A track on Anxiety Replacement Therapy, the forthcoming album from Manchester pop aces The Lottery Winners, might just make the ears of Big Issue readers prick up. So they’ve allowed us the world exclusive first play of the powerful new video.
The song Letter To Myself, with singer-songwriter Frank Turner on guest vocals, is like our iconic ‘Letter To My Younger Self’ feature in song form. The new LP Anxiety Replacement Therapy, which also features guest vocals from Shaun Ryder and Boy George, takes listeners on a journey through a difficult mental health period. And this song has a special resonance.
We asked The Lottery Winners singer Thom Rylance and Frank Turner to talk us through Letter To Myself and its themes. And you can listen to it exclusively here…
Thom Rylance: Letter To Myself was emotional to write. I literally sat down and wrote a letter. I wrote it quickly, in five or six minutes. But it was from the heart. I was a weird kid – I had terrible ADHD, felt I didn’t fit in, was kicked out of schools and felt like a real outsider. And I wanted to write a letter to that kid to say it all works out. That you’re doing the thing you love and surrounded by people you love and that love you.
I’ve always got that little boy with me. When I’m on stage, everything I do is protecting that guy. It’s like: please clap at me – I need this affirmation! I need you to like me, I need to fit in.
Frank Turner: It’s a really powerful way of looking at things because there are pivotal years in your life. It’s specifically 16 for me. Because when I was 16, I published a zine, I lost my virginity, I got my first tattoo, and I went on tour for the first time.
TR: I’m addressing my 12-year-old self, when I was trying to find my identity. I discovered The Smiths, which opened this door to not only a great band but other people that felt the same way as me. That was when I picked up the guitar and did my first gig. I think that 12-year-old kid would be quite proud of who I am now.
I’m working on a song called Ceasefire – about the idea of trying to sign a peace treaty between yourself and your former self
FT: It was interesting what you said about The Smiths. I had a similar experience with my discovery of punk rock. Growing up with music as a refuge means that when you make music yourself, you want to expand that refuge. The coolest thing is for somebody in the situation I was as a kid to come to one of my shows and find what I found in punk.
TR: I’m not scared to say that I went through a bad time last year. The songs I wrote that became Anxiety Replacement Therapy are, in chronological order, like a journey through my year of poor mental health to finding some solace and peace. It’s like an autobiography that no one wants to read. But hopefully they want to listen to it!
Music is the most important thing in the world to me. I have documented my life through albums and songs. So if I want to feel happy, I’ll put on Graceland by Paul Simon, because it gives me great memories. If I want to feel sad, I’ll listen to Still Ill by The Smiths.
FT: If you’re enough of a music nerd to be in a band, music’s going to be the solid groove track underlying most of your life. But in the last few years, particularly around substance abuse, I realised that music was a necessary but not always sufficient part of my mental health toolkit. For the longest time I was like, I don’t need therapy. I just need to listen to the right records and I will be fixed. But I’ve reached a point in my life where I realised maybe that isn’t true.
TR: I don’t design songs to do anything to people. How they interpret them is completely personal to them. But if people come up to me and tell me how a particular song helped them through a hard time is the biggest compliment I could ever receive.
FT: I have not said this to you before but there’s a part of me that was really pissed off when I heard this song. Because it was not dissimilar to an idea I’d been toying with. I would put my own relation with this song differently, in the sense that I feel there is a 16-year-old inside me who’s furious with me all the time!
Because I had a pretty puritan, ascetic view of punk rock ethics then, which hadn’t been sullied by much contact with reality. I have found another way to creatively come at it that is no longer a letter to myself. I’m working on a song called Ceasefire. It’s about the idea of trying to sign a peace treaty between yourself and your former self.