Drea Jeann

From the outside looking in, Drea Jeann’s life looked sweet: She’d just graduated college. She was young, talented, beautiful, and making music. Yet Aesop wrote, “Appearances are often deceiving.”

Moving to L.A. to pursue music, she found herself alone and unsure, confused and hesitant, as well as suffering from trauma of which she was not aware. So like most people, she self-medicated: attending parties and doing drugs. Before long a little became a lot, and a lot became a touch too much. After a while, she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror. Drea didn’t know who she was, if she was even really alive.

The only thing she knew for sure was she needed help. She got it. Now she’s clean. Now she’s making music. Her latest single/music video, “No Sympathy,” demonstrates just how talented she is. She’s so good it boggles your mind. It’s not fair that someone is so gifted.

Explaining the song, Drea says, “’No Sympathy’ is about addiction. It’s about being stuck inside of oneself, fighting off their inner demons and battling with insanity. It’s about being confined to the asylum that is one’s own brain. Most importantly, the song depicts trying no matter what, even in the face of hopelessness, because in the distance lies freedom from oneself, from the substance that chains their hands.”

The songstress sat down with Thrive Global to talk about her journey through the hell of drug addiction, and finding her way back to the here and now.

How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?

I started singing at age 3. I was involved with musical theatre and choir up until high school, where I then was heavily involved in musical theatre and jazz ensemble, which was also a small a cappella group. I lived, breathed, and slept music. However, I didn’t start writing and recording my own music until two years ago when I met Eddie Wohl, the producer I’ve been working with ever since. I graduated college and my dad had a talk with me and basically said I know how much you love and want to pursue music, now’s the time, and I support you. That was kind of my green light, and I’m extremely fortunate and grateful to have parents that love and support me through this career choice as I know not everyone has that luxury.

When did you become addicted to drugs? How old were you?

I honestly lived a very normal life before I graduated college. It wasn’t until after college that I found myself completely lost and devoid of purpose. When I was finished with school, I realized that was what was keeping me motivated and was the center of my world, so when it ended I was left uncertain of what to do next with myself. At the same time, I had moved down to L.A., broken up with my boyfriend at the time, lived alone, and was doing music. Although music is the center of my world, it wasn’t keeping me busy enough as I was just getting started and didn’t even know what questions to ask then. I’m the type of person that needs to be consistently busy, keeping myself preoccupied, so when I found myself not knowing what to do with my time, I turned to partying and drugs to distract me from all of the pain and trauma that had occurred (and was occurring) at the time. I was 22 when this happened. My run with drugs only lasted about eight months, which is just my story.

Which drug did you eventually end up addicted to?

Cocaine is my drug of choice. I’ve dabbled with other things, but cocaine was the drug that brought me to my knees and left me completely powerless.

Who knew about your problem?

Only my very close friends and my boyfriend. My dad knew something was off, as he has battled with addiction himself and knew the signs, but he waited until I came to him to help me.

What motivated you to get clean?

I couldn’t continue living the way I was. I was either going to die, or get clean at that point. I wished death upon myself numerous times, and even tried. It was extremely self-centered, and all I could think about was myself and how miserable I was, I just wanted it to all stop but I couldn’t stop on my own. I tried really hard to get clean multiple times alone, but I kept failing myself, which only made things worse. I surrendered. Which seemed like I was giving up, but really I was giving myself a chance. Surrendering feels very ironic in recovery. I had one of my lowest weeks and after I just had no fight left in me, it had completely taken over. I drove up to San Jose and wrote out a long letter to my dad, because I knew the words wouldn’t come unless I had it right in front of me. I read him the letter and he hugged me and told me he was proud of me, which was not what I was expecting. We then found a rehab that I ended up completing for 30 days. I knew I couldn’t do music if I kept using. I couldn’t keep up the double-life, it’s just not in me. I got clean for a number of reasons. I got clean for music, for my friends, for my family, but lastly I got clean for myself. I honestly didn’t care about myself at that point; when you use to that degree you have such little self-respect. But I respected those I worked with, and those who loved me, enough to get my act together and show them the respect they showed me.

Drea Jeann | Photo: Jeremy Lee

How did you get off drugs?

30-day rehab and sober living.

How has going through addiction changed your life?

Addiction isn’t a problem in and of itself; it’s the symptom of my problems. I was running from so much trauma and things that had happened in my life, and honestly didn’t know how to face it, or that I was even running from it in the first place. When I got clean I realized I had no idea who I was, no idea what gave me purpose, and no idea the degree to which my past trauma really affected me. If I hadn’t gone through my addiction, I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today. It’s grown me to a degree I couldn’t even fathom prior. I’ve learned about myself, about others, how to face the uncomfortable, how to sit with fear, and how to cope with trauma. It’s day by day, and it’s always tough, but it’s not nearly as tough as when I was running away from my issues by using drugs. The 12-step program also helps you grow as an individual in incredible ways. I recommend the 12-steps to everyone, no matter what you have, an addiction to, or even if you have an addiction. It’s just an incredible way to grow the fuck up, take responsibility for your life, and move forward in love, gratitude, and grace.

What type of impact has coming out other side of addiction had on your music?

It’s allowed me to open up and write about real things. Honesty is number one when it comes to my lyrics and my music. When I started writing about addiction and what I felt, what I experienced, it came out so easily. I’ve never written lyrics so naturally before, it was honestly pretty crazy. When I looked over what I had written, I accepted that I’d rather share who I am inside and out with the world than hide behind some facade. Music in itself is raw, authentic, and real. I want only to uphold that as an artist in my own lyrics.

You’re a survivor. Any regrets?

No regrets. There’s nothing I can do to change the past. I do my best to live in acceptance. Obviously, I take precautions and learn from my mistakes, move forward, and do my best to act in alliance with my best self and my values. But over the things I cannot control, it’s best to accept it, learn from it, and move on. 

Which musicians/singers influenced you the most?

Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Lianne La Havas, Sara Barielles, Whitney Houston, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tori Kelly.

Which artists are you listening to right now?

The Weeknd’s new stuff is amazing. The 1975. LANY. I listen to so much stuff on all spectrums though, depending on my mood.

What inspired your new single/music video, “No Sympathy?”

“No Sympathy” is about addiction and the battle with oneself in the midst of substance use. The music video was shot in an old burned down house that lingered on past times, and coincided with the eerie, dark feel the song aims for.

What’s next for you musically?

Continue writing! But there’s a LOT more coming soon. I have a ton of songs I’ll be releasing over the next year.

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