay if the majority of your fans are women. In fact, it's awesome! It does not make you any less of a musician.
Top three records
Regina Spektor Soviet Kitsch I was a classical pianist as a kid, and I never considered myself a singer at all. When I first heard Soviet Kitsch, Regina’s classical-piano-influenced songs blew my mind. I downloaded the sheet music and taught myself how to sing and play the whole thing. This was how I learned to play piano and sing at the same time. This album taught me how to be a singer/songwriter… and yes, that’s why I sing like Regina Spektor. She was my teacher.
Lily Allen Alright, Still As a high school student, I listened to this album over and over, and I started to write in Lily Allen’s style: very wordy with a dark sense of humour and a bubblegum-pop exterior. Sometimes I still curse Lily Allen for making me fall in love with her writing style… I write so many lyrics I barely have time to breathe when I’m performing. Thanks a lot, Lily.
Beyoncé Lemonade For so long I thought that my bipolar disorder was the reason I could write songs, as if it were some kind of gift or super-power. Once I decided to stabilize myself with medication, I was worried I’d never write another song again. I went without writing for almost three years because I had learned to rely on my manic states to write songs for me. I would black out and wake up with a song, but once I was medicated I would just sit at the piano and nothing would happen, exactly as I’d fear. This album broke my three-year-long writer's block. I was so moved and inspired by it that I pushed through my fears and wrote a song. All hail Queen Bey!
All-time favourite video
Beyoncé "Hold Up" Beyonce’s magnificent visual accompaniment to her song “Hold Up” recently usurped Coldplay’s “The Scientist” video as my all-time favourite. Chris Martin was my high school crush, and I could watch him walk backwards in slow motion for hours (and I spent most of grade 10 doing exactly that). But Beyoncé smashing car windows in slow motion? I don’t think it gets better than that. “I’d rather be crazy,” she sings. Beyoncé, welcome to the crazy club. We are so excited to have you.
What’s in your fridge
Four Soda Stream" brand bottles of chilled water. My boyfriend bought me a sparkling water machine for Christmas to help me kick my Coca-Cola addiction. All you have to do is screw the top of these water bottles into the soda stream machine (which looks like the girl robot from WALL-E) and in a few seconds you have a bottle of a delicious carbonated beverage. While I love sparkling water, I am still hopelessly addicted to Coca-Cola and sugar in general. I’ve now asked my boyfriend to keep anything remotely sweet that makes its way into our apartment in a locked box because I can’t be trusted around sugary things. I once ate an entire jar of icing in a matter of minutes with just my fingers. This sugar addiction is probably a job for more than just sparkling water. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.
An expired bottle of bee pollen: I don't even know what bee pollen is supposed to do to your body, and I’ve been meaning to throw it out but it was really expensive. I bought this during my "I don't need psychiatric medication" phase, where I tried to cure my bipolar and anxiety disorders with smoothies. I basically bought everything Whole Foods had to offer, stuffed it in a blender and hoped for the best. It says on the bottom that it expired in 2014. In any case, the smoothies didn't work.
Five different bottles of pro-biotics (also mostly expired). If you or someone you know is mentally ill, you've probably heard the whole "the gut is the new brain" thing. If not, that probably sounds insane. The idea is that you can treat mental illnesses by being nice to the bacteria in the stomach. My mom read this book called The Gut Balance REVOLUTION and now she thinks probiotics can cure everything. I'm on the fence.
Sarah Jickling plays the Cultch (along with Christa Couture and Kristina Shelden) on Thursday (March 8) as part of an International Women's Day showcase titled Luminescence. You can stream When I Get Better by Sarah Jickling and her Good Bad Luck here.