Jack Antonoff is best known as the guitarist of fun., the band responsible for the hit song “We Are Young,” and some might know him as Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. But this week he stepped out on his own with the release of a debut album under the name Bleachers. The lead single, “I Wanna Get Better,” is not only catchy, but also serves as an autobiographical account of Antonoff’s darkest moments and how he’s struggled with anxiety.
In an interview with Time magazine, Antonoff discussed the painful experiences surrounding his youth: he was bullied in school, his younger sister died of brain cancer, and a cousin was killed while serving in Iraq. He developed a severe panic attack disorder and hypochondria, and in 2006, anxiety so severe he rarely left his home. For a long time, he suppressed his grief, but eventually found the therapy and medication that works for him.
Through his songs, he explores those feelings of loss and now with Bleachers (the name is a nod to high school), Antonoff keys in on his lost teenage years. As he says, “I feel like I had a childhood that I’m constantly mourning.”
Sharing those feelings, Antonoff has struck a chord with fans and gained more than just success. In fact, he says his biggest reward has been the connection his fans have to his music and to him. The musician frequently hears from fans about their own struggles with anxiety and depression. To Antonoff, this is much more profound than being a teen idol. As he puts it, “Who would want to be the kind of artist that’s worshipped by fans when you can be the kind of artist that’s comforted by fans?”
With “I Wanna Get Better,” Antonoff gives back to his fans a hopeful message and a mantra to keep with them through the hard times.