A selection of articles from all our issues - go to 'The Magazine' to read them all, including exclusive interviews from Aston Barrett Jr., Niko Moon, Serena Ryder, Canaan Smith and many more...
We caught up with talented UK singer-songwriter, Sarah Yeo, ahead of her upcoming West Country Music Festival on August 13th in Devon. Tickets for the event are available here.
Hey Sarah! Thank you for taking the time out to chat today. We’re really excited for your brand new West Country Music Festival, which is taking place on August 13th in Muddifords Court, Devon! What inspired you to set up your own festival?
Well, I've loved going to festivals since the first time I went to the best one of all - Glastonbury - and I've harboured a wish to create a festival ever since. I didn't intend on it being this year, but when I saw the venue, I knew it was right!
My wish was to create a platform and a new audience in the south of the country for me and my fellow Country artists to perform our music to.
It’s an exciting line-up of artists, including both yourself and a headlining set from Kezia Gill. Who are you most looking forward to watching perform?
Ooh that's a tough one…I have to say Kezia, as I've seen her at a few festivals myself and I just know she is going to be amazing and wow everyone!
I imagine it has become an increasingly hectic period for you. Now, as the date gets closer, are you mainly feeling excited or are there some nerves mixed in too?
I haven't felt many nerves as of yet, because it's been so busy getting all the little things sorted, as well as working my normal jobs. But I am sure as we get closer I will be losing more sleep! I am very lucky that family and friends have come on board to help out with the setting up and staffing on the day. I definitely couldn't do it without all of them!
Aside from a great day of Country music, what can fans expect from the West Country Music Festival?
They can expect lots of little touches and interesting things at the festival, which I have been working hard to create. I want everyone to go away thinking, ‘What an amazing day!’
You’re also a part of the Songs and Stories Collective, which you started during lockdown with fellow artists Donna Marie and Tennessee Twin. How did the idea for this come about?
We can't really remember the exact moment, but there were a lot of online concerts at the time which we all were doing for various social media platforms. I think the stars aligned when both Tennessee Twin and Donna Marie heard my new track on the radio, and I’d heard theirs, and we all found each other. We've all become friends for life, for sure!
We’re also big fans of your solo material. You have a new single dropping on 26th August - what can fans expect from this?
They can expect something completely different. I am nervous, but also excited to get it out there - it's a lot rockier than my latest tracks. I'm really still having fun with my music and experimenting with different sounds. I love many different styles of music, so I don't see why I should stick to just one sound with mine. I really hope people embrace it.
I have to ask you about ‘Be Happy’, which is such an uplifting song about finding your way after getting off-track in life. It touches on the idea that we can often put up barriers to our own happiness, and sometimes it’s a case of mentally giving ourselves permission to just be happy. What drew you to write this song?
This is about a very good friend who has had her struggles. Her partner asked me to speak to her, to see if I could encourage her to start making the best of life, but I couldn't find the words - so I wrote a song instead. I know it's not as easy as getting up and putting your face on like I say in the song. It was more of a wish from me to her that she could be happy.
Finally, we ask all our interviewees to name their favourite three songs that have a theme of mental health. What would be your choices?
For exclusive merch, ticket info and the full line-up, head over to the West Country Music Festival website.
“We’re all kicking, we’re all screaming, we’re all sleeping at the wheel, We’re all California dreamin, playing house and paying bills” “We’re all going through the motions, just following the script, If we don’t stop and smell the ocean, boys, we might just miss our ship”
On first glance, this seems to be a rather depressing and morose title - but don’t let that fool you. This is a three-minute audio-capsule of concentred inspiration to go out there and carpe the heck out of every last diem. The message of Jake Owen’s ruminative track is not a new one - it’s essentially aimed at making the listener realise that we don’t have anywhere near as much time as we think. Instagram is littered with motivational quotes telling us to ‘be in the moment’ and ‘live our best life’. Drake’s been warning us that ‘YOLO (You Only Live Once)’ since 2011.
“Every heart breaks, when the summer snapshot fades, Every teenage kiss ends way too soon”
But ‘Everybody Dies Young’ reminds me why David and I started Mindful Melody in the first place. We often see bits of wisdom for living a happy life online, and while they might impress us initially, by the time we’ve scrolled down onto the next hilarious New Girl clip, we’ve forgotten all about it. We’re bombarded with so much information that it’s difficult to discern and absorb what’s actually useful. Music, for me at least, is a much more effective, memorable and lasting way of transferring life lessons. It makes you really feel something, whether that’s through the power of storytelling or simply through the emotional weight of the song. We’ve all been told since we were at school how quickly life goes by, but even if we believed our teachers, it didn't really change our daily outlook. Everybody Dies Young’ forced me to just stop and re-evaluate things. I’ve always been terrified of death, but at least, as I’m 24, it’s so far felt like something lurking ominously on the horizon, rather than presenting any immediate threat. But Owen’s lyrics put an interesting spin on mortality.
“It don’t matter how long we’re here, it’s never gonna be long enough, It ain’t about the amount of years, it’s about the amount of love It don’t matter if you’re 18, 45 or 91, we’re all waiting for our moment in the sun, Everybody dies young”
Part of me has always liked to think that, when we’re about to die, we find some kind of inherent, intuitive peace and acceptance about that. But having recently lost two of my family members, it’s clear to me that this isn’t necessarily the case. Nobody is okay with dying, whether they’re 20, 50 or 90. When I was processing the loss of those loved ones, because the grief was an uncomfortable feeling, my solution was to constantly look ahead to happier things that I had planned in the future. This rippled throughout all areas of my life. For instance, if I was feeling miserable about work, then I’d set my sights firmly on the relief of the weekend, and that would bring me some comfort. Similarly, if there was a particular event coming up that I was excited about, I’d look forward to that to escape the discomfort of the present. But of course, this was counter-productive. Because I’d gotten into this habit of looking ahead, by the time the weekend came, my mind would already be feeling disgruntled at the prospect of Monday morning. I couldn’t even fully immerse myself in the events I’d been so looking forward to, because they’d be tinged by the sadness of knowing that, once they’d started, they’d soon come to an end.
“From the moment that we’re born, we start running out of sand, You can’t bargain with the mirror, you can’t ever fight the hands of Time flies by like the fourth of July sky, When the morning sun high fives the moon”
This forced me to appreciate a few things. On a personal note, praying and strengthening my relationship with God really, really helped me more than anything, but I know our readership isn’t necessarily religious, so I won’t focus on that in this article. I realised that happiness can never be found by looking ahead to the future - by the time that thing you’ve been looking forward to comes around, you’re mind will still be stuck in the future. ‘Everybody Dies Young’ really emphasises that for me - it says that the solution to being scared of death is not to run away from that fear. It’s to invite that fear into the present and sit with it. This links to a classic Buddhist meditative practice. While you’re meditating, uncomfortable thoughts, worries and anxieties might arise. But Buddhists underline that you should not try and push these away, as this only makes them stronger. Instead, you should acknowledge them, accept them, and then return your focus to your breathing. By embracing those fears and thoughts, it removes all the power from them.
