Person jumping in the air wearing a running vest

Amy ran the 2024 London Marathon to fundraise for Music Minds Matter

Becoming a singer 

Despite being brought up playing the violin, there came a point in Amy Blythe’s life where she realised singing was her passion and she needed to pursue it. As she explains, music has been part of my life from since I was very small and I reached a stage where I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else as a job.”

After graduating from Cardiff University, Amy completed some singing courses which turned out to be a life-changing decision. The sessions stirred something in her, and she knew from that point on she wanted to be a professional singer. 

I was nervous about singing because it’s very competitive and I didn’t know if I would be good enough. But I moved to London and thought I’ll see how it goes. Being completely freelance can be tough – working like that has ups and downs but I do my best.

Ten years later, Amy is a full-time freelance choral singer, predominately working with concert groups, as well as a lot of church singing and music for film and television. 

Reaching out to Music Minds Matter 

Amy has struggled with mental health for most of her adult life and had largely come to accept her situation for what it was. There came a point in 2023 however when she was really suffering and knew this was a different situation.

The physical side effects of the anxiety she was suffering from forced her to stop singing for eight weeks. Being off work for that long would be tough for anyone, let alone a musician who earned all her income through freelance work. 

Reflecting on why musicians are susceptible to mental health conditions, Amy believes congested schedules are part of the problem. One of the biggest issues I have is saying no to work. There is a tendency to think I have to say yes to this offer because I need the money and if I say no, they won’t ask me again and employ somebody else. 

Even when I am tired and supposed to have a day off, I’ll say yes to last-minute offers without taking stock of the longer time frame. I will be three weeks down the line and realise I haven’t had a day off singing since I can’t remember when. People make a joke of it but it’s not funny at all.”

Person sitting on stairs

Photo credit: Helena Cooke

Especially when Amy was starting out, she would take on job offers without realising that the work schedule was not realistic or acceptable. But again, she felt pressured to say yes in case the work would be offered elsewhere.

She also finds that being on tour for extensive periods can be a big challenge. Whilst she knows it is a privilege to be working, touring can be a high-pressure environment where musicians must be on the ball all the time. They are expected to deliver completely flawless performances every night and there can be working environments where that becomes very difficult.

In 2023 Amy’s mental health had deteriorated to a point where she knew she urgently needed help, so she reached out to Music Minds Matter for help. I first heard about the charity after the pandemic and another singer I knew had shared some posts about receiving help from Music Minds Matter.

I knew the charity was always there. When I was really struggling last year, and with encouragement from friends and colleagues, I reached out. Music Minds Matter was brilliant right from the start.”

Being understood 

Amy knows firsthand that when it comes to mental health, it can require a lot of courage to speak out and say you are struggling. It takes a lot of guts to seek support, let alone time to realise okay, I need this help now’. People can be brave enough to take that step, only to then be told that you have to wait for help.”

After calling our 24/7 helpline to explain her situation to an accredited counsellor, Amy was sorted out with an assessment immediately and from there the charity was able to offer her mental health support more quickly than if she had continued waiting through other channels. 

Another unique aspect of Music Minds Matter’s support was that Amy was talking with people who understood the music industry. She could be completely honest about how she was feeling and the problems she was facing because she knew she would be understood.

When I reached out to Music Minds Matter, I saw their online resources at Explore and remember thinking I wish I’d seen this when I was starting out as a freelancer’. The videos are still beneficial to me now but nothing prepares you for starting out as a freelance musician. No one tells you how difficult it is. I found the online resources really helpful.

A lot of people don’t understand the lifestyle that freelance musicians lead. I have struggled in the past, especially during the pandemic when our industry collapsed virtually overnight. I remember the day my diary was full and then it wasn’t, and trying to explain that to people can be tricky.”

Before getting in touch with Music Minds Matter, Amy had reached a point in her life where she assumed her struggles with anxiety and depression would never improve. But the charity’s support allowed Amy a space in which she was able to better understand these issues. Music Minds Matter not only helped her to accept how things were but gave her understanding around why her anxiety had led her to lose her voice in the first place and how she can work on preventing this in the future.

Running the London marathon 

Amy started running in 2017 as a way to rid herself of the anxious, jittery energy that had a tendency to cloud her mind. I’d read about the positive benefits of exercise and mental health, so gave running a try. I don’t do it to run fast times, just because running is one of the only times that my brain shuts up. 

I loathed exercise when I was a kid and would do my best to get out of it however I could. So it does make me laugh now that it is such a big part of my life. I’d always try to make sure that my violin or singing lesson was during PE.”

I tell a lot of people about Music Minds Matter because there’s still a stigma about being able to reach out for help. There’s more work we can all do to be more encouraging. When I talk about Music Minds Matter, some people say I didn’t know that it was there’ or don’t think they’re worthy of it, which is really upsetting.

Especially during the pandemic, running became a haven for Amy. In a time when she wasn’t able to sing professionally and spent all day unsuccessfully applying for work, the 60 minutes of exercise per day gave her peace of mind.

It’s the same when I’m in tough moments with my anxiety and depression. When it’s really bad, I struggle to do even basic things. So being able to get out and go for a run helps me feel like I’ve actually achieved something.”

Amy’s desire to give something back to the charity was why she chose to run the 2024 London Marathon for Music Minds Matter. As well as contributing vital funds for the charity’s life-changing work, she feels strongly about raising awareness about the impact that Music Minds Matter has for people across the music industry. 

Whilst she believes it is brilliant that there are many different mental health charities in the UK, Amy recognises the fact Music Minds Matter is specifically tailored for people working in the music industry makes it unique. 

Person standing against a blue door

Photo credit: Helena Cooke

As freelancers, when we’re in trouble or things aren’t going very well, we can’t go to a specific place and say I’m struggling with this’ like in a lot of other jobs. So to have a charity like Music Minds Matter which people in the music industry can go to is vital. We don’t have anyone else.