Of all the things that musicians have to deal with, from record deals to publishing to managers to touring, it’s their own personal welfare that often gets pushed to the periphery. Artists who are pursuing a full-time creative career are willing to go without food, job security, financial stability, normal working hours and stable personal relationships.

While the conversation about mental health is opening up in music, it’s been too late to impact some high-profile artists. Mental health struggles contributed to the recent passings of artists like Aviici, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell and Dolores O’Riordian. It is a problem that has always been in music, from Whitney to Amy and back through the rock’n’roll era where mental health issues were more commonly masked by drugs or destructive behaviour.

Even this morning, the news came that Frightened Rabbits’ singer Scott Hutchison has died with family and friends saying he was in a poor mental health place. It’s an almost weekly event. An all-too common thing to break on social media.

In the UK, an organisation called Help Musicians, recognising that a career in music is taxing on health, was recently set up to address the mental fitness of musicians, and there’s early plans for some mental health help for musicians in Ireland in the near future too. First Music Contact is working with clinical professionals from the UK and Ireland, along with Help Musicians to produce a series of Mental Health Check in Sheets for musicians and those who work in the music industry.

Nationally, artists like Bressie are talking openly and encouragingly about mental fitness, while Sinead O’Connor has had a very public battle with her own well-being. Meanwhile, those who aren’t known to the public are absolutely struggling with their own issues, away from the public.

So why do would you put yourself through such a precarious lifestyle in the first place? One answer, albeit a simplified one, is because music is therapeutic. It’s a nourishing thing to create and make. But the practicalities of being a working musician, especially an independent one, in today’s landscape isn’t easy.

Joe Panama performing at Other Voices 2015.

Music as therapy

“Music comes with a lot of the same emotional stresses as anything else but it can also comes with much greater emotional relief than anything else I’ve done,” says musician Joe Panama who was formerly with the band Overhead, The Albatross.

“I was bullied in school and music was something I could disappear into. I met two of my closest friends through playing shitty covers in each other’s houses and eventually trying to record our first demo. That was effectively therapy when I look back on it. My mental health was never better than trying to solve a musical problem or writing with the lads and making loads and loads of noise.”

A recent University Of Westmininster study called Can Music Make You Sick? which polled 2,200 people in the industry found that musicians are three times more likely to experience depression yet only a third said they would seek help.

Selfmade

Galway musician Julie Hough of the band HAWK found herself overwhelmed in the pursuit of her music career while living in London a few years ago, heightened by the lack of structure in trying to make it as a working musician.

“I pretty much denied that I needed to address it at first,” Hough shares. “But I remember one day, looking at my ‘to-do’ list and feeling too overwhelmed to even do the first thing on it: ‘Go to bank.’ I totally broke down and was really troubled by my reaction afterwards.

“I understood that I needed to start working towards more structured goals than making music and ‘putting it out there’, and to accept that there were aspects to the music job that would be ‘unknown’ probably for a long time, and that this was okay.”

Joe Hough with her band HAWK.

Most bands starting out have to do all the admin and management themselves like most startups and it can have a creeping and crippling effect on your well-being.

“This work has little place in the final product – in music, shows, and articles,” Hough says. “Of course, it doesn’t make good PR to talk about social media strategies. But I think a lot of bands believe they aren’t allowed to admit publicly the level of work they put in, never mind to celebrate that work. We just don’t talk about it. It ends up creating a false idea that bands have been snapped up out of thin air, because of sheer talent.”

“Financial strains are a big one,” says Panama, “A lot of the pressure comes from how precarious that arrangement is. It’s possible to thrive within that lifestyle, but when your entire life is ad hoc and your mind is wobbly enough as it is, that can be very difficult.”

“It can be really difficult to convey the nature of pursuing music to your friends and family,” explains Hough. “The minute I started to talk to other artists about this, I started to feel more at ease and less isolated.

Hough is among the organisers of an event called SelfMade, the next one takes place on June 9th in Dublin. Their first event in February, included a panel on “the realities of getting a music project off the ground” which explored issues of mental strain, funding and image.

“A lot of what motivates SelfMade is to see the reaction of this on a larger scale. We have so much shared knowledge and experiences as artists, and if we can’t discuss the most arduous aspects of the job in public, then we can at least come together to explore this and celebrate in a safe space.”

Panic attacks and anxiety

According to the Westminster Study, Over 70% of musicians have experienced panic attacks. Performing in public and self-expression can bring out its own issues. Le Galaxie’s Michael Pope is aware of his anxiety and does his best to deal with it, but pre-gig nerves are a part of a musician’s life but they can lead to difficult situations to cope with.