“You only get one life, so you better live it, You only get one heart, so you better give it up”
In ‘Everybody Dies Young’, Jake Owen isn’t saying that we should pretend we’re all going to live forever in order to enjoy life. He’s saying the exact opposite - by openly looking the prospect of our own mortality straight in the eyes, we take away all of its power. We embrace the fact that we only have a limited time on earth, and this fear can then be transformed into motivation for making the most of the moments we do have. This song has become a touchstone for me for this life lesson, and gives me a much greater jolt to bring my mind back to the present than any Instagram quote could. My mind still runs away into the future, of course it does. But gradually, by embracing the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings we have, and by sitting with them, it makes you realise that they’re not as powerful as you thought they were. This makes it easier to be present and arrive into ourselves, because we’re no longer trying to run away from them into the future. As a wise wordsmith once said: “the present is a gift - that’s why they call it the present.” Press play on this song whenever you’re feeling like you can’t fully immerse yourself in the moment that’s right in front of you. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how old or young we are - all we get is this moment. Why waste it wishing on the future or dwelling on the past?
Hello, my name is David and I use Tik Tok in my mid twenties. It feels like a weight lifted to get it off my chest, because despite being one of millions, it's still embarrassing for some reason. I'm not sure what it is about Tik Tok that makes it such a swear word to people my age; maybe it's the cringy dances and the embarrassingly staged pranks, either way there's no denying our addiction. Like 14 year old me humming Bieber songs under my breath, I love to hate it, but I do hate how much I love it.
One thing that is undeniable about Tik Tok is its power grab on the music industry. It seems pretty inevitable really; any platform with that many frequent users is going to catch the eye of record labels and artists alike, but I'm not sure anyone predicted this.
Boney M's sudden surge back into the charts in the last couple of years is a prime example. Let's be honest, it wasn't even a great song when it came out, but thanks to its ability to be clipped, taken out of context and given new meaning in the form of short, bitesized videos their song about Rasputin was everywhere. It seemed that whenever I turned on the radio or looked at my phone I'd hear it. This song isn't the only one either, all it takes is one well known person to use a clip of a song, or a chorus to be used as the backing track to a new trend and artists can be fast tracked from virtually unknowns to stars.
Tik Tok's revolution of the music industry is starting to catch up to record labels too; Jack Harlow's snippet of his new song 'First Class' garnered the attention of the globe as people fell in love with the catchy hook before the song had even made it onto Spotify. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that the day the song did come out I made it my personal priority to listen to it multiple times. Imagine dropping a song that's already loved and recognised globally? It seems that any marketing department or record label not bringing Tik Tok into the discussion when releasing new music is going to be left behind, fast.
What if it's not just about the roll out, what if it affects the music? OK so it's hardly a new thing for artists to incorporate catchy hooks, in fact ABBA had so many hooks they'd have put Anthony Joshua down quicker than Ruiz did. However in the past years we have started to see music maybe geared towards being more Tik Tok friendly. In fact some take no shame in doing so; Drake's 'Toosie Slide' was written with dance instructions in the hook and a music video of Drake perfecting the moves around his own home all with the hopes of kicking off the latest trend. Aside from those taking a more on the nose approach, I do tend to feel as I hear new music from artists these days you can sometimes sense a lurking thought from the recording studio about dances or clippability, but who can really blame them?
The good thing about Tik Tok is that it is about the people. There is no more honest critic than millions of people online and in some ways this helps level the playing field. Whilst some big name artists will always have an advantage getting their music out there, Tik Tok has a real gift for discovering new or obscure music. When you consider the format, all it takes is for one person to utilise part of a song, and if people like it they will also start to use it until eventually it's gained exposure to people who would have never heard it before. Even more so if a song manages to latch itself onto some sort of trend. Because of the way people flick through the content on the app, and because of the short nature of many of the trends and videos, it almost presents itself as a challenge to artists. How will you make your song grab the attention? It can be quite humbling, Drake's 'Toosie Slide' dance was far from a phenomenon, and to be honest had it not been Drake I don't think it would have gone far at all; meanwhile Boney M find themselves back on everyone's playlist. For new artists this should provide a lot of hope; if they can come up with something good enough to garner some Tik Tok attention, their song could go on to be a huge hit, in fact anyone can - especially considering the current earworm is Louis Theroux rapping on Chicken Shop Date.
I think as Tik Tok grows we will continue to see the music industry evolve around it. We are already seeing artists turning much more attention to getting exposure for their songs this way, and especially after the success Jack Harlow had you'd have to be an idiot to not try and use similar tactics for your own music. Even record labels who have been reluctant to change in the past can't ignore facts and figures, and Tik Tok is bound to become a huge part of what they do right from the way they discover artists to what kind of music they choose to release. The real question is not whether Tik Tok will change the industry, but more about whether we want it to. I guess my only worry is the quality of music we hear released. I don't want the charts to become reduced to a series of catchy, clippable, repetitive and made for Tik Tok tracks, but, as proven by Drake, this doesn't always work the way it's planned. If you look back over what's trended on Tik Tok over the years there's actually a really weird and wonderful range of all types of music, and this is what gives me hope that artists can continue to strive to make good songs in their own style. Tik Tok will do the rest.
The smoke dances up from the barbecue and fades into the electric blue sky; dominating the atmosphere with a cocktail of smells that feel as if they could be eaten. The only thing that can pull your focus away is the glistening of the sun in the corner of your eye, the light performing a seductive dance as it shimmers in the condensation building on your ice-cold beverage. It’s as if time were an issue of other people. You take a second to close your eyes and tilt your head back, basking in the glory of the moment. It seems like perfection but there’s something missing; you reach for your headphones and your copy of Mindful Melody Issue 12 in search of the last piece of the puzzle – the top ten songs for the Summer sun...
10. Kokomo - The Beach Boys
To be honest, the entire Beach Boys catalogue is pretty much one long summer playlist. I could’ve chosen any one of their hits, from the toe-tapping ‘Surfin’ USA’ to the feel-good wistfulness of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. I opted for ‘Kokomo’, because when you listen you can’t help but be transported to one of the array of sunny destinations the band name-checks, from Aruba to Jamaica to Bermuda or the Bahamas. The other reason I picked this is because every time I hear it, it makes me think of Steve Carell’s hilarious acapella renditions of Kokomo in ‘Space Force’ whenever he’s feeling nervous. The classic Beach Boys vocal-layering is in full force on this track, and the rhythmic, harmonised chorus radiates summer warmth through your headphones. I’m convinced that The Beach Boys must’ve been paid by travel agents across America, because it’s impossible to get through the song without succumbing to the temptation to start scrolling through Expedia and planning your next getaway.
9. At Last - Etta James
I absolutely love this song, but who doesn’t? Released in 1960 the song falls within one of the most stylish periods in modern history. I can’t listen without being completely transported – the strings hit and all of a sudden I become James Bond driving a convertible along the Riviera with my shades on and Audrey Hepburn in the passenger seat. As usual Etta James' vocals are like smooth velvet and sit beautifully on top of the iconic gliding strings – it just oozes class. It isn’t one to blast out of your speakers as the backdrop to a sunny day pool party, but definitely to be utilised as the soundtrack for a romantic July getaway. The theme of the song is quite fitting too, possibly lending its title to the expression uttered by most Brits when the sun does actually decide to come out!
