On International Men’s Day 2016 CALM launched TORCH SONGS, a new campaign that celebrates the power of music to lift us out of life’s low points.
Everyone has moments when things get tough, but we all have a favourite track that can turn things around. A single song can change how you feel. That’s your Torch Song — it lights the way out of the dark.
CALM has launched Torch Songs to bring together music lovers and top artists in celebrating the power of music to lift us out of life’s low points. Artists are recording exclusive versions of songs that have inspired them, and fans are invited to share their own Torch Songs using the hashtag #whatsyourtorchsong.
Men especially can find it hard to speak up when things get tough, but Torch Songs shows it’s not unusual to struggle sometimes.
Check out all the exclusive recordings at torchsongs.co.uk and share your Torch Song with #whatsyourtorchsong.
Here are some of the artists who have recorded exclusive Torch Songs for the campaign.
Justin Young of The Vaccines on Hope by the Descendents
“I myself have been told to shut the fuck up by friends when trying to open up, and I think it’s a real problem we face.”
I think every band I have ever been in has covered Hope and it’s still one of my favourite songs of all time. Growing up listening to punk rock was so empowering and cathartic because of its raw power and anger. Often though, as a young boy, it was hard to relate to lyrically, but this song (and the album it came from, Milo Goes to College) spoke to me so deeply. I was 12 or 13 when my friend first played it for me, and I listened to nothing else for months. Obviously a lot of men find opening up and talking about their struggles and their feelings very difficult. I myself have been told to shut the fuck up by friends when trying to open up, and I think it’s a real problem we face. My relationship with songs like this one has helped me immeasurably through the years to get through tough times and I sometimes wonder what I’d do without them. The lyrics are pretty on the nose, but few things feel as good as shouting “I know some day, my day will come”, which I’ve been doing since I first heard it, dancing around my teenage bedroom pining for all my first crushes. I think I’m a bit of a heartbreak kid, and it still resonates in the same way today. I guess there’s nothing in the world quite like hope.
Frank Turner on This Year by the Mountain Goats
“The refrain ‘I am going to make it through this year if it kills me’ is perfect for shouting out loudly.”
I first came across CALM and the work they do a few years ago, when my friend Dan wrote a moving piece about his struggles with mental health. It was all the more affecting for me because, despite being pretty good friends with Dan, I was not aware that he’d had issues to deal with. It was an eye-opener for me, a perfect introduction to the importance of the work Calm does. My choice of song was easy: This Year, by Mountain Goats. I had a rough time of it in 2014 and 2015, for various reasons, both personal and professional. That song arrived in my life during that time and quickly became my battle anthem for surviving the slings and arrows. The refrain “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me” is perfect for shouting out loudly, to yourself or to others, during the darker times. Music has always been a sanctuary for me, as it is for many people.
Olly Alexander of Years & Years on Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
“I really believe that she’s lived, been hurt and is still figuring it all out. I take a lot of comfort from that.”
At 13 I taught myself piano from an old song book, and Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now was the first song I learned. That’s the reason I chose to cover the song for Calm’s Torch Songs. It made me into a huge Joni Mitchell fan. I have so many favourites of hers, but this song seemed special as it was the first. It’s so simple and heartbreaking. She re-recorded an orchestral version much later in her career and my mum would sometimes play it in the car. I always loved those car journeys and feeling like I was sharing a connection with my mum and with Joni. I like watching her perform it live on the Mama Cass show in 1969 – she’s so commanding and graceful. I love how she’s so vulnerable, she sounds so wise and poetic and exposed. I really believe that she’s lived, been hurt and is still figuring it all out. I take a lot of comfort from that. It always feels like a thump in the chest at the end of the song when she sings: “I really don’t know life at all.” It’s a brave line, it’s sad but it also feels hopeful to me.
Blaenavon’s Ben Gregory on Everything Reminds Me of Her byElliott Smith
“While Elliott’s tale ended so sadly, I think his music has saved a lot of people from a similar fate.”
I was always going to choose Elliott Smith. Because he’s my No 1 artist of all time, selecting one of his dozens of perfect songs was a trickier prospect. Everything Reminds Me of Her brings me back to autumn 2014, spending all of my time with someone I was very in love with and although things came to a bit of a sad end, I’ll listen to this song and remember the good old times and feel content in my nostalgia. Obviously the main message of the song hits home pretty hard, but it’s some of the other imagery that affects me the most. I don’t know how he got some of the most beautiful, abstract lines to fit so sweetly in this kind of rhythm: “The spin of the earth impaled the silhouette of the sun on the steeple.” Also the instrumental breaks hold some of the most touching guitar playing I’ve heard. It’s funny to choose such a sad song as my torch song but it just cheers you up when you realise someone has felt exactly the same way as you do now. It helps knowing that what’s happened to you isn’t the end of the world – someone else has been through it – and while Elliott’s tale ended so sadly, I think his music has saved a lot of people from a similar fate.
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