Written by Kim Parnell –
Singer/Songwriter, Dean Ray is heading back to Hervey Bay for one night only on Wednesday, September 18, at the Beach House Hotel with, ‘The Showcase’ tour.
He will also showcase his new single, ‘Simple Things’, this song carries a strong message for others that are suffering mental health issues. Dean said, “The main thing to remember is that you are not alone, and you are not crazy, have the conversation – it could save a life”.
The subject of mental health is nothing to shy away from but needs to be confronted head-on. In Australia alone, there are over 65,000 suicide attempts made each year.
The reality is most of us have been touched in some way by mental health issues. Whether it be through knowing somebody that is struggling or losing a loved one to suicide.
During our interview, Dean talked openly and honestly about the role that mental illness has played and continues to play in every aspect of his life and the coping strategies that work for him.
On agreement, this article is written very much as related. Dean Ray was happy to have the conversation published in the hope that others may relate and seek help before it is too late.
Tell us a little about your background?
I was born in Narromine, a small country town near Dubbo in New South Wales. At the time my father was a shearer, mum stayed at home and looked after my brother and I, and kept the house going. We left the area when I was three years old and moved to Meandarra, on the Sunshine Coast.
As far as music was concerned, I started playing the drums from a young age. My parents did it, my brother did it and I did it. This wasn’t questioned, it was just something that we all did. Not long after that, I started to play the guitar as well.
As I got older, I realised that I liked the whole ‘music’ lifestyle thing. It really was a community, that I enjoyed during that time.
Who were your major musical influences growing up?
Well, my first record when I was about seven or eight was from the band ‘America’ – ‘The Best of America’. I guess I have always liked the seventies and that acoustic folk sort of music. There was something about the melodies that were created that got me in.
My parents had a lot of country music in their record collection which I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of. But I did find stuff like Creedence Clearwater and John Fogerty, along with some Status Quo, this sparked my interest in music, I think I was about twelve at the time.
Tell us a little about the ‘The Showcase’ tour?
I wanted to get back on the road, and to play again! I got very bitter and sour about the music industry. So, I decided to stand back from it for a couple of years. At one stage I was thinking about selling all of my instruments and not doing it anymore. It was only about six months ago that I stopped thinking that way.
It took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t bitter about the music but several people within an industry of thousands. I had to learn to let it go.
I was looking at different degrees that I should probably do as I was having trouble seeing myself ever getting my music career back. But then I had a breakthrough moment in Queensland. I was lucky enough to play at Phil Emmanuel’s album launch in Nambour just before he passed away. I enjoyed playing for the first time in a long time. Finally, I found my passion that I felt had been stripped from me for so long, this was a huge turning point for me, and I decided to give it another crack.
That’s what ‘The Showcase’ tour is all about. I have a good team of people around me and a good personal network of friends. I’m just looking forward to getting out and performing.
This is a label subsidised showcase tour, so these shows will be ‘free’ to the public. This will be a chance for those who have heard my name but don’t know what I do, to come and have a listen. The show is also for those that have heard my name and who have thought that I am a total idiot because of what they have read and heard in the media.
It is going to be very different from doing a ticketed show. I am quite nervous about it really as it is a vulnerable position to put yourself into. But I am looking forward to it too.
You are touring with Josh Needs, tell us about your relationship?
Josh Needs is a champion and a great guy. I met him through Phil Emmanuel, we both got into guitar when we were younger, he is a phenomenal guitarist who has written some really good songs in the last year and a half or so.
I called him up and said that I wanted to do a duo tour to keep the budget low. I enjoy Josh’s company and I can tour with him easily; we also share the same sense of humour.
Both of us are fingerstyle guitarists, we play the bass guitar with our thumb and rhythm with our fingers. Josh can play two songs at the same time on the guitar, so you have different melodies, I love that kind of stuff. So together we sound a lot fuller than in your standard duo.
Josh will be keen to get out and showcase as well, it gives him the opportunity to get out to places that he has never been to before, in front of people that have never heard of him before and show them what he’s got.
I think for an up and coming artist like Josh who is looking for a fan base and a following it is a great thing. He is a very creative guy. In fact, he designed the artwork on my last record.
Queensland is the first leg of your tour, where else will you be going?
Hopefully, we will be hitting up a lot of towns that don’t often get music coming through. I come from rural Queensland, so I like to get back to those sorts of areas, we are just going to go for a look around. I have never played in Cairns before so my main thing about the Queensland run was that I wanted to go all the way to Cairns. I have never played there as ME and done my own show.
Your new single ‘Simple Things’ will be released next month, where did the inspiration for this song come from?
It will be released on Friday the thirteenth to be exact. There’s a lot of depth and meaning to this song.
It was written after a failed suicide attempt. I was staying in a penthouse suite in Sydney, doing some promotional stuff in 2014 and I had had enough, I had a severe panic attack and just figured that the building was high enough for me to ‘sort things out’. The only thing that stopped me was that all of the windows were tek screwed shut so I couldn’t get out.
I feel gratitude for being alive!
The lyrics of my song are about appreciating the things we all take for granted, the simple things. We turn on a tap and fresh water comes out, but we don’t go ‘Wow, that is awesome’, we just take it for granted. The same applies to electricity and many other things that we don’t question.
