Experiences with mental health struggles have inspired many artists to pick up an instrument and channel their struggles into music. Depression, anxiety and many other challenges have become lyrical themes that are more and more prevalent as the conversation around mental health continues to grow. John Gaughan is leading the way with his latest song ‘Four years’.
The Circular caught up with the Galway musician to find out more.
Firstly John, tell us a little bit about you?
I’m John Gaughan, I’m from Galway, I’m 25 years old, I still get away with a child ticket on buses and once got a noise complaint while working in a bar, for singing too loud on my shift. I love music, candle lit dinners and long walks on the beach as well as beer garden pints with friends and dancing in the rain.
What have you done so far music wise?
Music has always been the first love in my life. It’s all i’ve ever wanted to do so I started busking on Shop Street in Galway when I was 14, started gigging in pubs when I was 17 and then partook in a show called The Voice when I was supposed to be doing my Leaving Cert. It maybe wasn’t my smartest decision but I still managed to progress into music college where I studied songwriting and just last year, graduated with a degree (possibly my proudest achievement!) and am now pursuing songwriting and performing professionally! It’s been a pretty whirlwind decade but I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
What inspired your interest in music?
I think my interest in music stemmed from my parents initially, I seem to remember singing Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” in the back of a car on numerous family road trips. On top of this though, I think the love of music was just something that came pre-loaded in my heart, like the love you have for your granny or puppies and then I just always wanted to perform, getting up at family weddings and dancing on Shop Street while other buskers performed trad music (I can’t dance at all).
You have recently released an amazing song called “Four years”, tell us about this
Ah thank you, the reaction has been absolutely beautiful. “Four Years” was a song i’ve wanted to write for so long but couldn’t put how I felt into words which ultimately made me feel even worse. When I moved to Dublin and started college I think I started to question a lot of things about my music and about me as a person. I went through a messy breakup and faced a weird identity crisis type thing following my time on The Voice and I think all of this culminated in what you hear on “Four Years”. I took the lyrics to my best friend Keenan Copas who produced the track and said this is it, this is what I want my first release since 2013 to be. So we worked so hard on it and made sure it was something we could both be proud of and voila, “Four Years” was born!
What was the inspiration behind the amazing video?
I’ve wanted to shoot this music video for so long. I wanted the video to compliment the track and provide lots of symbolism so that’s where you have the masking tape over the mouth, the wariness of exploring the empty, scary and dilapidated house before finding my place and having everything that people could throw at me symbolized by the dust. Then at the end with the mask revealed I wanted to show that it wasn’t just what other people threw at me, a lot of the stuff I had to deal with came from within which was probably the scariest part.
Are you currently doing live performances and if so where can we find you ?
Yes! Im playing all around Galway all summer and hope to start announcing original gigs around the country soon!
You’re clearly quite passionate about mental health and it’s challenges. What do you think is causing a spiral in the level of mental health issues being documented as of late?
The conversation around mental health is so important. Thankfully, more and more people are opening up and sharing their story and support networks are getting better and better! Unfortunately, there are many contributing factors. Media pushing unrealistic body images upon young women and men, self confessed influencers pushing detrimental beauty products to an easily influenced audience, unhealthy social expectations for both men and women for example, if you’re a young man and show emotion or sensitivity it’s assumed that you’re less of a man or weaker than others. There is so much expected of young people today and its ridiculous to be honest. We go from secondary school at 18 where we have to ask permission to use the bathroom to then having to make a career defining decision before the Leaving Cert that we want to do for the rest of our lives and then hope we get into college and pay bills and extortionate rent and balance jobs and study and relationships and even thinking about that again is horrible. Above all this I think that social media is possibly the biggest defining factor when it comes to challenges with mental health. Whereas before if you were getting bullied, at least you could go home, switch your brain off and watch the TV or distract yourself with activities or anything but now your bullies and insecurities follow you home in your pocket. There is no escaping the clutches of your mobile phone anymore, your whole life is on it. Your whole life is online for people to comment on, pick apart. Your worth is measured in “likes”. There needs to be a change, do I know the answer? No, of course I don’t. Its easy to say, “Oh yeah just turn off your phone” but there needs to be more help when it comes to this. So yeah, theres just a few things I think contribute!
If you were to give advise to yourself four years ago, what would it be?
Hmmmm, don’t be so hard on yourself. The music you write isn’t shit.
Where do you see yourself in 4 years from now?
I used to have the same answer to this question whenever anyone asked, “taller”. But I’m 25 now, I think my time to be a runway model is over. But, no, in four years I want to have released all the music I wrote in the last four years that I thought wasn’t good enough and hopefully be playing my own headline shows. If not, I’ll be content to just continue living every day the best I can.
I once split my face on a stripper pole whilst travelling Thailand.
Feature Image Credit – Gerardwalshfilmmaker