This month, musician Melissa James released a charity single for SANE called 'Live Again'. The song, which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues, was recorded at RAK Studios using members of the public to form a choir working alongside professional musicians, as part of her project 'SING4SANE'. Here, Melissa guest blogs for SANE about her single and how it inspired others to tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness.
In February this year, the concept of SING4SANE (S4S) was born. Having taken the decision at that time to invite anyone who wanted to do so to join me at Heathrow’s Caffe Nero to sing alongside me on a song of mine called Live Again, the idea somehow became concretised. I would sing the song with others, using its message to talk about mental health openly, in public, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed; trying, just a little, to help edge-away the stigma associated with the words mental and health.
It was a beautiful event and soon after I would begin thinking about organising another and, now I know the rest of the story. I would invite more people to join me in a recording studio and, on Sunday 21 August, 27 people who’d agreed to give their time and voices – and who connected with the concept of the S4s project – arrived at RAK Studios to join me in making a “Big Sing-style” recording of the song. This SING4SANE version of Live Again will release on Friday 28 October, some 4 months after I initially began exploring the idea of creating the record.
It's been a massive effort on the part of many. Thanks have to go to Mental Health First Aid England who, on hearing the idea, began thinking of how they could support it. Thanks also must go to Caffe Nero for not thinking twice about supplying stacks of food to keep all musicians and guest singing participants happily fed over the course of the weekend of recording. Sainsbury’s also did their bit in offering a gift card which was used to buy the bottles of wine for the celebratory drink at the end of a long, but warmly satisfying day of recording and bonding that made this event so very special. Many, many thanks also go to the friends and contacts who have done whatever they can to help support me in running the project.
The S4S version of Live Again hasn’t just been about making a record. I didn’t want it to be another single release. There was a lot more to my motivation behind putting the hard graft into making this “Band Aid-style” recording a reality. Firstly, there was my own personal story. Live Again is as much about me trying to live more openly, honestly and freely than I ever have - and doing so without fear or shame – as it is about encouraging others to do the same.
Secondly, there was the aim to do just a little among those in my surrounding circle – hopefully creating a ripple effect which would also spread to others connected to me - to try to encourage us all to see that there is likely someone else who is perhaps like us, with the same feelings of angst, loneliness, fear and desperation. And I wanted to try to encourage a bit of talk about it and I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people who have told me their stories in the process of doing this project. My son commit suicide, my sister has mental health problems, my daughter needed help but didn’t get it and on and on.
Thirdly, there was the aim to introduce this song to as many people as possible. Live Again has never felt like just one of the songs that I’d had a hand in writing. It has always felt more important than that because of the words I would have spoken to me from listeners at concerts who would describe to me the ways in which the song moved them.
There is no major PR push behind this single release. There is no big record label. No managers, no assistants. Just me. Me and a lot of kind and giving individuals, that is, who believe in the project and have offered to do something to help. And that – finally – is what makes this project the wonderful thing that it has grown into. Everyone pitches in for a common cause. And that’s the point. If nothing else, I’m really glad I’ve achieved that.
Watch the Live Again promo on YouTube
To find out more about the SING4SANE project, to offer any help towards it or to join a future public SING4SANE performance, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org