8. Knee Deep - Zac Brown Band Ft. Jimmy Buffet
With any summer playlist of mine, it might have a little Country, a little Hip-Hop, and a little EDM, but one thing is for sure - there are always going to be plenty of sun-soaked Zac Brown Band anthems. For me, ‘Knee Deep’ epitomises everything I love about the group - it’s light-hearted, uptempo and reflective without losing any of its verve or vitality. The central theme is a familiar one for us Brits - longing to be standing in the ocean, with “the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair/Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair”. This is my audio antidote whenever I’m feeling stressed or in need of some psychological Vitamin D on an otherwise rainy day. What makes it really hit the summertime sweet spot is the fact that it features the founder of the Gulf & Western genre - which is characterised by a tropical-meets-Country feel - the ever-smiling and ever-surfing Jimmy Buffett. If only life could always be as simple as these lines: “Wrote a note that said ‘Back in a minute’/Bought a boat and I sailed off in it/Don’t think anybody’s gonna miss me anyway”.
7. Summer Madness - Kool and the Gang
I always find it fascinating the way that songs can intrinsically sound like a season; the sentence ‘this sounds like Summer’ at its core is nonsense yet we all know exactly what it means. With that in mind, it was no surprise that Kool and the Gang decided this one should have Summer in the title. Whether given after writing as a fitting description or before writing as an artistic brief the song definitely gives off the right vibes. What’s even more amazing is that there aren’t any lyrics at all, meaning we aren’t being informed of this sunshine feeling through words but just through the pure sound. The song is so relaxed and is pretty versatile; it could easily accompany a relaxing sunbathe, an afternoon stroll or even a summer social gathering – but one thing is for sure, it can only be in Summer.
6. Summertime Magic - Childish Gambino
This song is taken from one of my all-time favourite films, ‘Guava Island’. Starring an all-singing, all-dancing Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) and a strangely non-singing, non-dancing Rihanna, it’s a poignant, island tale centred around pursuing your dreams, standing up to the establishment and living a life of freedom. More than the plot, I love it for the escapist, tropical aesthetic and the incredible music. Along with ‘Feels Like Summer’, ‘Summertime Magic’ was one of the main singles that the film spawned, and the repetitive, sparse track floats along in a haze of lyrics about summer lovin’ and romanticism. For those who were a little unsure what to make of Childish Gambino’s obtuse, mind-bending album, ‘3.15.20’, the easy-breezy ‘Summertime Magic’ will help you fall right back in love with him.
5. It Just Won't Do - Tim Deluxe, Sam Obernik
A real earworm that’s bound to get you moving; this dance track just screams summer. The use of trumpets gives it a real samba twist that means you just can’t help but to think of sunshine, beaches and holidays! Another that manages to sound intrinsically sunny, listening at any other time of the year would just feel plain wrong! Definitely one to get the pool party pumping and if you need proof go on YouTube! You’ll see it is the first song played by FatBoy Slim during his DJ set on Brighton Beach in 2002 to thousands of people whilst the sun is sinking – the perfect setting for a summer party anthem
4. COASTIN' - Niko Moon
This new track from one of the Gulf & Western genre’s newest stars, Niko Moon, combines a trap-inspired beat with uptempo Tropical-Country vocals. It’s an ode to the joys of driving around in the heat of summer with the windows down, shades on and a great CD loaded up. The lyrics are all about chilling and choosing relaxation over stress, but the Hip-Hop backing gives the track an undeniable sense of energy and vibrancy. I was always going to be biassed towards ‘COASTIN’’ because it contains a line that feels particularly pertinent to my own summers: “Yeah, laidback, ain't got nowhere to go/Kenny Chesney on the radio”. In an ideal world, I would’ve picked a Kenny Chesney song for each of my Top 10 choices, but David wouldn’t let me…
3. Malibu - Miley Cyrus
It’s becoming pretty common for me to bring Miley Cyrus into play even though I’m hardly her biggest fan, but that’s just a testament to how good this song is. Having based an article on it in the past it really has had an effect on me since I accidentally rediscovered it courtesy of my girlfriend. I think the thing with Summer music is that it is quite a broad umbrella, and whilst a lot of the songs will probably cater for a scenario much like the one described in the intro to this article, that’s not all we do during the summer. This song for me is the perfect anthem for sunset walks on the beach, or those late-night summer drives home; it’s not a raver or party anthem, but if you want to chill out, get lost in your thoughts or just take in a peaceful summer moment then this is the song you need.
2. Dance The Night Away - The Mavericks
This song is essentially three minutes of sheer joy. The lyrics aren’t overly summery, but the Latin impulses and euphoric horns that maintain the buoyancy of the track make you feel as though you’ve just woken up in Tijuana, Mexico. The easygoing vocals wash over you and compel you to get up and start dancing, making this the ideal BBQ garden-party-starter. The opening lyrics “Here comes my happiness again, right back to where it should have been” set the tone, and the musical journey The Mavericks take you on certainly delivers on its promise. Strangely, it’s technically a break-up track, but as the main character expresses his desire to dance his worries away, there’s no hint of lingering regret or sadness - this is positive, happy vibes through and through.
1. Club Tropicana Wham!
There’s a phrase that’s become popular in recent years; ‘If you don’t like (insert stereotypical cringe thing here) then I don’t trust you’. I hate it, however if you don’t like ‘Club Tropicana’ then I just do not trust you. It’s hard to call this absolute masterclass of cheesy pop a guilty pleasure anymore because everybody loves it and most people don’t even try to deny it. If this isn’t enough to get you singing, dancing and feeling generally summery then I don’t know what will. As much as I love this song already, there’s two things it reminds me of every time I listen: that it’s catchier than I remembered and that I’m in desperate need of a summer holiday! What this song does better than any other I can think of is to encapsulate that holiday-mode we all go into – worries fall by the wayside and the stresses stay at home whilst you enjoy a few glorious days of sea, sand and sun!
Maxim chats to Country star Drake White about his new album, manifestation, and what he learned from the scariest moment of his life.
I watched your TEDx talk about the aftermath of your on-stage stroke in 2019. You said that a key part of your recovery process was imagining yourself in the future being able to walk again and focussing on the hope that brought. How do you balance the drive to make tomorrow better whilst also being content with today?
It’s not an easy thing to do. There’s a constant push and pull of gratitude and drive with me. That’s what the injury put in perspective - it helped me focus on what I do have, and how to make the best out of that. I know it sounds very cliche. But when you’ve been through a near death experience, and you’ve managed to maintain an optimistic attitude even though you’re learning how to walk again at 36, then it gives you the authority to speak about this. We need to learn from people that have had experiences that we haven’t. By the same token, we need to be mindful of our elders and quit glorifying youth so much. Being young and being in the moment is great - but the Instagram-quick lifestyle is not what life’s about.
You touch on this idea in ‘50 Years Too Late’. There’s something appealing about looking back to a simpler time and the nostalgia that comes with that, especially given the pace of the world today. If you could re-introduce just one aspect of ‘the good ol' days’ into modern life, what would that be?
Picking up the phone and actually talking to each other. When you have the thought of ‘I wonder how mom’s doing’ or ‘I wonder how my buddy’s doing’, you pick up the phone and ask them. Also, when a pressured situation comes up and you need to make a call, don’t dance around that with technology. Just picking up the phone or knocking on their front door is so much easier. I miss that about the old cowboy ways where you didn’t really have to guess what somebody thought - they would tell you! I think life is a lot easier when you know what the truth is, and today the truth is getting harder to decipher. As great as social media is - and I do see the benefits of it - it’s making it more difficult to depict reality. Discernment takes observation and actually listening to somebody and forming the opinion on your own, and not letting somebody else speak for you. This is what the pandemic decimated. That connection is exactly what humans - introverted or extroverted - need to survive: communication and conversations are what make us human. There’s something I’m drawn to about the old days. A lot of us run from difficult conversations, I understand that - nobody wants that. But I do feel like I’m pretty good at picking up the damn phone and saying ‘What's our problem, how can we solve this’, and ending the conversation with love, respect and dignity.
