- "We are the generation that's watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them."
James Blake spoke out about his struggle with depression and breaking the stigma around mental health at the Performing Arts Medicine Association symposium this weekend.
The UK musician spoke on a PAMA panel about "managing the suicide crisis" among artists in California on Sunday, Billboard reports, and stressed that the long-romanticised view of the troubled musician is dangerous and unhelpful. "There is this myth that you have to be anxious to be creative, that you have to be depressed to be a genius." He said, "I can truly say that anxiety has never helped me create. And I've watched it destroy my friends' creative process too."
Alluding to the recent death of Avicii, Blake said artists have a "responsibility" to talk about mental health and "remove the stigma": "We are the generation that's watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them. And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives."
Blake also got personal and shared his own experience dealing with "suicidal thoughts" on the road early in his career. "Your connection to other people becomes surface level [while touring]," he said. "So if you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff… which generally doesn't involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel."
He said the unhealthy touring diet and lifestyle magnified his mental-health issues. "I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts." He adds, "I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point."
Blake first spoke out about mental health in May, standing up to the "sad boy" descriptor often given to his music: "I've always found that expression unhealthy and problematic when used to describe men just openly talking about their feelings... We are already in an epidemic of male depression and suicide. We don't need any further proof that we have hurt men with our questioning of their need to be vulnerable and open."
James Blake last released an album in 2016 with The Colour In Anything, and he's been sharing new tracks throughout this year, such as "If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead" in January and "Don't Miss It" in May.