When a 14-year-old transgender boy who attended his former high school committed suicide, singer-songwriter Eli Lieb knew it was time for a return visit. With support from The Trevor Project, he visited his hometown of Fairfield, Iowa, and brought the school’s students pro-LGBT and suicide prevention literature, and shared heartfelt discussion and a message of support.
Footage of Lieb’s experience at his hometown school serves as basis for “When You Need A Friend,” the latest music video off his April release album, The Nights We Lived.
“I wrote, ’When You Need A Friend’ inspired by his memory, but also for anyone in need,” he says. “I wanted people to know that times can be really tough but if you keep fighting through them, there’s a bright future ahead. I also wanted people to feel like they have a friend in me, even if they don’t know me personally. I want people to feel like when they play this song, that I am there with them offering support.”
Here’s the premiere:
Lieb, whose previous songs and videos include “Next To You,” “Young Love,” “Shangri-La,” and a viral hit cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” has also collaborated with Adam Lambert and Cheyenne Jackson.
He was about to be interviewed on an NYC radio show when he learned of recently graduated 8th grader Finn Winn Bousquet’s suicide last October. Despite his parents’ and school’s acceptance and zero tolerance for bullying, Bousquet suffered from a profound depression.
“My very first thought was, I wish he could have known that if he needed a friend, someone to talk to, I would have been that for him,” Lieb recalls. “So I talked to the heads at the school and told them I wanted to come back and offer myself as a kind of friend to the kids and offer my support.” Having worked with The Trevor Project numerous times, they supplied him with posters, flyers, and packets to put up and share with students.
Lieb says that the students he spoke with represented a wide variety of identities and orientations, and that reactions from parents and students alike were 100% positive. “I remember one kid was there, who was straight,” says Lieb, “but had a gay uncle he loved but the rest of his family wouldn’t speak to, and wanted to know how to deal with that and what he could do, so I told him, ‘the best thing you can do is show your uncle as much love as possible.’”
“Even though the support I personally offered was at one school, my hope is that through this video, it can extend to anyone in need,” he adds. “Another very important part is trying to empower [LGBTQ youth] to be a strong as possible, because the reality is, there will be some hardships ahead. If you’re transitioning, will your insurance cover the medication? What happens if the coverage is taken away and you cant afford it on your own? Will everyone be accepting of you? Will you be discriminated against? Those are just some examples of very real stuff that LGBTQ people have to deal with in their lives, and for a young teenager, it can be extremely overwhelming and cause extreme anxiety. So empowerment, support, and love, I think, are the best things we can give to them.”