Austel - Going Through The Emotions - The Mind Map
By Conor Giblin

Austel – Going Through The Emotions

“It’s vital to ensure that your mental health is in a good place above anything else”

Published 19/05/2018
Austel is the moniker of the Devon-born artist Annie Rew Shaw, who makes haunting, emotional, cinematic music, discussing themes such as outgrowing your surroundings and the renewal of the self.

Her latest single ‘Lost At Home’ is beautiful, exploring the depths of loneliness and isolation that you can sometimes reach when you’re suffering from mental illness. We chatted to Annie about how therapeutic drawing can be, maintaining a healthy diet, Brutalist architecture and more, as she prepares to release her debut EP Unfold this summer.

Your new single ‘Lost At Home’ is absolutely stunning. The video was shot at the awesome Barbican Estate in London. What made you choose that location? Are you a fan of Brutalist architecture?
Thank you! We wanted to find somewhere with open space, but also an intimidating, bleak feel, so the Barbican’s beautiful Brutalist landscape served well.

I then go on to travel through different parts of London – places that are significant to me and my time spent here so far. There’s a lot of contrast – streets, stations, more natural environments like Hampstead Heath and abandoned railway tracks. It documents a struggle to find home; to find where you belong.

The track talks about feeling unsettled in your own home, which is definitely a very relatable feeling. How do you think people can combat that feeling?
The idea of ‘home’ is such a tangible one. I’ve always struggled to find my place in the world, as I think many people do.

‘Lost At Home’ documents a difficult time for me – I felt like I was shrinking as a person; my relationship wasn’t working anymore and I felt defeated by the city I was trying so hard to make my home.

I made some big changes and spent a year or so free-falling until I found my feet again.

But it was an invaluable experience and I feel I’ve grown immensely as a person because of going through that.

The most important thing I’ve learnt in the past couple of years is that sometimes you need to look inwards to find the things you’re searching for. Learning to love yourself – to be content with who you are without the need for validation from others – isn’t easy, but it’s so important to work towards.

You are your own home, no matter where you go.

Your debut single ‘Crows’ was released earlier this year. For those who haven’t heard it, what is the song about and what were you feeling when you were writing it?
‘Crows’  was written at the end of 2016, at a time when I was feeling insecure and doubting my own decisions. The lyrics served as a kind-of mantra for me; reminding myself to trust my gut and follow my instincts.

What has been your biggest life challenge and what did you do to overcome it?
Last year I found myself in one of the darkest places I’ve ever been, and I pulled myself out of it again.

I’m lucky to have some wonderfully supportive friends and family who forced me to be honest, even when I was trying to hide everything, and they made me realise it was okay to ask for help.

I had some therapy – something I think everyone should have more of. I learnt some great CBT techniques, which I still use. I wrote a lot of music, made a lot of art. Songwriting is like a superpower – it’s a brilliant tool to help process what’s going on and find some cathartic release.

How important has music been to your mental health?
Music is absolutely invaluable to my mental health. It always has been. It’s so powerful – it creates connection and relatability and generates an emotional response like nothing else.

Listening to records, singing with my bandmates, writing a song… they’re all incredible forms of therapy.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
A walk in the sun, good food, listening to or playing music and spending time with the people I love.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Knowing so many wonderful people who enrich my life every single day. Feeling the sun, the wind and the rain and being a tiny part of this beautiful universe.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Engaging with how I feel and letting it happen, rather than trying to resist it.

Who was your best friend at school? What was the funniest thing they did?
My best friend at school was a guy called Fred and he was a constant source of entertainment. We walked to and from school together most days and were always making each other laugh.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
Try to zoom out for a moment to reflect. It’s very easy to continually look towards the next thing, the next goal, and forget how far you’ve come or how much you’ve actually achieved. Don’t be ashamed of taking some time out. You can’t do anything well if you’re not well yourself.

What three songs lift your spirits?
I Fought The Law – The Clash

Twist And Shout – The Beatles

Get Rhythm – Johnny Cash

Do you have any routines that help you through stressful situations, such as right before a live performance?
When I feel really overwhelmed or stressed, I go for a walk, read a book or play the piano. I draw these little line drawings which are a really great way for me to focus my mind, as you find a flow but it doesn’t take too much focus.

What do you eat to stay healthy?
I eat the food that makes me happy. I’m pescatarian, I eat a lot of vegetables, avoid processed food and try not to drink too much coffee or alcohol, but fundamentally, the less I worry about food the happier and healthier I am.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
I’ve never been that sporty and sometimes going to the gym has done more bad than good for my mental health, so I try and do gentler forms of exercise like walking and yoga.

There’s a huge amount of pressure on people to look a certain way and follow a certain lifestyle, and while I believe it’s important to look after your physical health, it’s vital to ensure that your mental health is in a good place above anything else.

‘Lost At Home’ is out now:

Austel will release her debut EP Unfold this summer.