Picture This: "It's always been important for us to be as open as we possibly can about our mental health"
Alice Gee | 30/06/2021
We’ve been following Picture This’ musical journey from the get-go and from playground days to huge world tours its been one hell of a ride. We sat down with Ryan, Jimmy, Owen and Cliff to find out where they’ve been and where they plan to go.
“We all went to the same school but we never hung out at the time, we were all quite separate. Even though we are from the same town, we had never really been around each other.” Ryan tells me as we chill out after a busy shoot day. “I was never really into music ever, it was only when I was 18 that I started to sing and realised I loved it. The boys had been playing together for years before Jimmy discovered me through Facebook. After that, we wrote some songs one of them being “Take My Hand” and that’s kind of where the whole thing started so humble beginnings.”
Humble beginnings indeed. Coming from Athy, a small town outside of Dublin with a population of only 9,600 people the boys were worlds away from the bright lights of the music industry they find themselves in today. They had no choice but to write and produce their first releases themselves, but their DIY attitude to songwriting, at first a locational necessity, is now a grounded philosophy. “I think with writing and producing everything ourselves a lot of people might think we are control freaks or whatever. But at the beginning we didn’t want to go down the normal route of finding a record label, we wanted to do our own thing which we did, and that meat we gained tones of experience in how to do a lot of these technical things. It was born out of necessity really, we just kind of had to do it. I think if you distil it down even more we didn’t have any obvious pathway. I didn’t realise that the songs that I wrote could even be played on a radio station, we couldn’t perceive that. So we just were making songs that I was writing in my bedroom, and we loved them. We just kept posting them online and people were loving them, they were really connecting with people. That’s all we’ve ever really wanted to do, connect with people and that’s what we’ve continued to do. That’s always been the most important thing for us. When people talk about success -obviously we have done a lot of amazing things, sold-out shows and charting tracks - but success has always been connecting with people and how these songs affect people. That is always the most rewarding thing.”
“When it comes to Picture This, I don’t think we’ll ever get others majorly involved in it. We are very creative and we do a lot of work for other artists and we enjoy working with people, but then once we realised that we do it all ourselves, it’s like, I don’t know why we would just bring somebody to do it for us. I guess if you ever felt like we needed to, we would. We’re not completely shutting off the opportunities for sure.”
If you’ve heard any of Picture This’ music it wouldn’t shock you that they have graced some of the worlds biggest stages. Sold out shows and screaming fans are part of their daily life (before COVID anyway) but it is still a reality the four lads still struggle to come to terms with. The shock that four small-town lads, with a small but dedicated local fanbase, have risen to such heights evident in the way they retell their story.
“There’s definitely a core group of people who have been there from the beginning. When we started playing shows, it was crazy to us to see a ‘fan base’. But to see people come at the beginning is a good sign that your music is doing something for them. Originally it was 16 to 25-year-old girls that were showing up but shortly after when we started playing shows, it was crazy, there were grandparents and there were kids. That was pretty insane for us. I remember walking on stage at one of our first-ever shows and just seeing a man, an old man with grey hair and it was mind-blowing to me because I kind of thought that other generations would overlook us because we came from the world of social media. Like our band became known through Facebook, which is weird, because I thought we’d be the last people to break on Facebook, especially because everyone had kind of moved to Instagram.
After a while, we grew such a dedicated fan base who we know are always rooting for us no matter what and there’s a great trust and dialogue between us and our fanbase. We’ve been holding off our album for like two years now, not because we didn’t want to, we wanted to release our album in October 2019, but the fans have been very understanding. For me, as a consumer of music, I would get frustrated if my favourite band were gonna release an album but end up delaying it. But it’s testament to them and to our relationship and dynamic with them that they’ve been supporting us the whole way.”
But don’t get confused Picture This isn’t a small-town band breaking into the scene that you should take note of as humble and gracious as they are, they are causing waves across the pond and have become a firm favourite in the LA scene. A large queue outside a venue one night even turned the head of boy band royalty Joe Jonas who’s record label Let’s Get It Records! the boys recently signed to.
“It was mad. We were on an American tour and playing The Troubadour in Los Angeles. Joe Jonas pulls up and he asked the people waiting outside who’s playing? They say us, Picture This and he says, ‘Oh, I know that band’. I’m not entirely sure how he knew us, I think because of Sophie [Turner, Jonas’ wife and actress], she might have known who we were and must have told him about us. He became interested in us and then he got to see us play live. It was very natural. And here we are all of a sudden, you know, it’s incredible for us. He’s such a lovely guy and they’re [The Jonas Brothers] just very accommodating genuine people.”
The band recently announced the arrival of their highly anticipated third album Life In Colour due out the 25th of June, and I for one was itching to know more about the process behind making it and what it means to them to finally get it out there.
“We felt like it’s kind of it’s about time we released this album. We think the fans deserve it and we need to just get it out there. We are always making a lot of music but we really felt it’s time to release it, we have so many more exciting things coming out at the end of this year and into the next, we can’t wait. This is such a stepping stone to us, with the pandemic hopefully getting better this is our first foot in the door, it’s us saying ‘Hey, we’re back’, you know, and huge things are coming. So it was time, we all thought let’s go, let’s get this album out.
This album is probably the most cathartic album for me personally as a writer” Ryan explains. “I never really associated writing with being a cathartic exercise I don’t know why, I just never have until recently. But I found it in this album because of the work that I went and did on myself mentally and spiritually the songs that came out of that never would have happened before. I ended up finding a deeper sense of myself, which in turn benefits songs so I think that’s a good indication for anybody who reads this as well to learn that if you work on yourself, it’s only going to be positive. It’s only giving me positive things and the band positive things.”
