Oklahoma-raised, LA-based independent artist, McKenzie Ellis, known to fans as Mothica, recently dropped her debut album, titled Blue Hour. While openly sharing her cathartic story of finding help in abuse and drug and alcoholic addiction, her music has struck a chord with many fans around the world.
Growing up in the Oklahoma suburbs, McKenzie traded the great plains for a more populated skyline of Brooklyn, all while writing music as a form of release. Recently, she has relocated to the sunny promises of LA. Starting with YouTube covers and originals in 2013, her music truly took flight in 2015 after releasing, “No One,” a song of self-empowerment, and it reached No. 6 on Spotify’s US Viral Charts. Soon after that, she dropped “Clear,” which has received over 14 million streams world wide. This put her on the radar for everyone from Spotify execs to Teen Vogue. In the following couple of years, Mothica released 2 more EPs and collaborated with artists like Crywolf, Tennyson, Caroline Kole, and Said The Sky.
Upon her first full album’s drop earlier this year, the musician released a mini documentary, in which she said about on social media:
“I’ve dreamt about ways to share my story for so long. I wanted to give context about where I come from and how my past has shaped me. This video was shot in my childhood home which is now abandoned, the high school I went to, the parks I snuck into at night, and an old chapel one day before it was torn down. It was nerve-wracking asking people to work on a project that talks about sexual abuse, my suicide attempt, and addiction, but I knew how important it could be to someone else who has experienced anything similar. By telling my story, I let it go. I long to see the beauty amidst all the hurt, and the color my pain has given me is a perfect shade of blue. This is my blue hour, and I’m so grateful to share it with you.”
The beauty in her work is not just covered in the blue moody hues, but the raw story it all holds. She shared openly with fans throughout the release of each single what each song meant to her; a time capsule, and all of which embodying the choice of recovery, therapy, and healing after a lifetime of self-destruction.
“The album is organized into two sections: daylight and dusk. Blue Hour is placed in the middle to represent the time of day when a sunset happens…Blue Hour refers to the time of day after sunset when the sky is incredibly saturated with a dark blue hue. Cinematic, surreal, somber, fleeting. That’s what the album feels like to me” (1).
Starting off the album, “NOW” lures its listeners into the world of Mothica and her story. Emotionally gripping and embodying the moments facing traumas in an abusive situation that led into her addiction and self harm, you feel what she felt as her voice pulls us into the moment.
The lyrics are hard-hitting, and paired with bass-filled beat, the song hits right in the gut; summing up the embodiment of putting up walls to hide insecurity, pain, and the fear of inner darkness being exposed and brought to light. “Don’t get too close to me/you won’t like what you see,” she sings in the chorus.
Befitting the feelings of depression, the next track, “everything at once.” The lyrics beautifully portray the fight against a mental illness, released paired with a music video.
When battling depression, the brain will fight against finding healing and help as the pattern of bad behaviors struggle to be broken. Upon releasing the song, Mothica told fans that the song and video depict two different perspectives. In a split screen, we see her on the left as she follows advice to exercise, to breathe, to meditate, and to medicate. And on the right, we see what her brain wants to do instead: lay in bed, stare at her phone, shut off the world and let the days pass her by.
The video was created during quarantine, a simple but powerful depiction of her story as she battled for recovery.
The next track, “Blackout,” personifies addiction as if it were an old, toxic love. The song faces its inner demons with simple, punchy lyrics that hit home for anyone facing that darkness.
Funded by fans, the music video is undoubtedly her most ambitious to date. Featuring 50s vibes, a blue demon, and a story of growing past the allure and addiction to alcohol and self harm, Mothica broke down her concept with fans and shared its process from start to finish, all while inspiring others in her story of getting sober and clean.
Following, “Hands Off,” expresses emotional breakdowns; the longing for expressing love all while facing trauma from abuse. It’s difficult to simply move on after being abused. This track explains these lingering effects in detail, and owns its own past without becoming it.
Paired with the track is a beautifully produced lyric video, shot in an abandoned building with static and kaleidoscope effects.
“VICES,” is a huge instrument to Mothica’s raging success. Upon creating her TikTok account this April, she shared previews of the song before its drop and went viral shortly later. After rushing to release the track within the week of her online video going viral, she topped charts and received recognition from Spotify and Rolling Stone. Today, the single has over ten million streams.
The track visualizes the decision the musician makes to find help and get clean and sober. After spending so long drowning herself in the vices– drugs, drinks, etc.– she decided to stop numbing her thoughts with them and find a concrete solution in growth and healing.
Starting with a repeating monotone piano key and vocals, the title track of the album, “Blue Hour” feels much more stripped down until the pre-chorus, adding an emphasis on the lyrics; the true high on life and accepting a life drug and alcohol free.
In the second verse, she sings, “I feel forever fifteen,” which is a powerful statement alluding to the time she attempted suicide and almost succeeded. Everyone grew up around her and she didn’t feel like she would make it past that day.
Embodying the mood of the entire album, “Blue Hour” is thematically and vocally one of the stronger tracks. It fully deserves it’s position as title track.
Sitting as the sixth track in the album, it becomes the climax and transition; the fleeting moment where the artist braced herself for her low moments, and in that, it’s allowed her to fully appreciate the beautiful moments.
Starting with cinematic piano keys, “Hungover,” expresses one of the low moments in Mothica’s life; a depressive state that led to a stay in a psych ward after attempting suicide. ” ‘Cause in the morning I don’t wanna be myself/so I try to drown myself/maybe it’s a cry for help,” she sings in the second verse.
The music video paired with the track is expressive and beautifully produced. Showing scenes of the artist in an aquarium, at a waterfront, and driving down a rural street, without showing too much details, we see her story and her feelings, a time capsule of this moment in her life.
In a fan Q&A, Mothica admitted that “R.I.F.P” was the most fun song for her to write and record on the album. Self-empowering and infectious, the beat fills your being with a groove and tells the issues to go. “Rest in f***ing peace are all my problems/’cause reaching for the bottle never solved them…I just tell myself I’ve had enough,” she sings in the chorus.
The next song, “oh god,” shares a true story and the feelings the morning after a night of drinking; the act of numbing her emotions and putting on a front that she was okay, where in reality, she was far from okay and feeling helpless.
Though an interlude track, “sober” doesn’t sound much like one. As an expression of the pause in a pattern of bad habit, this short and sweet track is self-discovery and new beginnings. It is a breakthrough and sign of change.
The next track, “SPIRAL,” is moments of vulnerability and self-acceptance; and it depicts that even in the lowest moments of her life, and she knew deep down that she would be all right.
“I’m not afraid to spiral/it’s all about the cycle/I will be all right/I won’t give up on the fight/I know I’ll make it out on the other side,” she sings. In the process of growth and healing, there are moments in the battle where it’s hard to not give up. With its encouraging message, “SPIRAL” empowers to keep fighting for health and hope, because the struggle is only a part of the battle, and there is another side to it that is much more rewarding than giving in.
Concluding the album, “crash” is about never wanting to feel the effects of drugs ever again. Since her suicide attempt, Mothica has sought out help and has remained sober ever since.
In a message to fans, she says about the album, “Someone told me that every artist has their ‘getting sober’ album eventually. I find it ironic that my debut album is my ‘getting sober’ album, because I think that’s telling to how quickly I was forced to grow up. I was dealt a lot of difficult cards at a young age, sexual abuse from a youth pastor, followed by self harm, a suicide attempt, hospitalizations, and addiction to drugs and alcohol.”
Blue Hour is available now on all streaming platforms. Listen now, and tell us what your favorite song is!