Vanda Essay on Becoming an Artist and Speaking Up about CPTSD

Vanda Essay describes her music as groovy, honest and chaotic. When Vanda sent me an invite for a local event that she organised I got really excited but sadly could not attend it. Nevertheless, her message really made an impression on me and we decided to have a little chat online instead. I was great to learn more about her workflow, her desire to create empowering artist collaborations and to raise awareness on CPTSD with her music and gigs.

“Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is closely related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it usually develops due to repeated trauma over months or years rather than a single event. People with CPTSD typically have the above PTSD symptoms along with additional symptoms, including for example lack of emotional regulation, changes in consciousness, negative self-perception, and more.”  For detailed information and finding support I advise to reach out to a professional source( 

Entering the World of Music…

Let’s start at the beginning of your music journey. What inspired you to start making your own music? 

I come from a musical theatre approach, not in a professional sense but we had a musical theatre department in our school. We did annual projects and were on stage, so it was amazing to develop your talents and artistry. In school I used to be shy and weird, but on stage I realized that I could overcome that insecurity and be more confident. People knew me as “the singer girl” and I was happy with that role. After school I wanted to go down that route, but I wasn’t really ready yet. 

How did you get confident enough to decide on pursuing a music career anyways? 

I prepared for university to study singing and told myself to sit down and practice. Singing just always felt like something coming to me easily and it made me happy. I had to grow into the role of a songwriter though. I had no song writing approach and kept wondering how other people just have songs in their heads? In Germany you can’t perform covers without paying for the rights of the songs, so out of that emergency of wanting to sing on stage I started making my own music at some point. It took me a few years but now I am at a stage where I really like writing. When I moved to London to go to university my teachers were amazing. They taught me how to catch the little thoughts and put them into songs. 

The Songwriting Process…

What does the process of making a new song look like for you? 

Normally I start with a topic I want to speak about, which can be completely diverse. I have a lot of thoughts in my head and get inspired by things that move me. Sometimes it just starts with a phrase and then normally I build the music around it. I try out chords and improvise until I have a demo. I tend to lose myself in detail, so it is good when the draft version goes out for production and another set of ears listens to it. It’s always so scary to show my music to someone new. Normally it’s going well but still daunting every time. 

Do you have that same scary feeling when you play your songs live? 

I actually feel more comfortable doing live shows. When I sing the songs, they are already at a stage where I am confident showing it and the performance doesn’t feel permanent. Having a live show is great because you are so close to the audience and can tell a story and be vulnerable. It feels more like a natural conversation, so I don’t have that kind of anxiety before going on stage.  

The Magic of Live Shows…

What is your favourite part about the live shows that make them so special? 

I love feeling a connection to someone, even if it is just a person looking at me, recording, or listening attentively. When I am well prepared, I can lose myself in a song and I kind of dive into the sound. The moment I stop worrying is the cherry on top. It helps me connect with my band members without communicating, we just think the same way then and the music flows. Once my band and me just worked so well together that we had the same ideas and changed songs at the same time. We just created directly on stage without being prepared and that was such a cool moment. 

It almost sounds magical to communicate with each other through your music. 

It is a magical moment for sure and also very emotional. That is why I like playing with a band so much. I have been thinking of solo shows with a playback but that was no option for me. Being surrounded by other musicians on stage is what makes those magical moments happen for me. 

Music to Raise Awareness…

When you invited me to your show I was really excited, I would’ve like to see the magic happen. The whole concept of raising awareness for CPTSD and having an all-female line-up caught my attention, I would love to hear more about the background of it and how it went. 

So, the initial idea was that a friend of mine and me wanted to organize an event for FLINTA* artists. It is crazy how now there are still so many gigs and festivals with 90% men on stage. It is so incredibly important to feature FLINTA* artists for more representation in the music industry. The CPTSD aspect was not specifically added to this event it just generally comes with my set. I like to mention it on my page or the invites so that people know what to expect. I have CPTSD myself and was wondering how to speak up and raise awareness in a way that feels comfortable for me. It was a process to find good balance in touching this topic and still making music with completely different themes in it. 

Navigating your Development as an Artist…

Thank you for explaining this. I appreciate your openness, and the way you let music speak for itself to transport your message is impressive. That event was a great idea and it’s something we need way more of nowadays. 

Thank you for that, I feel like you have a good point with letting the music speak for itself.  My first album will focus on CPTSD and the fact that listening to music or making music can help communities with their struggles is so powerful. It is another way to get into conversation and share stories and I am still working out my way of doing that. I am asking myself how outspoken I want to be and how I can let the music speak but the creative practice will help me develop that. I guess it will also just change overtime. 

It will be very exciting to see in which way you will develop as an artist and where the journey will take you. You just mentioned an album, would you like to tell me more about upcoming projects? 

Currently we’re working on the first singles for a conceptual album. Talking about life – from the perspective of someone with CPTSD. It is about things that I remember or struggle with and this might help others feel less alone. Now is a very interesting stage because we can already hear it, but it is still in development. 

Future Projects…

A debut album sounds like a very exciting thing for any musician. I hope you enjoy the way of getting there and will have a fun time creating it. Will there be a chance to see you live soon? 

I am planning a little concert series called “UNITED Vanda Essay X Wisdom Pie” in Berlin and Hannover in Germany. We are having a show on the 29th of October and the 3rd of November. Tickets will be on sale soon, so I hope to see many people there that are in Berlin or Hannover in autumn. The concerts will be opened by “Springorum” and then my good friend Claras band “Wisdom Pie” and me will be performing the two main acts. We are friends since university and realized early on that there is a big competition between female artists. The industry is horribly competitive, and we want to embrace the mutual support and see other persons thrive. Our friendship got very strong because of that and now we decided to come up with a project that channels this energy. 

That sounds like such a fun reunion with friends! I wish you all the best for this event and bet the energy will be amazing. We are coming to the last question. What is something that you want to stand for as an artist if you think some years ahead? 

On the technical side, I want to get better at making arrangements because I really love doing it. I am still at the start and inspired by many artists that make such great examples. But mainly I’d like for my music to create a safe space and for people to find themselves identifying with it. My music is supposed to be authentic, and I would like to have it as a communication tool for everyone out there. 

Final Thoughts…

It was great to shift my mind from the perspective of a listener to the creator. Speaking to Vanda gave me a much better insights into the process of becoming an artist and turning music into a career. The next time I will be in the audience at a concert I will definitely be looking out for those magical moments on stage. Her passion to communicate through music and stand up for the things that move her are really admirable. I can’t wait to hear the first singles building up to the album and advise you to watch out for her upcoming projects. Lastly, don’t forget to grab tickets for her shows in Germany if you live close by and support Vanda Essay and her Band.  

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