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The multi-platinum singer-songwriter shares how loneliness and isolation during the pandemic greatly affected his mental health and how he learned ‘it’s okay to care for yourself.’ Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Image
  • Singer-songwriter Andy Grammer is speaking out about mental health.
  • He shares how the pandemic forced him to care for his mental well-being and why he’s headlining an event to fund mental health awareness.
  • Grammer also shares how music is healing for both him and his fans.

Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Andy Grammer is known for his uplifting catchy songs. From “Keep Your Head Up” to “Honey, I’m Good” even his song titles spread a message of positivity.

But Grammer wants the world to know that despite his outward persona, he too sometimes struggles with mental health challenges. During the pandemic, he turned to therapy and self-work to manage his mental well-being.

“[When] it got completely quiet and I was not allowed to leave my house and not allowed to be around thousands of people and not allowed, honestly, to just be distracted, I was forced to sit with myself, and that was not super fun,” Grammer told Healthline. “[I] realized, oh, I got a lot of work inside, invisible work to do here that I don’t think I would have done as soon if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.”

To raise awareness about mental health and well-being, he is headlining the fundraiser Beyond the Sidelines Friday September 23. Proceeds from the event will benefit Kicking The Stigma, an initiative led by the Indianapolis Colts and Irsay family, which aims to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove the stigma associated with them.

“It’s been really cool to align with different organizations that are doing really good work to break the stigma,” said Grammer. “[I] want to be really open about it and say that I struggled a lot and it’s totally normal and okay to take care of yourself…We’re all pretty clear that if you break your leg, you need to go to PT and get a cast and do the whole thing, but it’s a little more invisible and vaguer when it comes to mental health, but it doesn’t need to be.”

Below, Grammer shared more with Healthline about mental health, music, and what keeps him motivated and inspired.

Healthline: While the pandemic negatively impacted your mental health, it sounds like it forced you to pay attention to it. Is that right?
Grammer: In hindsight, I’m grateful for it. I’m currently outside of a building right now. We’re filming a podcast called Man Enough, which is all about masculinity, and we were getting into, yesterday, an episode about what it is about guys that we feel like going to therapy is weak or something. It almost sounds cliché to talk about. It’s a point that’s been brought up plenty; there’s nothing new about it. What is interesting is that for me, I had to be completely destroyed to say, ‘ok, fine, I’ll go to therapy.’ Why does it have to be that way? Why do I have to be so clearly not capable of going about my day to then say, ‘ok, I think I need some help.’ Rather than just being like ‘I don’t feel so great,’ which is all the time, not all the time consistently, but throughout the day, you’re like ‘I’m sad’ or ‘I’m anxious’ or ‘I’m these things.’

How did therapy help you?
Therapy has helped me a lot. I’d love to help do anything to help someone not to get so low before they can turn to it. Ultimately, it’s like are you creating space in your life to work through your own stuff? and I know for me, I was not, and that’s what the pandemic did for me. It kind of forced it upon me, which I’m in hindsight grateful for, but it was not super fun to go through.

Was that your first time going to therapy?
I went to therapy one time in high school. My mom sent me because I thought I was supposed to start on the varsity basketball team. I worked on it since I was in like 4th grade, and I didn’t start. I came off the bench as sixth man and it really threw my identity and my [self-worth] off and so then I went and talked to a therapist about four times and it was pretty helpful.

I think I was afraid to own the darker sides of myself. So, therefore, it’s just a little bit scary to acknowledge that to even yourself that you’re not perfect and everybody’s got crap. But if you’re never willing to look at that stuff or deal with the stuff inside yourself, then you’re not being a complete version of yourself, and there is a place where you’re okay, and totally enough, and totally loveable, and shitty sometimes.

Your songs are so positive and uplifting, but they also address deep serious feelings. Do you think people often think that people who are happy, positive, and optimistic can’t have dark days?
I can’t speak for everybody else, just for myself. I know for my own art, if you’re going to be someone who is dealing in the world of optimism and joy and uplifting yourself and others, even the word uplift means that you are low.

I wrote my first song, “Keep Your Head Up,” after my mom died, so it’s all grounded in pain. I think that hope can be really rebellious in a dark time, but if it’s not, that’s the kind of optimism and hope that I try to sing about, that I can really get behind…I think that joy or happiness in the face of darkness is so much more interesting, and that’s usually the place that I’m writing from.

Has singing and writing been healing for you?
Yeah. On the last tour, I started my show with a poem, and it leads into a song called “Damn it Feels Good to Me.” I think it takes a lot of courage to own all the pieces of yourself. There’s a real freedom in it, but it is undeniably a courageous act to in your art or in your life or with people you trust, to share all of yourself.

In a recent Instagram post of yours, you mentioned that you originally wrote songs for yourself, but realized how much they impacted other people. Is that rewarding?
It’s super rewarding. When you do deeper work on yourself…when you’re courageous and you share the whole version of yourself in your art or in your life, it gives permission for other people to do that in their lives and that is such a sweet thing that by kind of healing yourself and then sharing whatever you found, you’re creating spaces for other people to do the same. That is an awesome, awesome life. I want to do as much of that as possible.

When you need a mental boost, do you ever listen to your own songs?
I don’t turn on my own songs. I have my own people that I go to. That’s why it’s the biggest compliment in the world when someone tells me that I’ve been that for them because I know how important it can be. Music is incredible. I always say music is like a spiritual chiropractor. If you’re feeling funky, it can go inside of you and give you a little crack to get you back on track.

I had a day the other day where I woke up, and I hadn’t slept very long, and I was getting ready to leave my hotel out on tour, not in my best headspace. I was like: Am I going to work out? Am I going to go eat some crappy thing? Where am I at? And someone had just text me a song as I was leaving, and the song was incredible, and it changed my day. It made me choose better versions of myself that day, and that is really important and powerful.

What self-care methods or coping strategies do you turn to during difficult times?
It’s definitely very personal, and I want to make sure that people don’t think there’s some one-size-fits-all. I think it comes down to self-knowledge and understanding what it is that actually works for you. For me, I’m not always the best at it, but I’m pretty clear that if I get a workout in, that helps a lot with my mental health.

And then something spiritual like respecting my own depth. Something that will go deeper and take me out of the day-to-day. If I do that as well as workout really hard and get a good sweat in, it’s kind of like you have to trust — because you don’t want to do those things — you have to trust that by the end of it, you will be a better version of yourself. And over time, that has been made clear for me.

Is it rewarding to use your music to draw attention to mental health?
The best thing that I love about what I do, and if you’ve ever been to shows, is that you are in a specific place where you’re open to hearing some things that you might not always be. You know? Like, it creates space for you to go a little deeper into yourself when you’re surrounded by all these people, and music has this effect, so it can be a really special time to go deep with people.

Do you have a particular song that really does that with your audience?
It’s so unique to people. When I start different songs, I can see that different people have taken certain songs [to heart]. I have a song right now called “Saved My Life,” which is about people showing up for you, and a lot of times, I’ll start that song and see a mother and a daughter just hugging and crying. I have a song, “Don’t Give Up on Me,” which I think does some of that. “Keep Your Head Up” has been a song that people use almost like an aspirin when they’re not feeling good.