Photo: Ruth Medjber from the recent Repeal gig in the Olympia in Dublin.

“Anticipation and nervous excitement before shows is a totally healthy part of my life as a musician,” he says. “Sure, I might be fidgety or uncommunicative in the hours up to a show but when you step out on stage, that energy is adapted and transformed into exhilaration. It’s the elevated experience of my life. But it was when my mind went beyond that initial feeling that things started to get out of control. It can manifest itself in endless ways, but in the moment you can barely see six inches in front of your face. Your body just sweats fear.”

For Joe Panama, the thought of a gig was enough in itself, as it exacerbated his diagnosed issues. Things were becoming too much.

“There were gigs I absolutely dreaded having to get out of bed for,” says Panama. I considered hurting myself so I wouldn’t have to play a gig in Galway at one point.”

Panama made the tough decision to leave the band in late 2016 to address his mental health issues.

“Things were darker than anyone around me knew,” he says. “In my mind, I was doing the lads the favour of not having to kick me out eventually.”

Michael Pope has learned some tough lessons, particularly related to mental health while touring. It’s a case of being professional and looking after yourself instead of falling into the trap of the played-out rock’n’roll lifestyle of drink and drugs.

“On a string of dates I need to keep my drinking under control as it’s an alien environment,” Pope says. “I know it might sound trivial to some but a disorientating and unsettling hangover is rocket fuel for panic and anxiety. Recreational drugs aren’t part of my life but there will always be a Xanax in my breast pocket when travelling. Sometimes it’s taken. Sometimes it’s not. Either way it makes me feel better. Travelling is tough. Ideally, Le Galaxie would just play exclusively in one Dublin venue and people from different parts of the world would come to see shows. ‘Hey, this Friday is Cork night, bring your Cork passports’. Would that it were so simple.”

Helping your health

Hough says that physical exercise has helped her maintain her well-being along with soliciting advice about the practicalities of the industry from others.

“On top of the obvious fitness benefits, it’s meditative and forces your body to focus on something other than the day-to-day running of things. And you need that headspace, to get your mind around the music industry.”

Joe Panama meanwhile is in regular contact with his counsellor but admits that his mental health, while in better shape, isn’t enabling him to return to music right now. He hasn’t attended a gig he wasn’t playing at since 2015 and he misses writing with other people.

“I don’t know, maybe this is a big letdown to anyone reading this but I threw in the towel,” he says. “I pushed as far as I could push and then it was too much for me. I’m still in treatment for my mental health but I’m in better shape than I was a year ago for sure and I think taking a step back from music is a massive part of the reason.

“Honestly it’s very difficult for me to think about music sometimes. There were times over the last year where I physically couldn’t be in a room if there was music being played. I can’t tell you how scary that can be. So I’m happy to take baby steps.”


If you need to address your mental health, talk to someone, either personally or professionally. Here’s some info on who to contact:
8 Irish organisations that can help you if you are suffering from mental health problems

Posted on May 11th, 2018

Tags:

Artists: , ,

Dublin native Bodies or David Anthony McGeown gives us his new track ‘Numb’ off his debut EP, SOAK which will be released on November 27th via Minor Fall Records.

The track is a collaboration with Overhead, the Albatross members David Prendergast and Ben Garrett that builds up slowly with a mix of alternative-rock and ambient pop.

Listen to the previously-featured Kobina remix of a Bodies track.

To celebrate the release there will be a special midnight hour album launch in Whelans this Saturday November 25th.

Tickets are priced at €10 and will be available on the door.

Posted on November 23rd, 2017

Tags:

Artists: ,

Another Love Story, the boutique little festival of music, art, fun, talks and installations by Homebeat & Happenings in Killyon Manor, Meath has announced its first list of acts for this year’s festival from Friday 18th – Sunday 20th August.

  • Katie Kim
  • Overhead The Albatross
  • JFDR
  • This Is How We Fly
  • I Am The Cosmos
  • Bantum
  • ELLLL
  • Replete
  • Wry Myrrh
  • Margie Jean Lewis
  • Ailbhe Reddy
  • Tomorrows
  • Buffalo Woman
  • Hilary Woods
  • Carriages
  • Wastefellow
  • Oose
  • Beach
  • Let’s Set Sail
  • Saint Caoilin
  • My Fellow Sponges
  • Doubtlands
  • Attention Bebe’s Big Top Sundown Rave Up
  • NCH Gamelan Orchestra

DJS:

  • The Another Love Story Soundsystem Massive
  • Cian O’Ciobhain
  • Tim O’Donovan
  • Bodytonic Djs
  • DJ Hula Hoops
  • Sing Along Social
  • My House Djs
  • The Thin Air Djs

OTHER OCCURRENCES

  • The Shift Shack
  • The Front Room
  • The Library by YHRF
  • The Big Stretchy
  • For Conor This Must Be The Place
  • My House presents : The Great Western Ballroom

More lineup additions, antics, food and more to be released.

