How are you doing? Thank you for picking up the third edition of the Unseen Zine – as always, created from the minds and words of artists and creators in the Irish music scene. Mental health is a thread that has run through all of our events even though we’ve never tackled it head-on. We’ve talked about releasing music, creating assets, promotion, funding a project and lots of other practical areas but somehow the conversation always comes back to this at some point. Working on all of these things in tandem requires a huge amount of self-belief and relentless determination in an industry that depends hugely on public opinion for an artist to progress, and we feel that this puts artists in a very vulnerable position in terms of managing their mental health, and sadly, it’s something that many artists seem to experience in isolation. But we’ve also seen how positive it can be to get in a room and discover that other artists have been through the same challenges as yourself. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to this zine. You’ve each done a small, amazing thing to normalise the conversation about mental health and we want anyone reading this to come away feeling like they can do the same. Have a cup of tea and a good read, Julie and Joanna SelfMade Co-Founders
“It Still is About the Music, Man”
ADAM SMYTH, TRIBAL DANCE
Music is my go-to. I get the same intense reaction from hearing great music now as I did when I bought my first CD after I made my communion. It was Eminem’s 2002 classic ‘The Eminem Show’. Similarly, writing music gives me a feeling that’s hard to express in words. I find the spontaneity, the journey, working out the kinks, the fine details and the brick walls absolutely fascinating and equally devastating. Writing music (just about) got me through the roughest and longest episode of depression I’ve ever experienced. Therefore I’m extremely grateful that writing music somewhat gives me a sense of meaning. I spend a lot of time thinking about my mental health so I thought I’d outline some areas of music that I find challenging relating specifically to mental health. As regards to myself, I’m a psychology graduate, I’m in an experimental band called tribal dance and I’m the co-founder of Bad Soup Records. Merging business and art can be difficult at the best of times. At times I’ve found myself doing hours and hours of the ‘business’ side of music (after my 9-5 job, like many other musicians) and during the whole week not once picking up an instrument. It can be an easy trap to fall into. Videos, photoshoots, promotion, reviews, playlists, features are important but they are not as important as the music. I’m not trying to downplay the necessity of having a solid business plan, social media strategy or long-term goals or the artistic value of photography or graphic design. Put simply, it can be easy to forget that you’re a musician first. It’s like anything in life, it’s a balance. Think of Milhouse saying “you’ve changed, man. It used to be about the music”. Now you get my point. I wrote my thesis on the addictive use of social media so I can say with confidence that I know as little as anyone else does about the topic. I am of the general opinion (just a personal feeling) that social media can have a negative impact on individuals in terms of social comparison and FOMO etc. I think it can be especially difficult for people that feel they have to maintain an online presence for their career. Social media can be a necessary evil and I’d hope that most people are aware that appearing that you’re busy, interesting and having fun constantly is a load of bollocks. It can be a creative drain and it can take your attention away from your old pal, ze music. The best post I have ever seen on social media was from the Belfast band Beauty Sleep. They said they were experiencing a period of creative burnout so they took a break from social media to write for a while and that it was extremely beneficial. Burnout effects me regularly and I feel like social media can exacerbate that feeling. In the short term, a certain level of stress (eustress) can be really beneficial and may help individuals achieve a state of flow. However, too much stress over a long period of time can induce exhaustion and can be detrimental. I think a good work ethic should take burnout into account. Don't work yourself to the bone because you feel like you need to, your health (mental or physical) should always come first. As Ice Cube so wisely said “check yo self before you wreck yo self”. Like many people my age, I suffer from chronic depression so I try and notice when I’m ruminating or over-thinking. There’s a lot to be said for looking after your own headspace and your own mindset. There are great Ted Talks by Alison Ledgerwood and Dr. Alia Crum who outline how your attitude or mindset can affect your mind and physical health and general attitude towards the world. I’ve found I’m most content when I’m busy, I ruminate when I’ve too much free time and feel that I’m not being creative or productive. The very nature of being an artist is to invite criticism, though for some (myself included) self criticism can be more potent and more damaging. I find that practicing mindfulness can be a great way to learn to slow down an overactive mind (I use the app Headspace a lot). More generally, I think allowing your mental health to suffer because you’re an artist is fundamentally flawed. The art world can sometimes applaud or admire self-sacrifice. I think that idea has been romanticised and I think it’s absolute bullshit. Creativity and self-destruction may work hand in hand for the very few but speaking for myself, I’d still like to be making music when I’m retired as hopefully between now and then I’ll have taught myself how to use Ableton.
Hold On Tight Hold on tight As tight as you can even if it takes Everything you are Hold on tight As tight as you can even if it takes Everything you are You’ve got me down Upon my knees Clutching at the sparse My will diseased My joy retrieved Clutching at the sparse But you won’t find a through in me When love is my resolve Batten down the hatches here We’re headed into war Hold on tight As tight as you can even if it takes Everything you are Still you force your way in So easy, invade me again The trick with disease It overcomes with such ease I can’t fight But what if I stand my ground Tear this shit down And stand my ground Hold on tight As tight as you can even if it takes oh Everything you are Hold on tight As tight as you can even if it takes oh Everything you are
Why Can Being Creative Feel so Damn Hard?
