Words and actions can scar deep when people want them to. And after years of feeling like she wasn’t good enough, feeling under everybody else’s control, singer-songwriter Mel Senese finally had enough.
In past releases, regular livestreams and live performances, Senese has revealed her jubilant spirit bursting with energy onstage or onscreen. But in her song “Merry Go Round,” which she dropped in June, the Norridge native steps back to explore the cyclical nature of negativity, abuse and depression she knows firsthand, tearing open a pocket of personal darkness she rarely ventured into through her music. And the new video for the song, released last night, illustrates that, trapping her in the box her own mind devised as a defense.
“I’d have this urge to give my all to others, but felt such emptiness/numbness in return,” she said. “I felt nothing at all.”
Coming out as queer/pansexual and leaning toward pursuing music as a career, Senese said she drew a variety of reactions from folks around her, but the ones that cut the most were from people who were close to her. She said those opinions and that control weighed her down across all aspects of her life.
“I started seeing somebody, and it was hard for me to open up to them and let them in because I’ve just been so closed off because of the way that I was feeling,” Senese said. “I just felt like I was stuck in this shell and not able to release myself because of everybody’s control over me.”
As her depression grew, she learned to hide it better, honing that skill until she even had herself fooled about how bad things had become.
Until she started making progress on the song, that is.
“When I first started writing, it was geared toward, ‘Why am I constantly feeling this way?’ And then I kind of realized, ‘Holy crap, I’m depressed!’” Senese recalled. ”It wasn’t until I released the song (in June) that I actually realized where it was stemming from, which is crazy for me to think about because usually you write a song and you put it out there and life goes on and time goes on and experiences go on. But when this song was released, I felt like that was when my experience with it really started. I actually started getting help and creating boundaries.”
One common theme with musical artists is that the expression or the healing is often in the creation process. But for Senese, it was all about when “Merry Go Round” was released.
“I held on to the song. I didn’t feel like it was deserving of getting out there until I legitimately was getting help,” she said. “I didn’t release it until I felt in my heart that I was truly trying to get better.”
Many lines in the haunting track refer to the endless cycle she found herself in — “Records keep spinning back to the beginning / Need something to pull me out” — but when things clicked with Senese, she knew it was time to take action.
“We only live once,” she said, “and we need to take control and live our most authentic life.”
Now on the other side of that release, she sees what she needs to do. In a serious relationship with a trans man, Sam, who is helping her gather the pieces together, Senese has been setting boundaries, relishing time with the right people and gaining some control back over her life. And she urges fans in similar situations to get help and follow their hearts.
“I hope that my lyrics can connect with others who are going through a similar experience and be strong enough to know when it’s time to fight for your life and your happiness.”