Interview by April Keller-Macleod
Photos by Tara Dwelsdorf
Art Direction by Kara Hornland 

White Poppy is Crystal Dorval, an artist and musician based in British Columbia, Canada. "It's pop hidden in an atmospheric haze," she says of her sound. "I like to make music that lulls or sedates the listener and myself." We get intimate with Dorval, as she describes her work and opens up about the realities of mental health. 

How has your music changed over time?

I think my approach to making music has gotten more experimental as time goes on. I have also become more reliant on electronics. I started out just playing acoustic guitar when I was a teenager and knew nothing about effects pedals or recording gear. Now, I have so many gadgets and pedals, and recording myself has become a big part of how I create my music.

Are you producing more music? What can we expect from you in the future?

Yeah, I am producing more music, though the next step is pretty uncertain. There are three completely different sounding albums in my head that I want to make. I have a collaborative album with Samantha Glass that has been completed for a while as well. That will be coming out soon.

Describe your favorite performance experience.

In general, I am drawn to shows that are held in unconventional spaces or have some sort of visual or theatrical element involved. During CMJ, I played at The Silent Barn, and they had this elaborate balloon backdrop and projections. I like when the atmosphere is complimentary to the music. It makes it much easier for me to get into it and feel comfortable.

You have a mental health blog called Sanity Soap. Why did you start this?

I’ve wanted to do something proactive with mental health for a long time, and I finally got up the courage to start this blog. I’ve done a lot of different therapies and self-development in my life, and I’ve made it through some really hard times. I feel drawn to share my experiences and lessons learned, incase it might be useful to someone else.

What kind of reception have you gotten from doing this?

I am happy to say that all the feedback has been really positive, encouraging, and inspiring!

Writing about your personal experiences with mental health, do you feel that there is a loss of privacy in your personal life? 

At first I was really concerned with boundaries and wondered how much I should share, and what was “too much”. Now I just try to remain true to my own feelings, and do what feels right to me. Personally, mental health issues are not something I need to keep private, and the more I talk about them in a matter of fact way, the less scary and weird they become to me. I still feel like a really private person actually.

There is an element of disassociation when communicating through the internet. Is it easier to trust to talk about your personal mental health issues through your blog compared to real life interactions?  

I definitely experience that disassociation when communicating online. I think it does help to have that barrier when sharing online, but I also don’t mind sharing in person. I am getting more and more comfortable with all of it the more I do it.

What is your perception on societies treatment of mental health issues? 

It seems to me that there is a major awareness shift happening at the moment around mental health, and more supports are coming about. That being said, there is still stigma, and there are people who don’t understand. Like anything though, it takes time to make these big changes. I think we are headed in a good direction, toward a more compassionate and understanding approach to mental health.

Tell me about your darkest point, and how you managed to get out of it. 

Last winter was my lowest point. I struggled for most of my youth and young adult life with depression. It finally got to a point where I sort of just shut down. The first step to me getting better was finding a good doctor and finding a medication that worked for me. Once those things were in place, it was just a matter of taking it day by day, slowly building myself back up. Reaching out to friends and family, seeing a counselor regularly, educating myself about therapies and treatments etc. Lots of little things helped, like getting outside for walks, trying to keep up with house chores, and self-care and grooming. It’s easy to let all the little things slip away when you are depressed, so focusing on small steps has a big impact when you begin to work toward getting better.

What is something about your character that you try to hide from other people? 

I think there are probably a lot of things. I know for sure that I try to hide my problems with anger. I am ashamed of that part about myself, but it’s a trait that runs in my family. I am working on improving that part of myself, and that’s all you can do. In general, I really try to practice self-acceptance and be honest about who I am. It’s easier in the end to express what you are really feeling instead of trying to be the way you think you should be. 

If you weren't doing music and art, what would you want to be doing?

I wouldn't be able to not do music and art, but if I were able to, I would love to explore something in science. I don't like being in school though, so that probably won't happen for me. You never know though.

Visit Crystal Dorval's mental health and wellness blog, Sanity Soap.