One of my favourite memories of school was making butterfly paintings. You’d dab on the paint, all these amazing colours, fold it in half and you’d have no idea what would happen next. Would you like it once it was unfolded? Maybe, maybe not. But the most enjoyable part of it was making it and seeing how it turned out. It was the simple joy of creating. When I work with musicians I’m often struck by how far away we can get away from this simple joy. Creating gets tied up with something being ‘good’ or ‘worthwhile’. The creator strays from the moment of creation into “how will it be received?” – the aftermath of the creative act. Sometimes critique is confused for creation, at times so much so that we might scrub entire tracks, lyrics, artwork until we are left with nothing much to show. Why do we do this? What makes creating now so much harder than it did when we were little and goofing around with paint? Well for a start, it feels really, really risky. Being professionally creative involves the creator inhabiting a space that many would consider a psychological perfect storm. Creative people, as a function of their work, are sensitive to human nature, to the world, to change, to environment. Often the work is an attempt to make sense of our experiences and inner world. Being creative requires us to be vulnerable – to show ourselves, to show this attempt to make sense. We lose ourselves in performance and we become an instrument of our creation. Now we could do all this from the comfort and privacy of our bedrooms and safe spaces. I’m thinking of the many bathroom Pavarottis and shower sirens here! But where it starts getting a little risky is when we put ourselves out there. Once we become aware that there will be an ‘other’ to view it, our relationship with the work can change dramatically. Work is published, art is exhibited, music is performed and all of a sudden our vulnerability is on show. We are exposed. What makes this a perfect storm is that we don’t know what the other will do but what we can be sure of, to some degree or another, is that our creation will be judged. The first question the other will ask themselves is, “do I like this?” Maybe, maybe not. Their reaction could be gushing, intellectual, praising, critical, abusive. And the reaction comes while the creator is exposed and vulnerable. There is no armour up to defend or protect if that external reaction is hurtful. I think when creators become wrapped up in critiquing their own work it’s an attempt to mitigate this risk. “If I can make sure it’s good, then I can limit how negative the external reaction might be”. In many ways, we internalise the critics from outside. We adopt their voices as our own inner critic. This critic can be a brilliant ally to our work. It can push us on to make greater efforts. It can contribute to our ambitious vision. However, sometimes it can be disproportionately critical and it can strangle our creativity. If we create in fear of the anticipated criticisms, not only do we miss the simple joy of creating, we don’t remain true to ourselves. Cultivating our inner critic as a powerful ally is a positive step that creators can take. Another step is to foster our creativity in the here and now, to be mindful of our creativity. By staying in the moment while we create, we can avoid living in the future judgement of our work. This also allows us to create more freely and playfully. Dab the paint, fold the paper. For the creator to inhabit this space of exposure and judgement, while maintaining their vulnerability is risky. It’s also courageous and bold. On a personal level, it’s one of the things I love the most about working with musicians. There’s something incredibly exciting and inspiring about witnessing someone create something completely for themselves. That’s when creating feels easy.
For Better or For Worse
Work In Progress
Hi Dwayne. What do the term â€œmental healthâ€? mean to you? Hey Brian, Mental Health is tough to pigeon hole, It's kind of like a doctor using only the word health to describe the variety of ailments he or she treats daily. In the grander scheme of things it's not a very descriptive or informative term. So Mental Health to me is mostly about how I feel from day to day. The on-going investigation into why I'm feeling like I do. Why are some days better than others? Why am I crying? Why am I laughing? Why do I allow these things to happen? Why can't I get out of bed today and so on. My own personal mental health has not been the best this last while. I've been carrying the burden of a lot of dark stuff that happened in my childhood and teenage years around and in the last year I faced up to it with the help of some counselling and therapy and supportive friends. I've literally spent years running away from these issues and ignoring my mental health with the help of drugs and alcohol. I feel like I've really turned a corner recently, So I think being self aware has really helped with my mental health or my mental state. As cliche as it sounds, letting go is like a rebirth. I now feel like there is this new space there that allows me to catch up with myself. I always felt like I had arrested development as I spent most of my adult life self-medicating and battling through a sea of traumatic incidents and not really living or loving life and learning as I should have been. Organically. Then, Of course there's the trauma of only coming to terms with all of this in your 30's. So to me Mental Health is almost a new thing, something I'm aware of and something I'm learning to look after a lot better and not take for granted as I have done in the past. We live in a hyper-connected world which breeds a big paradox: we can all communicate with each other but, when it comes to mental health, few of us are able to fully open up. Why do you think that is?
