KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV) – Country singer-songwriter Bailey James and Swedish-American alt-pop duo 7000apart took the stage at Kaukauna High School bright and early at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“They were incredibly talented, so I was just taken away by the skill and music and the message of the songs they played,” Kaukauna High School senior Kiran Lison said.
The message was spreading mental health awareness and letting students know the importance of reaching out for help.
“(We’re) bringing that awareness about mental health, how to take care of yourself and breaking those stigmas,” Center for Suicide Awareness founder and executive director Barb Bigalke said. “When you’re in high school, sometimes you feel like you’re totally alone. And so for them to come out and say, ‘Hey, I had those struggles in high school, but this is how I got through it,’ as well as the fun-ness and greatness of music, it’s a great win.”
Bigalke knew that she wanted to work on creating a performance for local students after seeing 7000apart perform at Paperfest and hearing their story.
“She came up to us afterward and was like, ‘what you guys are doing is exactly what I’m doing. I also want to end the stigma around mental health and suicide prevention,” Amelie Eiding of 7000apart said. “A lot of our songs that we write are about mental health in some way or another. We’re working on an album called Feel Your Feelings, which is very much the kind of message we want to bring forward.”
Eiding said she struggled with anxiety in college as a musical theatre major and with depression during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that creating music with her husband, Jon Kresin, the other half of 7000apart, helped get her through those difficult times.
“I struggled with both anxiety and depression, and I know how big of an impact music has had for me, both as a kid and also now as an adult, how music can get you through the really tough times,” Eiding said. “And also to express yourself and feel your feelings, it’s so incredibly important.”
Eiding is from Sweden and met Kresin while in high school as a foreign exchange student, and that is how they created their band name, as they maintained a 7,000-kilometer long-distance relationship when Eiding moved back to Sweden.
Happily married, the couple resides in Sweden but has been touring around Wisconsin over the summer.
Eiding believes that mental health is better addressed in Sweden as therapy is free there, though Kresin added that talking about mental health more has led to some improvement in the stigma surrounding mental health in the U.S.
“For me, growing up in Green Bay, I think these are things that I didn’t really hear,” Kresin said.
Philadelphia native Bailey James also said that music has been a great source of comfort in her life, which was shaken when her brother died by suicide. She is out on a mission to spread mental health awareness with her music and is especially interested in appealing to high schoolers with her message.
“In the age of social media, it’s incredibly hard to be a teenager, and we need to bring as much awareness to mental health as possible,” she said.
So, what did the high schoolers take away from the performance?
“Everybody’s just stressing about the next step (after graduation),” Lison said. “Emotions, they come and go, and you just need to get through the tough parts, anyway that you deal with that.”
“To reach out and get help if you need it,” fellow senior Rebekah Saure said. “It’s something… I don’t think we talk about enough.”