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Mitchell Kersley challenges toxic masculinity on new single, 'I Only Cry When I'm Drinking'
All the proceeds from 'I Only Cry When I'm Drinking' go towards the amazing mental health charity, Mind. Buy or stream the song from Mitchell's website here and find out more about the fantastic work Mind do here.
There are a lot of stereotypes thrown at Country music, and one of them is the typecast image of a truck driving, deer-hunting, baseball-watching blue collar boy. There’s always been deemed to be something inherently ‘manly' about a deep, Southern drawl combined with a huge, buckled Stetson.
And yes, a lot of the biggest Country stars have fulfilled this stereotype. Think Trace Adkins with his charismatic baritone, or the pre-television-personality version of Blake Shelton, perennially stubbled and holding a beer bottle, or even today’s most popular Country singer, Luke Combs, whose songs often celebrate the lifestyle of a ‘man’s man’.
The UK's Mitchell Kersley is keen to emphasise that he has no problem with these standards and stereotypes of what it is to be a man. “I am a quite a masculine bloke and I take pride in that, and there's plenty of things about being male I take pride in.” However, his new single criticises the expectation that men should suffer in silence, and that they should suppress their worries and anxieties.
“There’s also the other aspect, as a man I do - like a lot of other men - struggle to talk about feelings when I should. That’s what I wanted to address with the song, and it’s something that hasn’t necessarily been touched in Country music so far, the mental health aspect.”
The idea that ‘real men’ drink beer rather than white wine spritzers, and that they drive Ford pick-up trucks rather than a Fiat 500, is nothing more than a fairly harmless cliché. But toxic masculinity is far more dangerous, as it encourages the notion that asking others for help is ‘weak’, and that we should always keep our emotions in check. It’s scary to read that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, and that in the UK, around 84 men commit suicide every week. But it’s important that we’re made aware of the severity of the situation.
“My experience of being a lad, is that we’re always told to man-up, grow some balls, stuff like that, and we’re not encouraged to let our feelings out. The song is about struggling to let the feelings out until exposed to copious amounts of alcohol - that’s the premise of the song, something a bit different and something that meant something to me and that was quite personal.”
‘I Only Cry When I’m Drinking’ tackles toxic masculinity perceptively and astutely. On the face of it, it’s a sombre drinking song, where the main character is only able to release his frustrations and emotions with the help of a strong whiskey. But scratch beneath the surface, and you realise there’s a subtlety in the way that Mitchell sings about crying and letting out his anguish, yet never loses the sense of strength and assurance.
As a man I do - like a lot of other men - struggle to talk about feelings when I should. That’s what I wanted to address with the song, and it’s something that hasn’t necessarily been touched in Country music so far
This means it isn’t a song that preaches to the choir - it’s accessible and relatable to men who are going through the very struggle that Mitchell details, who find it difficult to express their emotions. This is what makes ‘I Only Cry When I’m Drinking’ such an important song, it highlights that in being open and vulnerable, this doesn’t make you any less of a man. It goes back to the stereotypes mentioned at the start of this article - just because you feel things, it doesn’t mean you have to stop liking beer and watching sports.
Previously, there were only two boxes - you’re either the tough, stoic man, or you’re the sensitive, emotional guy. Mitchell Kersley shows us that there is a third box, where you can be honest about how you’re feeling, and still enjoy typically ‘blokey’ things. He underlines the importance of there being role models in music, and in society generally, who can reassure people and show them that suppressing your emotions isn’t a necessary part of being a man.
“There are a lot of celebrities opening up about it, which is really good because it is encouraging others to think 'If they go through, it then I can.' It gets rid of the whole thing of 'I have nice things so I don’t deserve to feel depressed' - but if these guys are achieving their dreams and they still feel this certain way, then I shouldn’t feel guilt about feeling this way either.”
At the end of the day, amidst all the confusing stipulations of what a man should or shouldn’t be, Mitchell Kersley hammers home a cri de coeur that we should all heed: “Just be who you want to be.”
All the proceeds from Mitchell Kersley's ‘I Only Cry When I’m Drinking’ will be donated to Mind, the mental health charity.
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