Paramore’s Hayley Williams on Mental Health Struggles: ‘I Didn’t Laugh for a Long Time’
Hayley Williams breaks her silence about her struggles with mental health in an intimate confessional.
In an personal essay penned for PAPER this week (May 30), the vocalist returns to a year, as Williams recalls, troubled by pressures of her engagement to New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert and losing bandmates throughout the creation of Paramore's most recent album, After Laughter, and speaks on how understanding the importance of emotional wellness helped her reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
After a recent Grammy win, Williams said she envisioned a life more settled down and decompressed — a reality that might involve children (with Gilbert) and the makings of a new album.
"Taylor York and I were supposed to start writing for what would be our fifth album and I remember for the first time in a long time, I actually had an idea I wanted to send him," Williams writes. But it was the dejected tone of her lyrics (Sanity, why must you make a fool of me/ You been a friend to me, now I think we're enemies) that became "the first hint my subconscious gave me that I wasn't okay."
The grief continued to follow the 29-year-old in the wake of bassist Jeremy Davis' hostile exit from the band, writing, “I woke up from that crash with one less bandmate… another fight about money and who wrote what songs.”
Williams later expressed how other relationships began to stammer, including that with Gilbert, whom she split with in July 2017. "And I had a wedding ring on, despite breaking off the engagement only months before," she continued.
The "Fake Happy" star went on to say "I didn't eat, I didn't sleep, I didn't laugh... for a long time" though she's circumspect to describe those responses as signs of depression.
However, in the interim of impediments and creating the album, the singer maintains that "writing kept me alive" and forced her to be true to herself. Williams explains, "It helped me understand that emotional wellness and physical health are actually related."
It wasn't until Paramore's returning original member and drummer, Zac Farro, "bolted back into mine and Taylor's daily lives like lightning" that the musician finally felt like she'd found stable ground again.
"This is what I call 'Life with AL' — short for After Laughter," she elaborated of the record's origin. "It's a little dumb, but it helps me mark this time as a significant turning point in my life. Like a Saturn return … I'm alive to both pain and joy now. I have my old laugh back, as my mom says. The one that takes over my body and sends me out of myself for a few seconds. And only a couple years ago, I had hoped I'd die."