Singers can move their sadness into action –says Petra Tool
Numerous studies expose the close relations between creativity and melancholy.
Our sensitive, receptive nature and the focus on our inner feelings and thoughts can cause us to ruminate, making us more vulnerable to the ‘blues’.
The vast majority (up to 75 percent!) of all famous artists, writers and musicians suffer from the most serious form of ‘blues’ – depression.
Picasso, Leonard Cohen, Hemingway, Tolstoy – and so many more – all found inspiration in their darkest moments.
In the documentary Behind the Music, Christina Aguilera revealed that her depression is always lying there, just below the surface.
She admits that she’s even tempted to go after this place of sadness –
whether she wants to or not.
It’s True for Frank
This truth hit home for me when I interviewed singer-songwriter and Hammond virtuoso Frank Montis. (see full sized image below)
Most of Frank’s songs are self-reflective, with a bluesy feel.
He even calls himself ‘a bluesy guy’, semi-jokingly rating himself – on the emotional blues scale of 1 to 10 – a 9.5.
He revealed to me that his emotions often guide his creative process:
“They guide me writing my songs. I write instinctively, preferably when I’m in the midst of an emotional process. I wrote “Fading” the very night I heard a friend of mine was dying of cancer.”
He shared with me that there are many sleepless nights involved in trying to find his own path in life.
This journey is a source of inspiration for many of his songs:
“Many people live their lives conforming to societal standards and religious rules, without questioning them. I want to make my own rules. Rules I can sleep peacefully at night by though. I haven’t found my own truth yet.”
Feeling Blue on Stage?
Frank admits it’s hard to perform when he is feeling out of sorts:
“On stage you have to pretend you’re on top of the world, which sometimes isn’t the case. Surrounded by a big band full of cheerful musicians I can feel out of place sometimes.”
“Fortunately, making music together is also a great way of escaping from your own troubles for a couple of hours.”
Moving Sadness into Action
Thinking of the lives of the struggles of great artists, and reflecting on Frank’s journey, it doesn’t seem possible to erase the blues from our lives.
But should we even want to?
Maybe our goal is really to accept who we really are inside, be thankful we have rich and open minds, and make use of it.
It’s hard, but gratifying, to move our sadness from draining our productivity, to fuelling our creativity.
One way I move my sadness into action is to scribble the phrases and images of my chattering mind in my journal.
By transforming them into sketches or poems I get beyond the usual -and useless – ruminations.
I don’t have expectations for this activity to be “great art”, just a way to move my mind forward.
But whenever these ‘therapeutical’ snippets have the potential of becoming a piece of art, I discover that the melancholy has become a creative source.
Petra Tool is a Dutch artist and artist’s coach. A gifted portrait artist, she explores the personalities of gifted performers, interviewing them about their talent, passions, the problems they face, their insecurities and secrets of their success. You can find more information on her website .
Handclaps – 70×90 cm – watercolour – Petra Tool