Alex Tracey: "your mental health can slip very easily if you let other people’s benign comments get you down”
Emerging artist Alex Tracey caught up with us to talk about his experiences with mental health adversities and give inspiring advice to those attempting to pursue a career within the industry, noting that he hopes his latest single can be viewed as a triumphant battle song for anyone finding themselves in similar circumstances.
Your latest single 'Take Me To The Other Side' explores the liberation of leaving a toxic relationship amalgamated with poor mental health - why did you feel as though this was important to discuss?
It’s such a sensitive subject that affects so many people, and often it gets hushed or swept under the carpet, not least by myself. I felt it was time to confront that, for myself and for my fans who can relate. The importance of me doing this (and I suppose you could regard this as the message of the song) is that the song specifically discusses mental health, but it discusses a triumphant battle, rather than an ill-fated one. There are many people who, because of the severity of their mental health issues, feel like they’re a fighting a losing a battle; they feel helpless and defeated by their own brain, and ‘Take Me To The Other Side’ is very much my anthem to oppose that. There are things you can do, people you can talk to and ways of looking after yourself that can in fact lead to a direct relief from poor mental health. In essence, ‘Take Me To The other Side’ was written because I laughed in the face of my own turmoil and then beat it, and I want people to know that they can do the same. It’s completely possible.
Do you feel using music as a means to discuss your own mental health is beneficial?
Yes I do. Music is a powerful tool. Listeners take their music very seriously, and so they should. It’s the one thing that all human beings have in common even if they’re not musically inclined; we can all join in with a sing-song, chant for our favourite football team, sing the national anthem and effectively appreciate music for the art form that it is. I believe it’s the most unifying thing we have as humans, and history will prove that countless messages and movements have occurred due to the power of music and song. The point is, it works and it makes a difference. Even if it’s for three minutes, if someone feels better from listening to my music and my words, then that is exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Do you think mental health is talked about enough in the music industry?
If you’d have asked me this 3 or 4 years ago, I’d have said no. We seem to be getting somewhere now though. More people are talking about it, dents are being made, and people are slowly starting to lose their fear of being honest about it in their songs. I think the music industry – like all competitive industries – will never fully be able to rid itself of the pressures that often lead to mental health issues such as a lack of body confidence, anxiety, crippling self-doubt, and the rise in social media with the unfortunate ways that it can be misused. Equally though, there are people out there making a huge difference and people are slowly starting to accept that it exists and it’s completely fine to talk about it.
From a personal perspective, what do you feel is the most important aspect of looking after your mental health?
Quite simply, my answer to this is just looking after yourself: pro-actively and consciously engaging in behaviours and activities that protect yourself and your body. For me that means doing things like going to bed and waking up at decent times, eating well, limiting your interaction with negative people (as much as you can), walking my dog and actually getting real air into my body. The biggest aspect for me is to avoid staying up until 4-5am on your phone generally being a sucker for the internet. It’s highly addictive, and at night time it directly interferes with the chemicals that your body needs in order to do its basic night-time functions. For me, my lowest mental health points have come directly from bad sleep patterns resulting from abnormal and addictive phone usage at night-time. The way I see it: depression is a chemical imbalance, and so is being on your phone at night. It shouldn’t be a surprise therefore that bad sleep has a link to depression and poor mental health.
Equally, gradually reducing your time with negative influences in your life helps. Don’t hang around with people that make you feel terrible. If you know that there is someone in your life who is contributing to your mental health issues, talk to them, confront them, or outright get rid of them. Just do something that is achievable, because from my experience, it’s other people who can do the most damage in the end.
How would you advise an upcoming artist on looking after their mental health whilst trying to achieve their goals in music?
I’d say three things: firstly, it’s tough out there, don’t quit. You’ll have days where you feel you’re putting in so much and nothing is coming back – that’s fine. Figure out where you’re going wrong and try again, but don’t quit. You’ll have people telling you, “you have to do this, you have to do that, you SHOULD do this, you SHOULD do that” and unless the person saying that is part of your team or a trusted individual, then you don’t need to listen to them. It’s your call and you do what your instincts tell you. Stay true to yourself and your mental health will stay true to you.
Secondly, embrace the negativity. Not everyone is going to like what you do, that’s just the industry for you. In 2019, if someone doesn’t like something, the chances are they’ll tweet about it too. Fine. Embrace that. Your mental health can slip very easily if you let other people’s benign comments get you down. Look how much people like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, or even Ed Sheeran get. It’s a daily onslaught of people trashing them on twitter, but they don’t stop. Either because they’ve embraced it, or even better, they just ignore it. People will say negative things to you, that’s a part of life, but it’s completely up to you if you listen or not. Don’t forget, if someone’s gone out of their way to get their phone out and publicly write something about you, then you must be worth discussing right?
Thirdly, be honest with your music. Making music is an advantage that not everyone has. We can take something bad and turn it into something that is automatically better than how it started, it’s literally incredible. It’s free counselling. Your music listens to you and it hears what you say; what’s better is that it’s totally unbiased, you can have it whatever way you want. If there is something on your mind or something that is troubling you – even if the song doesn’t become a number one hit – sit down, write about it and turn it into something better than its foundation. You’ve been blessed with a skill, so use it. When I get boiled up or upset, I write music and one of two things will happen: I’ll either have a new song, or I’ll feel better. Usually, I get both – so keep writing.
You can read Down The Rabbit Hole’s review of ‘Take Me To The Other Side’ by Alex Tracey here.
Interview by Sophie Barnden