What’s up?

Hey, how’s it going? This is where I tell you once again that new music is still in progress and once again set another self imposed deadline that I’ll once again miss.

This attempt to make new music right now is not so much a creative pursuit as a battle within myself. It’s a fight between who I want to be and what I want to do, and the overpowering current of anxiety, fear and negativity that leaves me questioning it all.

I’ve always wanted to make music. I’ve been making music since I was 7 years old and I’m not about to stop. There was once a point where I dreamed of the big time but eventually I wised up and shook that idea off. Still, I wanted to be in bands, make noise, write songs, express myself, experiment and everything else, mostly for myself but also to share my ideas and experiences with others, and engage in a community of others.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve changed a lot as a person. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the solitude, but I’ve been overcome with cynicism and negativity that makes it hard for me to enjoy…anything. I find myself not only losing interest in things I used to love, but questioning how the hell anyone can even enjoy those things at all, even to the point of thinking people are weird for enjoying…anything.

“Why would anyone want to do that?” I say watching people having a nice time travelling the world and going to festivals and going out with friends, while I sit in bed playing Rollercoaster Tycoon.

I think a lot of this has come from my anxiety and phobias which have certainly become stronger since I moved to Brighton. So much time on my own has left me with just my mind to chat to, and it starts to sound like Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

I can feel your anger. It gives you focus, makes you stronger.

But at some point, I managed to realise what was happening. I’ve always been a bit cynical of pop culture and trends, but I was starting to feel the same way towards things I used to enjoy. I didn’t want to be this person. I didn’t want to join the Dark Side.

This weekend I would have normally been at 2000 Trees, but after being there for 9 consecutive years, this will be my second year away. I’ll blame it on the line up, money, time away from work, and to a degree that’s all true; it doesn’t quite appeal to me the way it used to. But the reality is that being in a massive field full of (quite drunk) people seems like a huge challenge for my anxiety, and so I feel that cynical side of me questioning how anyone at all can enjoy such a thing. It starts with “that doesn’t look fun to me,” and turns into “I don’t even know how to be comfortable with that,” and ends with “I don’t get why any of these people look like they’re having a good time, don’t they realise where they are?”

And this cynicism, it holds me back from doing what I love. What’s the point in trying to make music if I can’t stand the idea of festivals, touring, gigs, crowds – just letting go? How could I possibly become one of them that I see flooding the music industry now; the Instagram generation so focused on appearance and followers and fitting the description that the algorithms favour? I look at the bands and artists out there as they work hard to get that attention and all I see is the exact same thing duplicated over and over desperately trying to get on a Spotify playlist. I can’t be that. I can’t be like them. I never wanted that.

But did I never want any of it? Did I never enjoy getting out with friends and just not giving a shit? Did I never dream of playing festivals and gigs and tours? Has it been so long that I’ve totally forgotten the thrill of performing? The satisfaction of putting my heart and soul into a record and releasing it?

I can’t be that. That is not who I am. I am not this miserable hermit who looks down his nose at everyone while they’re just having fun and I am not. And this weekend has reminded me of that. Seeing photos from festivals, updates from bands about the great times they’re having, is reminding me that I’m not there, and I’m the only thing stopping me from being there.

I have been isolated with just my anxiety to keep me company for some time, and that has taken me so far from what I used to love. But I realise that there’s only one way to get back there; I just have to get up and go.

2 Comments

  • Nick Stebb says:

    Hey Steve,
    Just thought I’d get in touch and let you know appreciate your writing (and the legacy of what music you have created already to date!). I feel very similar anxieties to do with being sociable or disconnecting, to continually create or get caught up with ‘doing life stuff’.

    If it’s any consolation, I have found the easiest path was to just let go. After doing a lot of standup in London I found I had tethered my identity and ‘who I wanted to be’ to a strawman that had to be kept alive with my continued self-driving towards performance, even when I wasn’t enjoying it.

    I got disillusioned and stopped completely, cancelling all gigs in my diary. I felt a failure and that my dreams were dashed forever. I was missing ‘my chance’. A couple of years later and I have started drifting back towards performing and writing comedy, and actually enjoying it!

    In the interim period I was concentrating my energy on something else that I found meaning in, which served to detach my identity from the strawman I had previously constructed around
    ‘the comedian’.
    Now when I think about doing comedy, I think more about the process than the result. I found a local pub open mic that has similar vibes to The Red Deer used to, and going there now is mainly for a social activity, and sharing or performing is just a part of that.

    I also relate to the feeling you wrote about before of when you move to a different place and find that the same habits or problems will follow you there too. I am in New Zealand right now, and I’m sure everyone expects I am living the dream, but I have battled old demons too recently, and struggled to make friends due to social detachment.
    I recently found the work of Gabor Maté who talks about addiction a lot but also healing from trauma and disconnection. I have started to think that my lack of sociability is just a subconscious way to guard against trauma and rejection (that everyone has experienced) again in future. Still, all it takes is to locate a few members of our ‘tribe’ and we can be connected again, so I am trying to set the intention to do so.

    Just some thoughts I figured you might appreciate from across the globe. Keep trucking dude, I’m sure whenever the music returns it will come naturally.

    • steveandthesea says:

      Thanks so much Nick, that’s all really good stuff to think about and it does help to hear from others how they deal with such things. I’ve certainly felt the pressure to make things and I do now feel like I’m coming out the other side and just doing it because I love doing it. I want to create beautiful things and feel proud of it and enjoy the process more than make something because it’s demanded of me.

      And similarly, I’m trying to use it as a means to make friends and get out of the house. Pretty much everyone I know in Sheffield I met through music, open mics, gigs and the like. It just makes sense to go through the same process.

      Hope all is well in NZ and you’re finding your tribe. Keep up the good work man, do it for the love.

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