We caught up with Gareth Emery and HALIENE post-launch of SAVING LIGHT

DtL:  Hi HALIENE, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

HALIENE: I’m HALIENE, pronounced HAY-lee-en (rhymes with alien). I have been singing and writing songs since I was a very little girl. Growing up, my mother would often say I sang before I could talk. I grew up in a few places… I was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but when I was 7 years old moved to southern Utah. I lived there until about 14, at which point my mother and I went on the road in pursuit of my music career. I finally settled in Los Angeles a few years later when I signed a major record deal. I got to tour the world with some amazing people, but at the time my project was all soft pop/ adult contemporary. Eventually my love for electronic sounds led me to dance music!

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying? If so can you tell us what happened?

HALIENE: Yes, I have. Middle school was terrible for me. My music career had me leaving school quite often to perform in Las Vegas and LA. One year I was gone for 100 of the 180 school days! Yet, I still managed to do all my schoolwork in the car while my mother drove me to my performances. The kids in the small town I grew up in didn’t understand why I got to be gone so much. Slowly, I lost almost all my friends. There were times when none of the kids would even stand on the sidewalk if I was on it. There was name-calling and taunting. At one point the most popular girl at school took away all my friends, telling them they had to choose between me or her. I lost almost all my confidence and could barely say “hello” to classmates when I saw them outside of school for those years.

“There were times when none of the kids would even stand on the sidewalk if I was on it”

 

DtL: What advice would you give to those that are being bullied?

HALIENE: As a young girl, my dream was bigger than the tiny world of “school”. I kept my eyes focused on that. My mother saw what was happening to me and told me to “stand up straight, look people in the eye, say hello” and remember how loved I am and how much I am worth. People that bully are only giving back what they carry inside of them, or perhaps reflecting what they have seen in their own home. People that bully are often being bullied even worse by someone else. If you are being bullied you need to find a balance of stating a boundary, standing up for yourself, but also recognising that their negative actions and words are coming from a place of pain in them, not necessarily malice.
Also, it is never you that is really the problem, so don’t let them bring you down! If it happens at school, remember school isn’t the rest of your life. The same people who bullied you when you were young, will look at your success in the future and brag about how they “always knew you’d be successful”. In fact, they might even ask you to sing at their weddings. Yes… that happened to me! Instead of letting the negative energy drag you down, let it propel you. It’s difficult, but keep your head up, keep feeding the dream in your heart and keep your eyes on the future.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/haliene.jpg”]

 

DtL: What inspired your track Saving Light? The video’s narrative is also very powerful – what do you hope the video and single will achieve in terms of message?

HALIENE: “Saving Light” was inspired by my own personal journey with pain. When I was seven, I thought that my parents’ divorce would be the most painful thing I’d have to endure. But a few years ago, when I lost both of them to cancer, only six months apart, it utterly destroyed me. My heart and my life were shattered. I was 23 years old and as an only child, all the responsibilities were left to me. I was extremely close with my parents. My mother was everything to me. I talked to her every single day. But that loss was only the beginning. Soon after, the record company I was signed to refused to pay me what they owed. To survive I was forced to work for minimum wage at a retail store in LA, all the while hearing my own songs play on the radio there. Over the following years, I lost relationships, friendships, and the dreams of my career. It seemed like everything was purposefully being stripped out of my life beyond my control, and I was helpless to stop it. There were many times, when I thought about how easy it would be to just leave this world…that there wasn’t much left in it for me anyway. I missed my parents so much, and I felt so alone. Here I was, in the massive city of Los Angeles with my dreams left in ashes.

But that’s when I went to my first dance music festival and things began to change. This was my first real experience of dance music. Having grown up in southern Utah, I’d never been very exposed to it. My mother used to play Delerium and Enigma CDs when I was a kid, but I had no idea there was so much more than that! There was a whole new world, a culture of peace, love and unity. This music, this culture, these people, breathed new life into me. Through the music I found a fresh vision for my life, a new dream. In the times of despair when I didn’t want to be alive anymore, there was always a small voice reminding me just how much I had to be grateful for, how much was ahead of me, how much I still had yet to give, that life had only just begun for me, and that the future was bright. In the dark times, I felt it, like the tiny flicker of a candle – my Saving Light.

“When I didn’t want to be alive anymore, there was always a small voice reminding me just how much I had to be grateful for”

 

I found myself being grateful for every breath in those moments, for my bed, for a good nights sleep, for food, and for people with a smile on their face. The music saved me. The people I met in the culture of dance music saved me. I found a purpose beyond this world, a calling that was higher than just entertainment, to be that same Saving Light for the many others that suffer like I had. With this song, it is my prayer to give back to all those beautiful spirits who loved me and showed me light during my darkest times, to remind those in pain, those who are lost, how much they are really worth, how much they have to be grateful for, and how bright their future is if they never stop reaching for it.

DtL: What has been your recipe for success?

HALIENE: Never. Give. Up. Tirelessly follow your path. Stay positive, always. Treat others with kindness. Own who you are, but never try to sell it. Just be it. Work efficiently, don’t do everything, or you’ll get lost. Find a focused point to work towards, find a hole in the marketplace that only you can fill. And last but not least, have a quiet confidence, a way of being that says you know who you are, what you are worth, and you don’t have to shout it on every street corner. It’s a twinkle in your eye.

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

Gareth: There’s so much, but also, in a way, nothing! If I’d known everything I know now when I was younger, my life would have been very different, and I have no regrets about the lessons I’ve learned in life and the points at which I’ve learned them. That said, if I’d worked out it was OK to be my authentic self earlier, rather than always trying to fit it, I would have saved myself a lot of hassle, and found happiness in my life sooner.

DtL: What motto do you live by?