Tickets

Tickets​ (Includes regular weekend camping):
ALS ’17 Tier 1 €100 [SOLD OUT]
ALS ’17 Tier 2 €135 [SOLD OUT]
ALS ’17 Tier 3 €155 [SOLD OUT]
ALS ’17 Tier 4 €185

Boutique Camping​ (does not include weekend ticket):
4M Tent (sleeps 4) €265
5M Tent (sleeps 6) €380
6M Tent (sleeps 8) €550
Bed & bedding extra if required. Please see website for full details

Other Details
No Sunday camping – event runs 19.00 Fri Aug 18th – 19.00 Sun Aug 20th.
Under 12’s go free accompanied by adult
12-18 year olds are not permitted
Dogs Free! (it’s a dog’s life)

Out of the trembling darkness, a glimpse, a sharp intake of breath,
the impatient softness of the sudden clasp of joined hands.
All that has happened falls away,
all that is yet to come stretches infinitely into the
inescapable certainty of fate.
Faster, faster. Spinning, spiraling, Over and under,
Straight on till the break of dawn.
Together is the most important thing..
#ALS2017

Posted on April 12th, 2017

Tags:

Artists: , , , ,

The Choice Music Prize is this year the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for the first time and the announcement of the 10 Irish albums were revealed a short time ago on 2FM’s Tracy Clifford Show by Tony Clayton Lea, chairman of the judging panel.

The 10 albums shortlisted by the judges for Irish album of the year are:

Shortlisted albums

All Tvvins – IIVV (Warner Music)
Bantum – Move (Self Released)
Wallis Bird – Home (Mount Silver / Caroline International)
The Divine Comedy – Foreverland (Divine Comedy Records)
Lisa Hannigan – At Swim (Hoop Recordings)
Katie Kim – Salt (Art For Blind Records)
James Vincent McMorrow – We Move (Faction Records)
Overhead, The Albatross – Learning to Growl (Self Released)
Rusangano Family – Let The Dead Bury The Dead (Self Released)
We Cut Corners – The Cadences Of Others (Delphi)

A Spotify playlist of all albums

The winning act will receive €10,000, a prize fund which has been provided by The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). All of the shortlisted acts will receive a specially commissioned award. RAAP, Culture Ireland & Golden Discs are also official project partners.

2FM has promised to play Irish music all day from 6am to midnight today to mark the announcement along with live cessions from SOAK and Delorentos and a two-hour special on this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize, Irish Album of the Year 2016 shortlist, presented by Conor Behan from 8-10pm.

Live event

Shortlisted albums will also be featured throughout in the lead up to the live choice prize event on Thursday March 9th in Vicar Street.
Tickets for the Choice Music Prize live event are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and at http://www.ticketmaster.ie priced €26.50 including booking fee.

Judging Panel

Louise Bruton – Freelance & Irish Times
Brian Coney – Editor, The Thin Air
Maire Dineen – Súgradh Productions (Imeall TG4/Body & Soul)
Suzanne Doyle – Music, Film & Television Consultant
Dan Hegarty – 2FM
Paddy McKenna – Editor, Joe.ie
Cathal Murray – RTE Radio 1
Barbara Nic D – Classic Hits 4FM
Colm O’Regan – Hot Press
Niall Power – Head of Music Beat FM
Eva Short – Deputy Editor, Trinity News

Irish Song of The Year 2016

The shortlist for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize – Irish Song of The Year 2016 will be announced on Wednesday 1st February, 2017. A Special event featuring exclusive performances from both Album of the Year and Song of the Year nominees will be held in Dublin that evening in the Workman’s Club.

Previous winners of the Choice Music Prize

2015: Soak
2014: The Gloaming
2013: Villagers
2012: Jape
2011: Delorentos
2010: Two Door Cinema Club
2009: Adrian Crowley
2008: Jape
2007: Super Extra Bonus Party
2006: The Divine Comedy
2005: Julie Feeney

Posted on January 11th, 2017

Tags:

Artists: , , , , , , , , ,

Ahead of their biggest Dublin show yet tomorrow night in Vicar Street (with support from Bitch Falcon), Overhead, The Albatross have shared a new track to mark the occasion, the first song written since the album Learning To Growl was released earlier this year.

