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John Newman talks mental health and lockdown

A blurry picture of John Newman
A blurry picture of John Newman Image credit: nme.com

John Newman has shared the struggles he went through during lockdown and how it affected his mental health.

The musician told NME he was suffering from depression, but found solace falling back in love with music and recording his new single ‘Waiting For A Lifetime’.

Newman explained: “When you’re touring, no matter if a single’s not doing that well or there’s crap going on at home or you don’t like yourself as a person, it’s not something you actually know.”

When lockdown started, the gigging stopped which had a severe effect on his wellbeing.

Newman said: “When that opportunity to run and hide was taken away from me, I realised that I was actually miserable and so not happy with how my career was going.

“I realised that I was just running at a thousand miles an hour to try and cover that up.

“Taking the free champagne and getting pictures on the red carpet and thinking that was success, when really I’d lost all vison of what success was, which is the pure love and emotion of something that you’ve created doing well.”

He found there was “a lot to deal with at the beginning, to deal with these emotions of me and who I am, and how to make myself better. That was really hard.”

“For years I was leaning on a side of me that was influenced by Northern Soul and Motown. Although it will always inspire me, I felt I began to lose grip, lose focus and become disorientated,” he said.

“I just decided ‘I’m not happy and I don’t have any fight left in me’. But as soon as I did that, I felt this pressure release – to feel better.”

Newman continued:  “I was fucked because I couldn’t release music so what was the point, and I also had no responsibility so I had to just focus on getting myself better mentally and getting out of a really depressed, and some days suicidal state, and get myself feeling good again.”

But he found himself in a more positive mind frame when he went back to producing dance tracks which “really helped”.

Newman said:  “I wouldn’t even sing on them, I was making long instrumental dance tracks that just made me feel great and emotional and that’s what music should be.”

On his new song “Waiting For A Lifeline” there’s a few words which allowed him to release his emotions into song.

“There’s a lyric in it – ‘flashing lights, leave my tears on the dancefloor, empty nights, I’ve been holding on for something more’ – and that is literally about the idea of running around the world, trying to escape every emotion and hide from everything I’ve ever done wrong or been embarrassed of,” he said. “It got to the point where I needed to write that song and when I did, I instantly felt so much better.”

Newman realises when a person is going through depression it can also effect loved ones.

“When someone is suffering for a long time, it must be a hard gig for the person on the other side,” he said. “My wife was there for me and she’d be saying these things and I’d be losing my nut at her.”

Sharing one of the low moments Newman said:  “I remember apologising one day and saying ‘I’m done with everything, I’ve got no temperament for any confrontation or anything’. I feel for anyone that’s had to go through it in the first person, but also as a partner of somebody as well.

“But it’s amazing for someone to have that person there, because that’s when things go wrong if they don’t – they say ‘check in on your friends’ and it really is important. If I didn’t have Nana, my mrs, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Later in the interview Newman revealed he thinks making music can be a lifeline for people struggling with depression.

“I think standing behind the decks is certainly more reassuring for someone who’s been through a mental health crisis,” he said. “I don’t know if I could stand on the front of the stage pretending I’m Alex Turner or James Dean anymore!”

For advice and support with mental health visit the Mind website.