Brianna Hunt embraces her faith, doubts as Many Rooms
Growing up in a conservative Christian household, Brianna Hunt, who records and performs under the name Many Rooms, developed an admittedly closed-minded worldview.
“When I was in high school, I was really self-righteous and pompous about my Christianity. I felt better than other people ... and when I saw them failing I was like, ‘Well, they’re just not a good Christian,’” said Hunt, 21, seated in the public lobby of a Downtown hotel. “I used to think being homosexual was wrong. I was really bigoted. I wouldn’t cuss or drink or smoke. I thought having sex before marriage was unforgivable.
“It took me failing in every aspect for me to understand that it’s not about the things you’re doing wrong ... it’s how you come up from it and what you’re putting out into the world.”
Even while projecting this outwardly pious presence early in life, the Houston, Texas-born Hunt said there were deep fissures running beneath the surface. The singer and songwriter started struggling with depression at age 11 — around the time she first picked up a guitar — as well as Trichotillomania, an impulse-control disorder defined by an unshakeable urge to pull one’s hair from the scalp. At the time, music was one of the few things that offered Hunt comfort, and songwriting frequently doubled as a pressure-release valve. “I found my comfort in writing,” she said.
Music started to take on even greater importance after high school friends introduced Hunt to As Cities Burn, a Louisiana-based Christian hardcore band. “The vocalist (TJ Bonnette), his voice is really raw and not perfect at all. And he’s singing about being a Christian but also about his humanity and vulnerability, and he's being as honest as he can be about himself. And if you’re being honest about your humanity, you’re full of mistakes,” Hunt said. “And it was crazy to me because I’d never experienced this balance of being a Christian and also being able to accept you’re flawed. In a sense, that made God so much brighter to me. So I started writing songs mimicking that tone and feeling.”
Unlike As Cities Burn, which specializes in tracks as incendiary as its name, Hollow Body, Hunt’s most recent EP as Many Rooms, is defined by its confessional stillness, the singer delivering her raw, quaking words atop ghostly acoustic picking and ambient atmospherics. Lyrically, the songs are intimate and unvarnished, with Hunt detailing everything from her decade-long battle with depression to her nonexistent relationship with her dad (the mournful “The Father Complex,” where the musician manages to shake the Earth while barely singing above a whisper).
“I think the first time I opened up about something was my Trichotillomania. I opened up about that three years ago and kind of went public online with it, and it was terrifying — I was afraid to do it — but the only thing I got was support,” Hunt said. “I didn’t know anybody else who could possibly have this. I felt like a freak. And having so many people message me and say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone, and I thought I was alone in this, too,’ it clicked within me that being open about who you are makes people feel comforted and loved and less strange. And ever since then I’ve been an open book.”
More recently, Hunt has started to document her struggles with faith, which reached a crisis point early in 2016 when she was struck by the question: “What if what I believe isn’t true?”
“But even at that point when I was the weakest and the most unsure, there was something there that I couldn’t quite let go. I was like, ‘OK, I know in my heart that God is real. I know he loves me, and I know he loves humanity.’ But a lot of these things I had believed about Christianity were wrong,” said Hunt, who documents this crisis of faith on a just-recorded full-length she plans to release on Los Angeles-based Other People Records later this year. “I think the older I get the more I’m not going to know, but I’m perfectly OK with that. I’m embracing those doubts. I think that makes God more mysterious and beautiful.”