You are lucky to be different. As a teenager, I wish someone had told me that it was okay to be different. It would have made the following years much easier. I used to feel I had to justify myself for who I was, and always felt judged. As an introvert who needs solitude, and a highly creative and sensitive person who feels my surrounding energy extremely intensely, I was so often misunderstood. The stage was my only escape, where I felt 100% comfortable being myself. But the good news is that today, I’ve learned to celebrate my uniqueness. I’m different, yes, but now I understand that my difference is actually special and unique, and I’m so proud of who that person is.
As part of my series about individuals and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Celleste and Eric.
Originally from Montreal, Canada, Celleste and Eric made the jump to California in late 2017, where they immediately felt at home. Their musical journeys have taken them down many interesting roads. Celleste is an accomplished singer, songwriter, performer, model, actress, and dancer, while Eric is an accomplished singer, songwriter, and music producer, who also writes crosswords for the Malibu Times Magazine. Together as the owners of Mighty Music, the married couple have forged a strong DIY approach to their business, forcing them to be much more than just professional musicians. With Celleste as lead vocalist and Eric producing, the two have co-written countless songs. Recently, they’ve discovered a new ingredient to incorporate into their music: social activism.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Celleste: As two people who are constantly expressing ourselves creatively in so many ways, we both learned early on that we didn’t choose to be artists; art chose us. The social activism element came later, and evolved naturally as we began to see how we could use our music to create a social impact.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Eric: Interesting? Well, it was an accomplishment we were certainly proud of. When we released Celleste’s first album on our then newly-established label, Mighty Music, a reviewer on a major TV show agreed to do an on-air review (which would translate into significant sales), but only if the CD was already distributed in stores. We didn’t have a distribution deal, and only had a few weeks to make it happen. Our goal was to sign with a reputable distributor, which was a relatively difficult task, as we were basically unknown, and had no sales yet to entice the distributor. Gotta love the catch 22’s of the music business…
So how do we do this? We started our quest by bringing the CD to the downtown location of a local chain, where we put it on consignment. Next, we took a road trip over a few days, visiting all of the other stores in the chain across the province of Quebec. I should also mention that at the time, Celleste was featured on the cover of a popular magazine, which made her recognizable. At each store we visited, she would take a photo with the manager (holding up the magazine cover!), and by the end of our trip we had all 15 stores in the chain carrying our product. This was rare, as only a local store would usually agree to consignment, and not the entire chain. We were thrilled!
Next, we took our success story to a national, Canadian chain-store (HMV). They were so impressed with what we did that they offered to put the CD in all of their stores across Canada. Finally, we went back to the distributor we wanted to sign with to report on what we achieved and they told us this had never happened before, and signed us to a deal right away. It was an intense two weeks for sure, but we were able to get our TV review and sell a heap of albums. Mission accomplished.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Celleste: As a performer, I’ve always held to two philosophies. First, no matter what, “the show must go on”, and second, no matter how big or small the gig is, I perform every show like I’m playing to a packed house at Madison Square Garden. However, as much as I wish everything could always go perfectly, I learned early on that this isn’t always the case. When I was 10 years old, I lost my skirt in front of the whole school during a dance routine. I don’t remember if I cried after the show, but I do remember thinking that leaving the stage before completing my routine was NOT an option, as I had been preparing for this show for a long time! So I had no choice but to keep on smiling in my underwear and finish the show. Since then, on stage I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing countless mistakes: forgetting lyrics, losing my wig at the end of a song, tumbling down a staircase, and falling on my behind mid-dance solo in front of five thousand people! I’ve learned that those things will happen, and they happen to the best of us. So it’s important to de-dramatize every situation, and just be able to laugh about it, because in the end those memories stay with us — so may as well make them funny ones!
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Celleste & Eric: We always envisioned having a foundation at some point as there are so many causes that are important to us. In our case, making a social impact came sooner than we planned due to a circumstance that we were living through. In 2018 we were displaced by the California wildfires. We had just moved to California from Montreal and felt like we finally found where we truly belong. But the next thing we knew, we were evacuated from our home. As we were driving away to safety, all we could ask ourselves was, “What can two musicians do to help?”. The idea came to us right away.
We ended up living in a hotel for two months where we wrote and produced a song and video called, “We Go On (California Strong)”. The video features photos of heroes and survivors from across California. We partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, and they created the We Go On fund to raise money for rebuilding efforts across the state after wildfires and natural disasters. The project was so well-received that it gave us a whole new perspective on how we could use our music for social activism. Just over a year later, that newfound purpose led us to release “Breathe!”, a project to raise funds and awareness for mental health.