I love ‘Rainbow State of Mind’, especially how we get this peaceful, mellow vibe following straight on from the intensity of ‘American Thunder’. How did this song come about, and what does it mean to have a ‘Rainbow State of Mind’?
I love the juxtaposition of that two-song stretch on the album. What is a rainbow? In my belief, a rainbow is God’s way of telling us that everything’s going to be alright. It is something bigger than you - it is a sign, it is a symbol. I wrote that with Dan O’Roarke. The sonic vibe it puts you in is Muscle Shoals meets a soulful 60s/70s sound. You might go through hell, but just know there’s always a rainbow on the other side. Keep that faith and that heart. Sonically, it’s one of my favourites on the record. And it’s hard to keep a rainbow state of mind. Some days you don’t want to hear some dude on a motivational podcast, you don’t want to get up and stretch, you don’t want to do anything to better yourself. But you have to. I went through the hardest thing I’ve ever been through with the stroke, but it produced a record. Am I glad the stroke happened? Yeah, I’m glad it happened. I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I wouldn’t have made this project without it. That’s the rainbow state of mind, man.
You’ve spoken about the relentless faith that kept you going through the aftermath of your stroke. You defied your doctor’s diagnosis that you’d never perform again with the sheer strength of your belief. Was that drive something you’ve always had, or is that something that you were forced to dig into and develop when you had the stroke?
I think I’ve always been a glass-half-full person. But let me preface this by saying there were extremely, extremely hard days where I was not optimistic at all. I was very angry that I was going through what I was going through. You’re always going to have those days, and you have to get out of them - it may take a day, three days, it may take a week. But I had to rely on something bigger and believe, which takes faith. Why would God bring me through it otherwise? I could not have made it without my belief in God and my belief in prayer. Prayer works - I am living proof. I prayed every day to be able to hold my wife’s hand and to be able to get back on stage. This was a test with God saying, ‘You’ve always been optimistic, now you’ve got the chance to put your money where your mouth’s at’. I looked at it as an opportunity to show the world that, even though you can go through something as heartbreaking as being paralysed, you can still come out the other side better than you were before. I felt dead, but I kept chipping and kept going. I said to somebody the other day, ‘Keep hammering’, and they said, ‘But my hammer’s worn out!’ I said, ‘Well, you gotta forge a new one!’ You’ve got to find the strength to do that. It came from a higher power, it came from God, it came from Jesus. You have to realise that there is something bigger out there that is responsible for picking you up off the ground. Because I didn’t feel like getting off the ground, man. I didn’t. I had a great group around me - I know my purpose is songwriting, and my wife put the pen back in my hand at times like, ‘Hey, just write. Write your frustrations’. I encourage anybody out there to just go and listen to the birds, look at the sun, and write about it. If you’re not a writer, then go talk to somebody. If you’re not a talker, then go run. If you’re not a runner, find something that gives you fuel to keep going. You’ve got to find the point, and it is other people - it is witnessing and being a light to other people.
I think the album is epitomised by the message of ‘Hurts the Healing’, which is all about seeing our pain and struggles as being the experiences that teach us the most in life. Now that it’s been a couple of years since you had the stroke and you’ve recovered, now that life is back to ‘normal’, how easy is it to hold onto those lessons, and not slip back into the patterns that preceded that experience?
That’s a great question. It’s a daily challenge. I haven’t conquered life by any means, just because I went through this. I have to remind myself to stay in gratitude - you’re not entitled to anything. Everybody out there has problems. You were built to thrive, you were built to write songs, to love your wife, to tell the story. Don’t try to save the entire world, just go out and give the guy on the corner a dollar, you know? Go take the trash out. Do something for somebody else, get out of your head. Now I have the tools and a relentless muse that I can go back to, and I’m so thankful to be sitting here on this sunny day on my back porch listening to the birds, and that I’m able to pursue music. But it still creeps in - “Man, I wish I could run two miles”, “Man, I wish I could move my left leg as fluently as I used to”. It’s there, and it ain’t going nowhere, but I’ve learned to deal with those thoughts like traffic on a highway. I’m sitting up on a hill looking at it, but those thoughts are real, and that car is real. If you go down and step in front of it, you’re gonna get hit! So just stay up on that hill, just observe each negative thought, thank it for keeping you driven, and let it pass on by, man. Let the bad pass on by and take the good in. That takes a life’s worth of practice, and my ego does get the best of me sometimes. I want to win Grammys, pack out Madison Square Gardens - and I will. I believe that our dreams are God’s way of telling us the future. I’m manifesting it, because I’m saying it’s going to happen. If you keep saying it year after year, whether it’s 15, 20 or 50 years - keep saying it. There’s a reason that dream is there inside you. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that can replace hard work, you can’t sit on your ass and just think of this stuff. I had to get up this morning at 5:30am and get to the gym, and I had to stretch for an hour first, and all that stuff sucks at 5:30am in the morning. But I do it because I haven’t had kids yet, and I know that if I’m going to be able to lift my kids over my head, then I need more strength than I got right now. As long as you have something to look forward to, then you have hope. Whether you’re at rock bottom or on top of the world, you’ve got to keep hold of that hope. My parents and God’s fingerprints are all over me, and I’m very blessed that I know my purpose.
You talked in a recent podcast about the power of manifestation, and how you’d literally visualise your nerve endings growing back during your recovery. How does this play into both your life and your new album, in terms of having an idea for a song, visualising it and seeing it through to the end?
This is one of my favourite subjects - intention. When I couldn’t walk, I would sit there and imagine myself running. If I couldn't move my toes, I would take my hand and move my toes and see what that felt like. I would imagine myself holding kids, holding Grammys, and I did that with good intention, with good music, things that made me think good thoughts. I would get my phone and play wind chimes that reminded me of my Grandma’s porch. In your phone, you have the biggest library in the world. Then, all of a sudden, I’m standing up - well, that’s progress. Now, I’m taking a step with my right foot. I can’t quite move my left foot yet. Ten, twelve weeks go by, and I start to see my left foot move a little. I imagined becoming muscular again, and then, I found something I could do - a rowing machine. I do it for three, four months. It’s not easy, you will quit, your nervous system tells you to quit. But that’s what you’ve got to push into, and that’s what this record is. There are a lot of fun songs on the record, but the heart of it is pushing into something that is life-threatening and spinning it on its back, and it’s the most life-giving thing that’s happened to me. That’s the ultimate victory for me. Dude, I’ve just started. I’m sure when I pack out Madison Square Gardens, I’ll want to pack out Wembley stadium. But my happiness doesn’t lie in those achievements, my happiness lies in knowing that tomorrow is going to be better than today, and knowing that I’m doing something today to make sure that happens. We can’t control much of anything in this world, but we can control that. I can pick up that piece of paper on the sidewalk and throw it away. I can help the old lady across the street. I can not lash out at my wife for asking me to move my tennis shoes for the fiftieth time. I just want to be better than I was yesterday, and I want to be better for the people around me. If you don’t have those people around you, then that’s where your faith comes in. If you have nothing to grab onto and live for, then the only thing that’s left is God - you’ve got to grasp something that gives you hope.
