The tortured artist archetype exists because it is, sadly, an all-too-frequent occurrence. And it seems to be an appropriate moniker for Poeina, a singer-songwriter who grew up on the road and on the streets. Coming into the world smack-dab in the middle of a 14-strong brood of kids, Poeina was raised primarily by her Mormon missionary father. Struggles with emotional, physical and sexual abuse led to struggles with mental health issues, and Poeina spent some time in and out of hospital care. By the time she turned 16, Poeina had been to all of the lower 48 states and was living on the streets in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle with music as her main salvation.
“My talent was the only thing that kept me from being swallowed up by my trials and tribulations. Music was what fed me, clothed me and cared for me in those times. I have realized that had it not been for my voice, maybe my journey would have been far more depressing.” From John Denver to Snoop Dogg, Nirvana to Ani DiFranco, the music that Poeina turned to was wide and deep in scope.
Hip-hop, in particular, was very appealing to her, especially the explicit records — that is until her stepmother found her secret stash and chucked them into the fireplace. But the spirit and flow of that form has stayed with her. In fact, Poeina has collaborated on hip-hop projects with artists embedded in the Pacific Northwest scene. “I have a lot of different personalities when it comes to my creativity, and they are all coping mechanisms for the reality that I live in, which is both beautiful and bizarre,” she explains.
Community has always been another go-to for the artist — specifically, community organizing as a way to make something out of nothing. “Doing that work taught me how to bring people together, engage the community and not be afraid to ask for help. I think being an artist is very much the same.” After all, having ties to something, somewhere is important when you spend the majority of your life on the road. “I have all the major highways memorized and I couldn’t tell you where home was if I tried. Sitting still is the harder part for me.”
Now, though, Poeina sits somewhat still in Southern California, and has found a community through David and Petra Vieira, the owners of Redballs Rock & Roll Pizza, and regular, highly creative Monday night gigs at the Moorpark venue. Poeina muses, “There are other people slowly joining the project, and my hope is, by the time I get to the last Monday out there, that it will be a big crazy circus of music, color, film, dance and mystery.”
Catch Poeina on Monday, April 28, 6 p.m., at Redballs Rock & Roll Pizza, 13816 Princeton Ave., Moorpark. For more information, visit www.redballs.com or www.poeinasuddarth.com.