Rock Musicians That Talk About Their Mental Health

Metallica front-person and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Hetfield recently took a moment to open up about his mental health between performances at a Metallica show during the band’s tour of South America.

Hetfield became emotional during a performance at the Estádio do Mineiro football stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He stated, “Feeling a bit insure” due to his age, now 58. He narrated to the crowd “I’ve gotta tell you I wasn’t feeling very good before I came out here, feeling a little bit insecure like I’m an old guy, can’t play anymore — all this bulls**t that I tell myself in my head”. Metallica band members Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet, and Roberto Trujillo showed James their support by hugging him and continuing the concert. The band then resumed the concert with Sad But True,’ from Metallica – The Black Album (1991).

The group, which has been together since 1981, has mentioned using Zoom Calls on Jimmy Kimmel Live to check in on each other during the pandemic. 

Rock, heavy metal and thrash metal musicians are sometimes viewed as emotionless or numb to feelings due to their heavy and powerful music, attire, and rock and roll lifestyle. This genre of music does contain some of the best storytelling and lyrics. The demand to perform an entire concert, constant touring and traveling, being away from home, perfecting each musical note, and keeping up with constantly evolving trends in music and entertainment, exacts a heavy toll on all rock and roll musicians and artists in general.

The recent explosive, investigative, and in-depth article by music journalists Kory Grow and Andy Greene into Taylor Hawkins’s death explored the toll and pressures of constantly touring and performers reaching a stage of burnout. The alternative metal band Linkin Park’s late vocalist Chester Bennington, whose battle with mental illness and drug addiction can be found in his songs such as ‘Crawling’‘Numb’‘One Step Closer,’ ‘Bleed It Out,’, ‘Heavy’ (feat. Kiiara) –and ‘In the End,’ to name a few.

Due to constant pressures and industry demands and the pressure of continually being on tour as it brings in large revenue for artists and bands, the music industry has lost many talents, with some artists leaving music behind completely or reducing themselves to sporadic performances and behind-the-scenes roles. As we are in Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a list of Metalheads and Rock and Roll musicians who have discussed the importance of mental health. In this list, we picked musicians and artists who are familiar with one another, have collaborated musically, and are outspoken as activists raising awareness of such issues.

Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy)

 

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Arch Enemy, a Swedish melodic heavy metal band, has had two prominent female frontperson – German vocalist Angela Gossow and now Canadian-born Alissa White-Gluz. With their heavy growling, screams, and powerful singing, both of these female vocalists have contributed to the band’s seven studio albums since 2001. Angela Gossow eventually left the band in 2012 to pursue a career as a manager. She currently manages Arch Enemy through her company Alpha Management United.

Alissa White-Gluz is currently the lead singer of Arch Enemy and one of metal’s most versatile and powerful vocalists today. She can perform ballads, high-pitched screams, and heavy metal growls.

Although seasoned in music, before joining Arch Emeny, she mentioned she was in a deep depression and was not sure what was going on in her life. To deal with her depression and anxiety, she did whatever she could, including increasing or decreasing her writing, tour dates, and anything else that would help her. Things began to improve after becoming associated with Arch Enemy. A known vegan and teetotaler, she avoided any drugs and prescribed anti-depressants in her fight with her depression. Alissa worked her way out of her helplessness by reading a lot of self-help books. She credits former Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow and the current band manager as a supportive figure who helped her get through all the continuous touring and performances. 

Along with the release of 2017’s ‘Reason To Believe’, the band launched the #AEReasonToBelieve campaign, inviting Arch Enemy fans to share their stories of finding ‘reasons to believe’. On the website is a statement from Alissa White-Gluz that reads, “Music has a way of speaking to us the way no one else can. It gives us an intimate moment of introspection that is also shared with millions, like a collective consciousness. I have seen the power of believing in one’s self and how quickly things crumble when we don’t.”

“I have read and heard so many stories from people all around the world describing how they’ve found their reason to believe through Arch Enemy and that genuinely inspires me and keeps me going. The story is far from done, so please help us help others by sharing your experience; you might be that light in the dark more than you’ll ever know.”

Brian ‘Head’ Welch (Korn)

Hard rock and alternative metal band Korn/ KoЯn members Jonathan Davis and Brian Welch have both struggled with drugs, alcoholism, and depression. All of which have had an impact on the band, their music, and their personal lives. Brian Welch is a founding member of Korn and remains a member of their stable. He left the band for a period to pursue his solo career and returned a completely different musician.

Bullying and being picked on for his flaws as a child resulted in self-hatred and isolation, which he carried into adulthood. In numerous interviews and conversations, he has cited the amount of touring as a major factor that affects a musician’s mental health and causes depression, which leads to drugs and alcohol. Welch credits religion and the birth of his daughter Jennea with saving him from drugs and depression.

