State of Mind (Mental Health)

Aunty Social’s Dark Carnivale

Ever since her early childhood, the only place Toronto’s Daniela Gitto aka Aunty Social felt comfortable was in her room; social anxiety robbed her of many experiences, most notably a capacity to exude the love she felt for music. As a bedroom pop artist in the digital age, though, Gitto’s voice has now been heard by more than 100,00 pairs of ears across the globe, and with a recording deal through Nettwerk and new single ‘Travelling Circus’, she’s ready to step right under the big top spotlight.

Aunty Social | photo by Melissa Jimenez

Music history, and indeed artistic history generally, is littered with examples of creative geniuses who have felt like outsiders. The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson lamented that he “wasn’t made for these times”, Silverchair’s Daniel Johnson referred to himself as “a freak of nature”, while Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, in his baritone drone directed listeners to step inside the atrocity exhibition.

For Gitto, the analogy that makes sense of her daily experience is that she is a one-woman touring sideshow act, as she explains.

“It felt like everybody was in their place all the time, they knew where they were and I was just travelling from friend group to friend group and to different experiences and not understanding who I was supposed to be.”

– Daniela Gitto

The social anxiety caused by this confusion over her identity and place manifested outwardly as circus clown-esque extraversion, she says.

“For most people, they think that social anxiety is sitting at the back of the party not talking to anyone. For me, I’m the opposite. I’m overcompensating, I’m the one with bulging eyes maybe talking too loudly because I really want the conversation to not get dull or I’m using too many hand gestures and all these things that could make me look obnoxious or self-involved.”

With such tendencies, being a live performer would seem to be the obvious career path, but until recently, getting on stage was challenging for her, she says.

“When I was growing up, I never really enjoyed the live performance part, it was always the hardest and all the other singers around me were so open to singing in front of everyone, so I was like ‘maybe I don’t love music and singing because I can’t do that’”

Having recognised that live performance is an essential component of the music industry, and after working hard on improving her self-esteem, Gitto now embraces gigs, she says.

“Now live performances, because I’ve worked so much on accepting myself, it’s become more of a cathartic moment where during the song, it’s like I’m a completely different person to when I’m talking to the crowd. There’s usually all this crazy headbanging, and then when I’m talking to the crowd, I’m stuttering and wanting to just get right to the song.”

When Nettwerk Music Group, home to emerging stars like Jack River and Mallrat and established names such as Boy & Bear and Xavier Rudd, came knocking, Gitto saw it as an impetus for change, after initially battling with some imposter syndrome.

“When I got the Nettwerk deal, I actually got a lot of anxiety when they offered to me because I knew I’d have to buckle down and work on my self-esteem, my confidence and my integrity because I knew that if I wanted to be successful and have a long career, then those things mattered. I took that as a call for a lot of self-change.”

With a sound and lyrical prowess reminiscent of Fiona Apple, and Cat Power and the quirkiness of Bjork, Gitto has plenty to be confident about and Travelling Circus should have her flying high again on Spotify charts.

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