Canadian fire-and-ice pop duo Command Sisters, Charlotte and Sarah, have teamed up with rap legend Michie Mee on a project called Stories For Caregivers, a series well underway by producers The Coup Company before the pandemic. As mental health advocate Asante Haughton explains in the 7-minute in-studio video, “Cypher is a show that takes caregivers stories and turns them into songs.”
Produced by Saucy Momo, Charlotte and Sarah co-wrote “Lift You Up” with rapper D-Sisive after they listened to the history and difficult dynamics between sisters Laura and Shannon, a very honest and personal story.
As it says in the description on YouTube, “Shannon and Laura are two sisters who could not be more different - and who were no strangers to arguing. Yet when Laura began sinking deep and deep into depression, Shannon stepped up and answered the call - even though she felt completely unprepared.”
The video was shot before March 2020 during a one-day writing and recording session in Toronto at TA2 East.
Samaritan talked with Charlotte and Sarah by phone about creating the song, the importance of caregivers, as well as their personal story taking care of their mom.
I kind of have tears in my eyes from watching that clip. It does say that you filmed that before COVID.
Charlotte: Literally right before.
That’s interesting the campaign is Stories For Caregivers because since COVID the word ‘caregiver’ has become so prominent and their importance so much more understood and respected.
Sarah: I feel like the word caregiver is not as relevant until somebody goes through it personally. And then when you go through it, it becomes your whole life. And I think with COVID, particular struggles, whether that's substance abuse, child abuse, partner abuse, so many different, really horrible, parts of being a human, has become more and more common unfortunately, which is very sad. Filming that prior to COVID, and then COVID happening, it was an honour to have that come out during COVID because I feel like a lot of the struggles more now than ever are happening, and there needs to be a light shone on those issues.
There’s a part in the video where Shannon talks about the daily worry about her sister‘s well-being and that she needed her own support. Before COVID, my dad had passed away, and I was not able to grieve properly because my mom was devastated. So I related. Is that what this campaign is about, almost to commiserate with other caregivers on the stress and the worry that they're going through?
Charlotte: Absolutely. I feel like that's absolutely true. What I got from it and what I saw from it was a lot of the times we do think of those who are going through the struggle themselves, but we don't always take time to remember the people who are taking care of them, whether it's somebody who's physically ill or, of course, experiencing mental illness and everything that goes along with that. I just know, even from my own experience, when you're struggling, you kind of, unintentionally a lot of the time, affect others around you and they almost go through the same thing as you. Having that person there is everything. It can change your whole experience. They can be that person that keeps you going. So it's so important. I feel like this whole campaign, and this beautiful series that we're doing, is really shining a light on the people who will help and are there for those people. And they sacrifice, like you said, unfortunately, their own happiness and sometimes delay getting help because they're helping other people. I think COVID, especially, has really shone a light on how important those people are and just remember them and that they're going through things as well, while they're helping others.
We know that a person that does have mental illness or is suicidal often feels that they're a burden on their friends and family and that's worrying. So we don't necessarily want them to know how worried we are. But if someone's a drug addict, you worry you're going to get that call that they’ve ODed. And if someone has a history of suicide attempts, you worry you're going to get that call. So it's good to have a place, where you can talk with other people.
Charlotte: Yeah. You don't want to trigger that person. When you’re a caregiver, you almost have to put on this brave face, and be their rock and listen to what they have to say without making them worry because when you are going through something you oftentimes feel like you're a burden, and that's why you want to become reclusive and not burden people, and not be around people as much. But those caregivers they're so amazing because they go and help the person and they try to make them feel like they're understood and that's so important without being a burden. They're that in-between that keeps that person feeling more understood and less alone.
Sarah: It's important too for the caregiver to realize that especially during this time with COVID, and the economic struggles of the world right now, and the psychological struggles of the global pandemic, a lot of us are experiencing that right now, realizing that it is stressful to be in a pandemic. Life is not supposed to be sunshine and rainbows all the time.
Have either of you been affected health-wise or known someone who had COVID?
Sarah: I've definitely experienced people dealing with mental health. I think a lot of us have, in that regard. I've known many people that have died from COVID. People in music. Mostly in the States because the transmission rate is much higher than Canada. And my mom is paraplegic, and she has asthma, so everyday I'm like, “If I visit my mom and I see her, if I give her COVID it's just a different reality.”
Yes, my main concern too has been not giving my mom COVID and she has a lung condition too. So I always say to people, “I don’t want to kill my mom.” That’s basically it. The whole year has been protecting myself so I don’t murder my mother.
Charlotte: OMG, I identify with that so much. I live with my mom right now and I work at a small store, but, yeah, my main thing is trying to be as careful as I possibly can. Even if I didn't live with my mom, I could pass it to somebody else who is compromised. It's terrible.