You started the brilliant Power of a Woman campaign, which spotlights inspirational women and is based on your song of the same name. What inspired you to found this, and how special was it creating this with your wife?
It was very special. The song started as just my wife, Alex, helping me so much during my recovery. It was crazy what she had to give up so that I could do this. We were just sitting around in a Diner one day and I was watching the women work. We had written the song, and Alex said, “What if we just ask your fans to start turning in stories about women that are powerful in their lives, and what their strength, tenacity and drive has meant to them?” We got thousands of submissions - entrepreneurs, helicopter pilots, preachers, engineers, women from all walks of life. They would go something like, ‘Ruth has battled cancer three times, she has nine kids and she’s adopted five more’. This is the perspective shift I was talking about - yes, I had a stroke, but there is somebody out there that has battled the same thing. After the pandemic, it gave me this hope for mankind - we’re all going through this life together, and it’s hard, but it’s a lot easier and more fun together. Through all these stories, it makes you realise that there are more good people than bad, and that’s just the truth.
We’re excited to see you over in the UK this year at The Long Road Fest! What’s your favourite thing about the UK? I’m sure it’s not the weather…!
I love coming over there, my wife loves being over there. I consider myself a nomadic spirit. Every time I’m there I feel this innate vitality, I feel alive because I’m travelling - being well-travelled is education, and education is fulfilment, and fulfilment is joy. It makes me happy to go over there and talk to people from different walks of life. I love the camaraderie over there of ‘Let’s sit down and have a drink.’ I think a lot of people over here in America are striving and everything is built to make money - Europeans have that too, and we’re all the same at the end of the day. But there is this sense of the old country over there, you guys know how to sit down and have a chat over a drink. It’s very endearing and I miss it. I can’t wait to get back over. This world is much bigger than one country or two countries, and this music has blessed me with the opportunity to look in every single nook and cranny of it.
What are your favourite three songs that have a theme of mental wellbeing?
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
Rescue - Lauren Daigle
Lord I Hope This Day Is Good - Don Williams
All photos by Zack Knudsen
Drake White's new album, 'The Optimystic' is available on all platforms now, and UK fans can catch him at The Long Road Fest this August
“All this talk of getting old It's getting me down, my love”
Getting old has never really scared me – in fact in recent years I’ve realised that it is a gift that not all of us are lucky enough to receive. Sure, the bones may become a bit brittle and the joints a bit stiff but in an already short lifetime living it to its maximum is an opportunity that most would seize. My problem was never getting old or growing up but merely the grey area between childhood and adult life. When you’re young it almost feels like once you ‘officially’ become an adult at 18 you’re just another grown up; and people in their 20s are sooo old. What actually happens is that between 16, and for me it unfortunately seems to be stretching to 25 and beyond, you are stuck in some sort of purgatory. At 16 you feel like a grown up, you know everything and you’re old enough to make decisions but in reality,your biggest worries are your zits and whether any girls actually fancy you or not. 18 is much the same except you can drive now, and you may have even cast a thought to the future; thinking about careers, university or what you actually want to do with your life. The student years are a stranger still hybrid of independence, advanced study and immaturity and after Uni some of us find ourselves in the weird place of having jobs, bills and stressful lives but ultimately coming home to have our mums cook us tea. Whilst there isn’t much competition this grey area has been the hardest part of my life. I feel like all I’ve done since I turn 16 is worry. What will I do with my life, will I be happy, what will be the consequences of every minor decision?
"Like a cat in a bag, waiting to drown This time I'm coming down"
One of the hardest things for me was going to University. I still look back on it as a great time in my life; great people, fascinating studies and freedom, but with all the good for me unfortunately came plenty of bad. Maybe it’s my stroked male ego, but in school I’d always been the music guy. I wasn’t necessarily the most talented musician but I was involved in nearly everything the music department could offer and performed multiple times at the school. It was my thing, I was known for it, and I loved it. Like the big fish leaping naively from the small pond into the vast ocean I soon realised at University that I was not the guy at all. I was just a guy. All of a sudden everyone was more talented, everyone was more successful and everyone was just better. I’m sure that’s not entirely true but that is how it had felt. After years of becoming comfortable in the security of my small pond I suddenly felt so insignificant in an ocean full of giant fish. Ultimately my self confidence was in tatters. The harsh realities of the real world, stress and fears for the future rendered me helpless. I’d dreamed of becoming a musician but had convinced myself that if I wasn’t even that good in this one university, imagine how I’d fare against students all over the country, or the world. I’d say I didn’t cope well, but using cope in that sentence at all is giving me too much credit. I avoided social events and developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I’d always been larger and had a big appetite but I’d gone from the slightly too occasional guilty pleasure to eating until I made myself throw up, then hating myself for it. I stopped trying with my appearance, wearing baggy outfits I knew looked awful to hide my self-consciousness under a perception of not caring. I’d occasionally try to make an effort; I remember once getting ready for a Christmas social for my band, catching a glimpse in the mirror and looking away in disgust. I didn’t go, and no one asked why.
"And I hope you're thinking of me As you lay down on your side"
That’s what hurt the most, it felt like no one cared that I didn’t attend, or worse, didn’t notice. Realistically, and looking back now, I realise that I may have been a bit far up my own backside. I am - and was then - a grown man and it isn’t the responsibility of anyone to chase me around. Maybe no one did notice, but it’s not like I wanted them too. I wasn’t staring at my phone waiting for messages so I could tell people I just hated myself too much to make it out of the door. To be honest, slipping under the radar suited me down to the ground. After unanswered invitations and ignored messages eventually saw me drop off of people’s invite lists, I’d gotten what I wanted, I had myself forced the confirmation of most of the things I’d been worried about. I wasn’t good enough and no one liked me. Of course, this was all my own doing. My friends didn’t care that I’d piled on the pounds, hell they didn’t care whether I was as talented as them or not; I’d just created a world where that’s what mattered, made them characters in it and used it to distance myself from them. What I am thankful for in these times is my girlfriend, whom I lived with, and my family. My family knew I was having issues thanks to a small breakdown I’d had over Christmas, but my girlfriend was living with them everyday. I don’t envy the position I put her in and I’m forever grateful that she stuck with me through it. I know in the past she has questioned why she didn’t do more to help; maybe encourage me to stop eating so much or force me out of the flat – but the fact is that I’m an adult. It’s not her responsibility to look after me, and if I wasn’t willing to help myself, I certainly wasn’t going to listen to her.
