“Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge”

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s 1982 hit ‘The Message’ has been named the greatest hip-hop song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The song told us the truth about modern inner-city life. It is based around the refrain: “Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge”.

Over seven minutes, rapper Melle Mel painted a bleak picture ghetto life, while repeating the phrase “It’s like a jungle sometimes, makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under”.

The song’s lyrics describe the stress of inner-city poverty. It describes how a child born in the ghetto without perspective in life is lured away into crime, for which he is jailed until he commits suicide in his cell. The initial sentiment is the questioning of his own sanity. He considers the mental strain as all he knows about his world is that the concrete jungle is closing in on him.

“A child is born with no state of mind, blind to the ways of mankind”

Around one in four people in the UK experience mental health issues each year, and this problem impacts on musicians disproportionately. For us involved in music the risk can be three times more than the general public. Risk of what your thinking? We are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of conditions found in the music industry. Addressing this problem isn’t just crucial for us; it’s crucial for the whole of society and for our collective health and wellbeing, because we all benefit when musicians, the creative arts are thriving. Well-being is complex and there are many factors that can impact it, from our environment to our relationships. Yet musicians face unique pressures. In finances they live feast or famine as well as the uncertainties of the industry. They live with the pressure to be ‘creative on demand.’ Also the absence of a regular routine along with poor sleep and bad eating habits all influence our wellbeing.

Oftentimes creatives are afraid to be open and share about their mental health challenges. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on them to be great and to always be on. But more and more artists and creatives are beginning to share their vulnerabilities and feelings. Because of the increasing financial squeeze, musicians who have spent years honing their talents are being forced to take other jobs, and its possible for your sense of self-worth to decline as this can often feel like failure. Oftentimes, music comes from a place of great emotional depth. The more honest you are with your audience, the more you’ll connect with them. You’ve got to allow yourself to be honest, even when it’ hurts. Creating music involves you taking your deepest emotions and allowing your audience to know you in the deepest ways. This process requires sacrifice, self-belief and self-awareness. The reality is that these are as necessary to the life of a musician as they expose us to criticism that some can find damaging.

Music is crucial to everyone’s wellbeing, so when musicians suffer so does the rest of society.

It is in the toughest of times that our need for resilience is greatest, it is also true that we can and do find our coping strategies are deep within us that can see us through. We still need to look out for the warning signs in ourselves and in those are the pointers for our stress management and to build our personal resilience. If I want to build muscle it takes a holistic approach, eating well and training hard. Within the process of muscle growth they tear and heal stronger. Sometimes we need to go through some things to build our muscle memory, it is then we realise our inner strength.

For each of us those warning signs will be different. So, it is important to think about the symptoms that indicate that you are reaching your limits. The

symptoms are what a doctor analyses so they can get to the root of the problem. Resilience is very much about self-awareness, believing in yourself and drawing on your inner strength. It’s about maintaining that strength, not merely coping.

  1. We need positive connections. Good relationships are important for wellness.
  2. Be physically active. Being active has a twofold impact, fitness of body and mind.
  3. Learn new skills. Develop your creative process.
  4. Be the author of your own story, we are either shaping our story or being shaped by it.
  5. Be present in the moment (mindfulness) Speak out, don’t suffer in silence.

Basil Reynolds

Coaching Consultant

Finding the Music Inside