Mental health has always been something that has affected us profoundly. As artists, we are unfortunately all-too-familiar with depression and anxiety. At a time when Celleste had experienced panic attacks and hyperventilation, we wrote “Breathe!” as a self-help reminder of the importance of breathing as a tool to help regulate our feelings of isolation, stress, anxiety, and fear. But we also realized we could do a lot more with the song. So we decided to use it to raise funds and awareness for mental health.
We turned it into a huge community project, bringing together 140 people from Los Angeles and Montreal, and highlighted two foundations, one in each city, to encourage donations as the song circulated across social media. The pandemic has not only immensely affected the global state of mental health, but it has also put an enormous strain on foundations trying to raise funds. We released “Breathe!” with the intention of making a social impact on both of these fronts.
The project has been extremely gratifying, and the feedback from listeners, along with the ongoing success of “Breathe!”, only confirms to us that we’ll continue to use our musical abilities as a means of activism and social impact in the future.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Celleste: I’m proud to say there are so many. Following the California wildfires of 2018, we released “We Go On (California Strong)”, and met personally with many survivors who had just lost their homes. I experienced people crying in my arms, thanking me for giving them strength and hope with our song and video. We also held a fundraising event to launch the video, and I think that beyond the money raised, it was so important for all of these people to just have a place to gather and know that others cared about what they were going through. Emotions ran high that night and there was a lot of hugging and crying. We were so moved and fulfilled by the fact that our creativity could bring comfort to so many people.
Now with “Breathe!”, we’re seeing comments coming in everyday on social media from around the world, describing how the song is helping people deal with some of their mental health challenges. There have been so many grateful people sending us so much love. As artists, we always hope that our message translates and connects with others. Getting first-hand feedback on how our music is impacting individuals is a beautiful, overwhelming, and very gratifying feeling to experience.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Eric: Mental health is such a wide-ranging subject, and poses so many different challenges, especially since we can’t discuss it without discussing health care. But to answer your question — absolutely — there are countless things that can be done to help.
First, one of the biggest hurdles we face is how to improve the accessibility of mental health services to those in need. While there have been many steps taken and great organizations working to this end, this is something our politicians and leaders MUST address in greater depth and with greater priority. We believe that if everyone had better access to quality mental health services, the world would be a different place.
Following that point is funding. Government subsidizing, private-sector subsidizing, public donations — funds are desperately needed to achieve greater accessibility of services, but also to assure top-quality training to those who administer the care.
Third, we must remove the stigma around talking openly about our mental health. How many times have I personally had a phone conversation or written an email expressing my true feelings, only to hold back and think, “Wait, that’s not professional of me, I can’t mention that stuff”. Therein lies the problem.
Mental health must be part of our regular and accepted vocabulary, whether it be to friends, family, business colleagues, or our bosses. We need to be able to tell someone, “Hey, sorry I couldn’t get that thing done for you this week, I was so depressed and spent 3 days in bed”, without them thinking “Oh, he’s one of those unstable characters”.
I have yet to meet a perfectly balanced and 100% mentally “healthy” person with no vices, weaknesses or fears. Perfection just doesn’t exist. So let’s stop pretending and start teaching everyone that mental health challenges are just a part of everyone’s daily life. The sooner it becomes commonplace, the sooner we can all begin to heal.
Finally, one last thought: we must encourage communities to be there for their friends and family and check in on each other often. Tell people you love them, give them a hug (or a socially distanced fist pump). On the surface, we really have no idea who is suffering. It’s become somewhat of a cliché to say, but it’s so true that those who often seem the happiest may need the most love and support.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Celleste: I believe you are a true leader when you follow your path with such passion and conviction that others are inspired to do the same. A great leader always listens to her intuition, her heart, and her inner voice, no matter what people say. She’s confident, honest, and sincere. She has integrity, stands up for herself, her values and her beliefs. She stands up for others, leads the way when people are scared or hesitant to move forward, makes you want to be your best self, and is constantly learning and evolving so she can continue to be a great leader to herself and to others.
As far as I’m concerned, everyone should live their life as a great leader, whether you intend to lead or not. And what’s really interesting (which I’ve personally witnessed), is that even if you choose not to be a leader, when you live your life as I described, people will inevitably see you as a leader anyway.
Eric: Wow, Celleste, nailed it!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Celleste: You are lucky to be different.
As a teenager, I wish someone had told me that it was okay to be different. It would have made the following years much easier. I used to feel I had to justify myself for who I was, and always felt judged. As an introvert who needs solitude, and a highly creative and sensitive person who feels my surrounding energy extremely intensely, I was so often misunderstood. The stage was my only escape, where I felt 100% comfortable being myself. But the good news is that today, I’ve learned to celebrate my uniqueness. I’m different, yes, but now I understand that my difference is actually special and unique, and I’m so proud of who that person is.
