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Lincoln musician channels mental health struggles into work on new album
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Lincoln musician channels mental health struggles into work on new album

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Earlier this summer, one Lincoln musician felt like she had nowhere to turn. Now, she's letting others know there's always hope.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore McKenzie Steiner recently struggled through serious anxiety, depression and self-harm, even admitting herself to a hospital for treatment. She's using those experiences as creative fuel for a new album she hopes to record this year titled "Oblivion 20/20."

Steiner, who uses the stage name McKenzie JaLynn, wants to record the 12-song solo project in Nashville, Tennessee, where she recorded her first album with her band in 2017. She has a Kickstarter campaign that has reached more than half its goal of $12,500 to pay for costs associated with production of the album. Her deadline is Monday.

The hospital trip was a terrifying wake-up call, Steiner said, and she recognized then she needed to find a new way forward.

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"I never imagined myself having to do that," she said.

That path hasn't been easy, Steiner said, as opening up to professionals and loved ones is difficult. Regardless, she said she's been amazed by the love and support she's received since learning to reach out.

While the graduate of Lincoln Southwest High School knows she still has a long way to go, Steiner said she feels like she's back on the right track, which comes with an obligation to share her message with others.

As she worked through her struggles, she said, songwriting was a way for her to reconnect with herself and find joy, and now she's ready to share that work in the hopes that it might help others in a similar place.

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She hopes the album will normalize discussing mental health issues.

"I think mental health is the most important aspect of our lives," she said.

That has been particularly true for her during the coronavirus pandemic, Steiner said, as quarantine accelerated preexisting issues for her. As a musician, it's been hard for her to watch a summer full of shows get canceled one after another, but she's found ways to connect with her audience online, taking requests and learning songs to play over Facebook Live.

Her dad, Scott Steiner, said it has been painful to watch his daughter struggle, but he's proud of the direction she's chosen, especially of her insistence to do it all on her own terms.

"Every decision that she's been making on this, she's been doing on her own," he said.

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Scott Steiner said the process has been cathartic for his daughter, as music has always been her passion.

"That is kind of like medicine for her, to help others and to sing," he said.

Even if she doesn't meet her fundraising goal and isn't able to record the album, McKenzie Steiner said the project will have been worth it because of the positive discussions she's had about mental health with her supporters. 

"I've had an incredible amount of love and support," she said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or nmcconnell@journalstar.com.

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