This is going to be tricky. I like to come across as a little witty, funny if I can, and make people smile and laugh, just before I attempt to reduce them to tears with my songs. It’s a fun dance that we do. But this is a story about depression. So how do I write a hilarious post about depression? Better down my third cup of coffee and put my funniest thinking cap on.
I always thought there could never be anything funny about being so desperate because your brain refuses to cooperate that you actually start to consider ending it all. But when I was in that situation I remembered a story I once heard about a famous Icelandic drummer who threatened to kill himself. He was living in London at the time. His keyboard player was very cool about the whole thing and said: “Look, if you kill yourself, what’s going to happen to your dog?”
The drummer didn’t respond.
“I’ll tell you what’ll happen,” the keyboard player said. “He’ll get hungrier and hungrier, and eventually he’ll eat you. He’s a dog, he needs to eat. Soon after that, he’ll probably find some way out of the flat. He’s a crafty dog, after all. And he’ll run around London, trying to survive. And at some point he’ll have to relieve himself. So you have to ask yourself: Do you really want to end up as dog shit on the streets of London?”
The drummer lived for decades after that. And as I sat on my toilet with a razor blade in my hand, I remembered that story and started laughing.
I decided I was an idiot. And I went to see a psychiatrist who basically confirmed that. (“Son, just stop being a moron and you’ll be fine.” I mean, he didn’t say that, but I read between the lines.) And I started to get better.
Too much information? Well, there is a reason I wanted to tell you my story. See, I had this experience where I opened up about my depression and anxiety issues on Icelandic media, and I started getting messages from people telling me that they had experienced similar things, especially the anxiety that tends to drag me down. And I think my experience might resonate with some of you, so please, read on.
First of all, these issues can be a double edged sword. I have been able to draw on my issues to come up with lyrics that I think are pretty good, and it’s easy to start thinking that maybe there’s something to that old cliché about artists needing to suffer for their art. And music has certainly been quite therapeutic for me. It’s like a natural antidepressant. But at the same time my brain has worked against me at every turn. That nagging voice at the back of my mind is there all the time, telling me I’m not good enough.
“That song sounds too much like that other song.”
“Your voice is not unique enough.”
OK, that last one was my wife, and she was right. I needed a shower. Moving on.
Anxiety has been very effective at slowing my musical journey down. It took me over a decade to actually get my first solo album together. I had the idea and the name ready, and more than a few songs, and I could have finished it in a year or less. But I was never confident enough, never secure, never ready. So I put it off, and I put it off, and for a while I thought it would never happen.
I even started recording, and had most of it ready, but I just kept postponing it.
Then stuff started happening. As much as I wasn’t putting myself out there and wasn’t getting stuff done, my musical career started to happen almost without me. I started getting work writing music for theater. And performing! When I was a kid I wanted to become an actor. Well, now I got to work (for money!) in the theater, writing songs, singing them, and even acting. I even played the main character in a musical that I wrote and performed all the songs for. And that musical received the Gríman award – the Icelandic equivalent of the Tonys. So I became an award winning artist!
All of that should have made me happy about my musical career. But I wasn’t, really. Because I always felt I was missing that crucial piece of the puzzle – the album that I had always wanted to get out there.
Fast forward to a trip to Rome. I had just seen the best live show of my life. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Following the release of Skeleton Tree, that beautiful and grim masterpiece. And after the show I sat in my hotel room, with a bottle of whisky. Drinking. Thinking.
On a whim I took to Facebook. Drunk. The start of any great story. And I started a group for my friends and family to push me toward the final goal. I said: “You need to make sure I get the album out there. Hold me to it.”
And they did. They kept pushing me for updates and made sure I didn’t give up.
I finished the damn thing. I started a crowdfunding campaign that was very successful. I threw a huge release show, where I played for 3 hours, and the room was absolutely crazy. And the biggest radio station in Iceland, Rás 2 – National Radio 2 – chose my album as their album of the week, which is a huge honor for any musician. It was a wild ride, really tough, but it was all a huge success.
So here I stand, after all this time, with a successful album under my belt. Award winning. Happy. I didn’t let my depression and anxiety win. I have wonderful friends and family who helped push me across the finish line. And I feel very lucky that I’m able to share my songs with people around the world. Every day I hear from people who have listened to my stuff and been moved in some way, and it really makes it all worth it. And you know, if it hadn’t been for that drummer who didn’t want to end up as dog poo on the streets of London, I don’t know if I would be able to do that.
I know I’m not alone. We all have those nagging voices. Some of us are good at tuning them out. Some of us are not. My ongoing mission in life is to choke that voice. CHOKE IT! I’m going to strangle that son of a bitch and bury him in my backyard. And I have great friends to help me dispose of the body. So if you have some of those voices slowing you down in life, try to gather some of your best people and get them to help you commit voice-murder.
So. The album has been out for a while now. It’s called A Bottle Full of Dreams and I’m very proud of it. It was a real labor of love. And it took me 10 years to get it done! It would mean the world to me if you pick up a copy, and you would be supporting my musical journey – helping me to bury those bodies.
It’s a great soundtrack for murdering your doubts.
Well, that’s about it. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any stories like this, or anything to add to mine. Or if you just want to say howdy! Don’t be a stranger.
Until next time, my friend.