We Love Life – Sam Fender

6 months ago   |   Words: Sue Bennett

We chatted to singer songwriter Sam Fender for our ‘We Love Life’ exhibition which continues through mental health awareness week at Constellations in Liverpool. 

Okay. What’s your full name, age, and where you’re from?

I’m Samuel Thomas Fender, I’m 22 and from North Shields Tyne and Wear

Are you studying or working?

I’m working.

What, and where?

I’m working as a singer-songwriter at home and away.

Awesome. What are your plans for today?

I’m going to record the next single vocals. Do a chat with you; go do some photos and the have a rehearsal. Then pack my bag and go to bed.

Awesome. What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m reading a book called Sapiens, which is fucking mental. It’s absolutely crackers it’s about the beginning of mankind. It’s like pretty nerdy but it’s about the human race and there were loads of different species of humans coexisting at one time. There were about 7 different types of human. So that’s been kind of boxing my head. What have I been watching on TV? I just watched that Green Room thing last night. That was pretty brutal. And what else?

What are you listening to?

Oh oodles of stuff. But always always Joni Mitchell. I listen to Joni Mitchell all the time. She’s my hero.

What would constitute a perfect day for you?

I don’t know. Because there are different types of perfect days isn’t there? Cos like there’s a perfect day if I get loads of work done and then I’m happy with myself, then there’s a perfect day when I just lay may work beside and get lashed and have a great time. So, I don’t know. You can’t really combine the two because that just doesn’t exist.
But like an idealistic, perfect day. Something where you want to wake up and you can have like a blissful day?
Okay. Wake up in the South of Italy. That’s a perfect day. That’s where I’m going to go on holiday. Yeah, so I wake up in the South of Italy. I’d go to Franco for a pizza. If I had a boat that would be cool. That’s probably perfect like, having a boat, going round the Med, getting pissed. Just being like a Geordie swashbuckler, but in the med. With loads of red wine and carbs. That’s a perfect day.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful for?

I am most grateful for my friends because they are wonderful. And I’ve got a really, really good group of friends, I know that’s pretty wet but – that’s really important. Family and friends man. You choose your friends so it’s important. And I think when you actually, when you find out, I think you go through a lot of phases when you’re growing up and you hang out with a lot of people who are total cunts probably. If you are lucky enough and you actually find a good set of mates who will actually stick by you for life, that’s the most important thing. And there’s nothing I love more then getting off to go see them.

Awesome. Complete the sentence for me: Ace mental health for me means __ ?

For me it means, what it means to me? Well, I think anybody would want that, but it’s very rare that you’re going to be. What is good mental health? Is it being balanced, is it having a good-? Oh, what is it? I don’t know. That’s a tough one that. I actually struggle with that question. Cos, I think for me, I don’t know what it is for me really. Just, staying busy. Like, I think I get myself in a rut when I’m not doing anything. But, also I think it’s quite easy to go in on yourself and think everything’s against you. And I think what helps me is helping my friends. So if my mates are in bother or if anyone, I think just trying to adopt a more selfless life. If you start becoming more selfless and looking after the people around you, you will look after yourself. Like, just completely subconsciously, because you will be doing something good. You will feel good about it. As long as you are looking after other people, I think the Universe will give that back. Not that I believe in any of that, but you know what I mean. Just if you’re doing good, it will come to you naturally.

What do you do to stay mentally healthy?

Do my music. This is the wettest interview I’ve ever had to give. But, it really is my therapy. If I’m not doing this then I go a bit mental. I think just writing. Documenting what’s going on in my life. It’s kind of like a diary where I can unload all of the stuff that I want to talk about. And again, just looking after, it’s just the same answer really, like if you kind of try and make a conscious effort to be more selfless in your day to day life with even people on the street and friends. You know if you like smile, you know that thing where just smiling at someone a day, stuff like that. There’s a lot, you can adopt a lot of little habits like that and make it into your mantra and that makes you, probably makes you happy. I think so. I think everything’s just trial and error.

I think probably people will just be like ‘eat well, eat healthy food, set goals’, but I think that, was it someone saying that the main things that a person needs to be mentally stable is that you need to feel wanted or something or that you need to have a purpose? And something else. I think those things are pretty imperative to good mental health. I mean whether feeling wanted is somebody having somebody to love or having just being loved in return and purpose is well. I don’t know. You can get purpose from anything can’t you. Because even doing my music and stuff like that, that is purpose but it’s not like, I don’t think it’s as important as something like having a kid or something, that’s real. That’s purpose. That’s real responsibility. That’s life changing. I’ve got to guide this little creature through this shit storm. So, yeah. I think I would like to be good at that. That’s purpose.

Last one. Who inspires you and why?

