INDIE MUSIC AND DEPRESSION

When the Blues are More than the Blues

Too much to do this week.  I need to get ready for a run of 14 gigs, I’m sending out songs to a station in New York this morning, I’m trying to somehow produce a CD, and a singer wants to talk to me this morning about singing some of my songs.  Just another morning in the life of an Indie Songwriter.  AND I slept in this morning–yawn.

One of the best things about being an Indie Music Musician and Songwriter is that I get to do it all myself.  That’s also one of the worst things.  In this business, where there are huge gaps of inaction between successes, depression seems to be the bullet to be dodged.  I know so many songwriters and really great musicians who are continually on the edge of some great, dark hole that is about to swallow them up.  They drink way too much, use huge amounts of drugs, and spend most of their time acting out their paranoia, or just trying to get themselves started to do something–anything.

One friend, a really fine songwriter and all around musician told me once that there seems no point in any of it.  He won’t play in bands any more, he has been working on a recording project for years, but it has taken all those years to get in three songs.  Most of his time is spent, avoiding: the work, the creativity, life itself.

We Indie Musicians, and creatives in general, are a fragile species.  We seem to continually live on the edge of some “block” or another.  We seem to live in a zone of fear that we are not good enough, not sharp enough, not what it takes, and that fear-zone causes us despair, addiction, poor relationships, and a never ending litany of woes that can give us night terrors.

For many, but of course not all, creativity arises from a place that has been born of adversity.  Whether poor, sickly, bullied by parents, school-mates, teachers; orphaned, or abused by people or systems or a combination of them all, creatives seem to be more vulnerable than not.  It makes for great songwriting and music, but it makes for a tortured, depressed, individual.

What to do about it?  If you are not the person who is depressed, but know someone, there is actually not much you can do other than offering encouragement, and any help you can offer without getting sucked into their depressive vortex yourself.  You cannot make a person not be depressed.  You cannot make anyone get fixed.  They will need to take those steps themselves.  You can do some research on your own, so you can offer them choices.

If you are that depressed person, then you will need to take some kind of action to become not depressed.  First, it might help to identify the form the depression is taking.  For simplicity’s sake I will say that there are two basic forms of depression:  Situational and clinical.

The first you can do something about yourself–make decisions to change your lifestyle, your situation, seek counseling, quit abusing drugs or alcohol, maybe get into a re-hab center.  Also, remember that heartache and pain may well be the fodder for great song material, but it can be the literal death for the creative person.  The past is hard to get around when it is always lurking like a nightmare in the darker corners of your mind.  So go see a shrink and work on it.  Grief from a loss, whether by death or divorce, or some other means, make for a period of deep depression.  It’s doable and you can get through it, but you may need some help with it.  So seek out the help, and make sure that it is professional.  Sometimes, just not eating the right foods, not exercising, sleep deprivation, as well as alcohol and drugs can be root causes of depression, so pay attention on those fronts as well.

The second form of depression is not something you can do something about on your own.  This one is deadly, and even if you think your form of depression is only situational–your song got rejected–you still need to see a professional to make sure that it is not clinical.  I have known too many people who have died from clinical depression.  Way too many!

The life of an Indie Musician is, just in itself, akin to Type I Bi-Polar.  We live with the extreme highs of being on stage, preforming to excited audiences, and we live in the isolation of the recording/mixing/mastering process.  We many times need the high drama of the stage even when we are not on the stage, and so we create drama so we can relive the moment.  Unfortunately, many of the dramas that are created are both dysfunctional and deadly.

My advice.  Take care of yourselves.  Listen to your friends, your true friends, who ask caring questions and offer cautious advice.  If you feel down in the dumps and lack energy for days on end, go talk to your doctor.  Also, it might not be depression.  There are many very serious diseases that either act like depression or bring it on.

Remember this is actually the only one of these lives you’re going to get, and you either take care of it or you lose it.  Be kool and take care!