Sarah: And the anxiety for caregivers, that's something to think about as well, as we were talking about. Not everybody realizes that you yourself may not feel the threat with COVID, but somebody else may feel the anxiety that “If I get COVID, I'm going to technically murder my parents.” It sounds very extreme to say that, but I have the same anxieties as well, which is why I've chosen to be away from my family. And that's also not an easy thing to do. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people.
How are you two doing? You signed this record deal. You were launching your career in a big way. You were super excited.
Sarah: My sister and I, like many other people, have dealt with mental health. A lot of creatives had, prior to the pandemic, prior to lockdown, and then going through this time of uncertainty, I've been through other completely different struggles my sister has been through. It's been a hard time, like many other people, but at least I have my sister to rely on and we have each other. And I think that's why this campaign really struck a chord with me because it was something that was very authentic to me and something I rely on. I really feel for people that don't have caregivers. So I think this message is ‘If you see somebody who is struggling, that really does need a hand to hold, really believe in the power of that and take advantage of your power that you can help somebody get through a hard time.’ And that's why it was important to be part of that campaign.
What was the writing process for the song, “Lift You Up”? Did you meet the sisters, or just the one sister, and hear her story?
Charlotte: We hadn't met the sisters at all. We were given the rough outline of the story.
Sarah: It was right before the lockdown.
Charlotte: So, essentially, they gave us the script and the story and what was going to happen. And then the day before filming, and the interviews and recording the song, the song just came to me really quickly. Just the chorus, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I think this what the story's about, the whole caregiving theme.’ It just fell into place because I wasn't sure if I was going to write something there or come up with it before, so then I brought the song to them in the studio that day in Toronto. We met up with the producer and the whole team there. Like Sarah said, it was February, right before all the lockdowns. I brought the chorus of the song to them, and then we met up with the incredible other artists too. So everybody broke off into groups, and then Sarah and I finished the singing part, and they were working on the rap part, and we all got it done in one big day of work in the studio. That was the process. I was really excited that they liked what I had come up with and decided to go along with it.
Can people purchase it?
Charlotte: I was just emailing the producers because they released the episode, but they're like, ‘Hey, it's your guys' song; if you want to put it out, you guys can put it out.’ And I really love the song. I definitely want to put it out because people have been asking after watching the episode because there's only little snippets of the song in there. I definitely want to put out the full version.
What other causes are important to each of you?
Sarah: Right now, especially on this topic, it's really important to highlight mental health, which the campaign is all about, but specifically in the music industry. I know this campaign was a lot about music as well. Unison Benevolent Fund is giving out grants for musicians that are having a hard time right now with their mental health, specifically with the economy and not being able to play live shows. So I think that's an important topic to highlight. And then if Charlotte has any others, I'll pass it off to her.
Charlotte: I'm going to agree with Sarah that mental health is a huge one for us right now. Like Sarah said, especially because of the pandemic and everything that we've experienced. I know my friends are experiencing, Also, just supporting small businesses right now is big for me. Shopping local because it's so hard for local businesses right now with the lockdowns. So I'm trying to support as much as I can. Being a musician myself, and we can't tour, and just seeing how it’s affecting any kind of small business, and entrepreneurs, that's a big one for me as well.
What has the label said to you in terms of releasing your album? Are you still waiting it out?
Sarah: I think we all just have to adjust to the new normal. A lot of us are strategizing. If we can’t play shows in 2021, how can we still put out music and reach people and live our passion, what we love to do? How do we put that out into the world especially when we can’t perform live. And I think that's been our biggest challenge is adjusting to that. 2020 was a very big adjustment with a little bit of a shock factor [chuckles]. And now we're all like, ‘Well, how do we adjust in 2021?’ And that's what Charlotte and I are doing. We're actually releasing a song called ‘Rain On My Parade.’ It's actually our second song to all radio. We’re to try to make most of it and trying to do what we can do.
Charlotte: To answer your question really quick, we're going to keep releasing music. We're obviously going to keep doing that in any way that we can and hopefully tour again, but so far our plans for the year are I'm writing a ton and we're going to work on putting out our EP, and then work on our second album.
Well, I think you should release “Lift You Up” because it's so relevant right now.
Charlotte: That means so much.
Sarah: I agree.
I’ll go back and watch it again, even though I got teary.
Charlotte. Thank you so much, as a songwriter, just to hear that.
That you made me cry? [Laughs] “I'm so happy I made you cry, thank you.” [Laughs]
Sarah: Charlotte is really incredible at writing emotional songs. Typically, those are not the ones we release, but they really mean a lot when you write something that people can relate to. I thought the same thing. I heard the song and I was like, “Oh, I wish we were releasing that one.”
WATCH: the making of "Lift You Up" here: