I don’t want to be the guy to burst the bubble around the typical view of a rock ‘n’ roll frontman. The sexed-up, drug-fuelled lothario; the party animal who doesn’t give a monkeys about anything but himself and the road.
But we can’t all be in ‘Towers of London’. The way I work is somewhat different, because, I suppose I’m just made of different stuff. I’ve never seen myself as an alpha male stereotype, so instead of trying to fit that mould I find myself swaying effortlessly towards the opposite. I see myself as the frontmum of the band instead of frontman, a sensitive chap who wouldn’t bark at a fly - and I’m cool with being an anti-cool figure.
When the going gets tough, that archetypal male survival mindset doesn’t kick in for me, I don’t ‘man up’. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean. Grin and bear it? Shout at it? Lash out at it? Does it mean ignore your issues and don’t speak to anyone about what you’re facing? Feel it but don't show it?
I just can’t do that. I’ve really tried, but as I’ve grown up I’ve realised how much cooler and frankly healthier it is to be open and express myself. I just try and be myself and not care about what people think of me, so in turn that makes me sensitive to everything, I care a lot. Ironic really.
The music industry is an alternative reality. It can give you a hall pass to deal poorly with normal life. This doesn’t account to everyone in the industry, not by a long shot, but a large number of musicians I meet have problems they suppress and never deal with correctly. I have friends who have messed up their marriages, hooked on drugs and women because it’s so readily available on the road, using them to block out difficulties in life. For people who come into this lifestyle as kids it's a bewildering, with no rule books and very little guidance, but that's the price of having the best job in the world, creating and performing music.
This life means that everyone has some kind of devil on their shoulder and the trick is how you deal with it. On my tours for the first Nothing But Thieves album I suffered with mental health issues and I completely crumbled. After pushing through for a year and self medicating, everything got to breaking point and I nearly quit the band. Why would I want to do something that takes me away from home so much, and the people I love, and puts a huge strain on my health?
So I sought professional help - the lifestyle and the amount of work really started to become too much. As much as I love what I do, I realised that as a functioning human beings we’re not supposed to live our lives in a moving tin can for 6-9 months of a year surrounded by the same eight people, then be lovebombed by an audience for an hour as your only interaction with the outside world.
Perversely, although it feels great, living off adrenaline is a form of torture, a recipe for madness; drug in some respects. But just being aware of that helps me cope and differentiate band life from reality.
Everyone expects a frontman to be a showman who just wants to be constantly in the limelight. Some days I feel myself slipping away, I have gigs where I’m quiet, even to the crowd I just want to sing and shut everything else out. For me the singing is the thing that gets me up in the morning and gets me through the worst days.
The expectation to be a party starter, a hype man, every night for months is a hard thing, when I’m naturally an introverted person. I have to command the stage bringing energy and life to every song. Some nights it’s completely there; I’m flying around stage, dancing in my own awkward way and just having the best night of my life. But some nights it’s not.
There are sky-rocketing-ups and cascading-downs that come with being in a band. Everyone faces them, everyone is human and everyone feels. I’m not looking for sympathy, I'd just like the public to recalibrate their expectations a little. Our ideas of rock stardom are narrow and outdated and we mustn't expect all entertainers to destroy themselves on our behalf.
We should celebrate entertainers who remind us of our humanity, and humans can break under pressure.
For more information on the #IAMWHOLE campaign visit the website
Broken Machine, the new album from Nothing But Thieves, is out now
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