"Now the drugs don't work They just make you worse but I know I'll see your face again"
The majority of the issues I have discussed came to a head in my third year, but thanks to homesickness I wasn’t feeling so hot in the first year either. The second year was a strange one – I wasn’t really homesick anymore, and I wasn’t at the highs (or lows) of my confidence issues – but I was still depressed. So much so in fact that I chose to go to the doctors. It’s something I’m proud of to be honest, admitting I needed help. I’d always linked depression with trauma for some reason – I’d known friends who were depressed but they’d had other difficulties; problems at home or things in the past. I was a middle-class white kid with a loving family and girlfriend, at University to play my saxophone. I almost felt ashamed to be struggling. What right have I got to feel depressed when there are people with real problems in the world? It did take me a while to convince myself that I did need to see the doctor, and when I finally did he prescribed with sertraline at 50mg. It was like night and day. The doctor told me it may take a few weeks to start to work but after a few days I felt terrific, it was like the world had colour again and suddenly I made a partial return to being the outgoing guy I had been before. I was socialising with my friends, enjoying my life and not really caring. Unfortunately, and what I didn’t realise until after, is the reason that this felt so high is because I’d been so low. The jump up to a somewhat normal level had felt huge just because of how bad I was. What this also meant is that as I got used to this ‘normal’ level the high started to feel as if it was wearing off. Realistically I was just sort of levelling out, but I went back to the doctor convinced the pills weren’t working for me anymore. I blame myself for this more than him, but I do think he could have taken more due diligence before doubling my dosage. It felt like all I’d really done is told him it didn’t feel so great anymore and he was scribbling down the prescription; but it was my naivety that led me there and I certainly wasn’t going to ask questions. Well, one thing I can say is that the double dosage did stop me feeling sad, in fact they stopped me feeling anything. I turned into some sort of zombie devoid of basic human emotions. I was unable to hold onto things in my head, suddenly I was missing rehearsals, forgetting important meetings and even handing in assignments late. My brain was a sieve, but with the mesh cut out. Once again, my girlfriend suffered worse. A total lack of empathy turned me into a foul boyfriend. I ignored how she felt and I didn’t listen. I continued to act in ways that I knew hurt her and what makes it worse is that I didn’t care. I was so in my own head that I disregarded her feelings. I remember going home and telling my friends I thought she was probably going to leave me; frankly I couldn’t believe that she had remained so patient. What made it worse was that people liked the ‘new’ me. I was care-free, cracking jokes and having a good time, so at a distance I was fun to be around. My girlfriend was the only one that saw through it – it wasn’t a ‘new me’, it wasn’t ‘me’ at all, and having spent more time with me than anyone else she saw the full extent of what I was becoming. Of course, continuing my hot streak of being the worst boyfriend ever, I turned this around on her. I told her that she just didn’t like seeing me happy, maybe she only liked me when I was depressed. After all she put up with, all she did for me and all the love and support she gave me my skin still crawls at the thought of that. How could I be so cruel, so thoughtless and so disgusting?
"Now the drugs don't work They just make you worse But I know I'll see your face again"
The takeaway here is not some sweeping statement that anti-depressants are bad or that they make you a horrible person. I made mistakes that led to that, and everyone reacts differently. I just wanted to spill the beans on my journey to where I am today. I ultimately gave up on the pills. An epiphany of sorts woke me up to what I was doing to those close to me, and to myself. I still have them somewhere, I wanted to throw them away but part of me likes the reminder. I still have my low moments to this day, and I’m far from being over my depression, but it’s nice to feel in control again. I look at the pills and remember the lowest times and it reminds me that I picked myself up once, and that I can do it all over again. It also reminds me that I had help. My girlfriend stuck by me through thick and thin (quite literally, especially the thick part) and does so to this day. It reassures me knowing that her love still got through to me even when I deserved it the least. I like the last line of this chorus ‘but I know I’ll see your face again’, it means a few things to me. One of them is my depression – I know it hasn’t gone away and there are times when it will come to ruin my day, but at least I know I can handle it now. It also reminds me of getting through those hard times, and ultimately getting back to myself again. I want to encourage anyone reading to learn from my mistakes. I alienated my friends and my loved ones and ultimately fell even deeper into my depression because of it. Allow those around you to support you, talk to those who can help and offer the same in return.
‘The Hot Girl Walk’ is a new trend on Tik-Tok. Despite the name, the trend is accessible to all genders and is one that can be participated in no matter where you are in the world. The top liked video alone that mentions ‘hot girl walk’ has 1.5 million likes and all the videos that have been tagged with ‘#hotgirlwalk’ have 243.3million views combined, showing just how popular this trend has become. And fast.
But what actually is it, you ask?
The phrase has been coined to describe a daily walk around a person’s local area while listening to music (or even a podcast) of their choice. Such a simple concept appears to have taken the app by storm. So why has this day-to-day activity suddenly become a huge trend? What’s so good about the ‘hot girl walk’?
Walking has been proven to be good for us, boosting endorphins, blood circulation and blood flow. This means walking exercises the cardiovascular system, improves circulation, promotes heart health and can lower blood pressure. With such physical benefits, walking has been promoted as a good form of exercise on NHS websites. These benefits to our physical health begin to explain why people are taking up this ‘hot girl walk’ in increasing numbers. However, it is not simply the health benefits of walking that are enticing. Walking offers us the chance to explore somewhere new, get some fresh air and clear the mind, meaning the mental benefits are just as great as the physical. During lockdown, many of our days revolved around our daily walk, which was often the only time we were allowed outside. It offered a respite from a burgeoning sense of cabin fever and anxieties that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
With all these advantages it’s no wonder so many people choose to walk 30 minutes to an hour a day - but why do it with music?
Music, just like walking, has scientifically recognised benefits. Music has been shown to increase the amount of dopamine released in the brain which has important roles in our body including being linked to motivation and happiness. Alongside this, music has been shown to decrease the level of cortisol in the body. This is the stress hormone - when it is high it can cause anxiety, insomnia, issues with memory, headaches and digestive problems. Reducing cortisol decreases the likelihood of such problems and also means our bodies are under less stress. Combining these benefits with those listed for walking before creates a formula that improves our wellbeing as well as our physical health, which may just explain the rise of the hot girl walk phenomenon.
Speaking less scientifically, music is hugely advantageous for our emotional selves. Whilst on these walks, music can take us to a variety of places mentally. Music is able to connect us to long forgotten memories which can improve our understanding of ourselves, our lives and our emotions. Not only that, but remembering good times is useful for keeping a positive outlook which in itself builds resilience. This then allows us to better cope with the obstacles modern life can throw at us. The alone time a ‘hot girl walk’’ incorporates means we have time in the hustle and bustle to slow down and focus on ourselves. We have time to explore the memories music reminds us of, explore the emotions the music provokes in us and indeed explore our own thoughts. Music often, in fact, allows us to verbalise these emotions and thoughts in a new way or even express these for the very first time. People may find that music says things they cannot, allowing them to comprehend and share their thoughts and feelings as well as discover their true intentions and motivations. The understanding of oneself that music can create is incredible, and the time and space created on these walks only aids this further. Perhaps, the hot girl walk is actually a ticket to self-understanding, self-love and self-care as well as providing us with physical health benefits. If so, then it is no surprise more and more people are creating a daily habit of a ‘hot girl walk’.
Exploring the benefits of walking and listening to music in this article, albeit under the new and improved title of ‘hot girl walk’, has shown me just how simple looking after our wellbeing can be. Sometimes all we need is dedicated time to ourselves to exercise and listen to the music we love. Granted, sometimes we need more than this, but this one daily habit seems to be positively impacting so many people’s lives. And if something so simple can have such an impact, then why not promote it on one of the fastest growing social media platforms? If the ‘hot girl walk’ improves mood, physical health and gives us the chance to explore our local areas, then I for one am behind it. So, this summer, no matter where you live, your gender or your age, get creating your ‘hot girl walk’ playlist and treat yourself to some well deserved time outdoors.
The long awaited second pop punk album from Machine Gun Kelly is finally here and after ‘Tickets to my Downfall’ it has a lot to live up to. I must admit in the build up to its release I’ve had some mixed feelings. I credited the first album for its raw honesty, emotional depth and the fact that it wasn’t entirely over produced but after watching MGK embark on a strange Hollywood relationship and hearing the release of ‘Emo Girl’, which with its overproduction and lack of direction makes it everything ‘Tickets to My Downfall’ isn’t, I had my doubts. My main hope is that MGK hasn’t listened too much to what people have been saying about him. The naivety of someone new to a genre is what endeared me to his first pop punk work, I just hope ‘Mainstream Sellout’ remains as honest and doesn’t have MGK living up to its name.
