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Demi Mitchell on the importance of catharsis

Demi Mitchell is a singer-songwriter from Newcastle, Australia whose debut album The Overflow was just released. We invited her to write about a topic of her choice.

For many years I felt self-conscious about writing ‘sad songs’. Like a guilt that I might bring someone’s mood down when playing live to an audience. It came from a mix of critique from people who would ask why I don’t write happy songs and from my own insecurity that the songs might just not be good enough. It morphed into self-deprecating banter on stage where I would apologise for playing yet another sad number and we’d all have a laugh.

It’s only recently that I see the importance of catharsis as a release, and the purpose that sad songs serve. It’s why we love a good tearjerker film or a dark piece of art. I feel that as a society we’re being encouraged to hide our vulnerability, to see it as a weakness rather than something that makes you a wholesome person.

For me, writing melancholic songs has been my therapy. It’s helped me navigate bouts of anxiety and depression and to self-reflect. And listening to old blues and folk songs has been my release when I can’t find the words myself.

There is a magic in connecting to the lyrics of someone you’ve never met before, of feeling understood and less alone in the world. All I can ever hope is that my songs reach people and provide a cathartic release and the motivation to get out of a funk. And a bit of reassurance that everything will be okay.

So don’t be afraid to find your release, whatever it may be, to go to the dark corners of your mind and discover another part of yourself, or to cry to a sad song so you can smile at the little joys in life too.