Kyle Burgess

Kyle talks to us about why music and creativity are so important for his mental health, and how music keeps him feeling alive.

Tell us why you are supporting MHF Live?

I'm happy to support anything that provides camaraderie for anyone suffering in any way. It's pretty well documented now that many within the music industry suffer with mental health issues.

Whether these are manageable or lead to cases where people need to seek help, however it's pretty clear that most people don't seek help and face exhausting battles which can sometimes lead to the worst outcome thinkable.

My own experience with this is a feeling of self-loathing, lack of self-worth and mild depression following every tour I've been on. I used to shake this off as general blues from being away doing something I love and then being back to the 9-5 for a spell.

As it became something I did more, and less like a jolly, every time I jumped in the van, I realised that when coming home (to a loving girlfriend, family and friends who I care so much for) I was just really saddened by the reality that nothing in my daily life made me feel as alive or passionate as my music.

Writing and recording and playing shows whilst at home is really cool, and lots of stuff when not on the road is obviously great, but that initial step of coming back from being 100% in control of your job when on tour, to doing menial desk job or pulling pints or whatever, was tough.

Not in ANY way do I feel that these jobs are beneath me – I do them - but they are not my passion, and I care not for climbing ladders and strengthening a Linkedin profile; I care about my music, feeling something, making other people feel things and travelling to share that, meeting new people, seeing new places… however the reality is that we can only do something that we love so much in very small doses due to the lack of income it provides, therefore we need to spend 90% of our working lives doing something un-inspiring and, speaking for myself, that feels like a waste of a life.

It sounds so bleak to put it like that, and many people will probably think it's over the top... but I would guess many musicians feel the same, and if they don't, I can only speak for myself, but my mind is constantly on creating and I just want to be doing that all of the time.

This isn't a hobby for me. Even if I couldn't perform, I would have to be writing to let all of this out of my head... from lyrics to chords to the thousand ways a song could go. I think (although I've never seen anyone about it) I probably have a form of ADHD as I’m constantly thinking about plans and songs and arrangements or designs - like constantly, so when that's all going on in my head, and I can't be with the other guys, or in a room with my guitar, or on the road, in the studio, on stage or basically anywhere I’m in a creative flow state then I just get super anxious that I'm wasting my thoughts and creative abilities and also super bummed that I’m allowing that to happen.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

Around six years old, being in a car with my mum and her partner at the time, driving to Loch Ness for a camping holiday and hearing Kate Bush's "Army Dreamer" and thinking it sounded wonderful.

What does music do for your mental health?

Quite simply, it makes me feel alive. Perth in Scotland had a class music scene and our school had really good pop punk bands, but when I started to go to shows and hear screamo, emo and hardcore music... wow... I was switched on.

As soon as I felt the emotion of the lyrics, the power in the vocals and the heaviness of the music, I was hooked. I used to go and buy compilations from emo labels like Atticus and Victory Records and rinse the Myspace charts for genres I liked.

Any time I have some time to myself I like to listen to playlists I've made with some of the most emotive songs I connect to. I gravitate towards sad songs and always have. Maybe it because you know it's not just you that feels that way.

Who is the musician who has most inspired you?

John Harcus, lead singer & guitarist in Perth band PMX, and original drummer in We Came From Wolves. And Greg Erickson, former lead guitarist in a bunch of older Perth bands and original lead guitarist in We Came From Wolves.

Growing up in Perth I was just a kid kicking about the scheme after school, playing football against the end of a garage with my mates, I didn't have any real social life out with my neighbourhood or school, but when I moved into fifth year and started to meet the year above, I had an instant friendship with Greg (he'll be my best man when I get married this December).

Greg introduced me to alternative music, and basically gave me an education. His personality meant I could pick his brains about anything without feeling like a fool. He is also the best guitarist I've ever met for being able to hear music and quickly replicate it to beautiful effect, put an acoustic guitar in that man's hands and just let him entertain you!

After a few months of me watching his band and seeing them as these heroes and wondering how anyone could get to their level (of basically playing the local music venue and recording in the local studio), he realised I could sing, and as he fancied trying other instruments, we made a little side project which allowed me to grow into a musician and learn guitar, develop my voice, create contacts and play my first shows and tours.

It was an invaluable introduction and education and finally let me get out an abundance of things I needed to as a pretty anxious young guy who had no outlet before then. I’ll be thankful to him forever for that!

One of the bands he introduced me to were another Perth band, fronted by John. I’d never seen them around as they were in London with their label, recording and playing shows... they even TOURED!!! They were so loved all over Scotland, and still are, but nowhere more so than in Perth, and when they made their return, I witnessed what a rock show truly should be.

