Em Beihold turned her anxiety and numbness into a song. One viral TikTok later, Numb Little Big became her biggest song to date.
When Em Beihold wrote Numb Little Bug in mid-2021, she never expected it to be the viral hit that it would eventually become. At the time, she was going through what many have experienced this past two years and are currently going through—she was languishing. As explained by the New York Times, languishing is the state of being blah where you aren’t at your lowest depths, but you also aren’t thriving. It’s that in-between feeling you get when you think that your life is going nowhere and you get indifferent to your indifference.
“All of my dreams were coming true. Everything I wanted was happening, but somehow I didn’t feel anything. I was struggling with some heavy anxiety and I was on anti-depressants. Songs weren’t really coming to me the way they used to. I felt numb. The anti-depressants sucked the soul and energy out of me a little bit,” says Em Beihold at the time of the song’s release in January 2022. Like any musician, she turned to music to pen down her feelings. With just the lyrics, specifically the chorus, and a piano backing, she shared her draft on TikTok, which went viral and led her to releasing the song in full. Oddly enough, a song about feeling empty and stale brought Em Beihold’s career to new heights.
NYLON Manila recently got the chance to chat with the young musician where she opened up about her surprise hit, dealing with pressure, and getting over the slump feeling.
TURNING STRUGGLE INTO MUSIC
If Numb Little Bug is the first time you’ve ever heard of Em Beihold, then know that her music is a sprinkle of sunny melodies over sadness or serious topics. As seen in her previous singles like City of Angels and Groundhog Day, her songs sound upbeat and fun, but they tackle often times dark or moody topics. While Numb Little Bug, from the name itself to its music may sound bright and quirky, its lyrics give way for a narrative of what its like to not feel present in the moment.
“I always grew up listening to artists like Regina Spector, who kind of like, write with this bouncy piano thing going on. And because that’s what I grew up on, that’s just kind of how I write,” she says in our interview. “I always have this like, mindset of dancing through your depression, because I think that’s the only way to get through things sometimes. And I tried to translate that through my music.”
Music has always served as a powerful tool to help both musicians and listeners get through whatever struggles they have in life. Artists jot down their feelings through songs when they can’t express it through words. Regular listeners scroll through their playlists to find that song to fit the mood, whether it be going through a breakup, losing a loved one, a song for protest, or anything in between. This coping mechanism is something Em agrees with greatly. “I find music to be the best form of therapy for me.”
BOUNCY TUNES AND STRAIGHTFORWARD LYRICS
Being honest in your music can also be scary, especially when you share your insecurities with the world to hear. But for Em Beihold, that fear doesn’t really affect her because it’s part of her truth. “When I first wrote Numb Little Bug, I had the line, ‘I don’t feel a single thing’. And when I wrote it, I kind of like laughed at myself. So like, that’ll never be released into the light of day. But I was just kind of putting my thoughts down. And then I was like, ‘but no, it’s true.’ That’s how I feel. So I left it. I’m glad I did.”
Numb Little Bug references a lot of what Em went through. She even dedicated the second verse to the prescription medication she was taking. It’s no surprise then to learn that she describes herself as an open book and blunt about everything. “My friends tell me that like my biggest weakness and strength is that I’m always really straightforward. So I do the same music.” Em credits some of this straightforwardness to “very open and good communication with my parents.”
FROM VIRAL TIKTOK TO SURPRISE HIT
@embeihold to think my whole life changed from a little voice memo I recorded in my car – eternally grateful for you all #numblittlebug ♬ Numb Little Bug – Em Beihold
With a catchy chorus, a deceivingly bright sound laced by an airy piano, and lyrics like “Do you ever get a little bit tired of life/like you’re not really happy, but you don’t want to die/like a numb little bug that’s gotta survive?”, it’s not hard to imagine why Numb Little Bug is doing great and went viral both as a TikTok post and later as an official releases. It is a quirky and pensive pop anthem, with lyrics that quickly resonated with many listeners who can relate to what the song is trying to say. As of this writing, Numb Little Bug has racked up over 65 million streams on Spotify while the track has been used over 213,000 times on TikTok. The song even topped the Spotify Philippines’ Top 50 Viral Chart.
“I mean, I never really expect anything to go viral per se. But after the first video of me teasing the song on piano, got, I think seven million views. I have a feeling it would stream like just decently well because of that number. But I had no idea. It would be this crazy,” shares Em.
Even the track’s accompanying music video reflects the vibe with its bright aesthetics contrasting with the relatively dark lyrics. But in fact, the music video would have even been darker. “I actually filmed a music video with my friends that didn’t come out. And that video was like me in a hospital gurney being pushed by doctors underneath the dark freeway underpass.” While she admits that it was a well done video, it felt too dark. So, they switched directions and ended up with what was officially released.
By the way, if you’re wondering why the song is called Numb Little Bug, there’s actually no special meaning behind it. It instead came from a spontaneous moment. “When I made the TikTok where I introduced the chorus, I had started with a little talking portion where I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been feeling like a numb little bug lately. And so I wrote a song about it.’ That’s just the way I speak. Like, there was no intention to name it numb little bug. But all of a sudden, like, in the comments was like, We want numb little bug. So, I kind of just had to call it that at a certain point.”
SHAKING THE NUMBNESS
Em Beihold is currently experiencing the most success she has had so far. To score a viral hit like that could make anyone happy. But like with how people have their own journeys when it comes to dealing with their problems, Em admits that she isn’t 100% sure that she’s at the right place yet. “I mean, with Numb Little Bug, like people expect me to be over the moon happy because it’s going so crazy. And I’m super grateful. But in truth, I don’t know if I’ve quite shaken the numbness. Because it’s a very difficult thing to process. Like, I mean, I’m still living with my parents currently in my childhood bedroom. Like, it just doesn’t really make sense to me. But I guess in, in a way, at least I’m on brand.”
With everything that has been happening with her life so far, Em still hasn’t fully comprehended exactly the change she is going through. “Since the song came out, there’s been so many opportunities. And I’m often like, taking meetings before I eat breakfast. And I’m so incredibly grateful for everything but it’s very overwhelming to the point where I don’t know if I have a lot of time to process feelings, because I’m always running.”
It definitely is normal for people to feel like this because we all take our own time to process things. It’s actually refreshing to hear Em Beihold be open about this. She knows that the pressure is on her to deliver with her next releases as she admits she might “flop” after her next song. So how does she handle that pressure? “I’m still figuring it out.”
IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY
After starting of her 2022 with a bang, Em Beihold is hoping to keep up her momentum for the coming months. To that end, she shared that she has a few singles coming up and is set to be the opening act for Anson Seabra’s tour this April-May. She also hopes to perform at festival down the line. As for her advice to those who are going through the same struggles she’s going through. “I would say that it’s okay not to be okay. That’s something that I’m still trying to teach myself. And that it’s very natural to just have moments where you want to hit pause on everything, but the moment will pass.”
If Numb Little Bug piqued your interest with Em Beihold and are looking to listen to her other songs, she suggests Nobody Else “if you need a little confidence, boost,” or Forgive Yourself. And she teases, ”I have more kind of coming in a similar vein. So, keep your eyes peeled.” At the end of the day, all she wants for her listeners to feel when they play her music is like they’re with a friend. “Something that’s always been very important to me is having an inclusive environment for people who listen to my music because I spent a lot of my life kind of being the different one and often being excluded. So, I want to feel like a friend to whoever listens to my music.”
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