In an interview with CBN, he said, “We are all living this life trying to get through our wounds, our hurts, and everything. Some people deal with it through drinking and drugs, I did it for years I did not know any other way.”

He has been featured, along with several other musicians, on The You Rock Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness and assisting people suffering from depression and other mental health conditions through the use of music.

Corey Taylor (Slipknot)

With Slipknot, Corey Taylor is frequently masked on stage, while his band members orchestrate mosh pits and direct the crowd to jump, sit down, or dance to their metal tunes. Along with Slipknot, he has performed with Korn, Halestorm, Disturbed, Travis Barker, Dave Grohl, and many others. After losing Joey Jordison in 2021 and Paul Gray in 2010, the band has experienced its fair share of tragedy.

Corey has been a huge advocate for mental health over the years. He has spoken up about the importance of ending the stigma associated with conversations about mental health issues. Corey informed Young Minds, a leading UK charity dedicated to improving the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people, “Anything you are feeling right now, no matter how strong you feel it, it is temporary, everything you feel is temporary, you have incredible lives ahead of you you have incredible things you can accomplish. Do not let anything build a wall too high for you to get over.”

Lzzy Hale (Halestorm)

Elizabeth ‘Lzzy’ Hale is a songwriter and hard rock musician who is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for her band Halestorm. The band has been together since 1997 and won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 2013. As a vocalist and guitarist, she was inspired by Joan Jett. Lzzy won the Dimebag Darrell ‘shredder’ award by Metal Hammer in 2016.

Lzzy Hale has always been at the forefront of awareness campaigns, actively engaging her fans and audiences to stop the spread of hate. Speaking about mental health, she told Kerrang Magazine, “Just because you might lose hope every now and then or you might need to reach out, that doesn’t mean you’re weak. It just means you need some help – and that’s okay. You shouldn’t hide these feelings or pretend to be something you’re not, because sometimes we all need somebody.”

“For us in the band, we approach our live shows as a form of therapy – it’s gotten to the point where we need to play shows for our mental well-being,” she added. Her #raiseyourhorns campaign was well received by the music community, attracting the attention and participation of many artists, fans, and people dealing with mental health issues.

Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine)

Tom Morello has played for rock bands Audioslave, Prophets of Rage, and Rage Against the Machine. He is a singer-songwriter, rapper and folk artist. Tom has also spent six years performing with Bruce Springsteen and has a solo project – ‘The Nightwatchman’. Recently he also served as an executive music producer in the Netflix film Metal Lords’ in which he makes a cameo alongside Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Metallica’s Kirk Hammet, and Scott Ian of Anthrax.

It is entirely possible to throw Tom Morello’s name into the hat when it comes to being a rebel, fighting the system, or battling for a cause and spreading awareness. Outside of music, he is a well-known political activist, with many of his lyrics and music videos shedding light on important issues. He spoke about the early losses of a great artist in the music industry and why we should pay attention to their lyrics in an interview with Induct INXS Radio about mental health and the death of Chris Cornell. He collaborated with country singer and guitarist Chris Stapleton to release ‘The War Inside’, a song about the emotions of dealing with isolation and mental health struggles faced during the pandemic.

In his Instagram posts, he regularly shares insightful information about music, wellness, history, and rock and roll and also pays tribute to artists that have passed away.

Nita Strauss (Guitarist for Alice Cooper)

Rock Legend Alice Cooper has spoken multiple times about his struggles with alcohol addiction and battling depression. The ‘Poison’ singer even wrote and recorded Hey Stoopid’ in 1990 as a track to caution those against attempting suicide. 

His touring guitarist Nita Strauss started playing guitar after being inspired by Steve Vai in the 1986 film ‘Crossroads’. The shredder has been ranked number one on Guitar World’s magazine list of ’10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know’ in 2011. Nita became the first female rock solo artist in over three decades to reach number one on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart with her song Dead Inside’ released in 2021, which featured Disturbed’s David Draiman. She is a huge wrestling fan and has performed at several WWE events, including the annual landmark show Wrestlemania and WWE Evolution, along with Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale.

In an interview with Cryptic Rock, when asked about mental wellness, she said ” It is just about taking a step back from it and doing something you have always wanted to do. Whether it’s learning a new language, learning an instrument, learning guitar with my course, or learning how to bake bread. Whatever it is, just do something that has a sense of accomplishment to it”. She told Revolver magazine that “mental health is a subject that is so close to my heart” when selecting eight songs that have helped her through difficult and uncertain times.

Nita also participated in Izzy Hale’s campaign #RaiseYourHorns to raise awareness about mental health after the death of singer Jill Janus.