“This album has been written all over the world in hotel rooms, tour buses, Air BnB’s, dressing rooms, you name it. It’s like a collection of our life over the last two years”. Jimmy sums up. “I think we’re just all excited to get back to it and take a stab, especially as the songs have been sitting around for so long as well. It’s going to be new music for all the fans and everyone that hears it. So I suppose it’s definitely time to get it out and get it released and especially to get back on the road.”
Whilst fans were still eagerly waiting on the arrival of Life In Colour the band made their US TV debut on The Late Late Show with James Cordon in March. Taking to an empty but spectacular looking Croke Park Stadium the boys dream of filling out the 82,300 seats themselves one day. “It was great. Yeah look, we wanted to do something big. We wanted to make a statement. We think it really symbolises what we’ve gone through as a band. As everyone knows, you go from playing to nobody to playing to crowds. We’re so used to playing to crowds and having people there, and to play in the biggest stadium in Ireland that’s completely empty it was so different. It’s been such a tough year we really felt the song reflected that also, but we really enjoyed performing, it was amazing to just play in the middle of a stadium.”
We jump back to Ryan’s previous statement about recently taking the time to focus on his mental wellbeing. As a company that works tirelessly to bring awareness to mental health issues, promote better mental health policy, and raise funds for crisis charities we appreciate it when artists are so open and honest about their mental health journey. It’s a feeling shared with Picture This who understand the platform they have to educate, inform and protect their fans.
“It’s always been important for us to be as open as we possibly can about mental health with our fan base. Everybody has struggled with or dealt with it in some way. I’ve had family members struggle quite severely, it’s important to them as my family members that I’m not ashamed that they have mental health problems. I know that other people would be very judgmental, so kind of in a protective way, I wanted to keep that secret almost for their benefit, but I would never have been ashamed. I’ve spent the last kind of year getting to know myself and rethinking that and I feel now that I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
But that was down to working on myself, I actually had to go within myself and get to know who I am. I always thought I knew who I was but when I was in Los Angeles one time someone asked me ‘Do you know yourself?’ and it really hit me, no one had ever asked me that before and it got me thinking. It set me on this road of looking within and asking myself why I react to things in certain ways. It’s been very freeing for me. I tried therapy when I was like 18 years old, but it didn’t work for me. I then tried antidepressants as well, which didn’t help me either, I personally didn’t like it. I really did try it and that’s the important thing. So I’ve had brushes with my track record but I think it’s very important to talk about it. Obviously, everybody says now it’s very important to talk, but I also do think there’s more weight behind that statement than people allow sometimes. I think it’s very easy to say, I will talk about it, but doing it and being completely open that’s tough, that’s brave. But it’s so necessary because as soon as you do it, you do feel much better. I do have a, I guess what you’d call a life coach. I like to practice Reiki, which has allowed me to go back into my childhood just like CBT would in a way.
I was always on autopilot for my whole life thinking, everything’s fine perhaps naively. I have an amazing family, so although I don’t have any problems family-wise, I do think I was neglecting the fact that I also had a full school life, one on sports teams and with friend groups, that I was kind of ignoring all of that. That’s where a lot of shit went on that affected me for the rest of my life, now that I’ve gone back through it and acknowledged it I’m kind of taking the blame off of myself for a lot of behaviour that occurred. It’s been freeing. It’s helped with the suffering I felt. I would encourage anybody to go back and look at their past and not be afraid of it because as soon as you do you can move on from it. I’ve now tried to change my habitual emotional state, whereas before I was kind of defensive. Once I went back and looked at all of that in my life I feel that now I’ve changed that state into one of openness, receptiveness and gratitude and it’s transformed my life.”
It’s a transformation observed by his bandmates who are all very forthcoming about their own experiences. “To be honest,” Jimmy joins in “I like hearing Ryan talk about this. I felt like I’ve been on autopilot during the pandemic because you kind of have to be or at least I felt forced into it. I have a very overactive brain, and when you’re forced to do nothing it’s very scary. I know now that I struggled a lot during it, especially when you don’t know what’s going on. I can only imagine how tough it’s been for a lot of people. I feel sometimes that what people don’t take into consideration enough is the fact that it’s human beings going through this, that there isn’t a higher power going through this. We are all in this together, and we’re going through it together.
I think it’s especially hard for young men. I don’t ever remember any of my friends, as a teenager saying like, how are you actually? I think that’s definitely an aspect of it. But I’m sure it’s the same with young women as well. It’s funny because when we go to a lot of gigs and see a lot of people playing shows you hear them say ‘I hope everyone’s Okay’, and then you move on to the next thing. I remember one Christmas time when we were playing live and just feeling like it was important to be like, ‘how are you actually’, and to make sure that everybody is looking after themselves. It was also a ball for a children’s charity, so I just felt it was super important at that moment to genuinely ask. I’m not a preachy person at all, but at that moment, it felt right. I only found out recently that at the end of every single show we play, the last words that I say - which I wasn’t doing this intentionally - are ‘safe journey home, look after one another’. My dad made me aware of that. I think because I’ve been a teenager at a concert and on the way out feeling that anxiety that can be induced, so It’s really important that people leaving our show with being the last thing in their brain. I think it’s important.”
As we wrap up we decide to focus on the future and look forward to post-pandemic life.
The boys can’t wait to get back on the road, share this new album with everyone and start the next chapter of their lives. There is no doubt that Life In Colour will champion their sound and set them on an even bigger and brighter course.