As part of Adam's doctoral research he looked into how seven musicians understood their mental health and their music engagement (musicking).
My first piece of published writing explored into how musicians themselves understand their self-esteem and the rollercoaster process of the music industry journey involving validation, pride, criticism, shame and the need to give 100% in everything they do.
Anyway, so yes, I’m a musician primarily, then a clinician! This perspective makes a huge difference. So back to the story! Part of my research discovered how musicians can feel ‘like weirdos’ (as quoted by one of the people I interviewed). This resonated with me… I do agree, being a musician is a potentially weird thing to dedicate our lives to in a number of ways.
We spend hours, days, months practicing our instruments for what can be considered very little reward at times! Yes, some of us ‘make it’ but there are far safer and financially beneficial ways of making bread and paying bills. I think this is part of the problem for musicians, it’s a calling that few understand unless you are one of those ‘weirdos’ that spend their time obsessed with instruments, sonic shaping, song writing, the music of others and a vast sea of other musical tinkerings. I do think we see the world differently.
I also see the term ‘weirdos’ differently. To me the word exudes warmth, community and an isolated intellect that can be difficult to understand even by those from the commodification side of the industry, yet we still choose to do this.
I think being a musician, especially a professional, is a calling, a kind of ‘what else can we do?’. I was reminded of this recently when interviewing Thom Rylance from The Lottery Winners (next month’s Tonic Music guest), a band that has achieved a No.1 Album without being signed to a major label! That is some accolade. Well done gang!
He described how he always felt alienated at school and different to others but the band experience subsequently provided him with meaning and community alongside a scaffold for his own mental health. This resonates with my own experience and subsequent ways in which music and musicking does provide much more than the ‘stream’, ‘the product’.
I suspect this is true for many of us, hence the power of the Tonic Rider Peer Support Group. In next week’s blog I will be taking a deep dive into some of the research surrounding musicians, this weirdness of which we are perceived and how much of this is nature or nurture.
Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.