Mike Macdermid is a Scottish-based singer and songwriter, currently working with some amazing artists around the world. In 2018, he hit #1 in China with the song Pull Up by Cai Xukun(蔡徐坤) and the song has been streamed over 100 million times, breaking 7 Chinese Billboard and QQrecords in the process.
He co-wrote Stylish by South Korean girl group LOOΠΔ. It featured on their debut LP ++. Within the first 24 hours, the song was in the top 5 of the USA iTunes album charts, also charting in the top 20 iTunes charts of over 30 countries, including the UK, Australia and Japan.
Mike is also a successful DJ for Northsound Radio in Aberdeen, fronting the popular ‘Home Run’ show from 3-7pm weekdays, and gave me my first media job at the station back when I was 16.
The topic of mental health in the music industry has been a talking point over the past few years following the deaths of musicians such as Avicii, Chris Cornell and Keith Flint from The Prodigy and is something which I want to talk about today.
I am extremely excited to have Mike as my guest in the “Mindset for Business” series on his views on the topic and what the music industry can do to help artists protect their mental health.
Q.1 Hi Mike, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me today. Firstly, congratulations on your recent success, obviously it is a great achievement but with success comes added stress and the expectation to keep doing well. How do you handle the pressure?
Thank you for the lovely words! The last 18 months have been amazing in terms of the chart positions and the music that has been released and I’m hugely grateful to everyone I’ve been working with. There are a lot of deadlines and we really must deliver within the time we’re given, and I think that’s probably the hardest part. We are constantly working and trying to be creative and honestly, I’m still trying to work out the best way to deal with the pressure. What I do try to do is spend some time doing something else active, like going to the gym, playing football or tennis, or even just having some time out. It’s also important to be able to say no to projects now and then. I’m not good at that!
Q.2 I recently watched the Avicii documentary and it was an eye-opener on how much pressure he was under, even after suffering from a serious illness. The tour life doesn’t suit everyone, and he seemed really affected by it. Do you think there needs to be more support available on the road for artists?
I think the difficulty is that the perception is that musicians are lucky to be touring and should just get on with it. The other idea is that it’s all part of the art of being a musician. To be clear, music itself doesn’t cause anyone to suffer from depression or anxiety, it’s all the other stresses around it, that do. I think documentaries like the Avicii one are important because they highlight that these people are human and have the same worries, insecurities and difficulties as the rest of us. There are organisations who offer support to musicians, but I do think more should be done to support artists of all genres and ages and at all stages of their career. Musicians often spend a lot of time in isolation, they work away from home and often they work unsociable hours.
Q.3 Why do you think it is so hard for men to talk about their mental health?
I’m someone who loves to play sport and I can tell you that there is still this outdated idea that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings, amongst men! Having said that, I do think social media is helping more and more men to understand that talking about mental health is not just ok, it’s really important. I think it’s hard for anyone to talk about, so the more we can do to educate people about mental health, the better.
Q.4 What advice would you give to someone who might be in the industry and struggling with confidence or pressure to perform when they don’t feel 100%?
It’s difficult because the sensible answer is to say to take a break. However, that isn’t always possible because musicians often work without contracts or are unsure of where the next pay cheque is coming from. So, what I would say is, try and talk to someone else in the industry that understands the pressure, talk to family, or even speak to your GP. Remember too that the reason you have been booked to perform is because you are good enough. Sometimes it’s important to remember that. There are groups like Help Musicians and the Musician’s Union who can also offer some support.
Q.5 We all have days where we struggle to be productive. This must be hard as a songwriter, when you have pressure to deliver a great song? Do you ever feel imposter syndrome or anxiety kicking in?
I feel anxiety regularly, particularly when there is time pressure on a song deadline. One of the most important skills that I have learned is to delegate. So, I will bring in other musicians who I trust and respect, to help me get through certain situations. Also, getting out of the studio for an hour can be as effective as sitting and trying to work through it!
Q.6 Lastly, can you tell us about your solo album and your plans for the rest of 2019?
It’s actually scary to be releasing my own album because I’ve spent the last 2 years writing for other artists, but I am finally going to be releasing an album by the end of the year! My first single called Alright is coming out in July, so I’ll do some shows, maybe do a little touring and then I’ll work towards the full album release! I can’t wait!
Thank you for your time today Mike and for a really interesting insight into the industry. I think we are all guilty of shaming musicians when are they announce that they are taking a break or postponing a tour due to exhaustion, and I think that this interview will make people more supportive amd aware of what it is like behind the scenes.