Three years ago, seminal Nashville trio Those Darlins released their final album, Blur the Line, the bookend of a decade-long career shaping a hybrid of garage rock and ramshackle rockabilly that helped to define the city’s musical evolution. The LP’s last song, “Ain’t Afraid,” contained a line that, at the time, was meant to reflect co-front woman and guitarist Jessi “Zazu” Wariner’s mounting sense of unease: “there’s a tumor growing on my body,” she wrote, “and I don’t know what lays in store.” Now, the metaphorical has morphed into the actual: Wariner was diagnosed with cervical cancer seven months ago, and recently discovered that it has spread to her lymphatic system. Watch the video, where Wariner bravely shaves her head in preparation for chemotherapy, above.
Wariner formed Those Darlins in 2006 with Nikki Kvarnes and Kelly Anderson (who was eventually replaced with Linwood Regensburg), merging country instrumentation into an aggressive punk sound. They toured extensively behind bands like The Black Keys, redefining the way people looked at music that emanated from Nashville: namely, that it could rock just as hard as it twanged. Those Darlins played their farewell show almost a year ago, so Wariner and Regensburg could focus on a new project together, until she received the diagnosis.
“This is typically what they would call a ‘no cure scenario,'” Wariner said in a statement, “but I refuse to believe that to be the case. I feel healthy, happy, hopeful, determined, positive, and full of sparks and nails. In a sense: there’s a tumor growing on my body, I don’t know what lays in store, but I ain’t afraid anymore. Yes, I guess I am a mystic mind after all.”
Though the next months will include extensive treatments, Wariner plans to continue to work on music and art, all while spreading the idea of “Ain’t Afraid,” which has now become a proclamation (Wariner has created shirts with the message, with profits supporting her treatment, that are available here). There is also a You Caring campaign in her name that has nearly raised over $15,000 towards her medical expenses and cost of living.
“I don’t feel very much fear at all, honestly,” she says in the video. “I feel very good and feel like I am going to live. And even if I don’t live, then I wasn’t supposed to live. And I just want everyone to know that I am a fighter and I never will give up.”