BWW Exclusive: First Listen & Guest Essay - Scott Alan & Shoshana Bean Sing 'I'm in Pain' from ANYTHING WORTH HOLDING ON TO
Editor's Note: I've known composer Scott Alan for almost as long as BroadwayWorld.com has been in existence. We met very shortly after the web site started, and were excited to showcase one of his first songs, "Never Neverland (Fly Away)" at our first ever concert at Joe's Pub (sung by the wonderful Stephanie J. Block). I was intrigued by the album after seeing a preview of the cover art (by the uber-talented Logan Hicks), and even more curious to hear the album itself, his first to feature just himself instead of the usual line-up of talent from Broadway and beyond. There's always something special about hearing a composer sing his own songs, but I was still unprepared when he shared with me a preview copy for a first listen. What I didn't expect as I hit play was for it to 'ruin' my entire afternoon, as I found myself both unable to concentrate on anything else, and, as it completed, I quickly hit "repeat" to bring me back to the first track and listen all over again. Then, I wrote him my first fan letter, and asked him if he'd share both a track (of my choosing) as well as a note explaining the origins of both the album, and the song.
Those of us lucky enough to count Scott as a friend in real life, know that he's delightfully and consistently honest and unfiltered (sometimes even when it's appropriate to do so). Now, listeners will get some of the same experience, but what's not a laughing matter is the serious and personal subject that the album takes on. It's a combination of both raw and intimate which has resulted in what I think is his finest work to date. The album launches on May 6th on iTunes and elsewhere. Now, I'm proud to introduce Scott Alan, in his own words and music (along with some resources to help understand the subject matter - depression - and special guest Shoshana Bean). Also, after listening, check out his new web site, here. - Robert Diamond, Editor-in-Chief, April 28, 2014
From Scott Alan - I've started this article over about ten times. I continually ask myself "How deep into your life do you really wanna go ?" (A question I'll ask myself later into this piece about my new album).
After a few false starts, I received a call from my sister. We start talking about the normal goings on in our lives until the conversation takes a bit of a deeper tone. She tells me about a mid 30 yr old man she met recently in the park. He was an ex-partner of one of her friends who she joins every weekend for a dog play date. She couldn't help but notice that the man seemed off. He was shy and introverted but he also seemed like he was in a trance, zombie like. Could it be drugs ? Was he drunk ?
A day after their encounter she learned this man took his own life. A long sufferer of clinical depression she was told that he finally succumbed to the darkness of his illness. She cried. Was there something she could have done? How did she not spot something she herself suffers from?
We've both been there. The idea of suicide to someone in a state of constant desperation is never too far form your mind when so far deep.
I sat down again. This time knowing if I was going to tell my story I had to be completely honest.
Depression. How does one explain what it feels like to live with severe depression other then admitting the daily struggle one goes through to stay awake ?
When I started the process of working on my fifth album I had just gone through one of the worst bouts I had been through in a very long time. It didn't help that in the course of a week I had suffered through the traumatic realization that the person I was dating wasn't actually the person I was dating, which led to a break up, followed by a severe neck injury, then the move into a new apartment that wasn't quite ready to be moved into yet, ending with a personal career low. Add that in with the toughest winters we've experienced in the East in years and you got yourself a major case of the blahs.
Four months. That's how long this depressed state lasted. Four months of not wanting to get out of bed. Four months of hoping I wouldn't wake up. Four months of keeping my friends and family as far away as possible so to not show how severe I had actually fallen.
But four months in, and one day the cloud was gone. The rain stopped. I felt a ray of light. I was ready to reemerge from my cocoon and be a part of the living again.
Like usual with a chaotic mind, I went straight into work mode deciding it was time to record a new album.
Since 2007 I've released four CD's. Each album has featured some of the best Broadway and West End talent (and the occasional recording artist or two). These albums are expensive to produce and every album released affords me the ability to release the next one. I worked three jobs to invest in the first album, Dreaming Wide Awake. The sales from that release has allowed me the opportunity to release the three follow ups.
