The Music Industry & Mental Health
By James Kennedy
Singer Songwriter, Producer, front man of Kyshera & owner of Konic Records
This article originally appeared on the Help Musicians website at : https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/news/blog/james-kennedy-talks-about-the-difficulties-of-working-in-the
Two years ago, my life on Facebook looked awesome.
My band (Kyshera) had just done an amazing summer tour of Europe and the UK after several years of consistent album releases and touring.
At the same time I was depressed, stressed out, an insomniac and very unhealthy. I was below 9 stone in weight, drinking every night, feeling completely alone and seeing only extreme negatives about myself, my career and my life in general.
It had been coming for a long time and when I finally snapped, I snapped hard. Despite being unspeakably fortunate, I was very unhappy and I took it out on everyone and everything around me. I fell out with family and close friends, my long-term partner and I broke up, I put the band on indefinite hiatus and spent the next few weeks just doing absolutely nothing at all.
Fast forward a year and I'm happier than I've ever been. I'm in better mental and physical health than ever before, I'm back with my partner, I'm closer to my family, I'm loving life – AND I've got a new Top 50 Best Selling album.
During my low period, I intended to stay as far away from writing and playing music as possible, and instead focus on getting my life in order for once, which I did. But along the way, songs started flooding out of me. Within a very short period of time (about 3 months), I'd written and completely recorded what became my latest solo album Home. The album functioned as an unintended journal of that period of my life. I think that writing those songs helped me to identify with and make sense of what was going on inside me – and with no intention of them ever being released – just me writing for ME and the pure enjoyment of it, something I hadn't done in a long time. There were no labels, agents, budgets or deadlines, no lets downs, rip offs or mess arounds to deal with, just music for the sheer enjoyable sake of it; the way it used to be when I first started out and the way, really, that it should be. The problem was never the music, but many of the things that seem to end up coming with it.
As I look at it now, I'm actually thankful I hit such a low because my life is so much better as a result and it's ironic that the thing that I thought was ruining my life (my career in music) was actually a big part of the thing that saved me.
Granted, I also made significant changes to my relationship with music as well and that is something I would recommend to anyone who's life may be very one-dimensionally orientated towards their art and their career. There really IS more to life. Our passion and our craft is in our blood and it's often a curse as well as a blessing but like anything, it can have its extremes. As someone who has now seen both ends of that spectrum, I can honestly say that by incorporating a more balanced life as part of my career – including down time, family, travel, non-music related recreation, friends and whole days of just doing bugger all (guilt free) – my career and my craft is better than ever and I am all the more well-adjusted, healthier and happier for it. It's as if only by letting go, things did start to really take flight, and the world didn't stop turning because I took some time off.
Our industry is in a very exciting place right now but is also an incredibly difficult one to stay afloat in. If we want to still be around enjoying our passions for years to come, we HAVE to take care of our mental, physical, emotional, social & financial health. It ISN'T better to burn out than to fade away, it's better to shine longer than both.
Quitting the ‘music industry’ was the best thing I ever did.