G.R.L. is a vocally-gifted, sassy group of young women that experienced an unimaginable personal and professional tragedy last September when their bandmate Simone Battle took her own life in her West Hollywood home. It was later revealed that the 25-year-old was suffering from depression. Naturally, the surviving members took some time to retreat and reflect on where they wanted to go after her passing. Though the pain was still burning, weeks later the four ladies chose to carry on in Battle’s memory.
During our exclusive interview, the girls were warm and open to speaking about the impact of their new single “Lighthouse”, written and sung as a tribute to Battle and their first musical outing since last year. They are hopeful that, through lyrics like “When the night gets cold and the lights go out. The sun is gone behind the clouds. When you feel lost, then I’ll reach out. To guide you home with my lighthouse”, those experiencing sadness and extreme doubt (and witnesses to it) will be saved and inspired to fight through the storm. The presence of “Lighthouse” is also a part of the Give An Hour organization that helps those with mental illness and depression. G.R.L. are their latest ambassadors.
G.R.L. member Lauren Bennett described how the group bonded during that difficult time, stemming from the loss of Battle.
“It’s always individual on how you respond to something that you went through. But a lot of things that we’ve learned is that we truly are a family and that is the most important thing and in having someone to talk to. And a big part of [our] campaign [with Give An Hour] is starting that conversation and learning the five signs and knowing when other people need help. I think that has been a truly important lesson that we’ve learned and how taken into our daily lives.”
And the five signs that Bennett references are as listed:
- Personality change
- Agitation/mood swings
- Poor self care
Via the Give An Hour and Change Direction websites, G.R.L. hosts their own page about turning mental illness into mental wellness. On March 4, the group performed at The Campaign to Change Direction event that featured the makers behind the film Silver Linings Playbook, activists and the First Lady Michelle Obama. The band delivered informative and uplifting words on mental health awareness, a sensitive and yet often misunderstood emotional and psychological issue.
Bennett, and mates Emmalyn Estrada, Natasha Slayton and Paula van Oppen also disclosed what books and songs had helped them when they were feeling down and which included a strong endorsement of the book The Power of Now and in general, a lot of the great self-help books out there.
A new R&B-flavored album is on the horizon for G.R.L., but for now, they remain touring in promotion of “Lighthouse.” The video for the track is a beautiful tribute to Battle, spliced with footage from her childhood and time in G.R.L. The band are dressed as Hollywood starlets surrounded by light bulbs and their part was filmed in black and white. At the end, they embrace in a hug.
G.R.L. have grown immensely since their first singles of “Ugly Heart” and “Vacation”, and are now repurposed with a mission that’s still girl power-driven and but also, humanitarian.