But my last album, a double CD recorded live at Birdland simply called 'LIVE' didn't do very well. I learned that you could have the greatest voices from Lea Salonga to Marc Broussard to Ramin Karimloo to Pentatonix and that doesn't mean you are going to move records. So, affording the resources of recording a new album were hard to come by. Add into this an unsuccessful reading I funded by myself of my musical HOME and the idea of recording another full length album was merely impossible.
Early on into the process I made the decision that this album needed to represent something very personal to me. I wanted this album to tell the story of the past few months. An entire album of what it feels like to be confined inside one's home.
The question was: how much of myself did I want to share with the listener ?
The day before going into the studio to begin the recording process I meet up with my dear friend Mark Shenton for tea and scones in New York (Amy's Bread is our place of choice. You just can't go wrong with any of their sweets).
Mark is one of the premiere reviewers and theatre writers in Europe (also writing for Playbill) and has become a fellow voice in the world of sufferers of this disease.
Mark had "come out of the closest" (his words) as a depressive back in May of 2013 with a blog outing himself through his column in The Stage (http://www.thestage.co.uk/2013/05/when-the-drearies-do-attack-and-a-siege-of-the-sads-begins/).
Mark and I had become friends through mutual friend Frances Ruffelle and were soon comparing notes on the struggles each of us have faced in the wake of our depression (some people trade baseball cards. We trade depression stories. We are so fun to be around).
At this particular meeting in New York we shared what would be a very vital discussion, leading to my decision of how far this album would showcase of seeing the world while in a trance.
With each story, we started taking off our armor. Like most sufferers of depression, skirting around the thoughts of 'suicide' to another person is very tricky. You don't want to scare them or have them think you're insane. No. You just want to open up and know someone else understands.
A little backstory: In 1995 when I was 16, I had attempted to take my life, overdosing on sleeping pills. Thankfully my attempt was unsuccessful.
Have I thought about suicide since ? Yes. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't. The truth is, the thought of my mother learning that her son was dead keeps me from actually acting on it, let alone thinking about it for more then a second or two at any occasion. No parent should have to bury a child and my mother is no exception.
Mark related to my story and we spoke openly about what kept us from allowing our depression from claiming our lives.
That night I went home and wrote 'I'M IN PAIN.' I never write with the intent of helping others but to be therapeutic for myself. That night I sent the song to my guitarist, had him draft up a recording for me to sing to the follow day and before I knew it, the song was being added to the tracklisting. This song would ultimately set the mood for the remainder of the album. It was moody. It had rhythm. But it was lyrically honest and reflective about my life with pain.
When hearing it back for the first time after my studio session, I knew something was missing. It sounded too lost. It needed another voice to join me in celebrating the fact that no matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone out there in the world suffering in the same capacity that you are. I called my dear friend Shoshana Bean and within 24 hours she had sent me back a studio session of her lending her voice to my latest composition. Two voices are better then one. Two voices blending to let you know that you are never alone.
This song joined six other songs to round out my story of my past four month hibernation.
My hopes are that the audience will be able to recognize that it's ok to feel sad. There is nothing to be embarrassed about in asking for help or seeking medical attention. There is nothing wrong with being medicated to help you control this disease. I've been on medication for years but asking for it was extremely difficult. I don't know where I would be without it now.
The best part about tracking your success from overcoming the obstacles placed in front of you is that there is always something to remind you: I made it and I can make it again.
As the title song recognizes, there is always something to hold on to. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you of that. I'm hopeful that this album will do that for you.
If you or anyone you know is depressed and suicidal, please talk to someone and/or call any of these 24 hour helplines. Your life is important. If I can make it, so can you. Let's do it together.
CRISES AND SUICIDE
Girls & Boys Town National Hotline - (800) 448-3000
National Hopeline Network - (800) SUICIDE
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - (800) 273-TALK (8255)
National Youth Crisis Hotline - (800) 442-HOPE (4673)
The Trevor Project - 1-866-488-7386
For more, visit http://scottalan.net/
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