‘Our Youth Our Younger’ features kids talking about the universe, God (or Santa), and builds instrumentally with digital beats, gentle keyboard notes, before a mangled Boards Of Canada-style sample gives way to a tough rhythm. As with any OTA song, there is orchestral swells and moments of beauty. Violin and vocals by Lia Wright and bass by Twiggy.

Buy tickets for the show.

Here’s a lovely remix of their track by Dublin’s Quinton Campbell

Posted on December 8th, 2016

Artists: ,

Overhead, The Albatross have announced their debut album Learning To Growl.

It’ll feature the previously-featured ‘Big River Man’ and eight other tracks. It was recorded in Straffan, Kildare at Clique Recordings, mixed by Phillip Magee.

The Dublin six-piece have shared the album’s opening track ‘Indie Rose’ , a track that grows from a cinematic core to a textured track that falls short of a growl. It’s accompanied by a superbly-shot video by Luke Daly (produced by Bold Puppy) featuring footage of Dublin dwellers in and around the city. The track’s name comes from their friends’ daughter.

The album is up for pre-order on Bandcamp and Overhead, The Albatross are holding two listening parties this week on April 6th and 7th – The Workman’s Club. The band play the venue on April 9th.

Overhead, The Albatross TRACK LIST

1. Indie Rose
2. Telekinetic Forest Guard
3. Theme For A Promise
4. Daeku
5. HBG
6. Leave It To My Ghost
7. Paroxysm
8. Bara
9. Big River Man

Posted on March 29th, 2016

Artists:

For the impressive video, directed by Bold Puppy, Axis Theatre in Ballymun for their new single, Overhead, The Albatross don’t quite throw the kitchen sink at ‘Big River Man’ but they do utilise a ladder, some paintcans and a percussive collective calling themselves The Hit Machine.

That’s just for starters. The post-rock song builds over seven and a half minutes and adds both aurally and visually, string sections, a breathy solo female vocal until the crescendo when even more bodies join the band for the fittingly cinematic finale.

It’s a mightily impressive bit of visual work shot in Axis Theatre in Ballymun. More via an interview with director Luke Daly who is also a guitarist in the band.

The song is on iTunes.

Posted on August 24th, 2015

Artists:

The Irish often think of themselves as underdogs but time and time again, we prove ourselves on a world stage. Right now, the Irish are making a splash. Nialler9 talked to Jape, Fight Like Apes, Florence Olivier, I Have A Tribe, Overhead The Albatross and more down at Castlepalooza Music Festival for Vodafone Centre Stage about how and why Irish music is having a moment.

Music: EDC by Elaine Mai. 

Posted on August 12th, 2015

Tags:

Artists: , , , ,

The small festival B.A.R.E. In The Woods is returning for its second year, near Portarlington, Co. Laois on Saturday June 13th.

Earlier this year, they announced the first 12 acts to play.

Today they’ve added 20 more:

Roots Manuva
Mr Williamz
Dan Shake
John Blek & The Rats
Dirty Dubsters
King Modo
Dah Jevu
The Radioactive Grandma
Mongoose
Dem Fools
Val Normal
Little xs for eyes
Overhead The Albatross
The Hip Neck Blues Collective
Slackers Symphony
Fox E & The Good Hands
Cpnhgn
The Cardinal Sins
Catlovers London
Funkadelic Dublin

Tickets from €30 -€50.

More info at their website.

Posted on March 18th, 2015

Tags:

Artists: ,

State Magazine’s annual new music tips Faces Of… finished up over the weekend with a gig in the Mercantile and the release of a beautifully-designed digital magazine by Simon Roche featuring some stunning photography of acts from Ireland tipped for the year including Hozier, Liza Flume, UNKNWN (pictured), Overhead The Albatross, Simi Crowns, Affleck, video director Aoife McArdle, Carriages and Maria Somerville.

Photography is by Rich Gilligan, Cait Fahey, Olga Kuzmenko, Phil Fisk, Jason McCarthy, Mark McGuinness and Frances Marshall. There’s also a mixtape of the acts below. Respect.

DOI: I used to work for State but I don’t anymore.

Posted on January 20th, 2014

Tags:

Artists: , , , , , ,