ROX Alive Interviews Psychologist and Author Tamsin Embleton
What is your background and experience in Psychology and The Music Industry?I started off working in the music business as a club and venue booker, then started booking a festival, and ended up running events at a large recording studio. On the side, I managed artists and tour managed, too. It was on the road in Europe in 2010 when I first figured out that being a therapist who works with musicians might be a job I could pursue. I was at a post-show dinner with Anna Calvi, Nick Cave and their respective band members (we were on the road with Grinderman), and Nick and I were sharing therapy stories. A couple of years later, when I was working at Metropolis Studios I knew I needed to get out of music - I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, and my therapist at the time, and my coach suggested I retrain. So I did!
I was a couple of years in to training in 2016 when I started to research the psychological impact of touring. That original research gave me the impetus to write the book. There was a lot of research detailing the scale of the problem, and stressors, but not much by way of guidance. I crowdfunded thinking initially I would self-publish, then Michael Rapino at Live Nation spotted the crowdfunder and offered to sponsor the book, which he did (without any editorial input). That budget facilitated me bringing on board a team of writers - all of whom are specialists in their respective fields. And from there I managed to get a publishing deal with Omnibus.
3 years of writing later, here we are, with Touring and Mental Health: the Music Industry Manual.
How long have you been working in the field of Psychology?Around 7 years.
When did you begin working with people in the Music Industry?From the outset. Friends who were tour managers referred artists and colleagues who were suffering. I work with a lot of people on the other side of the industry too - A&Rs, label managers, production managers etc. I also met other therapists who used to work professionally in the music business before retraining, and so I set up a collective, and we’re now in LA, San Diego, Nashville, New York, London, Oxford, Manchester and Seville.
What made you want to work in this industry?I was a music obsessed teen - I followed the only thing that made sense to me and made a space for myself in the music business.
Have you been able to identify the major issues musicians are having in their lives?Yes - that’s the focus of Touring and Mental Health: the Music Industry Manual.
What can they do to find help?Depends where they are, in the UK we have helplines by Music Minds Matter and Music Support. We also have peer support groups from the Backlounge and Tonic Rider. Trainings in Mental Health First Aid by Music Support and Tonic Rider. Music Industry Therapist Collective provide therapy and workshops as do BAPAM. Funding provided in the UK from Help Musicians, Royal Society of Musicians and PRS for music members fund.
In the US - Music Industry Therapist Collective provide therapy, as do Backline (who also have various groups), MusiCares are a funding provider, as are Sweet Relief. And there are various state specific services in Nashville, Lousiana, Tennessee, Texas etc.
What type of therapies are available?Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC) offer psychotherapy and counselling, psychology, acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and performance psychology.
Please tell us about your new book "Touring and Mental Health".Touring and Mental Health: The Music Industry Manual has been written by psychotherapists, psychologists, doctors and other performing arts health practitioners who are familiar with the unique stressors faced by those who tour. It provides robust clinical advice, cutting edge research and practical strategies to help you improve your health, as well as your living and working conditions on the road, and beyond.
Topics include: anxiety (performance; fear of flying; general), addiction, crisis management, how to hold conversations about mental health, emotion regulation, depression, trauma, anger and conflict, stress, eating disorders, band dynamics, team development, mindset, exercise, physical health (hearing; vocal; sexual; general), nutrition, sleep, optimal performance, dealing with the media, inclusivity, psychological safety, romantic relationships, breathwork, meditation, post-tour recovery and an analysis in to mental health in the music business.
Each chapter is underpinned with advice and personal recollections from artists and touring professionals including Nile Rodgers, Justin Hawkins, Philip Selway, Charles Thompson, Katie Melua, Suzi Green, Kieran Hebden, Jake Berry, Tina Farris, Taylor Hanson, Trevor Williams, Lauren Mayberry, Pharoahe Monch, Jim Digby, Will Young, Debbie Taylor, Jamal Chalabi, Angie Warner, Dale ‘Opie’ Skjerseth, David '5-1' Norman and many more.
Do you feel that enough musicians release they're struggling and come forward for help?Often not until it’s quite late and they’re in crisis. Mental health support should be built in at the beginning of their careers as a preventative measure, rather than crisis response. We know the industry is enormously stressful in a number of ways,
How about your Psychotherapy Service? How can people get in touch with you?Anyone can self-refer to our service via www.musicindustrytherapists.com. We are not a free or low fee referral service, but we can sometimes support funding applications depending on location and circumstances.
Have you had much input and support from the Music Industry?The book contains interview material from over 80 musicians and music industry personnel. We’ve had a number of organisations support us through socials and newsletters - Help Musicians, British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, PPL, PRS for Music Foundation, AIM, AFEM etc. And of course Live Nation sponsored us, so yes! Took a while to be taken seriously with the book, but now it’s made - people are paying attention and inviting us to speak at conferences across the world, which is exciting.
How about the BACP and BPS?No specific interest shown there, but i wouldn’t expect there to be. As far as I’m aware they don’t support therapy businesses beyond individual practitioners registering with them.
What five things do you suggest musicians do to help themselves?Maintain your autonomy, stay grounded, engage in self-reflection, get a mentor, buy this book.
UK - https://omnibuspress.com/products/touring-and-mental-health-manual-published-on-11th-august-2022
US and ROW - https://www.amazon.com/Touring-Mental-Health-Industry-Manual/dp/1913172341/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=touring+and+mental+health+the+music+industry+manual&qid=1674829251&sprefix=touring+and+mental+hea%2Caps%2C184&sr=8-1
Psychotherapist / Founder / Editor