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“Songwriting was always a good means of getting worries out of my system”

John Hartley, AKA Johny Nocash, is a musician who has very kindly released an album, The Broken Heed, to raise money for CALM.  We asked him to tell us little bit more about himself and why he chose to support us…

“I’m towards the higher numbers in the 20-45 age bracket. I’ve been involved in bands since I was about 14; nothing that ever amounted to anything that could be regard as successful, but songwriting was always a good means of getting woes and worries out of my system, though I probably hid behind wordplay too much. About three years ago I got writers’ block – not for the first time, but this time was different: I thought I had nothing to say, I lost interest in playing the guitar, thought everything I played was just a rehash of older stuff. It might well have been, but it became apparent that it was symptomatic of a wider problem. I didn’t enjoy socialising, put up social barriers, became very suspicious of motives behind friendliness. I withdrew, and pressures at work – I teach young adults with severe learning difficulties – made the challenges of being a good father and partner seem insurmountable at times. 

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in October 2012. I had a short period of counselling through work, and propped myself up with Fluoxetine. I continued to have ups and downs until, in January, I hit the deepest trough I’d ever encountered. I’ve never done Autumn very well, but last year’s was much worse. Christmas felt like I was watching it happen around me, and then… I just couldn’t carry on. I had just over a month off work; more time than I’ve had in the past ten years or so combined. After a few days, when I could cope with doing things, I began to read. I’d seen the ManDictionary adverts on the way to work, visited the website and read other people’s stories.

In the run up to and then throughout the trough I began to plink and plonk on the piano downstairs, finding little melodies that would stick in my head. The words began to emerge, this time more stark and open than I’d ever allowed them to be. Words about the mess inside my head, about how it was perceived, about the similar troubles my friends had endured but now shared, about the little things that brought comfort and respite to me. 

I feel much better these days. An increased dosage, some CBT, some running, more counselling and the support of my friends and family have all combined to help. I cannot overstate how helpful the Twitter community has been too; a handful of people who know who they are have been fantastic support. By spring I realised I had an album’s worth of songs. It seemed to make sense to do something positive with these songs that had emerged out of a very dark period of my life. I was encouraged to try and give them a physical release, so crowdfunded to get a limited CD pressed (with help from CALM  in the form of plectrums, badges and beer mats to add to the CD for pledgers) – digital downloads are ok but I still think people enjoy having something tangible for their money. 


I’ve a limited profile in my musical guise of Johny Nocash, and no profile at all as The Broken Heed, so it has been a challenge – positive – to get people to buy the album. However, I reckoned I’d be marginally more successful at selling an album than trying to run a marathon; the CALM supporters who can do that are quite amazing. I usually give away my recordings for free (I’ve had the pleasure of writing and recording, and everyone works hard enough for their money as it is), but I was determined to try and raise some money for an organisation whose website helped me, and when I saw that £7 covered the cost of receiving a helpline telephone call, it seemed obvious that £7 would be the best price to sell the CD.”

Sounds good to us!  You can get hold of a copy of the album The Broken Heed HERE

Follow John on twitter @JohnyNocash

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