The San Diego Gaslamp District was filled with humanity. Hundreds of visitors congregated along the San Diego Convention Center. But in late September, this was no comic book convention. No, the weekend played home to TwitchCon, the annual gathering place for Twitch streamers of all audience levels and their fans. This included game streamers, IRL streamers, art streamers, and even singers.
TwitchCon was where Twitch Sings was first announced, back during last year's event. A collaboration effort between the team at Twitch and the music game makers at Harmonix, Twitch Sings offers streamers the opportunity to sing the best songs of today alongside their friends and their viewers. With their own homegrown game available to them, Twitch has taken the Twitch Sings idea and expanded it into a full-blown competition. Earlier this year, Twitch announced that it would hold the second season of its Twitch Sings: Stream Star competition, with $20,000 and a Columbia Records soundtrack at stake. The finals would be held at this year's TwitchCon.
One of the top six to compete was Joliet4, a long-time singer, but a relative newcomer to the streaming scene. She had only been streaming a short time, but quickly became attached to Twitch Sings. She not only grew her audience, but also made a big splash in the competition, making it all the way to the final stage. By her own admission, Joliet4 was nervous, though she masked it pretty well. This writer strolled by her on the way to the TwitchCon press room on Saturday and found her in the middle of an impromptu duet with fellow streamer TylerLevs.
The next day, Joliet4 was on stage to kick off the Twitch Sings: Stream Star finals. She opened with "River" by Bishop Briggs and put together one of the most dynamite performances of the day, bringing the crowd to its feet and dazzling those watching along live on Twitch. While Joliet4 came up short in the competition (MermaidUnicorn ultimately emerged the winner, following a brilliant performance of Kesha's "Praying"), she made a big impression on the live audience and walked away feeling better about her singing than she did before the weekend started.
Shortly after the competition, Shacknews reached out to Joliet4, eager to learn more about her story. We asked about her short time with Twitch, her music background, her battles with anxiety, her struggles with postpartum depression, her faith, her journey back to singing, and how she hopes to inspire others who are looking to jump into livestreaming.
Shacknews: You're relatively new to the streaming world. When did you first start streaming on Twitch?
Joliet4, Twitch Sings: Stream Star finalist: This past April, 2019.
Shacknews: You've been singing for a lot longer than you've been streaming. Can you tell me about your music background?
Joliet4: Sure! I grew up in a musical family and it was always encouraged. My father was a professional songwriter on staff at Word Music in Nashville while I was growing up. Later on, I became a worship leader for many years, but I stepped down from it recently.
Shacknews: Can you describe your anxiety issues? How has streaming help you work through that?
Joliet4: My first experience with depression and anxiety was shortly after having my baby, nearly 4 years ago. If you've never experienced this, it's difficult to explain. But imagine being trapped in your own head and your only thoughts are of darkness. I had psychotic episodes, manic anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. I never understood suicide until this happened. It was a really dark time.
I got help through a psychiatrist and it has greatly improved, but in my lowest place, I gave up singing and I never thought I would ever do it again. My dream simply died, in my heart. I wasn't injured, I didn't lose my voice, but I was dead, in a way; a zombie person who used to find joy singing, and couldn't anymore. This is where being trapped in your head really screws with you.
After a few years went by, my mother convinced me to try going to church again, and my heart exploded back to life. Over the course of a year, I started to sing again. First, just for myself (and God), then occasionally for my church, then I found Smule (a karaoke phone app) and in April, I found Twitch Sings. You can play offline, and that's what I did for a long time. I was just beginning to cut back on my medication when I toyed with idea of streaming, and the anxiety crippled me again. I had a huge relapse and decided streaming wasn't for me. This may seem strange to some, but I don't have trouble singing in front of a live audience, as long as I'm prepared. I've been doing that my whole life. But streaming is a weird dynamic. There are no faces to read and no spirit in the room to discern other than my own. So I feel deaf and may appear a bit muted while streaming because of that. The only thing that has helped is getting to know my community, visiting their streams, and understanding who they are, more than a username, text and emojis.
Now it feels like family, and that is life-giving. My dream is coming back to me and I credit Twitch for a lot of that.
Shacknews: When did you first get into Twitch Sings? And what were your impressions of the game when you first started?
Joliet4: I started Twitch Sings in April 2019. It was fun! After being on Smule for several months, I fell into the comparison trap at first, but once I added streaming to the experience, it made more sense. This is how to best enjoy the game.
Shacknews: Given your history with anxiety and your short time performing in front of a streaming audience, what gave you the confidence to try out for Twitch Sings: Stream Star?
Joliet4: My community. They were so encouraging and really made me feel like I could do this.
Shacknews: Walk me through your weekend at TwitchCon, knowing that on Sunday you would be competing in the Twitch Sings: Stream Star finals as part of the top six.
Joliet4: It was stressful. My schedule was pretty full and I didn't get to enjoy all that the Con had to offer. If I am able to go next year, I will take my time and really enjoy the exhibits and stuff. The finals just kind of loomed over all of us and it was hard to think about much else.
Shacknews: How did feel in the moments right before you went up to perform and how were you able to calm yourself?
Joliet4: My anxiety was so intense the weeks leading up to the convention that I had to actually find a calming method much sooner than even getting on the plane. I decided to trick my brain into believing this was not a competition with an enormous prize at the end. Instead, each of us has been honored with an invitation to sing a solo and represent the Twitch Sings community. This worked most of the time.
When this method failed, I simply prayed. Before taking the stage, I had no anxiety at all. I had prepared well and there was nothing else to do but go out there and have fun. With my community in the audience cheering me on, I felt like a rock star.
YOU GUYS. THAT'S WIL WHEATON. pic.twitter.com/RCGEwC7fm0— Joliet4 (@jolietfour) September 29, 2019
Shacknews: Did seeing Wil Wheaton right before you started help calm you down at all?
Joliet4: It was certainly a great distraction! I'm a big fan! But was too chicken to go say hi. (laughs)
Shacknews: You had an incredible performance. Your rendition of "River" was fantastic. But you ultimately fell short. Where do you go from here and will you compete again, if given the opportunity?
Joliet4: No one lost anything that day. We all gained experience, exposure, a bond with each other, a bond with our community, a free trip to TwitchCon and for Mermaid, a fat stack of cash and studio time with Columbia Records. We're all grateful and honored to have been included in this. I did my best.
Next time, I'll get more in shape so that I have more stamina for that kind of performance. (laughs) Besides that, I think I did awesome and I have no regrets. For now, I will continue writing new music and exploring production and studio time for my original songs. Not really interested in more competitions though.
Shacknews: What advice do you have for those who want to go into Twitch streaming? In particular, what do you have to say to those who may be suffering from anxiety or depression or any other mental wellness issue and are thinking about trying it out?
Joliet4: What helped me most was learning my community first. Make friends, and invest in them. Streaming is very self-centering, and it's easy to get lost in your own mind when that's where you sit all day with your camera on. So find others to build up and encourage. If you struggle with crippling mental illness, take a break and get help. Counseling, medication, group meetings - anything. Don't give up on yourself. Your story is going to encourage many people one day, probably right there in your stream chat.
You can follow Joliet4 on Twitch, as well as the other Twitch Sings: Stream Star finalists: ShannaNina, Malosii, FullOfEmily, SethDavidMusic, and winner MermaidUnicorn. Twitch Sings is available to download now directly from Twitch.