Paris: British singer-songwriter Frank Turner has had a long and hugely successful career as a punk-folk star.
Despite selling more than a million albums and headline slots in many countries including London´s Wembley Stadium, 40-year-old Turner has been open about his mental health struggles and problems with drink and drug addiction.
He tackled the subject head-on with recent single “Haven´t Been Doing So Well”, and spoke to AFP about the psychological challenges facing musicians, particularly in the era of social media.
Q: What advice would you give a young musician starting out in the business regarding mental health?
Turner: I guess I would say it´s something to be mindful of. People who make music, or who are creative more broadly, tend to have more issues with mental health on average (though I´m not sure which way the causality runs here), so it´s good to be prepared.
Being in the industry, especially if you are lucky enough to be successful, brings a lot of attention, pressure, judgement and criticism, and it´s a good idea to prepare yourself for that (as much as you can — there´s nothing quite like it though!)
And finally, avoid social media as much as you can. Of course it´s a tool you´ll need to use, but it´s better as a broadcast medium, rather than a conversation. The whole thing seems designed to mess up your mental health to me. So at the very least you should set clear boundaries around it.
Q: Could you give us an example of a time that served as a wake-up call for you?
Turner: My own mental health issues were, for a long time, wrapped up in addiction and substance abuse. I had plenty of low moments in there which should have been wake-up calls: turning up for tours or shows without having been to bed for days, out of my mind, and then playing badly. The worst sin!
I also had a moment around the release of my 2019 album “No Man´s Land” where the pile-on on social media got so intense that I seriously debated giving up — the benefits were not worth the costs at all. But then you stop looking at it all the time and you realise it´s not actually real. That was a big moment of realisation for me.
Q: What support would you like to see coming from the industry or governments?
Turner: I think broadly this is an issue that is coming to attention, in the industry, for the government, and in society at large. Certainly things have changed for the better immensely since I started in the industry.
But of course that´s not to say the problem is solved! In the UK there are some mental health groups like Help Musicians who do a great, if currently under-funded, job. The powers-that-be in the industry are starting to wake up to the idea that if your artists are sick and incapacitated, no one wins. But there´s further to go, of course.