We don’t think of the people that can’t get out of bed in the morning to go to the bathroom or the people who can’t walk out onto the front lawn and feel the grass on their feet. These are all the things we need to remind ourselves to be grateful for.
What has been your experience with mental health issues?
When you have depression and suffer from panic attacks every positive emotion is gone, every happy memory is gone. You can look directly at a happy memory and feel nothing for it at all. It doesn’t make you smile, doesn’t make you laugh, it makes you feel nothing.
Depression and anxiety go hand in hand. When you get to a level of severe depression your anxiety is usually at the same level. People that haven’t experienced it don’t understand the vibe – but you are not thinking clearly, your brain sees that the only way to stop how you are feeling is suicide.
If you have ever had a near-death experience or a car accident as I have, you would have felt that frightening feeling of thinking that you were going to die. Well, I can tell you firsthand that a full-blown panic attack is worse than that.
The anxiety bursts out and makes you frightened, the depression will tell you that there is a solution, that you can fix this quickly by taking your own life.
In your mind at that time, you sincerely think that you are doing your family, friends, and the world as a whole a favour by doing that.
I have had depression from a young age and remember always being lonely even when I was with my parents, but I didn’t learn what it was until I was about nineteen. The panic attacks came much later.
Do you have a message for others who may be going through a similar thing?
There are many different coping mechanisms that you pick up along the way, and these are different for everyone. For me, when I am having suicidal thoughts I have to lay down or get into bed. Then I have to let someone know what is happening. Even if you find this bit hard to do, you must do it.
Some people will need to take medication every day as I do. Without it, my chemicals are out of whack and I can’t move, or talk… I can just breathe. I turn into a blob of flesh and am useless.
I have tried all of the natural approaches but having been diagnosed with clinical depression I found these hard to maintain, but they may work for you.
I try to liken mental illness to any form of injury within the body, as our brain is an organ just like your heart or your lungs. Unfortunately, we talk about all of our other organs regularly but very rarely do we ask people how their head is feeling, or whether they are ok or happy.
I see depression and anxiety as a character who is a major pain in the ass. I constantly tell it off, I am fighting with this thing regularly. By doing this it trains your brain into taking ownership of your thoughts and gives you the strength to fight the negative feelings. The most important thing is to have a good support network around you. If you don’t you could die, it is as simple as that.
If you are under twenty-five Headspace is a phenomenal organisation for youth. They offer some great services and also can refer you if needed to other people and organisations that can help you. Headspace helped me a lot during some difficult times in my youth, I am truly grateful for that.
If you are feeling suicidal though get to the hospital, that is the best place for you.
In the music industry, we have a new group that has started up called ‘Support Act’. Songwriters and artists especially, suffer a lot because their putting this insane emotional vulnerability in front of lots of people and can easily get crushed. These kinds of foundations are out there, and they need to be promoted and utilised.
The song ‘Simple Things’ will be part of the soundtrack for the film, ‘The Show Must Go On’, due for release this month. Tell us a little about this documentary?
This guy called Ben Steele who is an actor, writer and producer started producing this documentary because he had bad depression. He wanted to go on a journey exploring other people’s lives to see if he was the only one who felt that way. When you are depressed you really do feel like it is just you – He has learnt so much from talking to people about a very serious issue.
The message behind the documentary is the importance of talking to family, friends and professionals about your mental illness. You will soon realise that you are not alone, and you are not crazy.
In 2014 you were the runner-up on the sixth season of the X Factor, what was this experience like and what did you learn?
I learnt a lot about interviews, media, how to work in front of a camera. Cameras are very daunting things, so, getting comfortable with that kind of stuff was very cool for me. I had always wanted to see the inside of a television studio and how it functioned.
I also learnt how not to cope with pressure from not coping with it very well. I stopped eating, I wasn’t sleeping much, I was getting four hours sleep a night and I was eating maybe a sandwich if I could get it in.
You are also treated like a product or a brand, for instance during my time on X Factor I was a product. Whare as now I am a brand and my songs are the product.
I am very stoked though about everything that did happen to me during my time on the show.
Do you have a special message for the people of the Fraser Coast about your upcoming show?
I want people to enjoy themselves, it is as simple as that. I like to think that I create music that people can come out, forget about the crap for a while, and just enjoy. I am excited to go on tour once again.
Just being in the moment is enough, stop worrying about the little things. It can be a beautiful thing just being alive.
Dean Ray ‘The Showcase” Tour with special guest Josh Needs
Wednesday – September 18
Beach House Hotel
If you or someone that you know is displaying any suicidal behavior – seek immediate assistance from a healthcare provider or call one of the numbers below.
A great local organisation is Fraser Coast Mates. This group is assisting in building local awareness and conversations about mental health issues so as we can all be better informed – to find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lifeline Australia Beyond Blue Headspace (Hervey Bay)
13 11 14 1300 22 4636 4303 2100
*Disclaimer: This article is published in good faith by What’s On Fraser Coast. Opinions and advice offered are not necessarily the views of the author. This article seeks to draw awareness, and openness about the subject of mental illness. If you are experiencing signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help immediately.