I made an effort to meet them and from there become friends with John. He recorded bands on his multi-track system (before Garage Band!) and I pestered him for months to record a demo for my first band. He must have thought I was just this annoying wee guy, but I remember how complimentary he was when he first heard me sing and quickly become a supporter of us. We would record many demos over the following years, and along with Greg he became a real mentor for me. He is like a big brother in many ways.

When I eventually felt musically on their level, we formed We Came From Wolves, and having both those guys in the band as we toured the U.K. and played "proper" venues, guiding me through the etiquette of it all and helping me learn from seasoned pros I truly felt that I'd achieved a lot of my ambitions. From being a young lad watching in awe as these guys played tours in distant foreign lands like Blackburn and Yeovil, ha ha!

Those guys left WCFW to do their own things mutually. We went on to even more distant lands like Bratislava and Paris, whilst Greg became a father to a beautiful daughter and John got PMX back together after hiatus and released their second album... all the while we are all still as tight as brothers. Those are the things I'm most thankful to music for.

What makes you happy?

Sunshine, laughter with friends, kindness, animals, travel, writing, recording and performing, love.

What’s the best sound in the world? And the worst?

The best is uncontrollable laughter from someone you love. The worst is hearing real pain through someone crying.

What song is in your head just now?

Our upcoming single, not even in a pluggy way... We've been away writing for a year. I wrote over 50 songs as we had a second album in mind, but we can't do it financially right now so we've whittled it down and will be recording a bunch for single releases over the year.

Please tell us about (and share) a piece of music that has had an impact on your mental health.

To me music is all catharsis, all feeling. If I have an idea and demo it with a melody or lyrics that don't feel real or evoke feeling, the song gets left behind. On that note, our next single "Keep Close" hit me harder than any I've written before. Last May I woke to a call telling me my Dad had died suddenly. I sat upright in bed not really knowing what to do...I went for a shower, got dressed and then went to the park, found a quiet place within a garden area and just sat on the grass in tears... absolutely devastated. I still am.

My Dad was just like a best mate – so I was just a bit lost. The few weeks that followed were obviously really tough, as it will always be, but something so just hits you. I knew I needed to get away after the funeral and find some time for myself to really digest it all and so I planned a trip to a cottage I have access to through a family friend in Highland Perthshire. I’ve written so much of our stuff there, but decided that rather than borrow my bassist, Rob's guitar, as I always did... I would treat myself to an acoustic of my own.

So I asked our guitarist Calum to come down to the shop with me and we spent some time playing around and I picked out a beauty knowing I had a long weekend of nothing but my thoughts, feelings and this guitar (there is no signal, TV, internet etc at this college, hence being such a great place for writing). Obviously, I was daunted by the realities I would face about the loss of my Dad without any distractions to turn to.

I got the guitar home ahead of packing for setting off the next day... in the shop I had been playing some chords that my fingers found whilst trying it out... as I said before, guitars have songs in them, and as I was standing in my kitchen I played the sequences again and started to develop them perched on my kitchen table... then, as always, I just sung the first melody that came into my head. It was powerful and the words came instantly. I knew straight away I'd just written a chorus to a song for my Dad.

I recorded the chorus and vocals with the voice memo app on my phone and packed away the guitar. The next day I travelled up to the cottage on the train... it was glorious sunshine all the way through the 3 hour journey, and I actually felt really good for the first time in weeks since he passed because I knew, although it was gonna be brutal, that I’d be saying what I needed to through his song over the weekend.

Once I'd completed the song, I felt such a weight off. Over the last chorus I overlaid the words I really needed to say to my Dad... not poetic, rhyming verses or choruses. Just the bare, shouted words "My heart is broken. Our future stolen. I loved you so much Dad. I just hope you know that". As I shouted the last of them, for the first time in my life I cried whilst singing... and I didn't stop for a long time. I cried until I actually started to laugh a bit as it was ridiculous.

I then spent the remaining hours of sunlight listening to the song, drinking whiskey and watching the sun go down. Then I cracked on with some more songs. When I let the boys hear the demos from that weekend, the resounding thought was this should be our first single to mark our return after a year out due to personal things in all our lives. We recorded this and some others a few days after Christmas with Bruce Rintoul, and the song was developed further and turned into something even more beautiful.

It's a daunting prospect releasing a song at the best of times, but due to the extra weight this one carries, it's an obviously nerve wracking one to release / But all of that goes away when I think that I gave truly everything I had into writing this for my Dad, I held nothing back. Just as he did for me so many times when he was here, it helped pick me up when I was down.

  • Follow 'We Came From Wolves' on Twitter
  • Listen to their latest single 'Keep Close' on bandcamp

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