Sunderland musician Barry Hyde has spoken candidly of his struggle with mental health as he prepares to release his debut solo album.
The former Futureheads frontman has drawn upon his experiences with bipolar disorder for Malody which will be released in June.
To mark the release, the 34-year-old of Humbledon will take to his home city stage, playing a special gig at The Royalty Theatre, off Chester Road.
It’s set to be a milestone moment for the musician who in 2011 was admitted to Cherry Knowle mental health hospital, which has been replaced by Hopewood Park in Ryhope.
“It all came to a head in 2011, which is when I began to exhibit chronic symptoms,” he said. “Everyone has ups and downs, but it’s when those changes become unmanageable that it becomes apparent you need some form of treatment.”
Barry was admitted to hospital three times before finding a stability in his life and being taken off the mental health register last year.
“It was a strange time,” said the musician. “As a kid you always hear about Cherry Knowle and it sounds terrifying. I never thought that many years later I’d go there. But I needed it, and I’m so grateful. I met some amazing people in that hospital, not just the doctors and nurses, but the patients too.”
Today, Barry’s in a place where he feels comfortable talking about his experience and says that writing and teaching has proved a cathartic process.
“The music had become tied in with the illness,” he explains. “When I was really down I found it hard to listen to music because it brought about a thought process that I couldn’t deal with.
“It’s very much a hidden illness. With an illness like a broken leg, the leg doesn’t make plans to break the other leg. But with mental health you’re in a situation where your mind is contemplating destroying itself. It’s very different to a physical illness.
“In America, they are very open about it. But it’s a British thing not to talk about it, especially in the North East. As a bloke you’re expected to pull up your boot straps. That’s not a criticism, it’s just our culture, we keep these things to ourselves.
“I did it for a decade. I was in a unusual world of touring the globe and making albums and I lost my ability to judge my mental health. Everything was so fast and chaotic that I thought it was because of the world I was in, not that it was something deeper.”
The Futureheads, whose hits include Hounds of Love and former SAFC anthem The Beginning of the Twist, are on a hiatus while the four members concentrate on other avenues.
As well as developing his solo work, Barry has thrown himself into teaching music.
He said: “Through the passing of time, doing a degree and working as a chef for a while I’ve been able to move forward. I teach music now too, and it’s teaching that’s saved me and got me back into my songwriting.
“It’s made me fascinated with music in a way I never was before and made me understand it on a deeper level than I did before. The students are so talented and seeing them develop skills and throwing in things that challenge them is so rewarding.”
For Malody, Barry was reunited with co-producer Dave Curle who worked on the Futureheads B sides, as well as their a capella album Rant.
“The thing with debut albums is that you don’t realise you’re doing it,” he said. “It was like the first Futureheads album. The first batch of songs were ones that we’d had for four years before the album was released.
“Some of the ideas for the tracks came in 2010, but I didn’t really focus on writing the album until 2014.
“It’s terrifying to have it released. As a creative person, you work on something and just hope people are interested in what you’re doing and enjoy the experience as much as possible.”
He says he’s looking forward to seeing the reaction to his orchestral/experimental/pop/piano music at The Royalty Theatre gig, which takes place on Saturday June 4.
He’ll be performing tracks alongside a six-piece chamber orchestra. It will be the first time an audience will have heard the Malody Ensemble, which features double bass, cello, violin, trumpet, clarinet, baritone and tenor sax musicians.
He said: “My solo work is best suited to intimate seated gigs where the bar is a separate room to the performance, the audience are able to fully absorb the music when they are seated and not queuing at the bar for another drink. The Royalty Theatre immediately came to mind and is an underused venue when it comes to local music and I’m delighted to be working with them, it feels very fresh and I’m so excited.”
Speaking about how his experience with bipolar disorder informed his sound, he said: “The first five songs are in the form of ten minute suite. I’ve put them in a certain order to emulate the extreme emotions you go through when you have chronic mental health problems. It begins like a funeral song, then there’s a manic piano instrumental that’s unpredictable, before it breaks down to become more reflective. It’s not depressing, I’m just putting it together in a way that people may listen and recognise certain elements of them self.”
Joining him on the bill is Keith Gregson, who will perform a selection of songs he’s written with school children from various Sunderland primary schools inspired by the paintings of LS Lowry.
Also on the bill is folk singer-songwriter Rebecca Young AKA, This Little Bird.
Barry is hoping to raise money for mental health charity Mind, and will give the audience the opportunity to make donations at the gig.
He said: “My solo gigs are almost like a therapy session for me, playing these songs gives me the chance to feel those emotions again but I can leave them on the stage. When I was really ill it was terrifying and I’m happy to say that my condition has been stable for quite a while now.”
•Tickets for Barry Hyde and the Malody Ensemble are on sale now for £5 from Pop Recs and Hot Rats, both in Stockton Road, RPM in Newcastle and online at https://www.musicglue.com/barry-hyde/