I don't think it's a secret I'd been battling with myself and my music for quite a while. After Christmas, I hit another big wall. Nothing was inspiring me anymore, and the pressure to create and keep my career going was starting to overwhelm me into a dark place. My mental health which has always been a considerable difficulty in my life was once again beginning to deteriorate. Depression and this heavy, sickening feeling of hopelessness began to paint my days into old familiar shades of grey, and the nights would find me pacing and shaking with anxiety. Still, the pressure to create would hang over me, and I'd force myself to sit at my piano and come up with something, anything.
'Must keep making music....must not disappear.'
Of course, I failed again and again and eventually I had to throw in the towel and give up. After a few days of sleep and some gentle hobbies like drawing and learning ukulele, I wondered if perhaps I was looking for inspiration in the wrong place. I had this eerie little poem I'd written off the cuff a few months back about a gloomy, lonely lost soul who lived trapped in a permanent shadow, envying the happy, sunny lives of others. It was a symbolic tale about my depression. I have often felt excluded from the world and its joys when I'm battling depression and anxiety. At times it has left me so lost and detached that I've wondered if I'm even really here?
Am I just a blurry ghost of someone I used to be?
Once I looked at the poem again, I realised I might have something to work with. More importantly, I had something I wanted to say. I wanted to say 'look at me, this is me, please tell me you see me.'
Now I'm not the kind of writer who can write about depression in a straightforward and frank way. If I did that, it would just be too horrible, and I worry it would genuinely scare people. I decided early on to write about this as if it was a dark fairytale which is something I've always found to be stirring. I have a deep love for all things eerie and macabre, and I wanted to play with those tones in this work. I knew it was going to be minimal in instrumentation. Still, I knew it had to be powerful, which is why I decided almost immediately that I would hire Roxane Genot to play her sublime, supernatural cello in all the songs. She is a master of dancing between moods of dark and light, beauty and terror, and I knew she would be the jewel of this EP. I was adamant that these tracks had to sound sophisticated, mature and truthful with a raw, honest passion and Roxane brings all of that and more with everything she touches. She brought this work to life.
The songs weren't always easy to write, but the process did feel quite cleansing at times. I realised I could be personal with the songs without feeling I was sharing too much about my private life. The dark fairytale angle was a nice buffer for that. Writing 'Disappear' for instance, was a very intimate experience as it's written about my relationship. We're going through a lot right now, and it's been hard. I could never write a straightforward song about our struggles because it's just not my style of songwriting and I don't think it's fair to my partner. It was nice to find a way to write about us without actually feeling like I'm putting it all out there. It's abstract and gentle, and yet it still feels like I'm sharing a genuine, very raw part of me and my life.
The Dawn was a song that initially had a kind of happy-ish, hopeful conclusion in mind. In the end, though, it felt dishonest of me to write it like that. I had to ask myself, 'who is this happy ending for?' because it didn't feel like it was for me. I felt like I was buckling under a pressure to give people something comfortable to close with, as if I was doing my usual people pleaser shrug while saying 'don't worry about me, I'll be fine now'. I remember listening to it 5 or 6 times before I realised it was the lyrics that were unharmonious and not the music.
In all honesty, I've had depression and anxiety since I was in my teens, and it's steadily got worse over the years into my 30's. My battle with my mental health isn't something that I've ever been able to conquer. 'The Dawn' couldn't be this lovely, happy ending of hope and fresh starts because that isn't my truth. Yes of course, somedays I do get to feel that sun on my face and I do sigh and feel that little moment of relief, but most of the time it's very short-lived before the clouds pass over again. I think it's essential to be real about this stuff because it's not just me. I'm not the only person fighting lifelong battles with mental illness. I have lovely fans who write to me and tell me of their fights with depression and anxiety and how torturing it is for them. I wanted to give them a voice, a real voice. It may not be coloured yellow with hope, it may be grey and black and gloomy, but it's a real, honest, authentic voice about what it is to live with a mental illness. Sometimes you just want to be seen.
Some people will say that I've romanticised mental illness and that in itself is wrong. Of course, it's a valid opinion, but I feel for me this isn't about making mental illness a beautiful story, it's trying to find a way to bear it. I may be stuck with it for the rest of my life. I don't know. It's here, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere and therefore I need to find ways to survive. The way I tend to find my way through hard things is to find that little bit of light and try to brighten it. Being able to find beauty in the darkness can be a really powerful tool to overcoming it. At the very least, it can help with feelings of fear and hopelessness, which plague me daily.
I do hope you'll all enjoy this very personal EP and I hope it resonates with some of you.
I want to extend my thanks to Roxane Genot for her beautiful cello and Slava Gerj for his compelling, stirring artwork. I couldn't have done it without you guys
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, there are plenty of places you can go for help and advice. There is a wealth of information and help available online. You can also visit your GP, who will be able to recommend therapy or medication. I'm currently in therapy now to see if it might help me in the long run. I guess I'm a work in progress.
Remember to check-in on your mates and your family. Don't be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions. And If you're suffering, please don't suffer alone. Always try and reach out. It's not easy but asking for help is honestly the best thing you can do. Just talking about it and feeling safe to say "I'm not ok' can sometimes lift a massive weight off your shoulders. I know from experience that trying to smile and wear a mask of normality can be the hardest part of all.
And lastly, always be kind to people because you never know what they might be battling.