Gareth: I have many, but the overriding one is a constant desire to improve myself. Whether it’s becoming more efficient, learning new things, making better art, being a better person, having more time for my family, being happier or whatever. We’re all works in progress, and it’s incredible how many things about your life you can change, if you’re willing to work at it. There are a few amazing podcasts that have helped me with this: one is The Tim Ferriss show (and his various books) which I listen to for general life advice, the other is one called MFCEO which is great for giving you a kick back into the world if you’re feeling sorry for yourself.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/C36836NUEAAH-Pr.jpg”]

 

DtL: What does the future hold for HALIENE?

HALIENE: So much more exciting music to come! Lots of new inspired releases but also some legendary collaborations. Stay tuned for new tours as well… and definitely some solo HALIENE tracks.

DtL: Why did you decide to team up with Ditch the Label?

Gareth: We knew we had an incredibly powerful song with Saving Light, and wanted to make a music video to accompany it that could make people think, and impact people’s lives in a positive way – rather than your typical music video. Soon, we hit on the concept, but wanted to make sure we addressed the issue in a way that was authentic and sensitive. Ditch the Label were fantastic partners, working with us to make sure the storyline made sense, and being there for people affected by these issues to reach out to.

DtL: Is there anything you would like to add?

HALIENE: May the light that shines in me, also shine in you.

Tyler Clementi

In 2010, Tyler’s death became a global news story, highlighting the impact & consequences of bullying

Tyler was smart, funny and talented, with a big heart and a determined spirit, but internally he was struggling with depression and suicidal tendencies. He ultimately took his own life at just 18 years old. It has been surreal to piece together these two very different people: the Tyler I knew and loved, and the one I never knew at all.

I have struggled to process how anyone could want to hurt Tyler. He was hard not to love. He never had problems with people that bullied in high school, so when I learned that he had been violated and abused by his college peers, I was in total shock. Tyler was the good kid that never got in trouble. And when he finally was in trouble, he didn’t know what to do.

In September 2010, my brother was starting his freshman year at Rutgers University in the US. He had come out to me (actually, we came out to each other) earlier in the summer. I was very supportive and encouraged him to reach out to me no matter what the situation. Tyler came out to our parents only two days before leaving for college. They were shocked, but they advised him to be careful and guarded in his new environment. A new living situation with strangers can be risky, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people are at a higher risk of being targeted than their straight peers.

“Tyler was the good kid that never got in trouble. And when he finally was in trouble, he didn’t know what to do”

 

My brother had been closeted in high school and he was excited to finally be out, to be himself for the first time. He was expecting to find a world that embraced him, but instead he soon realised that the start of his college experience had become a nightmare scenario that was far worse than he could have anticipated.

Tyler asked his roommate for and was granted permission to have privacy in their shared dorm room so that he could be alone with a date. What he didn’t know was that when Tyler’s roommate left, he went across the hall to another student’s dorm room and turned on her computer and remotely accessed his webcam, which he had left deliberately pointed at Tyler’s bed. The roommate invited a group of students to have a “viewing party” in the room and sent tweets to students at Rutgers as well as high school friends, detailing exactly what was going on. Tyler’s privacy was violated in a vulnerable moment.

My brother soon realised what had happened. He read his roommate’s Twitter account, which was filled with nasty, homophobic comments about Tyler and the encounter, which clearly was intended to be private. Tyler spiralled into crisis mode, and could not see any way out. I was there, and would have dropped everything to go to him and help him. But he didn’t reach out to me. The shame and stigma of what Tyler experienced pushed him toward a permanent choice that cannot be undone. That much cruelty and intolerance was too much for one gentle, shy young man to bear.

Over the last several years, my family has had to grapple with the questions of why this happened, and how we could have prevented it. No matter how much we want to, we can’t travel through time to bring Tyler back. But we have channeled our love for Tyler to serving other youth who feel isolated and targeted by bullies by creating the Tyler Clementi Foundation. We have chosen to use our personal tragedy as a teaching tool for others, so that more lives like Tyler’s are not senselessly lost. This fall, our foundation launched a research-based initiative that we believe will help other families avoid the sort of tragedy and pain that befell ours: the #Day1 Campaign.

“The shame and stigma of what Tyler experienced pushed him toward a permanent choice that cannot be undone”

 

The two biggest questions we have wrestled with are: “Why would someone want to hurt or humiliate Tyler?” And, “How can we make sure that other youth who are being bullied reach out for help before they take a self-harming action?” #Day1 addresses both of these issues. While it may seem obvious that we should always treat others with respect and dignity, the reality is that middle, high school, and college level students are not hearing this message from their teachers or administrators at school.

The #Day1 campaign explicitly spells out for young people exactly how they are expected to behave towards their peers. It states that mistreatment and abusive, cruel behaviour that will not be tolerated against any student for any reason. After students have heard the #Day1 pledge, they know exactly what is expected of them as part of the school community, and there is no room for misunderstanding. If Tyler or his peers had heard this statement at the beginning of their freshman year, it may have drastically impacted the way he was treated.

In regards to my second question, I believe the biggest obstacle for young people reaching out for help is the shame and stigma they feel when they experience bullying and harassment. It is my hope and belief that by having teachers and school administrators read the #Day1 pledge to students, it will send the message, “You are not alone. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Let us help you. We are here to help, and we want to help.” When a student hears their school’s principal read the #Day1 pledge during an assembly, or their history teacher read the pledge in the classroom, it sends them the message that they are not the only person that this is happening to. It lets them know that their school has an environment of support and acceptance for those who are different, and they are empowered to speak out if their dignity is being violated in any way.

Written by James Clementi (Tyler’s brother)

Learn more about the Tyler Clementi Foundation at http://tylerclementi.org