"Irish people don't like to talk about tough matters. The 'ah sure it will be grand' complex needs serious working on. Sometimes Tea and a hug is just not going to fix it. Stigmatizing the mentally ill continues even in the present day. It's great to see a lot of musicians like Slyrydes and others opening up about Mental Health, the absolute state of the healthcare system in Ireland and so on. Shout out to all involved in Selfmade for this project and for helping to break the stigma. It's great that these musicians and artists have that platform and that voice and are using it in a positive manner. I would, however, also be concerned a lot for the mental welfare of those who don't have such an artistic outlet, like the industry folk behind the scenes such as myself and others, Bookers, Promoters, Journalists, Broadcasters, Publicists, Sound Engineers, Photographers and so on. Where do we turn to when things are tough and we are not coping so well? I recently had to endure an extremely damaging, professional experience which left me in probably the lowest state my mental health has ever been. There was literally no one to turn too. I ended up ringing Help Musicians Northern Ireland as a last resort as I was sitting alone in my room (which is also my office) in tears and honestly felt threadbare and genuinely concerned for my well being. Nikki McCrae answered the phone and even though we never exchanged exactly what it was that I was going through, to hear someone so bubbly, inviting and positive really cheered me up, she mentioned she thought I was great and in that moment I realized it had been so long since I'd heard that or anything even remotely kind or any positive remarks from anyone in this industry regarding myself and the work I do. I don't necessarily need other peoples positive remarks to get me through the day but it helps to check in on your peers from time to time. Communication is so vital. In saying that there is a lot of people in the industry who even though appear to promote positive mental health some might find them difficult to approach. Don't judge people until you know for sure. I, myself have been proven wrong thinking people don't care, reach out you'd be surprised. I would also like to say that outside of my work as a PR agent I have had to deal with artists and their own personal struggles and I want people to know that who ever you are if you are going through a tough time, being mistreated by others or feeling lost or hopeless. Please contact me (discretion assured) even if its only a phone call or on social media. It always helps to talk, so please do. I genuinely mean this.... " Simply having the opportunity to talk about how one is feeling is often an invaluable help. How are you feeling? "I'm doing good at present, it can be a slippery slope. I'm busy, I like to be busy. I'm my own boss now so that has a lot of benefits but also comes with added responsibility and pressure. I'm generally good though. Butter Wouldn't Melt is slowly finding it's feet. I'm hoping to hire an assistant this year. Its very isolating working remotely which also plays a major role in the bad days I have. It's actually really nice to be asked that question. I'm just going to say I'm fabulous thanks Brian and leave it there. :-)" Many high-profile musicians in Ireland have spoken out about their struggles with mental health over the last few years. What needs to change here in Ireland to help them and others like them? Services for one. I mean we all know a musician who struggles financially and sure enough struggles with mental health issues. The two go hand in hand sadly. If you can't afford to pay for private mental health counselling or therapy then you are going to have to put your mental health issues on hold and get on with your struggles because its a long, dark, lonely road to the end of that waiting list. This freaks me out. It's not acceptable anymore. Sure we can all practice mindfullness and gloat about our vegan diets and gym routines and this kind of self care is great, however, please think of those on the other end of the mental health spectrum who may have suicidal tendencies, crippling depression, Anxieties, psychosis and so on. Waiting for 12 months or whatever it may be just to speak to someone is incredibly depressing in itself and sadly lack of such services has lost us so many people, especially young people that could have easily been saved with the right care.
The music industry, of course, encompasses much more than just musicians, bands, DJs and the like. In your own experience, how has that related to you working in music media, especially here in Ireland? Before I went to see a counselor just before Christmas gone, I was struggling with my professional identity, I think I still do a little bit hence the Journalism, Radio, PR , Events and Artist Management stints lol. I sometimes find it difficult to make decisions alone and without the support of others it's extremely difficult to know if what you are doing is good or right. The various jobs I have worked all come with their individual anxieties. By the time it came to call The Co-Present a day my mental health was so bad, the reason I pulled the plug on it is that I had become so reclusive that the idea of sitting down and interviewing someone face to face became almost impossible. Which is really sad for me as Radio is still my main passion and those who know me know that talking to someone has never before been something I would struggle with. I do value other people's opinion though, if their advice is constructive I will listen. That's one of the reasons why I made the leap into PR it was advised by numerous people I respect and admire. Working long hours in a flexible/unpredictable freelance environment, combined with ongoing concerns about income, is often a big factor at play. Do you think this pressure is intrinsic to the industry, or something we can all work together to improve? Working remotely is bad for your mental health. There I said it. You really need to be extremely passionate about what you do to get through the day, sometimes. It is important to look after yourself in these circumstances. I became very bad at that. Working all day and evening and then going back to bed not being aware you haven't left the bedroom at all today, there has been way to many of those days. It's definitely a good idea to separate your relaxation spaces from your working ones and to set out some boundaries. I find what I do extremely isolating (I tried to theme the accompanying photograph by Colm Mullen to represent this) Having boundaries with the musicians I work with is tough as cut off points in the PR world can be a rarity. I do have a good relationship with most of my clients and they are aware of my circumstances and are very sound and understanding. So maybe if we could all just be a little more helpful, a little kinder and yes a little more understanding things would improve greatly. We are getting there...... Not least in this industry, the continued destigmatisation of mental health is vital. What else needs to be done to ensure everyone has the help that they need? The hard part of tackling certain Mental Health issues is that only the individual can really provide insight. If you conceal how you are feeling it makes your situation incredibly difficult. Difficult for you the individual and difficult for your loved ones, colleagues and band mates. Reaching a place in time where the stigma has eased and people are more open to discussion and reaching out is the ongoing battle. I really believe we can achieve great things as a unit in this little country of ours and indeed within the music industry. An all inclusive support network. I know the government are doing very little to solve this crisis but through my own experiences I found help in some of the most unlikely places just by reaching out.......
Dwayne Woods Image By Colm Mullen - Cinematographer www.colmmullen.ie Interviewer : Brian Coney (Editor at The Thin Air) Interviewee: Dwayne Woods - (Publicist at Butter Wouldn't Melt)
Young men that loved too lightly The mothers way under the fathers proud silence Pro-generate of the strong, preferred to supple Adaptable, weak Old lessons come to bare flowers in time Too much low swinging fruit It’ll fall when it’s done Alas this one needs cutting down Hold the legs, hold the nose for the smell Seasons slow to change No matter how much grief should Spur us to be better than The strangled words of yesterday’s man Seasoned, used to it by now At least to the hearing of it We all know of one or two Lost dogs not returned home through the long night Lost out in the dark field Too far beyond reckoning Phrases cut up on the wind Land like paper lanterns on neighbours fences Impaled and helpless Bad news An unwelcome flavour at breakfast Would make you terrified to lose all worth loving But all is worth loving Loving is worth losing CILLIAN BYRNE, BASCIVILLE
What Do I Value?
“I am my father’s son his shadow weighs a tonne”- Joe Talbot, Idles Recognition, perceived failure and honesty. But I haven’t failed; it just depends on how success is defined. You could say I’ve already succeeded! The need to define what we truly value as people can be the most difficult topic to approach, because often we don’t want to accept that what we truly value may not be in line with what we are perusing at this present moment. All I know is that I am drawn to this art form so strongly that it wakes me from sleep, brings me to tears and evokes emotions impossible to formulate in words alone. For me it is the most visceral form of expression second to the silent embrace of a loved one. So what do I truly value? Above all else, is it the pursuit of a music career? Validation from the masses? Vanity? Acceptance? Meaning? It could be all those things I guess! The answers are different for everyone. I went the college route before pursuing music; I work a “normal job” as a Mental Health Nurse. I see the unfair distribution of suffering; I see my own fragility, but I also see resilience, empathy and love. Amidst all of these pitfalls in life, responsibilities and barriers financial or personal, the fulfilment from creating and being a conduit for music and art is a gift that I would continue to do in spite of money, fame or recognition. There in lines the problem! For example if my only definition of success is having a US hit single and it never happens I could spend my whole life feeling like a failure. So I need to get my values straight is the answer I suppose!! What do I truly value? Peruse that! That could be raising your kids or building a home, however conventional it may seem. Aiming lower is a start. As a rule of thumb I choose honesty as the direction towards value. If I’m being truly honest with myself and those around me I naturally fall into the trajectory of meaningful values. It seems as simple as that I hope! If I’m honest I’ll be better able to accept my action’s, that doesn’t make it clear cut though. All of the uncertainties and expectations still swirl around my head on a daily basis and being honest can be hard, painstakingly hard. But what other choice do we have! The other side of the pond is not where I want to be fishing from, sincerity has a sound and an appearance and true colours are illuminated in time. So whatever the future holds and how I cope with it will be easier if I try to be honest.
CAOIMHE BARRY, WYVERN LINGO
Letter To My Younger Self
JESS KAV, BARQ
Look at you. You're awesome. Please don't throw anything you're wearing away, I swear to god that stuff will be worth something in a couple of years. What's Depop? Nevermind. Is that a Silk Cut Purple? Christ. Do you want the good news? We do well. You become a professional singer. That image of yourself looking like a big grown-up, in front of a piano and in your own apartment singing tunes will manifest. You will tour different countries. You'll go to multiple continents and cities. You will meet amazing people and you'll end up sitting with rockstars who will tell you incredible stories and you will wonder how in the name of fuck you got here and it will be class. It will take longer than you think. Or maybe not. We've always been self-aware of our own nervousness. When you get a little older we'll call it anxiety. The hand cramping after too many coffees and cigarettes. The heart palpitations. The inability to get yourself out of bed because of the worrying. Working yourself into a small panic-attack just to get you to move and do some work. The crying before or after social situations. You'll realise that it isn't sustainable and we will work on it. It won't always go away but you will find coping mechanisms and experience moments of beautiful bliss and peace. You will no longer deny anxiety's existence just because you're fearless on stage. You will accept its ability to be insidious and multifaceted. We will accept it's tangled up in our grief and that it's always been there. It will take you a while to learn some valuable lessons on band interaction. You will believe everyone hates you sometimes, which will be a manifestation of your imposter syndrome. You will consume too much free wine from the rider and try too hard. You will piss people off. You will also charm others. But you know what? Everyone is managing their own bullshit and insecurities and I am happy to say we learn be nicer to ourselves and less judgemental to others too. We're still working on leaving the free wine alone. You know what? I am in awe of you. You fought and kicked ass through our teens and twenties. You managed to survive. To pay rent and to finish college. You didn't listen to the voice in your head telling you that it's all too much and you'd be better off ending it. You didn't even challenge it. You let that voice waffle-on while you continued to live and flourish and allowed your daily rise to be its shrinking. We find security. I let the survivor in us take a rest. We will take time off and go for walks and even holidays. We'll have money in the bank and I'll bring us for cake with our amazing pals. Most importantly? We create. We are no longer afraid of our creativity. We invite that part of ourselves to the foreground for the first time and soothe our fear into silence. I'm so proud of you and I love you. Well done. Look at us. We're kind of awesome. Trust me, this is what's in fashion now don't look at me like that. Last words? Hug your friends.
/fraŋk/ adjective 1. open, honest, and direct in speech or writing, especially when dealing with unpalatable matters. 2. open, sincere, or undisguised. 3. unmistakable; obvious. The above are values I live by day in and day out in my job as artist manager. They really sum up for me - no bullshit. I began my small, independent artist management idea based on the fact I always wanted to be straight up and transparent. I became an artist manager quite organically through the first artist I was working with - Molly Sterling. I was her cellist at the time (still am!) and over time started stepping into some of the roles of a manager - purely because I have an ungodly passion for organisation (shout-out to all my admin lovers and keyboard warriors). Luckily I was allowed the space to do this, and to develop the skills of becoming a DIY manager. Our musical relationship took a wonderful turn progressing together into a beautiful team of two hard-working women, both striving for the same cause. I was fortunate enough to then open up the doors and start working with two other super talented female acts - Jackie Beverly, and most recently Naoise Roo. What started off as a dream, was very rapidly becoming a reality and Frank Music MGMT was born. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a steady-enough strong mental health over the years, especially when it came to work. My thinking has always been - no one is going to do this for you. You have to go and get it yourself. Reflecting back over the last two or so years, I’ve noticed how exceptionally hard I have been on myself. I became addicted to validation from people very early on. The checking of emails became incessant and unhealthy, until I had to force myself to take a step back and take the pressure off. I was also pushing my artists in a way that maybe didn’t suit their rhythm and wasn’t always considering them as a human. Which ultimately was going against my core values of being ‘Frank’. This behaviour was only ever triggered by the passion of wanting to get their voices heard. When they didn’t get booked for something, or didn’t get that radio interview - I took it personally and told myself that it was my fault. Clearly I wasn’t being a good enough manager and had no idea what I was doing. If I failed, not only would I be letting myself down, but was also now partly responsible for another human’s career. Good old imposter syndrome strikes over and over! Being honest with those around you about how you’re feeling always helps. The constant fear of being found out you have no idea what you’re doing is immense. I started this kind of work because I had a passion - and just kept floating along on that passion and enthusiasm, waiting for my big signal of “YOU’RE DOING THIS RIGHT”. When I started receiving answers to gig offers I was chasing, or things started happening for the artist I was working with, that feeling of achieving something almost became addictive. If you didn’t get that rush of adrenalin when you get those emails into your inbox, you started to feel like you’d lost it. That it was a fluke, that you knew nothing. Keeping going during those moments is always hard - for artists and businesses alike. My work is very music business focused, and not as creatively lead but there is definitely a certain level of creative hustling within it. That’s probably my favourite part. Networking is like a giant puzzle. If you’re looking for a contact of someone you don’t know, it’s playing the game of connecting the dots to figure out who knows them, or what music nights do they run, where could you possibly meet them. How can I getmy artists on their radar. Networking can be exceptionally overwhelming though. Social media as well can be your own
worst enemy. You’re constantly hit with post after post of all these other artists doing well, or getting booked for certain slots. Thinking, why didn’t my artist get booked for that? Have I not done a good enough job promoting them? So, with all that in mind, I leave you with some lessons I’ve learnt along the way. 1. You don’t need to do everything yourself. Asking for help doesn’t take away from how great you are. 2. Slow down. Quick work doesn’t necessarily mean good work. 3. Take a breath. You set the goal posts. 4. Don’t become your own inner saboteur. 5. Move at the pace at which you’re comfortable, not at the speed at which everyone else is going. 6. Work with what you have and make the best of it. 7. Don’t be envious of those that do well. Learn from them. 8. Support those around you in what they’re trying to achieve. 9. Collaborate with those you draw inspiration from. 10. If you’re struggling and need to take a step away from it, do so. Whether that’s a week, a month or even a year. YOUR talent ain’t going nowhere. But keep those you’re working with in the loop. If they have a problem with that - ditch them, and surround yourself with compassionate people.
PATRICK O’LAOGHAIRE, I HAVE A TRIBE
Peace & Love, Frank, aka Laura McCabe
A postcard from 31.08.18, Berlin I’m writing you this one from the waterfall in Viktoriapark, a place that has become one of my favorites over the last month or so. This whole place is becoming more familiar every day and I’m really happy that I can say that now. I’ve started babysitting the sweetest little kids. Two girls aged 3 and 5, who are such bright lights, so incredibly intelligent and witty. They are headstrong and stubborn and self-assured, and it’s reminded me of what it is like to be unapologetically you. You’ve probably heard the whole ‘you’d never talk to someone the way you talk to yourself’ line but sometimes I don’t think it gets the point across effectively. So instead, I’ve started to think of what it would be like to talk to my 5-year-old self in the way I sometimes catch my own self-talk - telling her that she’s not good enough, or trying hard enough, or worth enough. It feels like the cruelest thing in the world. Most of the time, my head is a pretty positive place to be but with the not-so-good bits, I’m trying to turn them into something similar to how I automatically talk to these two little girls that I babysit. Telling them that they are important, they have the whole world at their feet and that they deserve nothing less.
Sing For Yourself
Its 2am and I’m up trying to write this essay. In the background the soothing noise of a podcast and my boyfriend’s rhythmic breathing is a welcome companion. I don’t sleep well with silence. A huge part of my anxiety is attempting every night to shut my brain off with as much noise as possible. He often scolds me for falling asleep, headphones on, listening to the grisliest of podcasts usually detailing serial killers (most preferably from the seventies). It’s hard to explain that my own brain is a far more hostile environment than any info they could throw at me. There’s anxiety that is transient and materializes when you face something daunting and there’s the kind of anxiety where you feel constantly betrayed by your own body. You start having to play detective as to try and reason why you’re suddenly on your knees, thinking you’re having a heart attack. Tracing triggers as to why you’re not sleeping, worried that danger is everywhere, utterly aware of your own mortality at every moment. I think I can count on one hand the amount of times my shoulders have relaxed in the last decade. The same applies to the amount of days I haven’t cried in the last year. Singing was my solace when I was a kid. A small awkward flame haired kid locking themselves in the bathroom and practicing the same songs over and over until they got it right. I wasn’t good at many things to be honest, a terrible athlete with a magnetic head for footballs and an inability to do math. But singing, utter exaltation. I can still detect the effect regular singing has on my sense of wellbeing, it will always be the ultimate selfcare tool in my kit. My meditation. Never do I feel more connected to myself or the world and as someone who feels in constant combat with my body it’s the only time I can truly let go and trust it. I loved it so much I made up some songs so I could work through my own thoughts and feelings with my favourite form of therapy. So what do you do when you transform your most precious relief from anxiety into your vocation? Here’s a recipe called ‘how to learn how to become disillusioned with the one thing you truly love because the music industry is whack’; First of all, lets pop some imposter syndrome in there, perhaps those body image feelings you thought you quelled several years ago rear their head again. Maybe you start getting obsessed over the weight of porridge in the hopes you’ll wake up one day in the form of a person that no-one could question the validity of. Let’s add stage fright, the kind that feels like you might not make it to the end of the gig. Sneak in some money shame, ashamed to ask for it, ashamed to not be making any. Selling gear to make your rent. Exposure, exposure, exposure. Getting what people refer to as ‘label ready’. Networking events. Social Media presence. Fretting that everyone seems to be a master of all trades and jack of none. Top with feelings of guilt because you want to pay people more than you can for accompanying you on this insane journey that you started because you wanted to sing. Because you wrote some words in a room sometime and you felt something. You performed them to some people and you felt something. A sense of destination in this weird jumble that came out of your head. So what’s the antidote? Maybe you hit a wall, maybe your mental health falls apart after that breakdown that’s been in the post for a few years shows up. You keep going til you can’t and then you decide you’re done. You wait tables for a while and people stop asking what’s going on with your music. You breathe a sigh of relief. All the whirring stops. You start therapy. You wade through a series of difficult issues but music becomes really quiet. A silent elephant in the room and you learn to move around it. Until one day you sit down with it and its like it used to be. Bit by bit you decide maybe the stage-fright wasn’t that bad, maybe you don’t have to put on your best face. Even when you lie awake worried about your illnesses and the stress and the horrors of the world at least you got your secret weapon back. There’ll be days when you can’t get out of bed, days when you’re on the floor when singing won’t fix everything. But maybe in a quiet moment in the kitchen you’ll feel lucky for a moment that get to do something that dampens the fear in small moments of mercy. Finally you remember how to sing for yourself and no-one else.
‘There is light but there’s a tunnel to crawl through…’ The realisation that something had to change came one Tuesday afternoon when, working from Dublin while waiting for a flight back to London, I found myself sitting in a cafe sobbing, quietly but uncontrollably, for two full hours. Staff very tactfully offered me more tea while not mentioning the fact that tears (and mascara) were rolling down my face. Yes, thank you, more tea would be lovely, ahem. What prompted that level of distress? Nothing in particular. Or everything maybe. That was the fourth meltdown in the preceding six months. My day job is incredibly challenging and consuming, and while that can be rewarding and even fun in its own weird way, the environment is exceptionally high pressure and can absolutely take its toll. After a period involving relationship breakdown (and thereby losing my most constant support), a series of deaths and diagnoses in the family, and prolonged work pressure, I was feeling more lost and unhappy than I ever had been. And while there were very obvious incidents to point to that might have caused that, I knew there was something more fundamental going on at the root of that unease. Leaving the office for half an hour at 3pm to go and hide downstairs in Waterstones wasn’t a sustainable coping mechanism, so some serious self reflection was in order... While I’d had periods of high stress before, that inability to control my emotions on that scale was new to me. I am, outwardly, a confident, happy person. Self doubt is not something I’ve ever really suffered from, and neither is a fear of failure. I’m fortunate always to have had extremely robust self esteem since I was a small child due to some top drawer parenting. My Dad taught us to embrace our eccentricities and delve further than what’s put in front of us challenge assumptions and perceptions, be yourself, go and seek out what gives you that magic feeling, and you’ll be rewarded for that. Who cares if your friends don’t get it? And so I didn’t. Yet here I was, not wanting to go out, sobbing publicly, withdrawing from my social circle. Why was I feeling so utterly shit? That was a particularly awful period in my life that made me realise how quickly things can escalate into serious mental health issues if you don’t take some time out to actively look after it. I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy, and realised that I’m driven by the need to feel like my life has a positive impact, and that I can see the value in it. I decided that the particular role I was in at work wasn’t providing me with that level of fulfilment, and began the next day taking steps to make a change. I’m now in a role that is much higher volume and hugely stressful, but interesting and challenging. I can deal with that better now too because, through those (painful) periods of self-reflection, I realised that as a child, I was happiest alone in my room, reading, listening to records, playing music, writing, and most importantly, making art. And on average, at the time, how many minutes a week were spent indulging that joy? Roughly 30 (not counting the commute playlist). The balance was clearly off. I realised that, while I really love and enjoy many things, that feeling of utter peace comes to me through art - that amazing focus and feeling of tiredness afterwards when you’ve just made something you love. That calm washing over as I pick up my violin, and looking at the clock and realising three hours have passed. That inspiration I get when I’m in places like Dublin and spending time with creative people who don’t give a shit what your day job is and how much money you earn. Getting out of London. I started listening to myself, politely declining invitations when I didn’t feel like it, not pressurising myself to feel a certain way or to do
anything at all if I didn’t want to. Spending time with people who inspire me. And in particular, I went straight to my desk and picked up a pen or a paintbrush whenever I felt that feeling of anxiety starting to creep. Even at work I carried a little notebook so I could scribble if the need arose. Making art, setting time aside to paint, to create, to think, was a saving grace. I read Aoife McElwain’s book Slow at Work and really was struck by the idea of percolation. Once I’d stopped pressurising myself to do things all the time, ideas came to me easily, because I gave myself the brain space to allow them to form. Seeing SelfMade come to fruition during that time was a wonderful thing and reinforces all I already knew about the power of art and music - people coming together, sharing stories and experiences, making connections, and celebrating the art that’s being made here. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this project and am so grateful for that. Seeing that enthusiasm, the positivity, and the community develop filled me with such joy, and that’s remained a constant source of light. And the day job feels more doable because I’ve decided to take a break from that world and devote a period of time to travel, art and volunteering - to see where that more creative path takes me. That’s not to suggest that the anxiety is magically cured - I’ll always be that person who’s looking for the next thing to do, and that brings with it a certain discontentment, but the flare ups of total panic have settled. Making time for the creativity is absolutely essential to my own self care, as is, it turns out, periods of solitude and quiet. And that’s fine. One idea that came to me during that period of time was for a charity art project at the time in aid of the Scott Hutchison Fund. Scott Hutchison was an incredible songwriter with Frightened Rabbit, whose struggles overwhelmed him in the end. But his lyrics had a wonderful ability to embody a feeling, to express this incredible mixture of darkness and light, sadness and hope. I was going through his lyrics in detail as part of the project and found so many beautiful lines. It seems fitting for an article based on mental health and the power of art to sign off with one of his best: ‘There is light but there’s a tunnel to crawl through There is love but its misery loves you There’s still hope, so I think we’ll be fine In these disastrous times’ Excerpt from ‘Calm Down’ Playlist: The National: Daughters of the Soho Riots Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat The Frames: Headlong Radiohead: Let Down Fionn Regan: Dogwood Blossom Bon Iver and the Staves: Heavenly Father Jose Gonzales: Heartbeats Frightened Rabbit: Death Dream Tim Buckley: Phantasmagoria in Two Father John Misty: The Angry River Aislinn Logan: Spree
This Isn’t Me Complaining
Hey friends, One of the biggest obstacles that we as creative individuals face is our own struggle with believing in what we do, what we want to do, the capabilities we have and limitations we put on ourselves. I have been writing and recording my own music for about three years now and have faced this block countless times throughout the years. About a year ago I decided to take a step back from gigging, promoting etc. I made a conscious decision to really focus on the music that I was making and only relaunch the project when I knew that the songs and I were both ready. Relaunch is approaching and I am honestly so excited. I sat down last night to listen to all of the songs that I’ve spent the last year writing and recording and I was overcome with emotions, it all just hit me. The work I have done, the hours I’ve put in, the 5 or 6 days a week that I work in a job that I love but a job that only exists for me because music doesn’t pay the bills and the fact that any day I have off from work I spend it doing music. This isn’t me complaining about how tough it is to do what we do, it is just me recognising that if you put a lot of hard work into something and really allow yourself to be vulnerable and open through the creative process you will walk away with an end product that is truly authentic. I am so glad that I realised I needed to take a step back in order to take that next step forward. It is the best thing I think I could have done. The music industry is a machine that never seems to slow down or stop and when you’re in that cycle it’s difficult to know if you’re doing things because you really want to or if you’re doing things because you feel like it’s the thing you should do. Before I decided to take the step back I honestly did not believe in myself as much as a I should have. I doubted almost every decision and got overwhelmed by the smallest setbacks. I still struggle with self confidence but my self belief has never been stronger. We all have a purpose in life and we all have dreams. Don’t let yourself be the reason you don’t achieve those dreams. If you can see it in your head and have the right mindset and the right people around you anything is possible. Put all of your emotions and experiences into your craft and don’t apologise for it. You are great, you are strong and you can do whatever the hell you want to. I am really trying to reinforce this way of thinking in my everyday life. I cannot wait to share this music with you all but until then I leave you with some lyrics from my next single. Chat soon, St. Bishop So I’ll start loving me Maybe then I’ll see That I need to slow down Check reality Coz my best is still yet come It’s just something that I haven't done
PATRICK Oâ€™LAOGHAIRE, I HAVE A TRIBE
PADDY HANNA REMY: Can you recall the moment you decided you wanted to wade into the world of making music? Was it as a result of a live show you were attending for example or a less spontaneous happenstance? Paddy: I wanted to perform from a very early age but was a cripplingly shy child. I used to hide in a moulding playhouse at the back of our garden with a crappy tape recorder and sing in to it, just to see how I sounded, but I could only do that in secret. I didn’t perform publicly till I was 15, at a school talent show. REMY: Your early days on the Irish music 'scene' saw you as one of the collaborators in the Popical Island collective circa 2010, was that a period you have care-free memories of? Paddy: For the most part. It was a great time for drinking cans, playing sweaty venues that hold about 20 people and churning albums out in a weekend. REMY: With the release of Frankly, I Mutate last year you were quite open about a core theme of the album, and if I may quote at length because I feel it’s important; "I allude to mental illness in my work. It’s considered by many to be a neurosis that spurs on creative work, however it is nothing but a crutch on my own creativity. My time in a depressive haze is spent in complete emptiness, weeks will go by, my beard will have grown out, my pen dried up. So when indeed I allude to mental illness it would usually be during a happy period where I can function. One of the most important days in my life came when I finally opened up about depression and was not met with jeers but rather acceptance and understanding." To jump back to your debut 4 years earlier, Leafy Stiletto, it seems in lyric and song-titles even, that you were already on a path to exploring expressing those feelings, take for example tracks like 'Mind’s Wearing Make-Up' and the escapism of 'Heaven of Heavens', would that be an okay assumption to make? Paddy: It surely would be. I make a point of not dwelling on the meaning of my tracks, I like to leave them open to interpretation, that said it's usually easy to spot the central themes. REMY: There was a four-year period in between Leafy Stiletto and Frankly, I Mutate (you were still active in this time with the likes of Autre Monde). What would you say was the most notable difference in how you approached your song-writing for each LP? Paddy: I listen to loads of music and make a composite in the ole head of how the album should sound, then I fit the songs around that sonic theme. When discussing Frankly with Daniel we knew immediately what kind of album we were going to make, our chemistry was such that I’ve basically kidnapped him for the next record we're making. REMY: Frankly, I Mutate was across the board one of the most well-received Irish albums of 2018, if you could pick one track of the 12 which would you say pleases you the most in terms of how it turned out on the album? Paddy: 'Bad Boys', we nailed that one. REMY: On the 25th May you’ll be a member of the panel discussing mental health titled ‘Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music’ run by the great folks and music lovers SelfMade. Mental health has thankfully had a strong spotlight shone on it in recent years, that said, where do you feel the biggest gaps regarding awareness and resources remain? Paddy: It's very difficult for someone to campaign for elections on a mental health platform, it’s not a short term solution and therefore many folks are inclined to vote for the more quick fix policies, but we need to lay the seeds now, I for one would be happy to know that kids 15 years from now won't feel broken or lost as I did, and that their mental health was treated with the same regularity as treating the common cold. That's where we need to be. Interview by Remy Connolly This piece originally appeared online in REMY -> www.thebestofmusicandfilm.blogspot.com
everybody has it all figured out.
Our Panellists Aoife Ruth Maria Kelly Paddy Hanna Caoimhe Barry Louise Bruton Michael Pope Zine People Jess Kav Dwayne Woods Laura McCabe Adam Smyth St Bishop Aislinn Logan Kieran Mulvihill Naoise Roo Baba Patrick Oâ€™Laoghaire Remy Connolly Cillian Byrne And Special Thanks To Hazel Shaw, Molly Sterling and The Tara Building Kevin Callanan Grainne Hunt Angela Dorgan Our Sponsors at IMRO
The third edition of the Unseen Zine explores the topic of mental health in music with contributions from Irish musicians and music professi...
Published on Jul 14, 2019
The third edition of the Unseen Zine explores the topic of mental health in music with contributions from Irish musicians and music professi...