Ali­son Su­dol Wants to Talk to You About Anx­i­ety

The singer and ac­tress left mu­sic six years ago, ap­peared in “Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” then shut her­self off from the out­side world. What hap­pened?


Ear­lier this year, the singer and ac­tress Ali­son Su­dol — for­merly known by her moniker A Fine Frenzy — posted a let­ter she wrote on her per­sonal web site. In the let­ter, she ex­plained why, on the mu­sic front, she’d been silent for the past six years — why she’d stepped away from that line of work and artis­tic ex­pres­sion. Su­dol let out thoughts and emo­tions she’d kept within her­self for a long time. She told her fans and any­one else who hap­pened upon the let­ter, straight up — in 2018, she was di­ag­nosed with clin­i­cal de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

“I’m learn­ing to com­mu­ni­cate hon­estly and knock it off with the hid­ing,” Su­dol’s note read. “If I had not asked for help… well, I don’t know where I would be right now, but I’m glad I’m not there.”

Months later, Su­dol is sit­ting in Mr. C Sea­port's ho­tel bar in down­town Man­hat­tan, wear­ing a sil­ver dress and talk­ing in hon­est de­tail about her jour­ney: tak­ing a hia­tus from mu­sic in 2012, mov­ing to Lon­don to film “Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” in which she plays the char­ac­ter Quee­nie, com­pletely re­mov­ing her­self from the pub­lic eye, then reemerg­ing with a new­found voice. In per­son, she’s got an airy, light tone of speech and is soft spo­ken — un­til she starts laugh­ing. Then she un­veils a boom­ing crescendo of sound, open­ing her mouth wide and clos­ing her eyes while she cracks up. In a way, it is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the fresh out­look she’s cul­ti­vat­ing about her own life. Sa­vor the good mo­ments, don’t let the pain and shame con­sume you; open up, let peo­ple in, but re­main pro­tected by those you trust, those who are clos­est to you. She uses this word a lot through­out the course of the in­ter­view — pro­tec­tion. It seems im­por­tant to her.

“I had such a hard time as a mu­si­cian with this stuff,” she says of her de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, which she couldn't iden­tify un­til her di­ag­no­sis. “I had so much fear about go­ing back to sing­ing be­cause the last time that I toured, I was deal­ing with all of this. I hid it from every­one. I cried pri­vately. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t want to go back into mu­sic and pre­tend I took a hia­tus be­cause I wanted to start act­ing. I took a hia­tus be­cause I couldn’t bear it.”

Dur­ing that pe­riod, she says she made “tons” of mu­sic, but didn’t re­lease any of it. She de­scribes her­self at the time as “a singer that wouldn’t sing.” But now, she’s ready to let it all loose, with the re­lease of an EP in early Novem­ber, then a new al­bum. She’s al­ready put out a sin­gle, called “Moon,” with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic video that she directed. Plus Su­dol is repris­ing her role as Quee­nie in the new movie "Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2," out Nov. 16.

“These EPs rep­re­sented what I wanted to say and what I wanted to cre­ate. But I have made so much that I kept squash­ing down. It was the epit­ome of be­ing choked, chok­ing my ex­pres­sion.

“Now that I’ve start­ing sing­ing again, it’s like, whoa,” she adds, tak­ing a deep breath. With her writ­ing part­ner, pro­ducer and en­gi­neer Ali Chant, she took the al­bum she’d fin­ished and stowed away two years prior and com­pletely dis­man­tled it.

There are many pieces to the trig­ger puz­zle, which brings on Su­dol’s anx­i­ety, but one ma­jor part was her ex­pe­ri­ence with the #MeToo move­ment. Su­dol says she was sex­u­ally and emo­tion­ally abused by two dif­fer­ent men who worked with her early in her ca­reer as a mu­si­cian. This year, she watched woman af­ter woman come for­ward with their hor­rific sto­ries of abuse by Hollywood fig­ures like Har­vey We­in­stein, and ev­ery­thing she’d worked to put in the past boiled right up to the sur­face.

“I had this story or­ga­nized in my mind of how I could live with it,” she ex­plains. “I had to re­struc­ture this en­tire por­tion of my life that I’d built upon.”

So Su­dol made a de­ci­sion to do some­thing that, six years ago, she might not have — she went on In­sta­gram live and told her story.

It ended up be­ing one of the first times she’d reached out di­rectly to her fans in years. “When I did that, I was still in the throes of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety,” she says. “And then I just com­pletely shut back up again. I couldn’t han­dle that amount of ex­po­sure.”

Then, the let­ter came. Su­dol says she wrote it and posted it on her of­fi­cial site in hopes of reach­ing some­one go­ing through what she strug­gled with back then.

“I fig­ured with the kind of mu­sic I make, maybe it would help them re­late to me and give them a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the mu­sic,” she says. “What if you’re a kid and you don’t have any sup­port and you feel the way I do? If maybe even one per­son read that and re­al­ized they weren’t alone…I mean, if I had read what I wrote when I was younger, maybe I would have spo­ken up or asked for help more eas­ily.

“And now, I’m in such a health­ier place, and I’m learn­ing how to pro­tect my­self bet­ter and have bound­aries. [I’m learn­ing to] not let the shame hang­over that comes af­ter you are vul­ner­a­ble keep you from be­ing vul­ner­a­ble in the fu­ture.”

At this point, a mem­ber of the ho­tel wait staff who’s work­ing be­hind the bar and lis­ten­ing to snip­pets of Su­dol’s com­men­tary qui­etly says, “Ex­cuse me.

“I think that we all, af­ter 25 [years old], got that.”

Su­dol looks up, and she leans for­ward.

“Do you have anx­i­ety?”

“You have no idea,” the waiter replies. “Do you see I wear a tie ev­ery day? Some days I feel that it’s chok­ing me, to the point that I can’t even breathe, so I have to go out­side and take some deep breaths.”

“It’s a re­ally tough world,” Su­dol says. “You have to move your body. Take a walk around the block. Or shake.”

She gets off of her bar stool, and, in black plat­form high heels, jumps up and down to demon­strate. She shakes her hands, wig­gles her arms, and nods her head back and forth, her blonde bob mov­ing around wildly.

“If I’m in a so­cial sit­u­a­tion where I’m trig­gered, I go into the bath­room and move and shake and breathe,” she says. “Know­ing that you have it, as op­posed to just think­ing you’re a bro­ken per­son or you don’t ‘work,’ I think that’s re­ally life-chang­ing.

“I go to the bath­room a lot,” she adds, laugh­ing hard.

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