Bob Marley said it best: “One good thing about music; when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
What about the creators of that said music? How are they feeling?
In 2016, results were released from a study done over a two year span. Over 2200 self described musicians participated and claimed to have suffered from depression or anxiety and even both. This week’s post delves into the mystery of why so many artists feel “tortured.” Unfortunately inspired by the recent passing’s of both Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, I asked for insight from my musician friends and a few even opened up about their own mental health struggles. Their comments are as followed:
” I think it becomes very easy to lose yourself in the judgement of your peers as well as listeners. It can fester into self-criticism, bitterness, and self-doubt which I believe can lead to levels of mental illness you may not have had. For those that already know they struggle often feel the beauty of being able to express themselves in their creative art but the external world can become hard to deal with when it becomes bigger than just self expression.”
–Ves Frank, Asheville, North Carolina
” Well as cliché as it is, I believe that an artist must know pain on some level to be able to communicate it. For an artist to communicate their vision they must understand what it is they’re communicating, and if it’s faked the public will know. Because life can suck, not only for the “tortured artist” but for the teacher too, or the accountant. So if you fake it, they will call BS. So to be able to communicate whats needed you have to be willing to “go” there time and time again which really takes a toll. I believe that is why good art take time, time to process and time for the artist to recover.”
–Sam Bybee, San Diego, California
” So many people seem to feel that those of us who work in music somehow posses both the power to be so finely tuned in to our emotions, and the ability to simply turn them off with the flick of a switch at the same time. Phenomenally, the nervous system doesn’t operate that way. For anyone. Let alone an artist, or really anyone with such a deep connection to the arts or the beautiful things in life. I think we’re a hell of a strong breed, to be honest. Subjecting ourselves over and over to an environment filled with criticism, skepticism, and mockery. For the reward of doing what we love, making lifelong connections with people and one of the most powerful forces in the world; music. A lot of us can barely carry an awkward one-on-one conversation, and yet somehow have the nerve to step out onto a stage in front of thousands and lay our souls and secrets bare for an equally vulnerable world to interpret as their own. It’s nothing short of fascinating to me, being someone who constantly does it as well as someone who’s watched it from a young age.
I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and the constant need for approval from everyone surrounding an artist in music (labels, fans, peers, etc.) is nerve wracking. The question “Am I really good enough?” torments you if you pay too close attention to it. Pressure is consistently everywhere, but that’s also part of why we do it, I think. To demand the best from ourselves, to give people who love our work the very best *of* ourselves. You have to overcome the self-doubt, the fear of being let down. I think the music world is a tough one to understand if you haven’t experienced it first hand, and I get that. But the cruelty I saw towards Chester and Chris after each of their tragic passing’s was heartbreaking. Anyone can deal with depression, or any mental illness. Working in a certain profession can’t change that inside the mind of a human being who struggles. We need to be more sensitive to each other and find ways to reach out as humanity, with love and understanding. It’s not too hard to conceptualize, if you really think about it.”
–Nicole Lomaglio of Nicole & Scotty, Los Angeles, California
” I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, there is the anxiety of trying to find footing in an industry that consistently devalues the people who create the very thing it sells. That can be a mindfuck in itself…I am constantly trying to “sell” myself in a shiny, confident, competent package in order to book shows, make money, find opportunities, etc., but on the flip side I’m bombarded by experiences that test my self-esteem and self-worth on a daily basis. On my best days I can shake it off and remind myself that, whether rejected or accepted, the authenticity of my work and my work ethic should be enough to bring peace of mind. But on my worst days, it is hard not to let all those external factors and opinions seep in. And that’s just the business side of things!
From a creative standpoint, songwriters in particular are naturally observant and analytical people. I feel like I’m mining the entire human experience with my brain at all times, which can be overwhelming, exhausting, painful, terrifying, anxiety-inducing, etc. I always feel like that idiot in a horror film who hears a scary noise and wants to go explore it. It’s a willingness to go somewhere, report back, rinse, and repeat. For me the reward is when people who may not be able to articulate their own pain/anxiety/grief find comfort and community in those songs. It’s a magical thing to feel like someone understands exactly what you’re going through. “
–Lindsay White, San Diego, California
Once again, enormous thanks to those who shared their comments. Be sure to give each artist a listen. I promise you won’t be disappointed.