Singer-songwriter Jessica Vaughn knows all too well what it means to survive and rise above trauma — she’s been through what one publication called “the holy trinity of horror stories for women in music.” After signing a major label deal as her stage persona Charlotte Sometimes in 2008, Vaughn says that she was overmedicated by her team, sexually assaulted and later dropped by her label.
Now, more than a decade later, Vaughn has reinvented herself as Laces, a rising alt-pop artist whose music beautifully blends the lines between the personal and the universal. She’s also a businesswoman — Vaughn owns her own independent label, Head B–ch Music, where she helps other aspiring artists like herself come into their own.
So with her new single “They Say” (listen below), Vaughn says that she wanted to actually address what it means to live through trauma when the society you live in refuses to let you even acknowledge it. Throughout the deeply heartbreaking new song, the singer calls out a number of common sayings that survivors often hear (“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” “It only hurts you if you let it,” “Forgive and forget,” etc.) before refusing to accept them.
Vaughn says she wanted to make a song that didn’t just speak to her experience, but made room for survivors everywhere. “I tried to come from my own story, but also hold space for those that have felt comfortable sharing their own experiences with me,” she tells Billboard. “I became a Certified Counselor Advocate for survivors in 2016, so oftentimes I was on the other side of the Sexual Assault Hotline. It was important to create enough room for their voices to live within the song, as well as those who may have not experienced this level of trauma.”
That’s why the singer went out of her way to team up with fellow pop artists Flavia, Bellsaint and Amanda Brown for the new song — throughout the track, each of the singer enter and create their own space to take back their narrative, something Vaughn says she was eager to see happen. “Working with strong, talented, and powerful womxn is always an honor,” she says. “I feel really lucky they wanted to carry the weight of this song with me. It’s never easy sharing this type of vulnerability with the world, but knowing you have a community that’s got your back makes a world of difference.”
As for the community of listeners at home, Vaughn makes it clear that she wants nothing more that to help empower them to look closer at the things they tell themselves, and recognize that sometimes, they simply are not the truth. “I hope [“They Say”] helps dismantle some of that inner-narrative that a lot of us were taught and thought was our own voice,” she says. “We don’t have to give that voice power. What we can do is stand together, hold a space for the pain, and work towards making a safer, more equitable, and equal world.”
Check out Laces’ new single “They Say,” featuring Flavia, Bellsaint and Amanda Brown, below: