TORONTO – Coleman Hell didn’t think he’d feel so depressed when his career was going so well.
After two Juno Award nominations and with his banjo-infused electronic single “2 Heads” in heavy rotation on mainstream radio, it seemed like all of his dreams were coming true.
But as the party happened outside, the singer often found himself confined to his bedroom. It was like magnets were pulling him towards his mattress against his will, he said.
“It’s this weird middle ground where you want to move but you can’t,” the Thunder Bay, Ont., performer said of the experience, which he was in the throes of about a year ago.
“It’s something I’ve felt so many times: lying in my bed and feeling so low I can’t get up. I want to, but I can’t muster the strength.”
He describes his innermost experience on “Manic,” a new track he wrote in hopes of laying bare the ugliness of his bipolar disorder.
The song is both a confessional and a reconciliation with himself, in which he ultimately faces his imperfections. The 28-year-old musician was diagnosed many years ago, but had neglected coming to terms with its realities, he said.
“Manic” isn’t part of a new album launch — or even a song Hell planned to release — but he said the longer it sat with him, the more he felt there could be value in revealing his struggles.
“I hadn’t come across a lot of songs that described the experience in any visceral sort of way,” he said.
“I thought that might be something of use to someone. I know there’s a lot of songs that are maybe more hopeful, but this is a real depiction of how it feels.”
“Manic” arrives as more artists pour their darkest struggles with mental illness into their work.
Logic earned heaps of acclaim last year with “1-800-273-8255,” a suicide prevention track that included Grammy-winner Alessia Cara of Brampton, Ont., on vocals. The song was written after the rapper was diagnosed with derealization, a type of anxiety that makes the external world feel unreal.
Florida rapper Xxxtantacion’s entire 2017 album, called “17,” leans heavily on the details of his depression, with one song dedicated to the suicide of his friend Jocelyn Flores.
Rap and hip hop are among Hell’s favourite genres, he said, and might have subconsciously motivated his latest song. He points to Lil Uzi Vert’s hit “XO Tour Llif3,” which dives into weighty feelings of sadness and isolation while touring, as one source of inspiration.
Facing his own realities wasn’t so easy, but at one point last year Hell decided enough was enough. He chose to seek professional help and changed his daily regimen to include more exercise and a better diet.
He’s lost about 50 pounds over the past year, he said, which helped lift his spirits.
“I started going to therapy and taking procedures towards making (life) more manageable,” Hell said.
“I’m working on it, I think I’ve made a lot of progress and I feel a lot better “
In preparation for the release of “Manic,” Hell climbed back into his bed for an intimate music video shot on his iPhone.
The grainy, single-take clip centres on the singer’s face as he sings about the experience that crippled him for so long. As the song played, Hell said the emotional intensity of the moment pushed him to tears.
The song “was transporting me back to … when things weren’t nearly so clear for me,” he said.
“It’s definitely an intense thing to watch, but I think it adds to the song and maybe adds to breaking down some sort of stigma as well.”
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