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How I embraced making music and found my inner Freak Tonight in 2020

How I embraced making music and found my inner Freak Tonight in 2020

  • Singer Mikey James shares how music and creative collaboration got him through a tough year.
Mikey James.

Music is often a form of escapism. In a year which saw multiple crises come to a head, we needed pop more than ever before.

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that 2020 has been a very testing year for everyone involved. My plan for the year was to tour the country playing festivals and meet people who have supported my music on social media. A worldwide pandemic had other plans.

I tried red wine, TV and cigarettes as a solution. But when that didn’t prove fruitful, I finally turned to something a little more productive.

In an effort to distract ourselves from checking the news every five minutes, my collaborator (songwriter and producer, Tom Bennett) and I did what we always do when we’re trying to figure out how to interpret what’s going on around us – we made music.

Working remotely with someone definitely isn’t the same as being in the same room.

When you’re in the studio together, there’s less distance between you, and I think it’s easier to make yourself vulnerable and write a really personal track. It’s much easier to jam around on instruments, have fun and just see what happens. The snack quality also tends to be way better.

Writing music is a great way of expressing how you’re feeling about something, and it gives you an outlet for things which might be bothering or upsetting you (particularly if they are lurking in the unconscious).

Research shows that music can have a positive impact on our mood and behaviour. The anxious mind loves a good hook to wrap itself around. Just so much as listening to our favourite tracks can give our brains the little hits of dopamine that make us feel great, and nailing a BLACKPINK routine alongside this can feel like winning the neurochemical jackpot. 

I’d been toying with the idea of writing a song about embracing your imperfections, and learning to love your inner freak, for some time.

I feel that, generally, pop music has become a little bit too cool for school lately. So I wanted to send a message that tells people I’m not scared to rejoice in irreverence and have fun, and neither should you be!

Mikey James.
Mikey James. Mikey James

The healing power of creativity

This also seemed like the perfect time to collaborate with another artist; Doug Thee Savage is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist from the US.

I was so happy that Doug wanted to do a verse. We sent the demo over, and he turned it around in no time at all. His impact really amplified things.

For me, that’s the beauty of working together on something. Creating the track brought me out of a slump, and gave me the oomph I needed to get back on the musical horse.

Sharing the music with the audience is the whole point of doing what we do, right? So we were beyond thrilled when the lovely people at Gaydio added ‘Freak Tonight’ to their playlists in November.

I’d never had a song played on the radio before, and the world’s biggest LGBT station seemed like a great place to start! It felt like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

The healing effect of pop music is one of the things that attracted me to the craft in the first place, but little did I know how important it would be when confronted with the mother-of-all shit-show years.

Don’t get me wrong, I am indebted to my therapist after 2020. But I also don’t know how I could have coped without my creative outlets.

Adversity always creates opportunity. If you can harness the healing power of creativity, I believe you can withstand a lot of what life will throw your way.

Looking ahead to the new year, I so hope that I can come and meet those of you who have supported me this year.

Fingers crossed, by the time the summer comes around, we will be out of the necessary restrictions, and it will be safe for us to be together and party up-close again! Until then… be safe. 

You can find out about Mikey James here and follow him on Instagram here. You can also follow Tom Bennett and Doug Thee Savage.