David Dramian (Disturbed)

Since 1996, David Draiman has been the lead singer of the heavy metal band – Disturbed. He is well-known for his powerful baritone vocals as well as his deep lyrics. He was ranked 42nd on Hit Parader’s list of the ‘Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time’ in 2006. Disturbed’s music is a cross between heavy metal and harmonic alternative metal.

Even before the advent of social media, David was a vocal advocate for discussing mental health and raising awareness. At the age of 16, his girlfriend took her own life and holding that grief and blaming himself, he penned ‘Inside the Fire’ (2008). 

In an interview with the youtube channel Heavy Consequence, David spoke about addiction and mental health saying, “For me, I am tired of being passive about it. I am tired of people waiting, I dont want to go to any more funerals, I dont want to wait until the person has already gone. I think it is important for all of us to be an advocate and to be someone in all of our loved ones’ life that can be an inspiration for them… lead them to some sort of light that can help them come out of the darkness.”

Amy Lee (Evanescence)

Amy Lee is a singer, songwriter, and musician best known for her deep and powerful vocals with her rock band Evanescence. In her career spanning decades, she has collaborated with Korn’s Jonathan Davis and Seether’s Shaun Morgan, among other artists and bands. While on tour, she performed Chester Benningtons’s Heavy’ along with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. The two are close friends, and Hale’s band Halestorm re-released their song ‘Break In’, which features Lee’s vocals. Amy received the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods Award for Best Vocalist.

She narrated mental health and anxiety struggle to the audio content organization Audacy. Amy said, “Being productive makes me feel better… The way that I am able to self-soothe and create my own therapy is through the catharsis of creation. Whether it’s making music, making food, or painting something, creation makes me feel good.” Her band also released a powerful hard rock ballad Lithium’  in 2006, which Amy has described as embracing feeling over numbness. She has also previously participated in a campaign to raise epilepsy awareness to learn more about how epilepsy works, how to best treat it, and how to cure it.

Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

Rob Halford is a Grammy Award-winning front-person for Judas Priest, of which he has been a member since its inception in 1969. A versatile singer rooted in metal ballads, heavy metal, and rock and roll, Halford has been a part of many music projects and has even stood in for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and the late Ronnie James Dio.

He is one of the few openly gay metalheads and has published his autobiography ‘Confess’. He has said in many interviews that concealing his sexuality affected him negatively and drew him into depression and seclusion. Halford has always put his fans ahead of him. During the lockdown, he started sharing short videos, asking fans to “look out for each other” and “stay in touch.”

Concerning his depression and mental health, Halford revealed to Spanish rock music channel MariskalRockTV that, while he is in a better mood now than in the past, he still suffers from depression occasionally. He stated, “You just feel… It’s negative thinking. It’s like a cycle of negativity. You don’t feel or see a way out. It’s just like this circle of… like a black hole, you cannot find a way to escape it. Even though you think about the place that you’re at… you’re in a successful band, you’re financially stable, your friends and your family are good, everything is great, but you are in this really dark place in your mind.”

He added, “it’s part of understanding why you’re feeling in that place. Some of it you bring into your body, some of it is just part of your brain’s chemical function. And again, there are outlets. There are wonderful people ready to be there with you and get you through those moments.”

Halford told Wall Of Sound – Australia’s leading alternative music publication, “it is incredibly difficult to focus in and try and figure out what is going on in somebody’s head the only thing you can do is love each other, support each other and just see if there are any kind of telltale signals, and there generally is.”

Judas Priest will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame class of 2022.

Floor Jansen (Nightwish)

Floor Jansen is a vocalist, singer, and songwriter of the symphonic metal band Nightwish. Since her association with the band in 1997, her powerful and symphonic vocals have become a signature statement. She has been a lead singer in numerous symphonic, hard rock metal, and metal projects throughout Europe. She’s not afraid to try new things, and she even covered ‘Let It Go’ from ‘Frozen’ (2013), giving the song a metal revamp. 

In 2021, she discussed Mental health, depression, and the impacts of music and therapeutical music with Evergrey frontman Tom Englund on her YouTube series Floor Finds. The two discussed the importance of recognizing the importance of mental health, the emotional roller-coaster of performing on stage and transmitting emotions through music, and fans relating to the songs they have released.

She said, “I feel better when I listen to melancholy music, I dont get spiritually lifted from a Happy song. It does not do anything for me unless lyrics are really really good, but something in dark music in melancholy makes me calm in a way.”

On Floor Finds, she has also discussed ‘Being a Woman in Metal’ with Epica vocalist Simone Simons, the importance of recycling and the well-being of the Earth with Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, and many other topics with her guest.

Outside of music, a species of the beetle was named after her in 2019 called ‘Tmesisternus floorjansenae’. Floor will release her second single on 27 May 2022, the title of which is yet to be revealed.

 

 

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