'Music can speak to you in a way that nobody can, to hear someone from the other end of the speakers sum up exactly how you’re feeling in ways that you couldn’t explain is very, very powerful.' Meg Roberts caught up with singer Ben Barlow.
Today marks World Mental Health Day, an observation which is dedicated to supporting worldwide mental health primarily through education, raising awareness and encouraging advocacy against social stigma. Today is about the little things as well as the big ones, it's about simply asking your mate if they're okay, picking up the phone and having unashamed and honest conversations about how we are feeling and recognising that it's okay to need help.
It's a mutual understanding that mental health is a universal issue that can affect anyone from any walk of life. Everyone has mental health as much as physical health and we need to take care of ourselves, it's okay to not be okay.
This year places a particular importance on young people's mental health in today's changing world. In the face of pressures felt by young people, music remains a constant, a relief from the stresses and hassles of everyday life, and a powerful tool to provide us comfort and soothe our mental health when we need it the most. Although the promise of more support in our schools, taking notice of students mental well-being including bringing in specialist support teams gives us hope for change, there is still more work to be done.
Enter Songs That Saved My Life, a brand that is based around the power of music and songs that played a pivotal role in the lives of artists and fans alike, that benefits a number of mental health and suicide prevention charities.
In this interview, Neck Deep's Ben Barlow talks about why having the conversation about mental health is so important, what mental health awareness means to him personally and what they are doing as a band to help drive the movement.
Hi Ben, how is the second leg of the American tour going?
Good, it’s been pretty chill. We are doing some quieter places so we’ve had time to explore - we are getting into the depths of America! It’s going pretty good, we’ve had a good turn out every night. We are out in Boulder in Colorado, definitely not the worse place to be.
You're back in the UK early next year, how did the Don Broco support come about?
It’s a big tour, it’s going to Wembley and it’s got two nights in Manchester. They are big crowds and to make sure its the biggest and the best it can be, I think they wanted a support that would do the trick. I think us and Don Broco are two up and coming bands in our scene. They have been going a little longer than us but I think together we are two of the bigger bands in the scene at the minute so I think it makes sense.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Songs That Saved My Life project - and how can fans get involved?
The aim of the project and the compilation which was set up by Hopeless Records, our label, from Sub City which is the non-profit part of the label. It’s basically to raise awareness surrounding mental health and suicide prevention. All the artists that are involved chose a song which was meaningful to them and covered it for a good cause.
There’s also an initiative at the minute where you can win a $10,000 grant from Sub City to start your own NP organization too.
It is generally about raising awareness but if you feel very passionately about it, you can get $10,000 which is a big amount of money to start something and make a big difference yourself.
What exactly does the Songs That Saved My Life project mean to you?
I have a lot of people close to me who over the years have struggled with depression and anxiety. I also have friends who have, unfortunately, attempted suicide and I’ve been there with them along the way.
Also fans, there are a lot of fans who have said that our music has helped them and they share their own stories with us about their personal struggles with mental health.
I think, for us, and for the people we know in our personal lives along with our fans, we owe it to them to do something to make a positive change and have a positive impact in that area so it’s really for both our fans and for our loved ones.
Even for ourselves to an extent, everyone is susceptible to anxiety and depression from time to time, maybe even worse somewhere along the line. Mental health can happen to anyone and everyone so it’s important to have the conversation in motion. I think mental health awareness has improved over the last few years but it’s important to keep the good work going.
Why do you think mental health awareness, especially through the medium of music, is so important?
I think music can speak volumes. Getting help and or taking positive behavioural stuff is super important but it can be really hard to get that, it can be expensive and there can long waiting lists. Music can speak to you in a way that nobody can, to hear someone from the other end of the speakers sum up exactly how you’re feeling in ways that you couldn’t explain is very, very powerful. Music is the way the soul sounds, it can speak to you sonically.
You can gain a new perspective from listening to music, perhaps, in a way that you hadn’t considered before. Music is always there, it can be the middle of the night and you have no one to talk to and you can put on a record and it can do so, so much for you. I have personally experienced the power of that which is why I put my heart and soul into writing these songs and these lyrics because it is therapy for me too that it can be therapy for other people. It’s very powerful.
Why did you choose to cover 'Torn' and what exactly does this song mean to you?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is a song that has saved my life, it’s a song that I’ve always known and been fond of. It’s also my girlfriend’s favourite song of all time and she plays it a lot. I think, ultimately, at first it was just a good song and we knew it would work well with our sound but then as we were recording it and as we were looking into the lyrics more, it is a meaningful song.
Whether you want to interpret it from the love angle that it portrays, whether you want it to be about being at a difficult point in your life where you’re not quite sure where to go and what to do and being torn between what to do. Sometimes being torn and being in limbo is worse than actually facing up to the fact of what is going to happen when you simply don’t know and you’re not sure, and you’re just lost - everyone has felt like that at some point. Lyrically, it is a meaningful song and I think it could go a long way to helping people.
Did it feel good to have your cover version approved by Natalie Imbruglia?
Confirmation approved. Yes, this was pretty sick, it was great.
A lot of comments, particularly on social media, have compared this album to Punk Goes Pop, is this something that you’d get involved with?
Yeah, I love the Punk Goes Pop compilations, I thought they were sick. Even though it’s not PGP, it’s similar with the added benefit of it going to a good cause, so it’s a win-win.
What bands in this genre do you think are killing it at the moment?
Yeah, there’s a couple of UK bands which we are pretty excited about right now, one of them is WSTR. Another band would be WOES and there’s an American band called LET IT HAPPEN so check them out and give them a listen.
Aside from Songs That Saved My Life, what’s the next project you’re working on? Any plans for a UK headline tour next year?
Not quite, I think if we do something it’ll be something quite cool, something fun for us and our fans but other than that, our main focus will be starting to write our next record.