The album comes off the line solidly and goes someway to address my preconceived concerns. ‘Born with Horns’ has a good pace to it and it was a pretty solid and catchy tune. I must admit that it wasn’t anything too memorable until about halfway through when it breaks down. Although I was a fan of the quick tempo vibe the slowed section really shows off MGK’s vocals more and brings in a depth to the lyrics which start talking about feeling numb and being torn between reality and fiction. It gave the song that bit extra that it needed and when the slow section does come to an end, signalled by a scream and crazy drum fill, it makes the quicker part of the song feel even more driven. ‘god save me’ follows suit by being another solid showing – a strong pop punk tune with a catchy hook.
The already high set bar is then lifted higher by ‘maybe’ which features genre veterans Bring Me the Horizon. One of the things I like about MGK in pop punk is that his voice is instantly recognisable and does tend to sit deeper so I was curious to see how it would fit in alongside the likes of BMTH, however this didn’t disappoint. Both artists complimented each other throughout the whole song; when they sang together it sounded great and then when they each took their own parts, they were equally well suited to the track. I also loved how BMTH pushed MGK a little further than he’s possibly gone yet in this genre by adding a small glimpse of the classic heavier punk screaming style. I know it can be divisive as this style does have a marmite effect but I thought it was handled perfectly – coming in enough to really cement this as a proper punk tune but not so much as to make the song unlikeable for anyone who isn’t a huge fan of this feature. This tune also comes complete with one of the best guitar parts, flipping between catchy and melodic almost pizzicato style melodies and then heavier chords. I have to say that this song is one of my favourite pop punk era MGK offerings, it certainly sets the bar very high for this album early on.
‘drug dealer’ offered another big name feature, but this time from rapper Lil Wayne. This one really did have me curious as I wondered whether it would see a movement back towards a more hip hop feel, or whether it would see MGK push Lil Wayne towards singing. I actually like Lil Wayne as a singer and although we don’t hear it often his voice would be well suited to this genre. When the song does start it’s fairly obvious that we stick with the pop punk style and in terms of Lil Wayne I’d say we are somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t call it full on singing and I wouldn’t call it rapping either, I have to say I was a bit disappointed as I feel this collaboration could have been really interesting but Lil Wayne’s voice just doesn’t suit this song, maybe if they’d put him on something a bit slower it may have worked out more. This song as a whole doesn’t do it too much for me to be honest, it reminds me of MOD SUN’s ‘Pornstar’ in that it just feels like some trivial throwaway. The tune is ok and the lyrics say little else other than listing the names of drugs. I think it’s probably made worse by the fact I had such high hopes for the feature but I do have to chalk this one up as a bit of a disappointment.
This is followed by an interlude which I didn’t really get, but I do like how cleverly at the end the man (which I think is Pete Davidson) says ‘I hope the next song is a banger, enjoy Machine Gun Kelly’s album,.. what are you going to call the album?’ – this is then followed straight on by the intro into the song ‘mainstream sellout’ which seemed like a nice touch. I really liked ‘mainstream sellout’, it’s short and packs a punch. It goes someway to addressing my concerns before the album in that MGK might have taken on too much of the criticism put on him after ‘Tickets to my Downfall’. The whole song is a huge screw you to all the haters in which he mimics them with lines such as ‘leave the scene you’re ruining it’ and ‘you sold out’. In fact the whole first verse is just MGK singing about how he made an album that everyone says they hate, calling him a poser. I think the position MGK is in is a tough one as I’ve always been a casual pop punk fan and I am a big fan of what he is doing, but I do understand why more die hard fans of the scene would feel a little defensive about some rapper guy coming in and thinking he can make that kind of music. I think at this point though the scene has to look inwards. The guy is making good pop punk music, he’s bringing fans to the scene and no one can say he’s not being genuine – so what is he going to have to do for these people to take his efforts seriously? This song actually made me sympathise with MGK a little, even though the whole premise is more along the lines of ignoring all they have to say it’s obvious that the criticism has reached him in some way for him to make a song about it, and then name the album after that song.
‘make up sex’ featuring blackbear followed and this song was pretty good. I thought the feature was a good fit and although it wasn’t exactly a deep song they don’t all have to be and it was nice to just have a good and catchy tune. ‘emo girl’ followed on and I have to be honest I’m not a huge fan. There’s nothing specifically that bad about it that I can put my finger on but for me it just misses the mark. It does maybe feel a little like he’s trying too hard -talking about emo girls and why he loves them; it almost feels like a plea to be accepted in the scene as he lists just about every single emo stereotype there is. It also feels like Willow isn’t the right fit for this song in particular. I can’t really describe it as it is a decent tune with a catchy hook but something about it just feels forced, it lacks that honesty that I liked so much about ‘Tickets to my Downfall’.
However, ‘5150’ follows and gets us back on track. I think in terms of just the sound of it this song is one of my favourites from the whole album; with great drum fills, a catchy chorus and a great drive to it, it has the feeling of a really strong pop punk tune. It’s another one of those, like there were a couple of in ‘Tickets to my Downfall’, where it seems MGK has just mixed up all the ingredients for a great pop punk song and the results make for an awesome listen. ‘papercuts’ is another really strong showing and keeps us on form. I think vocally it’s one of the best performances on the album and I like how towards the end MGK throws a rap in, showing back to his roots and bringing his two genres together in a way he hasn’t before. Even one of the lyrics of his rap is ‘you say I switched genres, I took the limit and pushed it farther’, a cool line and a suggestion that he hasn’t turned his back on anyone but is just doing something new and different. I liked the sentiment, especially as he gets so much stick from fans in both scenes. ‘WW4’ follows straight on from ‘WWIII’ in ‘Tickets to My Downfall’. The song is cut from the same cloth, a short minute long free for all chaos – and once again, - it’s brilliant. It’s just so high energy and although it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense it really doesn’t need to. The only bit that does make some sense it MGK saying a huge F you to all the other artists that have criticised him. I love the vibe.
‘ay!’ allows for Lil Wayne’s chance to redeem himself. The song is a slower number and the drum beat suggests more of a hip hop feel so I’ve got high hopes that it will be more suited this time around. The song falls into the category a few on the last album did, that sort of Post Malone middle ground. I’d say this one leans a lot further towards hip hop than it does pop punk and as much as I enjoy the pop punk stuff it is nice to see him swaying back a little occasionally. I also think it’s another great middle finger to all the fans in both genres that have criticised him. I like that he is making the music that he wants and is refusing to be boxed off as being one thing or the other by people. In terms of the Lil Wayne feature it definitely worked better on this tune. His voice was heavily tuned and we lost some of his raspy quality through this but also that suits this style of music more. It wasn’t a ground breaking verse or anything but on this slower number I think it was more about matching the spirit of the song than trying to do anything too crazy or impressive. ‘die in california’ follows in a similar vein and leans more towards MGK’s hip hop roots. It’s another really good hip hop track and the verses from Gunna and Young Thug are great – it’s got a great vibe to it and although the lyrics make it more of a sad song to me it feels like a great chill out track. The backing and the tempo just make me want to sit outside on a sunny afternoon with my earphones in and listen on repeat.
