This 15-year-old songwriter from Des Moines is having fun writing sad music

Addilyn Erica, a 15-year-old musician at Trilix, poses for a portrait on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Des Moines. — Courtney Guein/Little Village

Addilyn Erica is only 15, but successfully balances being a teenager with growing as an artist. This was made clear with the release of her debut EP Some Days on Nov. 4, 2022, in which the Des Moines singer-songwriter spins stories of love, heartbreak and freedom.

“The music that we have released is almost nostalgic. To me, it reminds me they all have a story behind them,” Erica said.

Some Days’ emotional density comes from the interplay between Erica’s advanced vocals and the heaviness of her lyrics, inspired mostly by stories she’s read or written. For example, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet provided the blueprint for “Fairytales,” one of the more hopeful tracks on the album.

“I went into writing it really excited to be able to tell a different type of story, because the other songs that I had wrote were really sad,” she explained.

“‘Last Words’ is about bullying, and ‘Wooden Sword’ is about World War II. So, ‘Fairytales,’ I was very relaxed and relieved that I was able to write something happy. Because in my stories, everyone kind of looks at me, and they’re like, ‘Are you OK?’” she laughed.

Erica doesn’t set out to write sad songs, but tends to end up with them anyway.

“I think it’s because when I’m happy, [writing’s] not the first thing that comes to my mind. When I’m happy, I want to take up as much of that time as I can doing other stuff. So, when I’m sad, that’s when I have the time to sit down and then everything can go through your head.”

The album has five songs, including her singles “Revolution,” released about a month prior, and “Some Days,” which dropped in September.

At a young age, Erica noticed how much her parents loved music. The young artist remembers listening to U2, who her father enjoyed, and One Republic, specifically the Malibu album. These early 2000s bands were essential in shaping Erica’s music.

“Writing style-wise and performance-wise, I’d say [I’m near] One Republic. I definitely took some of the historical feedback and ideas from U2 because they have a lot of historical events in their songs,” she said.

Singing songs on the radio wasn’t enough for Erica. When she was 8, she wanted to take up the drums. After her parents refused, she decided to learn guitar. She also picked up piano along the way, and had a knack for creative writing.

Addilyn Erica playing guitar outside, courtesy of the artist

Her first song was written two years after starting guitar. It was dedicated to her late grandmother, and she performed it at her funeral.

“It was very memorable for me,” Erica said. “It takes a lot of emotional dedication for me to have been able to perform that for her.”

That performance unlocked a new level of passion. At the same time, her guitar instructor encouraged her to write songs instead of stories.

“My stories that I write are able to develop characters differently than a song. A song you have to be pretty cut short and pack things in reverse with rhymes with near rinds. Being able to fit it in pretty well without giving away too much and letting the people decide things for themselves.”

As a developing artist and entertainer, being a teenager is not easy, Erica said.

“There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s very hard to be able to balance everything because I’m also involved in a lot of activities at school,” she said. “Whenever I’m at school, no one has ever treated me differently, or kind of thrown it out of context without understanding anything.”

Although she loves entertaining others, Erica doesn’t want the superstar treatment. She’s happy that her peers don’t treat her differently. At school, Erica is involved with large group speech, winter guard and serving as yearbook chief. Each extracurricular activity helps shape her artistry.

Addilyn Erica at the piano soundstage, courtesy of Addilyn Erica.

“I think my yearbook idea, this is definitely gotten me more into writing, the creativity side of it. The color guard I did is kind of a connection with my sister, and it helped me prepare for going into color guard next year, because I want to be in that kind of marching band family. And my speech group, I did that because my sister had been talking about it for all of her high school. And yes, I kind of did copy my sister, but she pushed me to do it.”

Although only two months have passed since releasing Some Days, there are already plans for another EP release this spring. A date hasn’t been set yet, but the artist certainly has more to show Des Moines. Her next release will show a shift to more maturity in her lyrics, Erica promised.

“My first EP, all the songs I wrote I was 13,” she explained. “None of it’s very personal. It’s all storytelling, and the ones that I have now, there’s going to be a lot more emotional connection to them. And I think that means that also allowing people be able to connect with them.”

Despite the often melancholy nature of her songs, Erica always seeks to comfort her listeners.

“I want them to know that whatever they’re feeling, they’re not alone in it, and there’s a lot of people who are there to help them,” she said. “It might speak to certain people whenever they’re going through things, because some songs appeal more to others when they have a certain hardship they’re going through.”

As Addilyn Erica grows as a person, she grows in her music, so be on the lookout for new music, videos and updates.

@addilynerica #Fairytale #NewMusic ♬ original sound – Addilyn Erica

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