“There is this myth that you have to be anxious to be creative, that you have to be depressed to be a genius,” he said during PAMA panel.
A month after taking to Twitter to criticize the media’s description of his work as “sad boy music,” Mercury Prize-winning singer-songwriter James Blake spoke at the annual symposium of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) on Sunday at Chapman University in Orange County, Calif., to discuss his own experience with depression and anxiety and to encourage artists struggling with similar issues not to suffer in silence.
Speaking as part of a panel called “You Got This: Managing the Suicide Crisis in the Arts Population,” Blake, 29, spoke openly about his depression leading to “suicidal thoughts” while on tour early in his career. “I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed,” said the London-born musician, who achieved international renown with sparsely soulful tracks like “Limit to Your Love” and “The Wilhelm Scream” when he was just 21. On the road, he explained, "your connection to other people becomes surface level. So if you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff…which generally doesn’t involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel.”
Blake added that unhealthy eating habits, a common peril for touring musicians, exacerbated his mental struggles. “I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts,” he said. “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.”