Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison went missing on Tuesday 9th May following a tweet he posted that “[people] be so good to everyone you love; I’m away now”. It sparked concern and fear for the frontman and bandmates & fans alike pleaded for his safe return, knowing that he was almost certainly in a fragile mental state.
Sadly, Scott Hutchison’s body was found at Port Edgar, South Queensferry on 11th May 2018. This devastated not only his family and friends but a legion of fans of his music both in Frightened Rabbit, his solo incarnation as Owl John and most recently in his newest group with brother Grant, Justin and James Lockey, Mastersystem.
Hutchison was widely known to speak about his struggles with mental health through his lyrics and that was part of the draw for fans; he understood. Two months before his death, he spoke to NME about the role that music plays in dealing with mental health issues, most notably that songwriting and performing was for him a “type of therapy.”
Although he found solace in this, he could see that there was an issue in society with talking about mental health and especially for men, saying “You don’t always communicate with the person who you should actually be talking to, and I think it goes deep – especially for men.”
In Northern Ireland, we have an extremely high suicide rate, especially with young men. Within our culture people are told to ‘man up’ and ‘be strong’ but this is unhelpful and leads to men feeling like speaking about problems is emasculating.
The official figures from Detail Data in 2016 showed that 77% of suicide deaths registered were male. That figure has risen since. There is a clear issue and this is highlighted with the deaths of high profile musicians like Hutchinson. In May 2017, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden was found dead while on tour with the band; in July 2017 Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington was found dead at his home as a result of suicide. This year, popular dance music artist Avicii was also found dead in an apparent suicide in April and more recently Jill Janus of metal band Huntress took her own life.
More needs to be done to raise awareness of mental health problems because poor mental health can affect anyone and suicide is everyone’s business. According to a study by Help Musicians UK, musicians are three times more likely to suffer with depression and anxiety.
We need to do more and this Wednesday night – 29th August 2018 – in Belfast’s Love and Death ‘A Night for Owl John’ aims to do just that, raising awareness and much needed funds for Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS).
I caught up with one of the organisers, local musician Andrew Cameron [Brash Isaac] for a chat about all things mental health and Frightened Rabbit.
What made you want to have this night for Scott?
“As soon as I heard of Scott’s death I knew I wanted to do something as a tribute to him. He has done so much for myself and my friends through the music he has created, so it’s the least we can do to give back and try and raise some money for charity. I knew a lot of fellow musicians were fans, particularly my pal Joe Rocks. I approached him about playing the gig and he said he wanted to do something similar, so we are putting it on together and getting our friends involved.”
What do Frightened Rabbit mean to you?
“They are one of the few bands that have stuck with me since I was a lot younger, I first listened to them just after I finished school and went to university. Lyrically and melodically they are so unique and brilliant, and I’ve always had an emotional connection with Scott’s songs and feel like he has influenced the way I write my own music.”
Do you think there is a problem with artists and mental health?
“I think everyone needs to look after their mental health in general, particularly with males, it is something that is not talked about enough and recently I had someone close to me take their own life, so it’s as close to my heart as ever at the minute. I think society is recognising mental health issues more now and it’s being less stigmatised, but raising as much awareness as possible is important. With art it can be more encouraged to be open and honest, and that can certainly help, but in other ways it may push you into a dark place which may not be the best for certain people.”
How do you find music helps with mental health?
“Playing and writing music is certainly cathartic in general, I would definitely recommend having a go at writing and putting your feelings down in song. It can help you to process things and feel closure. Even jamming with your buddies is a great escape.”
What’s your favourite FR song?
“Hard to pinpoint a song as they are pretty much all great, catchy and lyrically interesting. The first song of theirs I heard was ‘Head Rolls Off’ from ‘Midnight Organ Fight’, so that song stays with me. It also inspires me with the lyrics ‘while I’m alive I’ll make tiny changes to Earth’. That’s what we are trying to do with this event.”
Wednesday’s gig features local artists Runabay, Darren Doherty and The Heathen Choir, Bui, Aria Sail, Dean McKay plus organisers Brash Isaac and Joe Rocks all performing their own versions of Frightened Rabbit songs.
All proceeds go to PIPS and tickets can be bought in advance from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-night-for-owl-john-tickets-49131921901 or £8 on the night. Please show your support and help raise vital funds for mental health support. And remember it’s OK to not be OK.
If you are experiencing difficulties please reach out for help, you are not alone:
Lifeline 0808 808 8000
PIPS 0800 088 6042
Samaritans 116 123