Maria Hassel is a singer/songwriter from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The 22 year old artist revealed her debut single “Anxiety” on August 9th. Written by Hassel and produced by Kevin Monahan, the pop single touches on Hassel’s personal experiences with mental illness.
“I wanted to release “Anxiety” because I wish a song like this would've been out when I was 18 and felt incredibly alone in my battle with mental illness. This song is so much more than a song but my story and I hope by sharing that, I can make even just one person feel a little less alone in whatever they are going through,” expresses Hassel.
The single offers a poignant storytelling showcasing Hassel’s vulnerability that allows the Nashville-based artist to become a voice of empowerment for anyone going through mental illnesses.
“Anxiety” is now available worldwide.
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
My name is Maria Hassel and I'm 22 years old. I was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and moved to Nashville a little over two years ago.
Could you describe us your childhood a little bit?
My childhood was kinda like what you see in every movie about the Suburban America. My dad worked at a bank, my mom worked at my school, and I had two older sisters. We would play barbies in the basement for hours and sing kareoke on this little machine I got for Christmas one year. We'd eat dinner, do our homework and then watch Survivor every Wednesday night. I loved my elementary school and soccer and basketball and being with friends. Our neighborhood had no fences so the backyards all ran together. We would play outside all day until bedtime with the neighbor kids. We'd ride bikes, have lemonade stands, choreograph dances, and create cities out of chalk. There just wasn't anything to worry about and looking back, I'm really lucky I got to grow up in that house and neighborhood. But things got a little tougher when I got to middle school and then really hard when I got to high school- because girls got mean, boys got cute and I felt a little lost.
How would you describe yourself today?
Uncool, but very happy. I feel strong and brave and go to bed smiling most nights. I've never been so sure of who I am, what I believe, what I want, and the kind of music I make. But simpler: 22, dog lover, college grad, coffee addict, netflix binger, nanny, songwriter, friend, skincare obsessed, sister, daughter, try-hard chef, taco tuesday goer, emotional, but most of all, really freaking grateful.
When did you start writing songs? What made you want to write songs in the first place?
I started writing songs when I was 12. The reason was- Taylor Swift. But, I started writing and picked up the guitar because I felt like I wasn't really good at anything. I liked basketball but hated sweating. Choir wasn't really my thing. And it felt like everyone had their thing at school, whether that be sports, music, student council, etc. But I didn't feel like I had a thing. And so I would go home from school and sit down and force myself to learn a chord and write a really terrible, over-emotional song. But at the time, I thought it was Grammy worthy. I was just obsessed with writing and wanted to do it everyday.
When did you know you could sing?
I am still insecure about my singing, which is weird because I just released music to the world. But I am first, a songwriter in my mind. Writing is my comfort and where I am most confident. I didn't used to be able to sing. I wasn't tone deaf when I was young, but I was not good. I was writing everyday so I was singing everyday--- and for hours. My dad built me this stage in the basement of our house that was so small, but I would sing on that thing for hours and write and then sing and then write and then sing. I think eventually I just started getting better because I was doing it all the time. I'd say at 20 is when I started getting confident of my voice because I stopped trying to sound like my musical heroes and started creating my own sound.
What gave you the confidence to become an artist and release your original music?
My confidence came from just believing in myself and what I had to say--- which took a long time to get to that point.
"Anxiety" is your debut single. How does it feel like to have a first song out?
It's incredible to have my first pop single out. This song is my baby. It's my story and my life put into lyrics and melodies. It feels really surreal but so cool at the same time. I'm just SOAKING it all in.
When did you start working on "Anxiety"? What did you feel when writing this song?
I wrote “Anxiety” in March of 2019. I'd wanted to write about my anxiety since I was diagnosed at 18 years old but I could never find the right words to describe it. Then, I sat down at my keyboard at 3 AM and it just poured out of me. It was one of those songs that you don't really have to think about while you're writing it because it it so honest. I wrote it in less than an hour and then went back to sleep, not really thinking anything of it. When I woke up and listened to the voice memo, I knew it was really special.
Who helped you create this first single?
Kevin Monahan is my Jack Antanoff. He has this way of understanding exactly what I want and then exceeding every expectation I have. He's creative and smart and detail oriented and focused and unique and up for anything. I'm super grateful to call him a friend and that he was a part of this song.
What made you want to release "Anxiety" as a single?
I wanted to release “Anxiety” because I wish a song like this would've been out when I was 18 and felt incredibly alone in my battle with mental illness. This song is so much more than a song but my story and I hope by sharing that, I can make even just one person feel a little less alone in whatever they are going through.
What can you tell us about the artwork for this particular single? What was the inspiration behind it?
Tyler Jacobsen at Jake Photography and Landon Blow at Beauty by Blow created this cover art. They are two of my best friends and I planned this shoot with them while I was back home in South Dakota. I walked in without any makeup on and they didn't even touch my hair. I pulled my hair behind my ears, and Landon put a touch of highlighter on me and Tyler took five pictures and that was that. I wanted it to be raw and authentic and relatable so we just kept it extremely simple.
What message would you give to anyone suffering from mental illnesses?
You are brave. You are strong. You are not alone. There is treatment and you can get better.
And what message would you give to anyone who don't understand mental illnesses?
Ugh, this is a hard one. I would tell them that it's not just an emotion but a chemical imbalance in your brain. I would encourage them to educate themselves on mental illness because more than likely someone in their life is battling a mental illness. I don't think my parents knew a lot about mental illness. They knew that something was off with me the summer after my senior year of high school because of how I was but I don't know that they knew what it was. But they are a perfect example of how someone should act that doesn't understand. They were supportive and kind and encouraging and got me help without being pushy and over the top. I didn't even understand what mental illness was when I was diagnosed and I still don't entirely understand it. But I know that you can get better.
As an artist, what do you want to accomplish?
So many things. I want to play the Ryman. I want to write with some of my favorite artists including Taylor Swift, Lorde, Julia Michaels and Sasha Sloan. I want to hit 1 million streams. I want to win a Grammy. But most importantly, I just really want to be a voice that no one else is and I want to make people who listen to my music feel understood.
Do you remember a specific moment in your life where music made a huge impact?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I went to this Halloween party and these girls were mean to me. I called my dad, he came and picked me up and I sat in his car and begged him to transfer me to a different school or to let us move. When I got home, I picked up my guitar and wrote this song called "Simple Days." It was not a great song and I will keep it locked up in a vault for eternity but that was the first time songwriting ever helped me deal with something and process a feeling. I vividly remember that night still because I think that night is when I understood how powerful music can be.
How do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as someone who was kind, brave, determined and honest. I want to be a philanthropist for mental illness and be someone who inspires others to follow their dreams, because I believe they really can come true.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
Acceptance. We all gotta be a little nicer to each other. No matter how different we are, we are all human and we must do better at acknowledging that.
What biggest life lessons have you learned so far?
It's okay to not be okay. Nobody has it all figured out.
Connect with Maria: