A new pilot scheme in Bristol is aiming to tackle the mental health crisis amongst young male-identifying musicians. Its founder, Isie Potter shares the story behind the project and how dBs stepped in to offer its support.
“I believe with musicians - we are deep thinkers, we feel strongly and are in touch with our emotions - which is an incredible strength and creates amazing art, but it can also make you more susceptible to suffer from issues like anxiety, depression, addiction etc...”
"The prevalence of mental health issues amongst musicians is something Isie Potter sadly has firsthand experience of. "Whilst at music college I had many friends with mental ill health: depression, anxiety, addiction, self-harm, eating disorders, and since I graduated three of my friends have committed suicide...
"Two of these were male. One of whom in particular was a really talented, amazing guitarist called Toby Seed. Because suicide is now the leading cause of death amongst men under 50 it made me think – what could I do to support a potential Toby?”
Introducing Seed Sessions
Seed Sessions, a new pilot scheme offering music and counselling sessions to young men living in difficult circumstances in Bristol is Isie’s answer to this question.
Over the course of the summer, Seed Sessions provided 5 participants with monthly one-on-one mentoring sessions with inspiring music industry mentors: Mark Crown (Rudimental), Matt Roberts (Gentleman’s Dub Club), Ferg Ireland (bass player for Sam Smith and Ashley Henry), Steve Pringle (keyboard player for Michael Kiwanuka) and Mitch Jones, (Grammy-nominated musician/ producer for Mahalia, Jessie Ware, Neo, Ed Sheeran).
“Music is a form of expression,” says Isie. “If you find it hard to express yourself, and we know this is something men aren’t traditionally great at, it can be a powerful outlet. To be able to have that tool can be a lifeline for some people.”
“Of course, music is often very emotionally charged. A lot of the music being made by the participants was informed by very traumatic experiences, so sharing that with another person is a very vulnerable thing to do. It was important to us that there was a feeling of trust and that everyone felt safe."
Alongside their music sessions, participants were also provided with fortnightly counselling sessions with therapist Cory Stewart. “The counselling with Cory was obviously totally confidential, but sessions seemed to focus on: a male's perspective in the world, empathy, building routines, grounding techniques for stressful situations, organisation and much, much more... I know that this reflected itself through the music sessions."
“Success looks different for different people and each of the participants had set aims they wanted to get out of the project. These were diverse in nature and not always as straightforward as recording a finished track or something like that. Some people had aims to do with motivation, or how to keep up a good routine that's where the counselling really came in on the side. For other people exploring those more vulnerable feelings, then being able to bring that into the musical setting was very powerful.”
A space to grow
Due to the diverse geographic locations of the scheme’s mentors, one-on-one music sessions were conducted by Zoom, but to facilitate the participants in achieving their musical aims, Seed Sessions needed a physical space.
“The project is named in honour of Toby, but I was thinking about that word ‘seed’ in so many different ways. You know, a seed is so tiny, but it grows into this massive thing. It’s a lot like the potential that exists in every person, you just need to nurture it, and give it the right space to grow.”
“With music, if you're not in a safe environment, or you're worried about being overheard, or the conditions just aren't right, it can be really hard to honour your creativity. So, we really wanted to be able to offer that to people, especially, after lockdown, where everyone's been cooped up in their bedrooms, and desperate to get out somewhere else.”
When an arrangement with Knowle West Media Centre fell through, Isie was suddenly left without a space to offer her participants. Thankfully, dBs Pro, dBs Institute’s in-house creative audio company swiftly stepped in to offer its support.
“Being able to use the dBs Pro studio was brilliant. Firstly, just to have a quiet space in the middle of the city. where participants were free to express themselves and do whatever they wanted was great. But then having all that technology was amazing. The fact it was so professional was very inspiring. Everyone left their sessions really buzzing and really inspired. Maybe that wouldn't have happened if we were somewhere else.”
“It challenged me to be a better person”
To find out more about the impact of Seed Sessions, we got in touch with one of the participants to talk about their experience.
“Taking part in Seed Sessions was a blessing. The resources provided to us in terms of counselling and the dBs sessions worked extremely well. These made sure we were not only cared for but also challenged to better ourselves in a creative and personal environment.
“My counselling sessions with Cory Stewart were highly useful in confronting aspects of my mental health that lead to unhealthy behavioural patterns, in a warm and welcoming environment. While I was initially nervous about my creative sessions at dBs, the space Isie created for everyone was calming and non-judgmental.
“There was never any pressure put on us to make the most use of our time, and we were encouraged to make our own goals. With that, I was free to explore my creativity in the form of recording demos of my own music, with the assistance of the incredibly helpful dBs Pro interns.
“My sessions with my mentor Steve Pringle offered me valuable insight into different aspects of songwriting and sources of inspiration, which I carried into my own creative projects over the course of each meeting. Steve was incredibly helpful and accommodating and I found his knowledge and experience incredibly helpful.
“Overall, Seed Sessions was a wonderful experience. It challenged me to be a better person creatively and mentally. Through Isie, Steve and Cory's encouragement I was able to accomplish things outside of my comfort zone which I never would have considered before. I am grateful to be part of this experience, and I am hopeful for the project's future to help others like myself.”
Funding for the first stage of Seed Sessions was generously provided by The Quartet Community Foundation.
Isie is now applying for funding for the next stage of the project, which she hopes will open up access to more people and extend the sessions available to participants. Please get in touch with Isie if you feel this is something you would benefit from at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support Seed Sessions via Just Giving.
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