It’s been five years since singer and songwriter RHODES released his last album. During that time he “fell apart and put himself back together”, something he says you can hear from new EP “I’m Not Ok”. Rhodes chatted to CALM about his break, how writing the album affected his mental health, and how he copes when things are a bit crap.
When talking about the themes of his new EP “I’m Not Ok”, Rhodes mentions him coming to terms with the fact that there is love around him and people who care: “The new EP retraces my footsteps to a time when I was trying to figure out what led me to be where I was at a certain time in my life. These are the most direct, most personal songs I’ve written and the overriding message I’d like people to take from the EP is hope.”
Songs like ‘Love You Sober’ are very personal to RHODES and highlight the escapism he found through alcohol. It was a song he was really nervous to release: “When I was a teenager I’d escape with drinking and partying and going out and doing all these things. But I kind of used that as a metaphor for general escapism and running away from problems. I guess I got to a point where I realised my self-destruction was really hurting everyone around me.
“It was quite hard to write but it was an important one for me and those around me who care. It was me hoping they can see I want to get better and be a better person, but understand that it’s hard. I hoped it would be an expression of frustration and desperation to try to get better and have a better life.”
While we couldn’t imagine RHODES doing anything but singing, there was a time in his life when he planned to be a guitarist – and actually had a fear of singing in public. Luckily, with support from his friends and family, he overcame that fear: “My dad was a guitarist so I grew up running home from school, standing in front of the mirror and playing my guitar along to Jimi Hendrix. Then loads of bands later and loads of experiments later, I found myself feeling a need to express something a little deeper, a bit more personal, a bit more emotional. The fear of singing was always there but I got to a point where I was like: ‘Oh, man if I don’t do this now, I know I never will.’ I showed some of my songs to people I trusted and got great feedback. So it was a little encouragement from my friends and family, but then also just literally chucking myself in the deep end and doing it.”
It’s writing journals, as well as exercise and talking to friends, that RHODES recommends to people when things are a bit shit: “I always feel a bit unqualified to give advice because I’m still trying to deal with things, you know, and going through my own stuff. But I definitely think the first step in beginning to approach fixing problems and working through struggles is to, just hold your hand up and talk to a friend, or talk to anyone, even if it needs to be somebody you don’t know, you know, like a therapist or someone like that.
“I think this is why one of the most awesome things about CALM is that you’ve got that helpline where if you’re not ready to be open with your family as you could be with a stranger, then calling CALM is a great first step for sharing your problems.
“I’ve got a small circle of friends. My best friend and I have our little Friday night catch up. He lives in Bristol and I’m in London so we always meet for a pint on Fridays over FaceTime and just sit and chat and check-in. I’m very open with my friends and my friends are very open with me – most of my friends are also creatives. So, being open and transparent comes with the territory. But I feel really lucky because my friends and I have always been quite open with each other about stuff.”
RHODES also had to take some time out to look after his mental health. From hardships with his previous management to periods of self-doubt, he had to work on how to balance his anxieties:
“I went through big periods of hating everything I’d done and scrapping everything. I’m one of those people who – if one person says something negative, it’s all it takes to plant the seed of doubt in my mind, and I’m like, oh, maybe everything I’ve done is shit – and maybe none of it is good enough. So, when it came to writing this album, I came away from that experience, just feeling knowing I needed to go back to the drawing board.”
So, writing such an honest album was really important to RHODES, but being a secretive person, it left him quite vulnerable: “Being honest in songwriting always evokes really bad anxiety in me because I think about people like my parents hearing it. I like to leave a little to the imagination. But, you know, at the same time, it’s just extremely therapeutic.”
And it’s experiences of his childhood that have helped RHODES with his writing. When he was young, he had vivid dreams and nightmares, which he always thought had a deeper meaning. It was his mum, who had always been spiritual, who encouraged him to keep a journal and write his dreams down. He’s also found that writing his feelings and emotions down as an adult helps him when he’s going through a tough time: “It’s really quite profound actually. It almost leaves you when you write it down on paper. And I’ve found that it’s helped me in general, to let go of things. It was my sporadic thing, but it was my first exploration into keeping journals and it’s something that has really helped me with my writing and my creativity: getting those emotions out and feelings down on paper”.
Now, when he’s not thinking about music, RHODES is trying to be more present with his own mental health and his family. “I’ve only recently realised that I spend every single waking moment of my entire life thinking about music. It was really quite a revelation because I didn’t give a second thought to anything else, including my family and stuff like that. So spending time with my family is really important to me.”
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