‘twin flame’ closes the album out beautifully. A romantic ballad that captures a feeling of inadequacy, the lyrics about his partner being too good for him and that he is ‘too sad, lonely’ make the song really quite a sad one. I’m not sure if it relates to real life at all but it feels real. A brief interlude in the song featuring a call between MGK and Megan (again not sure if it is real or not) would at least suggest the song is about her. The song closes out, and closes the album out, with a dramatic build that seems like the perfect end. Even just listening out of my tinny phone speaker it sounds atmospheric and you can just envisage a packed out stadium in awe as the guitar and drums just grow and grow. This song is the perfect way to end and is one of MGK’s best ever.
It's hard to conclude on this album, especially when comparing it to ‘Tickets to my Downfall’. I think the first thing to say is that I loved it. Apart from maybe one or two I liked all of the songs, and even those weren’t bad, just not quite as good. I think in terms of just the sounds of the projects I’d take this one over ‘Tickets to my Downfall’. The features were generally better and I think MGK has had more time to mature into this genre. I did love the way the last album sounded so that is high praise, I just feel like this one has more to offer in that sense. However, something about me can’t concede that this album overall is better. When I reviewed ‘Tickets to my Downfall’ I credited it on its depth, honesty, emotion and feel and I think this album lacked in some of those areas. Although I had a great time listening to it, it just wasn’t quite an experience like the last album was. It seems that the third album has the potential to hit the sweet spot, as a combination of the sound of ‘Mainstream Sellout’ and the feel of ‘Tickets to my Downfall’ would really make for one hell of an album.
Hi Brent! Great to talk to you today. You recently released your Gospel-Country project, ‘And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…’ I believe you were inspired to create it after a near-death-experience. How did that shift your perspective on life?
In July 2020, my one-year-old son and I were T-Boned at a four-way stop. I only broke my collar-bone, and my son was completely unscathed, thank goodness - we were really fortunate. But after that, you start piecing together how each moment that morning led to that specific moment of getting hit by a car that ran a stop sign. I’ve always had the desire to record a Southern Gospel album, because that’s the music I grew up with. But I didn’t know when that would happen. The wreck motivated me to finally make that album - because you never know when you’re going to go!
One track that I find especially moving is ‘When It’s My Time’. Fear of death and fear of loved ones dying is something we all struggle with, but on this song you adopt the mindset of embracing death. What advice would you give to readers that might be struggling with this?
Since I was a boy, I’ve been acutely aware of how fleeting each moment in life is. For some, that is terrifying. But for me, it’s both bitter and sweet. You have to appreciate the moment if you know that it won’t last forever. As human beings, we may be the only things in this world that think we have to try and control everything. But we can’t, and to me, it’s comforting to know that. It’s a miracle I have been able to experience this life at all, and I’m just grateful for the moment that I do have. When it’s time to go, I’ll be gone. It’s not up to me.
That’s inspiring that you find that loss of control comforting, because a lot of people would find this to be the scariest thing! I think that’s what causes some anxiety issues and depression. In the back of people’s mind, they’re constantly thinking, “We’re all going to die some day”. It’ll make you go crazy, if you let it. Or, if you accept that truth, then it can make you calm.
You’ve spoken about how your crash made you appreciate that ‘everything in life is intentional’. What do you mean by this? It’s all input-output. For example, I couldn’t get to sleep last night until 4:30am - sometimes when I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m worrying. But last night, it was just because I was feeling so grateful about my whole life. We were pretty poor growing up, but I came from a great family. I make a living making music, which is insane. I come from a very culturally diverse place in the American South. That makes me empathic to a lot of different ways of life. There’s no way that this is by coincidence.
This album is of course going to be very inspirational for believers. But for readers who aren’t Christians, what would you like their main takeaway to be?
I grew up singing these songs in the church, and they were just uplifting songs. When I sing them, it takes me back to the little old country church I grew up in, with the sun coming in, and then going to my grandmother’s house to have dinner with my family. The songs just have a light feeling. To me, it doesn’t matter if you believe in something or if you believe in nothing. But I like to think that we recorded these songs in a way that if you just believe in music, then you’ll be able to enjoy this album.
In a previous interview, a Gospel artist mentioned that artists in the genre can sometimes focus too much on the message, and don’t devote enough time into the actual sonics. Was it easy for you to strike this balance?
The main thing for Dave Cobb and I was to make sure that we made these songs sound like home. I you listen to an Otis Redding album, that is Gospel music, and it’s the same with Lynyrd Skynyrd - it all comes from Gospel. It turned into an album that sort of sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis and Otis Redding got together with Lynyrd Skynyrd and recorded an album in Muscle Shoals.
This project was a family affair - you wrote ‘When It’s My Time’ with your wife, Layne Cobb; your parents and sister joined you in the studio; Dave Cobb, your cousin, produced the album; and your dad’s Gospel group features on one of the songs. How special was it to have your family so involved with this album?
It was the way it was meant to be. Dave and I didn’t know each other growing up, and we met through his grandmother’s funeral. She would come to my church and she would perform ‘We Shall Rise’ a capella. Because I came from such a small country church, a lot of the congregation is my family, so it just felt natural to include them all on this project.
You wrote a Children’s Book, which was inspired by your song, ‘Little Stuff’. What made you want you to bring the message of this song to another medium in this way?
I have two kids, and the albums I’ve released since my first was born in 2014 have all been messages for them. The children’s book is no different - it’s about celebrating and appreciating the little things in life, that sometimes we don’t focus on. One of my heroes, Shel Silverstein, wrote ‘The Giving Tree’, and I found out later that he also wrote Johnny Cash’s hit, ‘A Boy Named Sue’. I just thought it was cool for someone who you wouldn’t expect to do that, it almost gives it a depth that it otherwise wouldn’t have had.
I love the song you penned for Kenny Chesney, ‘Don’t It’. It’s a very philosophical and reflective track. What was the inspiration behind this?
I wrote that with my buddy Chase McGill. We were on tour in the summer - he had that lick, and he would bait me with that late at night, at the end of shows, for like two years. And finally, I had to ask him, ‘What is that you keep playing? It’s so good!’ We just wrote ‘Don’t It’ about our lives. Again there’s no way of knowing where you’re going to be in life, but like it says in the song, ‘Life has it’s way of moving you on, don’t it?’ Simple as that.
There’s a lot of introspection on this record, but there’s also a healthy dose of fun and rowdiness thrown in there - on ‘We Shall Rise’, for example. How important was it for you to put this levity on there as well as including the heavier tracks?
It was important because that reflects life. Life is not always happy and it’s not always sad, just as it’s not always fun and it’s not always boring. It was important to have the project ebb and flow like that.
Is this Gospel sound here to stay for future releases, or should fans see this album as a stand-alone project?
I have no idea! A lot of my peers really like to grow their sound, they go completely in an opposite direction to where they started. My way of thinking has always been the reverse - I want to try and get to the root and core of what it is that I do and the feeling that I have. I don’t know what that means exactly, but that will be my pursuit forever.
Finally, one question we ask all our interviewees is to name their favourite songs that have a theme of mental health and wellbeing. What would be yours?
I’d Have to Be Crazy - Willie Nelson
Freebird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Brent Cobb's new album, 'And Now, Let's Turn to Page...' is out on all platforms now!
Buy print editions of Mindful Melody Issue 12 below!