INTERVIEW

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Raleigh Ritchie? Jacob Anderson? Andy? We uncover the man behind the many names.

Alice Gee | 10/03/2021

Met with a beaming but shy smile, both Raleigh (Jacob) and I catch up over zoom to talk about Andy, becoming a new dad and his mental health journey, leaving no stone unturned. I ask if I’m cool to call him Jacob and how he and his wife Aisling are coping with becoming new parents. It’s a difficult life change in normal circumstances, never mind a global lockdown when family can’t pop over and give you a moment of respite. With lockdown starting to ease over the coming months, he shares how excited he is for his little girl to meet friends and family.

“Were getting through the lockdown. We’re very lucky, she’s just amazing. She’s one of the most fun human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend this time with anybody else. It would be nice to have other people around and come and see your baby, which we haven’t been able to do, so she doesn’t know a lot of people very well which has been hard. But she’s amazing. We have the most amazing baby, I really can’t complain.”

As we chat more about kids and childhood I’m reminded of one of my favourite tracks from his new album ‘Big & Scared’ which addresses some of his fears when it comes to balancing parenthood with his mental health issues. I have my own fears when it comes to having children as someone with Bipolar Disorder, so I was interested to see how Jacob handled the anxiety of becoming a new father.

“You don’t know what will happen, but if they do experience similar things you’ll know how to speak to them. I feel like I was that’s something that I’ve often really worried about. Especially when people say that babies are so instinctive. They’re like so intuitive and I often worry if she picks up on my emotions. If she ever picks up on my anxiety. But ultimately, if she does, then I can explain it to her. I feel like I have a vocabulary now where I can speak to her about it in a healthy way. My instinct is always to hide it but my wife said to me it’s good for her to see it sometimes. Because, as long as you’re okay with being around her when it’s happening you can show it It’s not scary. It’s so human. So I think that’s a great way to be able to set an example.I’m going to try I try my best. You know how it is. It’s not always easy to rationalise in that way but when I’m at my best I can.”

Jacob, who goes by Raleigh Ritchie when releasing music, is no stranger to mental health struggles. No matter which track of his you play you get a frank and honest glimpse into his life, what makes him tick, and the challenges he’s overcome.

“My relationship with my own mental health issues is fairly recent. It’s been there my whole life I just didn’t know what was going on. I just thought that I was strange and that I was different from other people. I would notice things that other people were saying that I just couldn’t connect to, I couldn’t understand that sometimes other people are not saying how they really feel about things. It’s not that you’re weird, you just haven’t found your tribe yet. You haven’t found the other people that suffer from the same things. Not that we’re all a big club, I’m just a strong believer that everybody on the planet could do with therapy, and could do with engaging with that kind of language.”

“I like to think I’m not struggling with bad mental health. Which I don’t think is entirely true. It’s just that I think now I’m more cognizant of it. Whereas when I was a child, in fact from a very young age, I was really struggling with it and it was pretty debilitating at times. So that specific relationship to my own brain has only really started in the last three, four years. It’s weird because I’ve been writing songs since I was 14, writing about anxiety and depression without realising I was writing about it. I recently found a bunch of my notebooks that I thought were just gone or just lost and it’s really interesting seeing things that as an adult, I didn’t even realise I was thinking about when I was a teenager and some of these things went that far back. I just want to give myself a big old cuddle, be like, it’s gonna be alright.”

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I listen to Jacob and find I have similar recollections of my teen years. It’s a notoriously difficult time, but in recent years with social media and the glamorisation of mental illness in the media, we are seeing more and more young people struggle with anxiety and depression. He talks candidly about his experiences with self-harm and the effect it still has on him today. “I was watching a film from the mid-90s the other day and the little boy in the film was self-harming. And it was quite similar to the way that I used to self-harm. At the time I never would have called it that because my understanding of self-harm was one thing and there was only ever one kind of portrayal of it on TV or the way that people spoke about it. So I would never have characterised it in that way. Now I understand what I was doing. I understand what it is, I understand what that instinct is. It’s interesting that I feel, as I’m getting older, I’m starting to see those things more, even though they’ve been around forever.

