The East Pointers Offer Hope in the Darkness with Wintergreen
Canadian contemporary folk group The East Pointers have been raising the spirits of music lovers on their latest tour following the release of their album Yours To Break. A blend of heartfelt lyrics with bright instrumental interludes, the album is a shining beacon for anyone struggling to see the light in the darkness. We had a chat with singer and banjoist Koady Chaisson about the power of music, the inspiration behind their moving single "Wintergreen," and how the music industry can take better care of the mental health of our community.
Your latest single “Wintergreen” has been described as a song “offering light in the darkness to those who need it.” What was the creative process behind writing a song like this?
We were hanging out with our buddy Colin from The Trews, throwing around riffs and song ideas. We started talking about the toughness that comes along with people who suffer from all different types of illness. We talked about perseverance and hope and before long we had "Wintergreen" written. It really is about recognizing the strength in someone who doesn’t see it themselves.
Was the writing of “Wintergreen” informed by your experiences with mental health, or by the experiences of those around you?
The song wasn’t written about my story directly but upon listening back, I could convince myself it was. I’ve been to the bottom of some pretty deep pits but I always managed (through the kindness of others) to claw myself out. A song like "Wintergreen" is something I wish I could have heard at those darkest times. We wrote it to give hope, because things are never as bad as they seem, "despite the darkness, some of these days!"
Do you find that the act of creating and writing music helps you to navigate through your mental health journey?
Absolutely. Creativity is the ultimate mood stabilizer. I don’t know where I’d be if I couldn’t express my thoughts and emotions through music. Feeling good? Write a song. Feeling sad? Write a song. It’s a soul cleanser.
In your experience, how does music help bring people together?
Music is a connector, it always has been. It can be a source of common ground with someone you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with, a place to come to put aside everything else and just listen and be human.
For a lot of people music is a source of comfort, but navigating a career in music can be hard on the mental wellness of music-makers, especially when on tour. How do you keep your mental health in check while on the road?
The boys and I are pretty intense about our road routine. Healthy food, lots of sleep, meditation are important to all of us. Alcohol also isn’t a big factor in our band. I quit drinking 6 years ago and the fellas are pretty good to keep it all in moderation around me. We also have a pretty open floor to chat about the tough things that come along with touring, being away from family, constant long travel days, missing the stability of the home routine, etc are hard. We’re all going through it so there’s no reason to go through it alone. We’re not afraid to get deep!
Oh and cold showers are a must, even in the dead of Canadian winter!
Many people have said the music industry is facing a mental health crisis. Outside of touring, what do you think are some of the other factors contributing to the mental health challenges of music-makers?
Alcohol and the stereotype that musicians have to drink to be an artist. That’s the one that definitely sticks out to me. The look I get when I tell people or concert goers I don’t drink is hilarious. It’s assumed that you drink all day everyday by a lot of people. It’s also crazy to me that there aren’t more sober spaces at festivals and conferences, it’s common sense. Alcoholism runs rampant through the arts community. If you want to promote a healthy industry, at least give the opportunity for those struggling to have a spot they can escape to.
What do you think the music community can do to better support the mental health of music-makers?
Dry spaces at festivals and conferences, more open discussions about the misconceptions and stigmas that surround mental health. It doesn’t have to be anything overly complex. Have a non alcoholic beer on the menu, there’s great options nowadays, Partake (great name) being my favourite and brewed in Toronto. I’ll pay good money for it and it allows me to mingle without having to explain to everyone why I’m drinking water and not beer.
What do you think we can do to continue breaking the stigma around mental health?
Keep talking about it. Educate kids on it from a young age. Looking back I can see signs of when my struggles started. I was so young, and the education wasn’t there to allow me to cope with it. I self medicated for years before I was diagnosed bi polar. In a lot of ways my life got easier when I finally realized that I wasn’t just ‘crazy’. I manage it through all the things I listed above and life finally feels right.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Go easy on yourself!
In partnership with PLUS1, The East Pointers have been raising funds for Unison on their latest tour, so that we may continue our work providing financial assistance and important mental health counselling to members of the Canadian music community.
There are a few more dates left on their tour, so make sure you get your tickets while you still can!
Interested in learning how you can support Unison with tour initiatives? Click here to learn more about PLUS1.