2. Eric: No one knows what’s best for you except you, period.
It took me a while to notice that so many people love to give advice I didn’t ask for. I realized that some people will tell you what to do because it makes them feel better about themselves. It’s still rampant in my life today, so I always have to assess the position of the person offering the advice and whether it’s coming from a place of support or negativity.
For example, when we first told people we were moving to California, instead of congratulating us, people would suggest we moved to Nashville. The correct response should have been well wishes instead of trying to make us second guess our decision.
3. Celleste: Take it one day at a time.
I’ve heard many people say, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”, but what I think they should have said was that there’s really no destination. Life is more like one never-ending journey with a lot of stops along the way. So just take it one day at a time and you’ll be fine. I continue to remind myself of this everyday.
4. Eric: It’s okay to say no and focus on yourself, because no one else will.
The word “selfish” by definition implies a focus on oneself. And that’s it. Nothing negative, nothing that says you don’t care about others and their well-being, and nothing that says you don’t love anyone. It just means that you are focusing on yourself, not “un-focusing” on others around you.
Early on in my career I said “yes” too many times when what I should have said “no”. There’s always another celebration, another family event, another great TV series, another bunch of friends going out on the town, another anything to take an artist away from their focus. People won’t always understand, but to maintain focus on your goals, you have to learn to say no and take care of yourself.
5. Eric: No one cares about your career as much as you do.
I’ve heard many promises from many people who have claimed that they wanted to help advance my career. People will say anything to make you believe they are the savior you’ve been waiting for. Some may be industry veterans who’ve worked with huge celebrities. Others have decades of experience. They can help. They have the answers. They will sign you because they care. They “understand” how the industry works. They “understand” you as an artist and they “get” what you’re going for.
Some want money, some want to barter, and some want a cut of everything you do. Some believe in you 110%, but still require a “small” token fee. In reality, no one cares about my career as much as I do. Realizing that early on certainly would have led to far fewer disappointments and far more money in my pocket.
To be fair, not everyone is out to get you, but navigating the waters is a very tricky business. When you put the word out to the universe that you’re looking for something or someone to help, a hundred options may present themselves. It’s up to you to sift through them and pick the right one.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Interesting that you should ask this. We wrote “Breathe!” during a difficult period, as a form of our own personal therapy. We needed to inject positivity and hope back into our lives. But once we involved 140 people in the choir, it became clear that so many others needed to benefit from its message as well.
Participants of this song shared that they were actually crying while recording because the lyrics resonated with them so powerfully. Others spent an afternoon with their spouses and children learning the song, saying that singing together was a new beautiful memory they would always cherish. We soon began to realize that the song was no longer ours. It had taken on a life of its own.
Once we released “Breathe!”, we continued to see the same pattern with the public. Strangers began to contact us explaining how they were connecting with the project and singing the song everyday because they too needed a blast of hope and positive energy in their lives. Then we began garnering media attention, and journalists began regarding “Breathe!” as a “movement”.
So to answer your question, it would be wonderful to see “Breathe!” evolve into a full-fledged movement promoting hope, positivity, balance, and of course creating a more open and comfortable dialogue where individuals can feel safe discussing or dealing with their own mental health challenges. At the same time, we’d love to see this community, or movement, also be a champion for compassion, kindness, love, and understanding.
We believe music has healing powers, so if it gets people to smile more, feel better, and give them hope of a bright future, then we’d like to think the “Breathe Movement” could be the start of great things.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Celleste: My dad has always been my own motivational speaker. Although he passed away earlier this year, he left me with so many great stories and inspirational quotes to live by. He once told me that if I wanted a garden filled with flowers, I had to sow my seeds first. It’s a life lesson I will never forget, and it’s how the tulip became our own special symbol for faith and success. He bought me a mug with a tulip on it to remind me to take care of my garden on a daily basis; something I continue to do for myself, as well as to honor him.
Eric: When I was 16, my cousin shared 3 important life-principles with me:
1. Choose a path
2. Stay on your path
3. Think and feel before you act
They were posted on my wall for many years. I guess it was another way of saying “always trust your instincts”, but somehow I liked these points and they’ve always stuck. I remind myself of them all the time.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Celleste: Oprah. She’s a major inspiration to me. I love and admire her journey, as well as everything she’s accomplished for herself and for others.
Eric: God. I have some questions and I want answers! (And please let me know how you tag).
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can visit our websites, and from there they can find our socials: Celleste.com and EricDick.com. To learn more about “We Go On (California Strong)” and watch the video, visit WeGoOn.org. To learn more about “Breathe!” and watch the video, visit JustStopAndBreathe.org.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Celleste & Eric: Thanks, that’s so kind of you! And thanks so much for the great interview!