Mental Wellness in Music with SK Shlomo & Dr Melanie Grundy
SK Shlomo header image by Mathew Allen
In a turbulent year that has seen the often-precarious music industry become much more uncertain, the mental wellness of artists has been brought into focus. During this event we will hear from SK Shlomo, an award-winning, record-breaking beatboxer, producer and live-looper, and Dr. Melanie Grundy, a GP for the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) specialising in performers’ health and wellbeing.
Simon Shlomo Khan realised his drive for success was coming at the expense of his own mental health when he suffered a mental breakdown three years ago. He turned to BAPAM for support and has helped himself back to mental wellness through therapy and creating music about his experiences. Featuring a short performance, conversation and audience questions, this event is for anybody navigating a career in the music industry who would like to hear from two experts in music and mental wellness, sharing their joint wealth of experience and knowledge.
This event will take place on Zoom and will be live captioned. It will also be recorded for later streaming on Sage Gateshead’s social media platforms, on Thursday 10th December at 6pm.
If you are a performer and would like a 1 to 1 conversation about a mental or physical health issue, you can sign up for Dr Grundy’s monthly BAPAM clinic with Sage Gateshead HERE.
BAPAM’s purpose is to improve health in the performing arts and support enhanced performance excellence through wellbeing and good practice. BAPAM is the largest provider of career-specific healthcare for performers in the UK.
Simon Shlomo Kahn knows how it feels to be on top of the world. For over a decade, the genre-defying, award-winning, recording-breaking beatboxer, producer and live-looper has set new standards for his craft.
As Shlomo, he burst into the mainstream collaborating with Björk and performing with famous fans from Damon Albarn, Lily Allen and Jarvis Cocker to Imogen Heap, Martha Wainwright and Rudimental. As the first ever World Looping Champion, he taught his friend Ed Sheeran some tricks. He became the first non-classical Artist in Residence at London’s Southbank Centre, played the main stages at Glastonbury more times than he remembers, won rave reviews for his autobiographical one-man shows and even had a feature film made about him.
But staying on top becomes increasingly tricky to maintain. Despite the standing ovations and the accolades, he would feel oddly empty inside. Three years ago, he took a step back to work out what he wanted and his world seemed to crumble under his feet. “I’d always been incredibly driven,” says the London-born musician, now back as solo artist SK Shlomo, “but ultimately that was at the expense of my mental health.”
Behind his reinvention lies a realisation – that throughout his 20s, despite composing and producing for other artists, as well as for film and commercials, he had resisted becoming the solo recording artist he desperately wanted to be for fear of failure. Last summer, determined to change, he set himself a challenge – to write a song every day for a month. For the first five days, he delivered. Then things ground to a painful halt, triggering a mental breakdown which led to six months in therapy. Diagnosed with PTSD, he was forced to confront his past. “Talking about a major trauma from my childhood was a huge turning point,” he says. “That’s when I realised what this album was about. It’s called Surrender because that’s all the traumatised me could ever do – surrender, let go and trust. It’s empowering, stopping trying to control everything around you.”
This album release was the catalyst for SK Shlomo’s return to performing after almost 2 years off the road fighting depression. The comeback was hailed as a triumph: a blistering tour of over 130 shows, including playing the Other Stage at Glastonbury, receiving album support from BBC Radio 1, creating a moving TED Talk, and his stage adaptation of Surrender being shortlisted for the Edinburgh Fringe Mental Health Award. SK Shlomo is back and stronger than ever.
“None of my achievements in music arrived the traditional way,” he says. “Appearing on Jools Holland at the start of my career was about it. I always strived to do everything differently, to create my own path. But I’ve realised that the biggest challenge for me is to stand up on stage and simply be myself. No hiding behind clever machines, no fancy techniques, no persona. This is the real me, naked so to speak. It’s the scariest, most exciting thing I’ve ever tried.”
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Dr Melanie Grundy is a GP with special interests in mental health/wellbeing, gender dysphoria and performers’ health. Prior to studying medicine, she gained a degree in Theatre Costume design from Edinburgh College of Art and worked for several years as a freelance designer/maker; consequently she has personal experience of some of the issues facing those who are self-employed in the Arts. Outside her clinical work, Melanie remains involved with the creative sphere as Trustee/Secretary of music promoter Jazz North East and performing as one half of the voice & piano duo Alembic. The clinical and creative come together in her roles as Trustee of Help Musicians UK and as an assessing clinician and trainer for BAPAM.