January 3, 2018

The Music Industry is MENTAL

This has the potential to be a very personal blog post…so if you’re not fond of the emo life, then look away now – but first, to lighten everything up, here’s perhaps the funniest video on the internet…imo

…it’s absolutely worth looking up the story behind this video for it to make sense.

Anyway, back to me!! Here’s an anecdote for ya, earlier in the year, I was out in ‘merica with some of me best friends, we were working with an artist (and incredible friend) I’ve been fortunate to work with for the last 4 years, Raleigh Ritchie. The main show for the whole tour was at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, here’s a tiny snippet which ends with a slow-mo hair flick from yours truly…

I had an unforgettable realisation the evening after this gig, a feeling that I couldn’t shake and still carry to this day. I was sat on my own in a hotel, our hotel was stunning, just off Times Square – you could literally see it from my room. I put on the TV – you know when you stick on the TV in a hotel and it defaults to a radio channel, well, that happened and Clean Bandit was on, with their song currently sat at number 1. After this tour, I was home for 2 days and then straight on the road with the Bandits for the rest of the summer. What I’m trying to describe is a scenario where, on the face of it, it looks like I’m not doing too badly in life – you might even say I was smashing life (in fact, some people did say that) – so why then, did I phone up Emma (baby momma) in floods of tears telling her how I feel like I’m not achieving anything in life, that I feel talentless and that I don’t feel any sense of fulfilment? Emma was quick to tell me how insane I sounded…and that’s the whole point of this blog post…the music industry can lead us dangerously close to insanity, and I think it’s about time something was done about it.

Here’s the intense personal bit, so brace yourself. I’ve been living with this deep sense of un-fulfilment for the longest time now, waking up with depression that keeps me glued to my bed for days, having anxiety attacks that make me pace around my room in the middle of the night. I’ve wanted to quit everything, sell up and move to the forest, I’ve wanted to drive off cliffs, jump off buildings and drink until I couldn’t remember where I was. I’ve broken some of the closest relationships I’ve had beyond repair, spent silly sums of money on things I don’t need in the hope that it would make me feel happier and I’ve become someone I often don’t like being in the same skin as. Why? Because the music industry is bloody mental – and that’s putting it politely because I know my parents read this blog (Hi mom).

As musicians, or creatives, we constantly put ourselves out there to be judged, not just on our ability but the way we look and the way we interact with other musicians, and if we don’t put ourselves out there to be judged by others then we just sit and judge ourselves. We make big, ambitious goal lists, tick them off and straight away look for the next thing to try and achieve. We get a tiny glimmer of feeling like we’ve made it, and then the next day you’re fired or the artist you’re working with gets dropped and you’re back to having no job. I remember one time I was working in LA for 5 weeks, no expense spared, I didn’t pay for a thing out of my own pocket. I was drinking cocktails on the rooftop of the Mondrian, put up in a six bedroom house in the Hollywood hills – literally living the dream. Then, I came home to see I had £2 in my account, I couldn’t even afford a Starbucks! How do you even begin to process that kind of living?

I feel like if you know the feeling then you really know the feeling, so instead of continuing to hammer my point home here are a few things I’ve come to realise through all the BS.

  1. I’m You’re not alone in the way you feel
    The more I talk to people about this kind of stuff, the more I realise it’s actually incredibly common. Is it just me, or is it popping up all over social media recently too, with other people shedding light on mental health in the music industry, Baader Meinhof style (or that thing in GTA where you rob a car and then you see that car everywhere else…if you know you know).It actually really helps me to know that it’s not just me going nuts, and knowing that other people are experiencing the same issues is, in someway, comforting. I also found that opening up and talking about it with people acts in a way to disarm the intensity of the feelings – once you hear yourself saying stuff like this out loud, it suddenly seems a lot smaller and insignificant. I’m not trying to write a blog about how to fix yourself by the way, but this has massively helped me out…so, you’re welcome.
  2. There is no handbook for this
    Sadly, there isn’t an emergency rule book that will tell you how to work through the complexity of pursuing your inner artist as a career. But, for as much as that may sound alarming to some people, I’ve found it really freeing – it means there are no wrong answers. Part of my (self) therapy was to scoot off to Kyrgyzstan for a week and drive around a bunch of cliff edges in the snow with no phone and no map – not the most orthodox method, but it helped.Essentially though, you do you! Work your way through your thoughts and feelings in a way that works for you, but, allow yourself to work through it. I classically bottle things up or bury my head in the sand, and it just comes out later…and worse. So allow yourself to process and understand your feelings, it’s not weakness, it’s actually strength and something you can be incredibly proud of.
  3. I want to find a solution
    This is my main point. I am a solutions person (and a dreamer), no matter how impossible something seems, I’m captain positive and I always feel like there is a solution, and in this case I think that doing something is better than doing nothing. I’m going to break out from this bullet point situation to write about my dream and what I want to work towards for the next few years.

Firstly, if you want to know what has really helped me get a grip on reality, then here are the absolute major players:

  • Space (as in room to take a step back and gain perspective rather than the final frontier)
  • Acceptance – finding your team! People who accept you, and bring out the best in you
  • Some sort of creative outlet/focus
  • Laughing
  • Therapy(/mindfulness)

I’m aware this post is starting to sound a bit airy fairy at this point, especially if you are lucky enough not to feel like or have ever felt like your whole world is caving in. But, here is where I want to share a very shorthand version of my dream to help musicians who are really battling with mental health.

For the last couple of years I’ve really wanted to build a space where all of the things I listed above exist, a space where creatives can come and feel safe, or get some rest or come back to a feeling of loving what they do…all of that. Kind of like a retreat, but less labelly than that because it sounds too taboo for my liking – just a creative space for creative people to unwind and find themselves – somewhere with accommodation, a fully kitted out studio, therapists on call and a floatation tank – perhaps not the last one…but actually it’s not the worst idea now I’ve seen it written down! I don’t want it to be an elitist thing either, I hate the thought of money being a restriction – i’m not sure how it’ll work, but I really don’t see this as a for-profit venture but more as a resource available to any creatives at any stage of their career. Also, side note, in my head this whole place is a purpose built village made out of shipping containers. That is, a very short overview I what I plan to work towards for the next few years – I wanted to put it out there as a starting place – to see if there is anyone who gets excited by the idea – and more importantly, anyone who wants to get on board with making this a reality with me.

I think it’s kind of fitting to put this post out today as this time last year I wrote a blog about setting goals, where I wrote about what I wanted to achieve in 2017. All the goals were based around self achievement and what wanted to do for me. Coincidentally, I didn’t really achieve many of them and I had a full on mental breakdown – so it feels right to turn the focus around and dedicate my year (or next few years) to building something for others…because, you know, I’m pretty much Gandhi himself.

In a nutshell though, if you’re feeling like life is utterly balls – let’s chat, it’s always good to talk about these things and get it out in the open. If you’re excited about my super vague business plan (and honestly, that is about as detailed as my business plans get…no really) then let’s chat, because I’m fully serious about this, and i’m fully serious about doing it in shipping crates. And lastly, if you have a floatation tank knocking about that you’re not using and want to donate to the Skirrow trust, then, let’s chat.