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4 thoughts on “INDIE MUSIC AND DEPRESSION

  1. My Gosh, Hilary, you must have the spiritual gift known as “The Word of Knowledge”, Word of Wisdom”, or “Prophecy”! I say that because you just hammered a point, where I am living, at this precise moment!
    I’ve suffered from Clinical Depression, throughout my life, as far back as I can remember, and I was dragged down into its dark hole, week before last, when my doctor decided to change some of my medication. It had be totally in its grip and paralyzed, a few days last week, but it’s now slowly beginning to get a little better. I don’t drink, and the only type of drugs I use, is the junk the doctor prescribes for me. I also suffer from cronic pain, therefore, some of the medications are narcotics, which create their own type of hell, especially when the doctor changes them or cuts me back on them. There is really no way to describe this type of pain, to a person who has never experienced it for themselves. Physical pain cannot begin to compare with the pain of Depression. I’ve never understood how anybody can write a song, or even play one, when they are in the clutches of Depression, because I can’t do it, and I don’t care if I never write or play again, when it has its hold on me. But I thank God that it does eventually subside(it’s never completely gone), and I can get on with my life. God gave me an angel for a wife, 22 years ago, without whom I would have been dead and buried, long ago.
    I am a Christian, former pastor, and my music has been my primary form of ministry for the most part of 32 years. Yes, Christians do suffer horribly from Depression, at times. Read the Psalms, and look at how often King David battled through it.
    I hope to be fully back on my feet and back in this crazy game of being an independent musician again, very soon now, since it is starting to let up, and let me feel like living again.
    I want to thank you, Hilary, for this blog, because it couldn’t have come at a better time, for me.
    God Bless You!!

  2. Depression is a terrible state of mind and most all of us have it from time to time in our lives. Think about the first extended trip when you were young and away from home and how homesick you were. Or how about when your first romance ended. Later in life possibly one or both of your parents died. Then you might have gone through a divorce and were living alone. Dear Abby (the original) said there is nothing worse than being lonely and I believe her. So you have a drink or two or more and guess what? You wind up being even more depressed.  But if you’re a songwriter you’re all about capturing raw emotions and setting it to music because you may be lonely but you’re not alone in your feelings. There are plenty of people who can identify with your emotions, sometimes right down to the letter. It’s good for your soul to step back and take a look at your condition and the accompanying emotions in the process of writing them down. And to tell the truth, many a great song is a tear-jerker. What’s your favorite sad song? One of mine is Bobby Goldsboro singing Honey (I Miss You). I tear up just thinking about it. My brother, Robert Rhoades, wrote a song about suicide. A friend of his was facing a long and painful sickness so decided to end it all. Despite the morbid subject matter it is an absolute beautiful, well-written song. And how about Johnny Cash singing Give My Love To Rose. Those are sad songs but they were big hits in their day and I’m sure you can think of lots more examples.
    When my daddy died I wrote a song about how hard that was (I cried every day for two years). Same thing when my mother died twenty years later. These are great songs and at first they were extremely hard to perform due to my emotional ties to them. Yes, it was depressing for my parents to pass away but from that family tragedy came two absolutely beautiful songs and I know both mother and daddy would have been extremely proud to know I wrote these songs for and about them. Now if you are battling depression and you are a songwriter then use these strong emotions to tell the world how you feel – It’s what we do as musicians and songwriters, express the human condition and the feelings that accompany them. Good times and bad times and memories of them all, that’s what life is all about so write about it, make it rhyme somewhat, set it to music and you’ll have a song.

  3. Jerry, I will pray for you. Meds are a good thing. So many people who suffer from clinical depression don’t like how they make them feel and stop taking them. I have worked with and known many who saw the only answer as suicide–very sad. The meds are so important in the lives of the depressed, it is almost as if God led researchers to the discoveries. Jerry, you may not feel like it most of the time, but it is folk like you who are the true heroes in this world–you go on in spite of the overwhelming odds, and never stop the fight. I applaud you for your courage to continue.

  4. Eddie, congrats on working through your depression. However do not confuse your depression that comes from the various situations that arise in your live with the more severe form of clinical depression. It takes a strong individual to overcome what you have overcome, but never forget that clinical depression rarely can be overcome without medications. One should never be glib about another’s form of depression. Trying to fight on one’s own against clinical depression is like being in a pit with a full grown grizzly and only a butter knife–it is possible to win, but not highly probable.

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