Premiere: BEL’s Indie Folk Anthem “Treading Water” Is a Visceral Surrender & Existential Release

BEL © Mocha Freeman
BEL © Mocha Freeman
BEL surrenders to herself in her visceral new single “Treading Water,” a vulnerable upheaval blending alternative and indie folk sounds into a lush, intimate, and compelling uproar.
for fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Maggie Rogers, Julien Baker, Alaska Reid
Stream: “Treading Water” – BEL




The best we can do in the face of the wildly unexpected is to keep looking forward with hope – and to trust we’ll be guided in the right direction by the voice inside us.

Isabel Whelan doesn’t have all the answers to our questions and troubles, but she does have a bit of advice for how we can quell at least some of our inner conflicts: Let go and trust.

The LA-based artist surrenders to herself in her visceral new single “Treading Water,” a vulnerable upheaval blending alternative and indie folk sounds into a lush, intimate, and compelling uproar.

Treading Water - BEL
Treading Water – BEL
I’ve been treading water
Now my legs are numb
Save her if you saw her
Or would you succumb
To a feeling everyone denies
Plaster on a smile and bury the cries
Do I move against the tides
Let the water guide my mind

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Treading Water,” BEL’s first single of 2021 and her third overall song release. The nom de plume of LA-based, Clovis-born singer/songwriter Isabel Whelan, BEL introduced herself and her artistry last year through May’s debut single “Silver Line,” also premiered on Atwood, and October’s follow-up track “Until the Day.” Before debuting, she had already shared rooms and stages with the likes of Temme Scott, Eva B. Ross, and Jack Symes, and featured and co-written others’ releases like “Fake Love” by Aaron Lindt.

BEL © Mocha Freeman
BEL © Mocha Freeman



“Hope and the human spirit run wild and free throughout BEL’s debut single, shaking us awake not with a jolt of raw energy but with a warm wash of soothing sounds and inspiring lyrics,” Atwood Magazine wrote of BEL’s “Silver Line” last spring. “A stirring indie folk outpouring of reassurance in the face of doubt and despair, “Silver Line” is a haunting introduction to an artist we can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come.” Rising out of the emptiness, BEL’s subtle acoustic guitar and intimate, impassioned voice soared on her first song, with lyrics of personal struggle and isolation speaking not only to her personally, but to all who listened from their respective COVID-19 quarantines and lockdowns.

Whereas “Silver Line” was about learning to “find the silver lining through painful times,” “Treading Water” finds BEL at another personal crossroads, shouldering here the weight of fateful decisions with unknown impacts. It’s a song born out of internal strife – a personal pain and relatable uncertainty – and while BEL offers no definitive roadmap for the future, she finds balance and a sense of calm in relinquishing control and following her heart.

BEL’s chorus is a magnetic moment of truth, with mesmerizing guitars supporting her smoldering, hot-on-the-mic voice. Like some kind of underground, indie Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, BEL stuns with urgent emotion against a beautifully stirring soundscape:

Tried to stop the currents
In my head
Tell me I should let go
And feel them instead
Tried to stop the currents
In my head
Tell me I should let go
I’ll feel them instead
Feel them instead
BEL © Mocha Freeman
BEL © Mocha Freeman



“I wrote “Treading Water” in the Fall of 2018 with a friend of mine from UCLA. I had just graduated earlier that year and was having an existential crisis, feeling unhappy in my first job out of college and really stuck,” Whelan tells Atwood Magazine. “During the session, my friend Uddhav played a chord progression on guitar that immediately unlocked all of these fears and frustrations I was having. I tried out different lyrics but I always ended up coming back to the first phrase I wrote, I’ve been treading water. ‘Treading Water’ carried the weight I was feeling. I was conflicted with doing what I thought I should do versus what I knew I actually wanted to do. I think a lot of people experience this no matter what type of career they choose. It’s almost like a right of passage as a young adult to question what the hell you’re doing in your life and if you’ve chosen the right path. This song is a way of convincing myself to let go and follow my intuition even though it’s pushing me toward terrifying and uncharted territory. I had the realization that ignoring my inner voice would only cause me to sink deeper into sadness.”

“Some of the songs on my upcoming EP have been around for a while and have gone through quite a few iterations through all the different shows I’ve played. This track in particular has seen a lot of changes and it seems to take on new meanings as time passes. When I first showed it to my band, it had a slower tempo, but we tried picking up the speed and Sean Lee played this heart-wrenching solo, hitting straight to the heart and I knew that it would always be part of the song. Sean’s guitar playing just reaches out from his soul. So It’s been inspiring for me to see how all our collaborations have brought this song to life in so many new ways. This tune started out as a sad girl on guitar but it also evolved into this ethereal/ocean sound thanks to Jimmy Keeley who produced it with me and added so many shimmering elements.”

BEL © Mocha Freeman
BEL © Mocha Freeman



I’ve been treading water
Now my legs are numb
I tried not to falter
But the dark siren’s
Pulling me in further from the sun
Wrapped up around me
Swore she’d never come undone
Do I move against the tides
Let the water guide my mind

Like so many songs that have struck a chord over the past year, “Treading Water” was not made with pandemic-related isolation and tension in mind, and yet its lyrics and tone speak to the moment at hand. Wintry and wondrous, it captures an undercurrent of feeling that proliferated 2020, and has inevitably seeped into 2021’s consciousness.

“Life keeps reminding me that it’s unpredictable,” Whelan states. “So I guess the best we can do in the face of the wildly unexpected is to keep looking forward with hope – and to trust we’ll be guided in the right direction by the voice inside us. So much can change in a year, in two years–even a global pandemic. No matter where you are in your life or what’s happening on the planet, the truth is we’re all just doing our best to stay afloat whenever the waters get rough. So I hope “Treading Water” resonates with anyone who needs a sign to let go and trust!”

Sometimes, you have to let go in order to gain clarity. You have to not be in control, in order to understand what control means, where you’re trying to go, what you’re looking for, and why you’re looking for it. Tailor-made for existential crises indeed, “Treading Water” is angsty and propulsive in all the right ways. Stream BEL’s new single exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and stay tuned for more from her as she finalizes her debut EP Muscle Memory, out later this year.

For now, just keep treading water.

Tried to stop the currents
In my head
Tell me I should let go
And feel them instead
Tried to stop the currents (I know it’s pulling me under)
In my head (I know I gotta let go)
Tell me I should let go (I know it’s pulling me under)
I’ll feel them instead
I’ve been treading water
Tryna keep my, keep my head above
I’ve been treading water
Gotta keep my, keep my head above

— —

Stream: “Treading Water” – BEL

BEL Emerges with Hope & Strength on Glistening Debut Single “Silver Line”

:: REVIEW ::



— — — —

Treading Water - BEL

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📸 © Mocha Freeman @mochafreeman

:: Stream BEL ::

BEL Emerges with Hope & Strength on Glistening Debut Single “Silver Line”

:: REVIEW ::


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