Navigating your way through the music industry not only throws up questions regarding earning a living. It also puts a strain on your physical and mental well- being. Drugs and alcohol have featured in the lifestyles of many performers for so long that sometimes it’s difficult to tell if depression is the symptom or the cause. Some artists use them to steady their nerves before performances; others use them to come down from the high of the performance.

After the death of Avicii it made me wonder about the hidden battles we fight that no one sees. His family stated that Avicii was depressed, he continued to struggle with thoughts about meaning, life and happiness. “Avicii can no longer continue living, he wants to feel peace,” said the family. Looking back, we remember the story of Kurt Cobain. Was this the trigger for Chester Bennington. The vocalist of Linkin Park who decided to end his life on the birthday of his rock n roll mentor, in the same way.

Depression never discriminates, it has no preferences. It is a time bomb that explodes once its triggered. I believe musicians are prone to depression as they continually make them selves vulnerable. The content of their work is continually judged and for some the critiquing can be too personal.

Is there a connection between depression and creatives?

Depression has many faces from acute to chronic. Some musicians have fought depression for a lifetime and still in the end give up and end their lives. It’s easy to understand how sudden fame, or a lifestyle built around creating music and live shows, could lead to drug and alcohol abuse, or even cause serious health issues. You have no control of the machine and your just along for the ride. Zayn Malik of One Direction had anxiety so severe that it forced him to cancel several solo tours. He felt exposed, performing became a cause of anxiety and not a release of his inner genius. Even just the act of trying to break into the industry can be so stressful that it can have a massive impact on an artist’s health.

Why are musicians so vulnerable to depression?

To be a musicians is intense, from creating music, to pleasing an ever changing audience. A musician takes from what is inside them and shares it with the world. Then that piece of them can be ripped to shreds.

“Music was my refuge,” said Maya Angelou. “I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

Musicians are influencers and their sphere of influence can be far reaching. So, it becomes an obligation for musicians to maintain their well-being, so that there core audience or anyone who follows them can also participate in maintaining a healthy life balance. Many people who become performers do so to fulfill a dream, some want their talent to be appreciated, they need that affirmation to be able to feel good about themselves. Many leave packed arenas only to go home to an empty house.

We must always remember our inner world reflects our outer world. If we have areas in our lives that we have not worked through. They will work there way out in our behaviour. It is a fine balance as some say it’s only when you emerge from a period of darkness in your life you will find the words to describe it. So maybe the key to being a great artist and songwriter is to dare to go to those dark places, but seek the necessary support to learn how to overcome them so it becomes a road you understand how to navigate through.

What does the support look like?

Using the skills of a trained coach is a way to improve every aspect of your life. It is a way to realise so many different possibilities and to achieve more than you thought was possible. As a musician we all face obstacles that can hinder our progress, that can so often derail us. How many great musicians have never performed their masterpieces due to performance anxiety. How many great songs have never been released as the artists struggles with self limiting beliefs. We need musicians to focus the same intensity in their personal lives as they do in their professional lives. As a coach I focus on an artists life outside the industry so they can thrive inside of it.

Basil Reynolds

Coaching Consultant

Finding the Music Inside