MULTIPLE times over the past 18 months Grace Turner has grieved for her music career.
Like losing a loved one, there's been an inescapable sense of a mourning. COVID-19 has been cataclysmic for the live music industry.
"Some days I felt like I'm starting again, in a way, or I'm back to a place I was before," Turner says from lockdown in Melbourne. "I've been grieving it.
"Particularly as I shift into another career and I see how long that takes and I haven't got as much time for music at the moment. Before music was my main thing and I had jobs to support that, whereas now it feels like the other way round."
Turner left her native Newcastle for Melbourne in February 2020, inspired by the Victorian capital's vibrant music scene.
The indie-folk singer-songwriter arrived armed with her debut EP, Half Truths, and growing momentum following the success of her 2018 single Dead Or Alive and extensive touring supporting the likes of Grinspoon's Phil Jamieson.
However, Turner has instead played just two shows and endured five lockdowns. Her EP was released last August, but without the ability to tour it felt like an "anti-climax."
Realising her mental health was spiralling, Turner sought therapy and anti-depressants to help her cope as she pivoted into a new career in disability care.
"There's a loss of identity, that's the biggest thing, and a loss of connection," Turner says.
Turner isn't alone in her feelings of disillusionment. Last week the Hunter Research Foundation released a survey that found 80 per cent of young Hunter artists aged between 18 and 35 had experienced increased stress, anxiety, and depression due to the pandemic, and 71 per cent reported feeling increased isolation and loneliness.
Newcastle musician and academic Amy Vee has experienced similar losses of connection as she's seen months of gigs evaporate last year, and again, during the recent outbreak of the Delta variant.
There's a loss of identity, that's the biggest thing, and a loss of connection.Grace Turner
Mental health has long been an area of interest for Vee. She has an honours in psychology at the University of Newcastle and spent 13 years working in mental health, with roles in promotion and prevention.
Early last year she quit her role as a senior project officer with national mental health institute Everymind to focus on music, but when COVID crashed those plans she pivoted into a masters in mental health.
Last month Vee had a scoping review published in the academic journal The Psychology Of Music entitled Out of tune: Perceptions of, engagement with, and responses to mental interventions by professional popular musicians.
The review argues for more evidence-based research to be conducted to identify appropriate responses in dealing with mental health issues in the music community.
"There's all this research that points out there's a problem and increased risk of depression, suicide and anxiety," Vee says.
"We've seen the numbers stack up in regards to that, but there's not enough research on what actually works in addressing those gaps and those issues.
"I feel there's some really good work being done and organisations and charities who are trying to fill those gaps, but the evidence base is not keeping up."
Vee is considering a PhD proposal to further investigate the issue.
"I'm really interested to find out how we better support musicians, especially, but anyone in the performing arts and how to better support their mental health," she says.
"At the moment I feel like we're not doing a very good job at that. All the evidence suggests we're a high-risk population and general mental health preventions aren't working too well for us.
"That's where I want to direct my research interest and just try and help my people have better mental health outcomes."
The financial instability of the music industry is often cited as a source of anxiety for artists. The rise of downloading and then streaming has eroded revenue historically made from album sales, forcing musicians to rely heavily on touring.
COVID has almost completely crushed that revenue stream.
ARIA Award and Golden Guitar-winning alt-country artist and producer Shane Nicholson has spent more than two decades in the industry and has experienced first hand the instability of music and mental health pressures it creates.
In 2019 his long-time bandmate and close friend Glen Hannah committed suicide and he's seen mental health issues exacerbated by COVID.
"There's nothing stable about it and it's not the kind of lifestyle that supports any kind stability," Nicholson says.
"There's nothing concrete about it. No one is on a salary, no one has superannuation or holiday pay or injury pay or sick leave.
"There's no government support in a lot of ways. It's a pretty unstable existence for a lot of people, especially artists who are unstable people at the best of times, at the risk of generalising.
"You put all those things together and there's bound to be a whole raft of issues. I think it's good we're recognising it a bit now."
The good news for the music industry is mental health services are approving. Australian music crisis relief service, Support Act, has made a major investment into mental health since 2018.
The free phone counselling service Support Act Wellbeing Helpline has experienced a 250 per cent growth in use since the beginning of the pandemic and fields about 100 calls per month.
Support Act has received 5,500 applications for financial support over the past year, with 3,500 of those coming in the last three months following the end of JobKeeper.
Support Act CEO Clive Miller says the latest lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne are proving particularly tough for the music community with resilience running low.
"People become despondent about their careers and so many careers are just on hold and opportunities for career development have been lost," Miller says.
"I guess having survived all of last year and into this year there was a sense, maybe two months ago, that people were on a road to some kind of recovery, even though everyone accepted the recovery would be slow and patchy and uneven.
"We've now gone right back to where we were last year. I think people are really really struggling."
Grace Turner admits she's considered throwing in towel in Melbourne and returning to Newcastle. But she remains inspired by music. Yet her resilience is wearing thin.
"Last year we were telling ourselves, 'alright we've just gotta get through this year', and this year I feel like 'ok how long is this gonna go for?'," Turner says.
"I'm looking into the future for the next few years thinking, am I gonna be 35 when I can tour again?"
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