Five Ways BAD CHILD Found Salvation in Music and Became One of 2021's Must-Hear Artists
Published Mar 02, 2021BAD CHILD's music is all about raw, unfiltered honesty. The 23-year-old Canadian songwriter — born Isaiah Steinberg in Kitchener, ON — channels childhood traumas and adult heartbreak into a soulful sound that draws on DIY bedroom production, alternative hip-hop grooves and timeless pop hooks.
His debut album, Free Trial, came out in February 2021, and is the culmination of a five-year journey in which the artist racked up an impressive list of festival appearances, song placements and worldwide acclaim — including a nomination for the 2019 SOCAN Songwriting Prize. He also appears on the soundtrack of the 2020 Netflix hit To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, and he participated in ArtistsCAN's all-star cover of "Lean on Me," also featuring Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, Geddy Lee and Sarah McLachlan. He's performed at festivals like Osheaga, Glastonbury, and Reading and Leeds.
His impressive rise has now culminated in Free Trial — a sprawling, 19-track opus that takes listeners on a journey through a fictional dating app. It starts with the tongue-in-cheek narration of opener "Signing Up" through to standout singles like the sultry torch song "BAD CHILD," the sugar-spiked pop anthem "Candy" (featuring Ryan Chambers), and the minimalist banger "Breathing Fire." Each of those singles have well over a million Spotify streams.
So what brought BAD CHILD to this breakthrough moment in his career? We're taking a look at how BAD CHILD found salvation in music and become one of the artists to watch in 2021.
Five Ways BAD CHILD Found Salvation in Music
1. Music Began as a Coping Mechanism for His Grief
BAD CHILD's mother passed away at a young age, an event that sent him down a self-destructive path. He credits music with helping him get his life back on track and cope with painful emotions.
"When my mother passed away, I ended up in a really bad situation. I was on drugs, not in a clear mental space, and I was going down a really dark tunnel," he told Soundazed in 2019, explaining that things turned around when he wrote the self-titled song "BAD CHILD." He said, "I made that about my mother and how fleeting life can be. I felt this grand power in the topics. I felt better in my soul and like I didn't need to turn to these negative influences in my life."
Although he had been raised playing music from a young age, he didn't realize that he could sing until he started recording as BAD CHILD. Working entirely DIY, he harnessed the pure emotion that has since gone on to define the project.
2. Free Trial Is a Commentary on His Discomfort with Modern Dating
Modern dating can often feel a little cruel, as people are reduced to a face on an app. The idea began when he was using Tinder and became uncomfortable with the way it felt reductive and transactional. In a world where life increasingly takes place online, these themes are only becoming more relevant.
"The album revolves around the idea of how people use each other like commodities. It's called Free Trial because there was a time and place where I felt like a free trial. I felt like I was being used in love and in business," he told B-Sides TV. "Something that I found really remarkable and bizarre about Tinder is that you're presented with an image of somebody and you just say yes or no. Their entire life is compressed to a photo."
3. Before Music, BAD CHILD Focused on Visual Art
Music is actually BAD CHILD's second love. He initially intended to pursue a career in photojournalism, and he credits photography with helping to inspire the observational lens of some of his lyrics.
As a photographer, BAD CHILD has published a visual ode to Kitchener on VICE. His original sketches appear in the lyric video for his recent single "$1,000,000," plus the visuals for singles "Candy" and "Behave."
4. He Sometimes Worries That His Music Is Too Emotionally Raw
Whether singing about loss or putting our modern world under the microscope, BAD CHILD holds nothing back in terms of raw, unfiltered honesty. Sometimes, he's even wondered if his emotions might be too intense for listeners. "I worry that my music is too personal and hard for people to listen to," he admitted to Sidewalk Hustle. "I think of it like picking a scab sometimes."
Considering the reaction his music has gotten from audiences, however, it's clear that he has nothing to worry about.
5. Just as Music Saved His Life, Others Have Begun to Find Comfort in His Music
When BAD CHILD writes a song, he looks inside of himself and writes about his own emotions. It was only after he began releasing music that he learned others could relate to the things he was singing about.
"I only do this stuff to heal myself and everything I've gone through," he acknowledged to Soundazed. "I was at a point where I never thought I would be okay. I contemplated suicide — I was low, low. When this all started going well and the music was speaking from my soul and people started responding to it, reaching out to tell me it was helping them."
Watch BAD CHILD's new video for "Mannequin" below.