I’m very excited to have a wonderful ‘Brave & Bold’ mental muse for you today – my birthday! – so go meet Emily. You’ll be glad you did.
Welcome Singer Song Writer & Author,
Best-known for her strong, thought-provoking lyrics and supremely expressive vocals, Emily Maguire’s songs have been played regularly on BBC Radio 2 and have won her fans across the globe.
Originally from London, Emily spent four years living in a recycled shack on a farm out in the Australian bush where she made goats cheese to finance her music. Following the release of her critically acclaimed albums ‘Stranger Place’ and ‘Keep Walking’, Emily returned to the UK touring extensively with some of the world’s great singer-songwriters including Don McLean, Eric Bibb, Paul Brady, Dennis Locorriere and Roddy Frame. Her third album ‘Believer’, a ‘masterpiece’ according to Maverick Magazine, won rave reviews in the music press with two songs playlisted on BBC Radio 2.
A classically trained multi-instrumentalist, Emily is truly ‘a talent to be reckoned with’ (R2 Magazine). Her fourth album ‘Bird Inside A Cage’, released in 2013, was produced by Nigel Butler (k.d.lang, Will Young, Robbie Williams), known to TV lovers as one of the producers on X Factor. With its release funded entirely by Emily’s fans, ‘Bird Inside A Cage’ is a bold departure from her previous recordings while still retaining all the underlying trademarks of her emotive, lyric-rich songs.
1.What is your mental health issue?
I have bipolar disorder type I.
2. How long have you been writing fiction? Tell us about your career so far.
I’ve been writing songs since my early 20s. I’d been ill for a long time with a condition called fibromyalgia pain syndrome so I was stuck at home. To pass the time I taught myself the guitar and started writing songs. Songwriting was a revelation, perfectly combining my love of poetry and music. When I was back on my feet again I moved to Australia where I recorded my first two albums ‘Stranger Place’ and ‘Keep Walking’. I spent four years living in a shack on a goat farm in the bush before returning to the UK in 2007 to tour with American legend Don McLean.
After 2 years touring the UK extensively with other great singer-songwriters, I recorded my third album ‘Believer’ at Kore Studios in London. It was released in 2009 and had two songs playlisted on national radio. After another bipolar episode the following year I published a book called ‘Start Over Again’, a very personal account of my experiences of dealing with bipolar disorder. I’d done a lot of radio and press interviews but never revealed the fact that I had a mental illness so I was very worried about whether publishing this book would end my music career. There was still a lot of stigma about mental illness at the time. But when the book was launched on BBC Radio on World Mental Health Day the response was fantastic. I was inundated with messages from people all of whom said that I was brave. But I didn’t feel brave, I just felt completely liberated. I didn’t have to hide anymore, I could talk about my mental illness, be open about it, even be of some help to other people who suffer the same condition.
Since then, I’ve continued touring and released my fourth album ‘Bird Inside A Cage’. I’ve also done a lot of media interviews talking about mental health. Last year I did a tour of psychiatric hospitals, singing my songs about surviving mental illness to staff and patients. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
3. How has mental ill health helped your writing?
As far as songwriting goes, my mental illness has played a huge part. I firmly believe that creativity is the silver lining to the bipolar cloud. I wouldn’t write songs the way I do if I didn’t have bipolar disorder. So the illness is a blessing as well as a curse. Experiencing extreme highs and lows blows open your mind and breaks your heart in equal measure. It teaches you great empathy with the suffering of others but also gives you a heightened sense of the magic and mystery of life. This is all great fuel for the fire of creativity. If I’m on a high I can produce a huge amount of work in a short space of time. There is a particular kind of energy that you need for creativity and in a manic episode I find myself bursting at the seams with the urge to write something new, something beautiful.
‘Over The Waterfall’, Emily Maguire’s powerful song about her experiences of living with bipolar disorder, taken from her fourth album ‘Bird Inside A Cage’. Available to download from iTunes. Lyrics at www.emilymaguire.com.
4. How has it not?
There’s always payback afterwards and I often find that I get writer’s block with the depression that inevitably follows a high. The block can last for weeks, months or even years. The anxiety that goes with the depression drains my confidence which makes me feel like I’m not going to be able to write anything good so there’s no point even trying. Also there’s that terrible realisation when you thought you’d written the best song in the world at three o’clock in the morning and you wake up in the cold light of day to discover that it’s nothing special. I can have whole weeks where I think I’m writing great stuff but actually it’s not great at all, it’s mediocre at best. That’s very hard to face when I come back down to earth.
5. What advice do you have for other writers with mental health issues.
My advice is to persevere. And be patient. Sometimes you’re on a roll and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you’re ill and sometimes you’re not. But that illness is not time wasted. My favourite quote is “all the shit is just manure”. Manure for all those seeds of creative thought you sow inside your mind, that just need a bit of sun and a bit of rain to grow.
“A class act”
“Assured…intelligent…enjoyable…a true artist”
..UNCUT MAGAZINE THE MIRROR R2 MAGAZINE
Connect With Emily
Christian Dunham at Shaktu Records
Phone: 07910 332393
If you are an author/writer who experiences mental health issues who would like to share how this impacts you professionally/personally, then please click the following link to download The Mental Muse questions and instructions. Then, get them back to me using MENTAL MUSE ANSWERS as the email subject header. I’ll be in touch.
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Many thanks Emily, for being a brave and bold mental muse!
And thanks to all readers for your continued support.
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