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Singer SOAK on how her battle with depression provided spark for latest album

Bridie at the Mercury Music Prize Awards in 2015
Bridie at the Mercury Music Prize Awards in 2015

By David O'Dornan

Singer Bridie Monds-Watson has opened up about her battle to overcome depression and how she used it to inspire her new album.

The Londonderry-born performer known as SOAK, who was nominated for a prestigious Mercury Prize in 2015, admitted it was a shock to the system when she returned to the real world after years on tour.

She explained: "I came back to Derry, which I knew and had lived in my whole life, and I was just bored, essentially, and felt uninspired.

"I was static for the first time, so I just got really depressed. I didn't like being still. I didn't like not having opportunities.

"I'd avoided so many things because I was on tour. I could avoid bad elements in my life or bad feelings, because I could distract myself.

"And suddenly I couldn't distract myself any more. So it all came back to bite me. I guess I just slowly eased into this depression, that dark cloud of not thinking of anything above it. People were like: 'Take your time, do what you want to do, sweet'. And I was like: 'Oh my God, if I don't provide the best album of the century I'm just going to combust'."

Eventually she opened up to her mum Aisling - both her parents work in mental health - and she told her to just make her album for herself. So she did.

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But songs about sadness, break-ups and even one about her parents' divorce were a tough listen for her mother.

Bridie revealed: "She cried and she cried. She was upset about it, but she was really proud.

"She said she was so sorry that I felt that way, but she got it.

"It's hard to tell your family that you were really sad, or going through times."

She moved from Derry to share a house in a student area of Manchester with friends from back home as well as her older brother.

She's become a huge fan of Channel 4 comedy Derry Girls.

She said: "Obviously, we're all from Derry, so we're watching it like some religious moment.

"People who don't know expect it to be a war zone still, or some desert of post-war madness. And it's not, really. Obviously there's things that have happened, but as an overall thing, it's a really cheery place.

"I'm dying to find someone who works on the show and be in it somehow, in the background. I'm gonna find a way."

About to turn 23, she was just 16 when she announced herself as SOAK and was still a teen when she became one of the youngest ever Mercury Prize nominees four years ago with her debut album Before We Forgot How To Dream.

She is back now with Grim Town - a description of her "state of mind" as she used her mental health issues to help her music and vice versa.

"From the last album to this album, I feel like I'm about to release my first album again, because I just feel like I've grown up so much, and become so much more myself," she said.

"There's still a lot that I find it hard to open up about, so music has always been the way that I could say everything unfiltered, and not fear anything.

"Ultimately, I feel like I can express so accurately how I feel in a song, as opposed to with words and just words."

And her journey back to better mental health is summed up in one of her new tracks, Nothing Looks The Same. She added: "There's a line in the bridge - 'I was drowning, my brain was a pool, I'm kicking off the bottom and coming for the Moon' - and that was just me being like: 'Actually, I'm coming out of this cloud of depression and I really want to live my life."

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