Overcoming depression to find inner musical talent


Walter Jay Jr.

De Ana Abinante plays a few chords from her living room in Inglewood, Calif., on Dec. 2, 2020.

A Bordeaux-colored, laced top reveals alabaster skin. The over saturated spotlight beams down, creating the slightest bead of sweat on a brow. The mahogany-varnished body of the guitar is as smooth as glass and as reflective as a still pond.

The effortless strum of the chords is juxtaposed by an off-hand, pressing down tightly on the rigged, cold, metal-wrapped cables.

Her nail beds turn white from the pressure, as small flecks of soft-tissue tear away from her fingertips.

She belts out the last few bars of The Letter, a single off of her Spotify-released EP “War Cry,” to the back of the room.

The virtual concert ends after this second encore.

She reaches for her oversized mason jar, now empty, after the 75-minute performance.

“Thank you guys so much for being here,” De Ana Abinante, an independent singer/songwriter, said to her virtual fans. “Much love and kisses.”

The journey to get to this moment has not come easily for Abinante. She said she has had to overcome arduous hurdles and demons to be here.

Abinante said that one of the lowest points in her life was when she was 8-years-old. Her parents had separated 2 years earlier and she was living with her single mother and four siblings who were in “survival mode.”

“I grew up in a pretty broken home,” Abinante said. “Life was crazy and I didn’t have a community; I didn’t have any outlet [and] I didn’t have any way of coping or dealing with the pain.”

She said she blamed a lot of the pain and suffering in her life on her mother, who carried a lot of rages. Abinante said that rage came out in a very non-physically-abusive, but the damaging way.

Without love or nurturing, Abinante “felt alone” in her life. She said her depression led to thoughts of suicide.

“When all you can see and breathe is pain and it is overwhelming, and you’re 6, 7, 8-years-old, you can’t think about anything else other than not living,” Abinante said.

She would go to the backyard and stand under a big oak tree, look up towards heaven, and plead with God to “take” her; simultaneously contemplating whether she would be able to do it, whether she could “actually kill herself.”

Abinante said she did not give in to those urges as an 8-year-old, but she still felt the “weight” of her depression. And as a teenager, she felt she didn’t have a purpose that was driving her towards anything.

“I was just existing, so when anything bad happened it would just push me down,” Abinante said.

Even growing up in a religious home, Abinante felt that religion wasn’t something personal to her. That it was more a part of her afterlife than her actual life.

“Oh one day I’ll go to heaven, I’ll die, that’s it,” Abinante said. “That was pretty much the extent of my faith.”

She said one night her mindset changed. Abinante began to believe that there was a God who cared and looked out for her, a higher-power that wanted to see her succeed and be joyful.

“I knew something was different,” Abinante said. “This was a calling for me.”

De Ana Abinante poses in front of her festive, holiday-decorated, fireplace at her home in Inglewood, Calif., on Dec. 2, 2020 (Walter Jay Jr.)

She felt that that life-altering spiritual encounter changed her course and trajectory.

“I had been battling with depression. I had been battling with suicide. I had been holding on to survive for a very long time,” Abinante said. “The love of God completely took over and pushed out everything that was tormenting me and I was a completely different person.”

That was 9 years ago. Abinante said that she knew that after that pivotal point in her life at 14, she was never going to go back to the darkness of her past. She said she finally had the confidence needed to be successful.

“When you go from being suicidal depressed to no longer dealing with that stuff, you are on top of the world,” Abinante said.

Marci Katznelson, an adjunct music professor at El Camino College, said a common issue facing the music industry is the inner-sense of confidence and belief that artists have in themselves, and their abilities. She added that many musicians struggle with the believability that they can see their own dreams through.

Katznelson said hearing “no” shouldn’t be taken as a personal attack on a musician’s self-worth or abilities, but more as an opportunity to keep persevering.

After the night Abinante felt the weight of the world being lifted, she said, “I noticed something was different about my voice.”

She said she felt lighter and her musical range had expanded. Abinante began to try out for things she previously felt she wasn’t talented enough for, or had the musical range and capabilities to accomplish.

“When something beautiful happens to you it’s human nature to have to express it, have to share it with someone, and so the songs just started coming,” Abinante said. “That’s when my musical journey started. The music just kind of found me.”

“I have had many, very, very talented songwriters coming through my program, and she [Abinante] is up there in the top 5 easily,” Jon Minei, a professor of commercial music business studies and songwriting at El Camino College, said.

Even though Abinante has battled depression and suicide; found her inner-confidence and musical voice; cultivated the skills necessary to succeed; the pandemic proved to be a new challenge and obstacle to her.

“She is not only a good songwriter, but she is also a really great performer. She can really bring it on the guitar and with her voice,” Minei said.

Meanwhile, Abinante said she has been using her time during the pandemic to learn more about the business side of music via higher education, finding better ways to engage and grow her fan base, and getting guidance from business mentors like Dani Johnson.

Abinante said she hopes to learn more about mentorship and pair that with her personal experiences, and the adversities she has faced, to help young people.

“A lot of people wish they had access to a mentor, or to a community, or to something like that,” Abinante said. “Something that will pull the best out of them.”