The Paper Kites are an indie folk rock band from Melbourne, Australia. They’ve accumulated over half a billion streams online and their single “Bloom” was recently certified gold in the US with over 700,000 sales. In this heartfelt Sungenre Soapbox piece, bass player Sam “Raz” Rasmussen writes candidly about mental health and touring.
9 missed calls. That was my first indication that something wasn’t right. We’d just wrapped up a pretty jovial sound check. There was talk of tacos as we were readying our jackets and gloves to brave the brisk Canadian air when I glanced at my phone. “He drank a whole bottle of Panadol Sam. We’re on our way to the hospital now.” Everyone left for dinner and I walked the other direction. Crunching through the snow, I was staring at my feet. I couldn’t lift my eyes. I was praying for my 3 year old son. I couldn’t feel any further away from home. I was scared.
It has to be one of the most magnificent drives in the world. The winding road that takes you from Banff to Vancouver. The Canadian Rockies. They are breathtaking. Dramatic mountain peaks asserting themselves above cliffs and valleys. An infinite amount of pine trees, each carrying 3 times their weight in snow, and the bluest lakes you will ever see. I sat in the back seat of the van with my forehead pressed to the window. I felt numb. I was staring at an endless landscape of awe and beauty, but tears filled my eyes. I was sad.
We’d played a sold out show. The crowd sang every word. We left stage to the news that one of our songs was climbing the Dutch charts. This is what it’s all about right!? The promoter of the show invited us to party. The venue had multiple club spaces, our drinks were free, the night was young. I politely declined, grabbed my bag and found myself hailing a cab on the sidewalk. It was crowded, but I didn’t notice because I was staring at the pavement. I was lonely.
I realised that despite being an introverted internal processor that I need to talk.
These stories, in many ways typify the shadow side of my journey over the last 4 years. On paper, or perhaps on insta, my life is perfect. Beautiful wife, 3 little boys, a supporting community, successful band and a well-worn passport. But it has not always felt as it looked. Despite what has been happening on the outside, I have, at times battled on the inside. I have felt scared, sad, and lonely.
I’m a millennial. And I know my story is a common one. Communication has never been easier, yet I was lonely. Entertainment has never been more accessible, yet I was sad. I had a safe and secure life, yet I was scared.
The truth is, I was running. Not just running, I was escaping. When we face trials, we have two choices. Face it, or ignore it. Feel it, or numb it. We may all do it in different ways, but the objective is the same. Submerge in to your phone, binge on Netflix, busy yourself at work, or waste yourself on the weekend. Whatever it takes to escape.
I am relieved to say that things have changed. I no longer feel scared, sad and lonely. I reached a point where I realised I could not continue on that trajectory. I realised that I couldn’t control life’s challenges, but I could control how I deal with them. I realised that despite being an introverted internal processor that I need to talk. I realised that my feelings were normal, and I realised that there is always hope. No person was created to live in fear. Maybe you don’t believe it, but it’s true.
There is a perception that to be in a successful band, touring the world is some kind of utopian dream.
There is a perception that to be in a successful band, touring the world is some kind of utopian dream. City after city, country after country. Screaming fans, free drinks, and complete anonymity. When you’re at home, you have a level of accountability. Friends, jobs, habits you try to form, standards you try to keep. But when you’re on tour, anything goes. It is the ultimate escape. It’s a bubble. It’s dangerous.
Whether on tour or not, we are often faced with the temptation to escape. The truth is, we just need to be present. We need to face our trials and talk about our feelings. I’ve found a lot of clarity in keeping a journal, I’ve found solace in sharing my story with friends, and I’ve found meaning in my faith. Life is always challenging, and we will always experience times where we feel sad, scared and lonely, but there is always hope on the horizon, if we can just lift our eyes.
If this article has raised any issues for you, please reach out:
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1 800 273 8255
HOPELineUK – 0800 068 41 41
Please click here for a list of international support hotlines.