There are loads of people who inspire me. I don’t know. I love all my singer-songwriters, stuff like that, but when you say who inspires, I kind of instantly on autopilot go to music because we’re talking about music all the time. But I’m trying to think of maybe someone else that inspires me. I’ll come back in like a week and answer that. I don’t know. I’ve got like all the wettest answers it’s really bad. Me mam – we’re best mates (joking). I really want to say the wettest answer ever but no I’m not saying that, I can’t say that. What have I become, who am I. Let’s move on. That’s the last one. I will think about it. We’ll come back to that one.

Skinny Pelembe – Going Through The Emotions

1 week ago   |   Words: Mark Taylor   |   Photography: Auriane Defert

The successful pursuit of artistic endeavour has afforded Skinny Pelembe some well-earned lie-in’s, but don’t confuse a late start with laziness. The singer-guitarist-producer has been burning the midnight oil working on music that has featured on 6 Music and Radio 1 Xtra. After recently finishing a UK tour supporting the release of his single ‘I Just Wanna Be Your Prisoner’, Doncaster-raised Skinny offers The Mind Map his varied insight into accepting personal loss, and how best to navigate the London Underground with musical equipment in tow.

What are you working on at the moment?

Album 1 tracks, beats for other folks, a choral arrangement, album 2 demos, ideas for a special super cool science project, and since painting the new EP cover I’m trying to get my brush game up again!

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Honestly, just trying to keep it together since losing my old man (as in passing on, not like losing him in one of those mega Sainsburys stores that do bedding and stuff, too). I guess you don’t overcome, more accept, having music / art as an outlet is so massively underrated.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

I might have had the perfect day in Nottingham last weekend, the city that just gives! City centre paddling pool, fairground, artificial beach, a Universal Works store, we played a show at Rough Trade, Yazmin Lacey and the Running Circle crew came out to hang. The only thing more that I wanted was a 99 flake, and when I finally got one I think I felt my pancreas bend upwards to form a smile shape.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m very quickly becoming obsessed with Aldous Harding’s voice and singing faces, so I’m listening and watching her A LOT. Reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami again, the whole mood of the book just feels so familiar, it’s the comforting literary equivalent of pie and mash for me.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I’m most grateful that for at least most of my working week I don’t have to wake up before 9am anymore. That sounds lazy, but I’ll happily work till 4am, so get off my back, man!

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

…being the salmon that can swim upstream, and not necessarily make it up the river, but still smile as you push through the current.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

As little sugar and “bad” carbs as possible. Apart from the obnoxious amount of Rubicon passion fruit, and Maoam, and Nata cakes I consume.

I have the Juan Manuel Fangio of metabolisms, so until it slows down I’m just gonna continue to read loads about nutrition and be that wanker talks the talk but doesn’t walk it.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

Running everywhere with my guitar, amp and pedals. I’m working with transport for London on a system that incorporates the kettlebell “functional movement” style into the “late musician lugging loads of gear around” routine, I think it’s just going to be a game changer…

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

SJC. Standing Jump Crew. A rag tag group of young, dedicated mavericks with one goal – to push the limits of the standing-start long jump. I left the game as Doncaster Metropolitan Borough’s under 12’s Long Jump champ. The group disbanded shortly after. I’d hit the wall. Literally.

What three songs lift your spirits?

Oh Yoko – John Lennon

Show Me What You Got – Busta Rhymes

Just One Second – London Elektricity

What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?

Those that matter don’t mind.

Those that mind don’t matter.

Mind over matter.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Paul McKenna’s Deep Relaxation Guided Hypnosis tape. Sounds ridiculous. Is ridiculous. But it works…

You can find Skinny Pelembe’s latest tour dates and releases here.

Nia Wyn – Going Through The Emotions

2 weeks ago   |   Words: Rebecca Durband

Nia Wyn is an inspiring young woman – using her own mental health experiences to help others.  Growing up in a small town in North Wales, Nia found comfort in old soul and blues records. Her latest release ‘Turnstiles’ was produced by Paul Weller. We caught up with the socially conscious storyteller to discuss her work, music and how she stays well.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’ve been digging up 1960s and 70s Aretha Franklin releases. Early Nas. Trojan compilations too and the new Internet album. I haven’t found time to read for quite a while now. I’ve been watching a lot of UK crime dramas lately, including the Unforgotten. Plus Matt Groening’s new show Disenchantment.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Giving up alcohol. I’ve been four years sober. I had to draw on the support of my loved ones, throw myself into music and take my time. One of the best decisions I ever made.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

That I need to give myself a break now and again as I’m way too hard on myself – still working on it.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Spending the daytime with my loved ones, including my two cats Bobo and Homer, and then finishing the night off with a banging show with my band.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

That I’m still alive, and for the love and compassion I receive from those closest to me.

Could you tell us more about your work within mental health?

At the moment I work a couple days a week in a voluntary-sector mental health service in South London. I use my lived experience of mental illness to support others, and co-run a peer support project there. It’s rewarding and pays the bills to do music.

How have your personal experiences helped you develop empathy towards mental illness?

I think we are experts by experience. The best placed people to understand people experiencing mental illness are the ones who have been there themselves and can support someone by validating them and being there for them. It’s not about being ‘I know exactly how you feel’ cos that’s not true, no one knows exactly how you feel. But my experiences help me to relate and know what it’s like to be stigmatised in society.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Having time to be creative, feeling grounded, clear-headed and having good awareness of what I need in that moment.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

Try to get a good range of different vegetables, fish, meat. Most healthy days I’ll have a balanced diet with REASONABLE portions…

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

I used to be really slack with this – when I was a kid I was a proper little footballer, playing games every week. I had a long period of not exercising at all but as of late I’m pushing myself to go 2-3 times a week, half cardio half strength work. I do what I feel like on the day as long as I go, cos it’s not just about the affect on my body, it’s more about my mental wellbeing.

What three songs lift your spirits?

Marvin Gaye – How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You
Princess Nokia – GOAT
Buddy – Hey Up There

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

To give yourself time – and to know it’s okay to feel that way, and that the feeling will pass because all feelings are temporary.

Finally, what was it like working with Paul Weller? What did you learn from his approach?

It was the dopest. He is a real dude, proper down to earth and wise as hell. I learnt a lot from working with him, and we talk fairly often – he gives me a lot of tips and I’ve been sending him more material I’ve been writing. The biggest thing I take away from working with him is to not be afraid to try something new, push boundaries and be comfortable shapeshifting genres – if it sounds good it sounds good.

Chris Kirkland – Going Through The Emotions

1 month ago   |   Words: Caoimhe O'Neill

Former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland walked away from professional football in 2016, having spent 17 seasons at clubs including Coventry City, Liverpool, Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday. He has since spoken publicly on his decision to retire from the game due to anxiety. In turn Chris has become one of the leading voices of mental health and wellbeing in football. Kirkland hasn’t altogether hung up his gloves – now coaching for Liverpool F.C Women as well as running his own academy for young goalkeepers. We caught up with Chris to ask about his favourite save, advice for goalies under pressure, his perfect day and more.

Hi Chris, you’ve just become the new goalkeeping coach for Liverpool Ladies, how are you getting on in your new role?

I’m loving the new role at Liverpool F.C Women. I was waiting for the right opportunity to come up and as I do a lot with Liverpool Football Club already, being a supporter and former player, this was perfect for me.

In 2001 you signed for Liverpool from Coventry City. Looking back, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self to help stay in a good frame of mind?

When I was younger it wasn’t an issue, all I wanted to do was play football. It wasn’t until I got into my 30s that I started to struggle mentally. So, I wish there was help around back then at the clubs I was at because no doubt I would have sought professional help.

Who was your sporting idol when you were growing up?

My sporting idol was Steve Ogrizovic at Coventry City. Just seeing the way he trained and how he handled himself on and off the pitch, I learnt a lot from him and we still speak regularly to this day.

What was the most memorable save you made?

My most memorable save was against Nicolas Anelka at Chelsea for Wigan. I managed to scramble and lean back to tip a header over the bar at an important time of the game.

Goalkeepers can be highly scrutinised by fans and the media for their performances. Loris Karius being a recent example. Porto’s Iker Casillas defended the young German by uploading a highlights reel of his own mistakes in solidarity. What is the best advice you received during your playing days?

Keepers will make mistakes, always have, always will, just forget about it and save the next one.

What would you say to any goalkeeper playing under this level of pressure?

You have to try and switch off away from football. Family life is vitally important and the most important thing is if you are happy off the pitch you are happy on it and vice-versa.

As an ex-professional footballer physical activity was obviously a big part of your daily routine. What does your exercise regime consist of today?

I’m still very active. I power walk with my dog most days for 6 miles, I go the gym 3-4 times a week, play golf and obviously the GK training at Liverpool and my academy keeps me very active.

What are you listening to or watching at the moment?

I listen to all chart music and country music. We are watching Shooter on Netflix at the minute.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

I’ve learnt that times can seem unbelievably hard but if you talk through your problems there is a way out if you want it enough and obviously how important my wife, daughter, friends and dog are to me.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Perfect day would be an early morning walk with my dog, a nice bacon butty for breakfast, go out somewhere with my family and then cook a big roast for tea.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I’m most grateful for still being here and having a great family and friends.

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