I’m working with a charity at the moment who provide counsellors to schools. These kids need a space to speak with someone who isn’t their teacher or parent. It’s also elective so you can, if you are a child or young person and you feel like you need to speak to somebody about something, then you can anonymously say that you want to go and speak to somebody and they’re there. The charity works all over the country and I just think wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a system where it didn’t need that to be funded from outside sources like charities alone” As he opens up to me I commend Jacob on how comfortable he feels baring his soul to someone he just met 20 minutes ago, even braver he wants it all on the record for you to hear. But if you break down Andy you essentially gain access to all his thoughts, both highs and lows.

“I’m still trying to figure it out as I go along and check in on myself. I have very low self-esteem which is something that people are always really surprised to learn, especially about anybody that does anything that’s is remotely public. Just because I’m working in an industry where you’re constantly being compared to other people doesn’t mean I don’t have issues with my self-esteem. Perception is big currency in the music industry which I’ve really had to wrestle with. To the industry, I’m a songwriter, I exist on the basis that everything is subjective. Like you’re writing about a subjective experience and you’re trying to articulate yourself In the hope, or at I’m writing this in the hope that other people are like ‘Oh, you’re like me’. Because that’s what music did for me when I was growing up. When I couldn’t connect with family or friends there were musicians and filmmakers and artists that I felt understood me.

 

So I feel like that’s partly my responsibility to take forward. Saying that I’ve really struggled with it. I still do, especially the comparisons between other people. It may be a cliche, but I put my heart and soul into my music about quite fragile things. And it’s hard to reason with the idea of like somebody saying, that isn’t good enough. So you almost have to remove yourself. You don’t want to think about that too much. Because then you’re not being true to yourself. Particularly with the last album because I didn’t have to discuss it too much with anybody like I did the first album. But I’ve realised If those feelings are there, then I feel like I know that I’ve told the truth. I feel like I know, I’ve done what I was supposed to do.”

"I'm just a strong believer that everybody on the planet could do with therapy"

Jacob has two very distinct aliases through which he shares his work, I wanted to find out whether this was a conscious effort to separate his worlds. “100%. I think at first, it was a symptom of perception. Even though I’ve been making music the whole time, long before I did any kind of acting, I was really conscious of how people would perceive me. I think, particularly in this country that we really love to perpetuate an underdog narrative which I think is really unhealthy. I think it encourages people with low self-esteem to feel like they have to stay in that place. To succeed, you have to be struggling, you have to be suffering, you have to be at rock bottom. And if you’re not at the bottom, then you’re too privileged to need help or you’re too privileged to be worth anybody’s ears. So at first, the label really wanted me to use my own name and I just didn’t want to do it. With the name Raleigh Ritchie I thought a lot to myself am I credible? But now I’m just glad that I’ve got another name because I think it’s helped me say what I want and not feel self-conscious about somebody assigning it to my name. The irony being that Raleigh Ritchie says all the stuff that I don’t feel like Jacob can”.

Andy is one of the best albums to come out of 2020, in her review one of our writers Jade Poultney called it “An encapsulating diary you can’t put down, each song retelling a different stage of his journey through therapy dealing with mental health in an increasingly clearer way. It’s melancholy, it’s sad, it looks at depression, anxiety, loss and uncertainty but no track is miserable, they are upbeat, light and pleasant to listen to.”

“Andy was my granddad’s nickname. His full name was Basil Anderson but people called him Andy for short. A friend of mine started calling me Andy which made me feel connected to him again. At the time my granddad’s house was separate so it was a real safe place for me. At the time it felt like he’s he was a human being who wasn’t complicated. So when I wrote the album, it felt like it felt really me., I just wanted to call it something that reflected that. I would have called it Jacob if I didn’t think that it was so corny. So calling it Andy was my way to have my cake and eat it.” 

With our conversation focusing on what’s helped form the narrative behind his music, I wanted to find out what works as the medicine for him.“When I was in a really bad place, I would try and express it, and I couldn’t articulate myself. I found things confusing or overwhelming and It would manifest in unhealthy things. But when I could get myself to a place where I could just write it down where it’s not just swimming around in my head, it made sense all of sudden.”

“My daughter has been really good for me, not that it’s her responsibility to be. I know there’s gonna be times where we’ll test each other, I’m sure, but just looking after her is a really good way of me feeling present. Obviously, not everybody has a child but for me that’s been really helpful, for me I find myself living in the past or future so It’s forced me to be in the moment.” 

Andy is avaliable to buy and stream now. 

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