In this month’s BRIT Trust Diaries, Laura Westcott, founder of Music For Mental Wealth, shares her story of overcoming stage fright, using ADHD as a ‘superpower’ and helping musicians with their mental wellbeing.
Laura Westcott has a BA (Hons) in music and trained as a classical singer in Kent, before moving to London to study journalism in 2001. She sang with the London Philharmonic Choir for 10 years and worked for The Times newspaper as PR manager and reviewer before starting Music For Mental Wealth.
Music For Mental Wealth is a non-profit founded in 2017 with concerts featuring emerging and established performers sharing personal stories about their music. It encourages open conversations around mental health whilst building supportive communities and raising funds to pay performers.
Audience members include music industry professionals to help catapult the careers of artists involved. The organisation has received promotional support from the BRIT Trust in recent years…
I didn’t want to quit singing completely but I felt forced to find a backup plan after graduating and feeling gut-wrenching fear every time I stepped on stage. I was physically sick from nerves, so I stuck to the safety of singing in choirs and studied journalism as my second choice to a career in opera.
I was 37 when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I didn’t understand the ‘superpowers’ that came with this condition when I was 21, and one of them was connecting words at lightning speed. I just knew I liked writing and that words flowed to me.
However, one of the disadvantages of ADHD is overthinking, which causes anxiety. I was also sensitive to sounds and loud noises, so my backup plan of feeling safer “off stage” working for a national newspaper wasn’t properly thought through... I felt overwhelmed in a busy noisy newsroom every day, so I started meditating, listening to hypnotherapy podcasts and reading self-help books. I also tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which worked wonders and led to more coaching when it finished. I created Music For Mental Wealth in 2017 to give musicians access to the coaching I had received and found so helpful.
It was a simple idea inviting musicians to share the meaning behind the songs they were about to perform but it was surprisingly effective
I also had the urge to share my black book of celebrities and influencers I had accumulated during my eight years at News Corp to help launch the careers of musicians, so I began organising gigs with rising stars and well-known performers and invited key contacts to attend.
Coincidentally my former manager at The Times, Jessica Carsen (and now a BRIT Trust trustee), also transitioned into the music industry around this time and joined Sony Music UK, who were already supporters of our mental wealth mission through our partnership with the BRIT School. When I performed as a solo artist for the first time at Music With Meaning’ in 2020, Jessica said to me afterwards I was “way ahead of the zeitgeist” (another ADHD superpower!) when I tried introducing coaching to record labels in 2017.
I’ve always had a natural ability for people to open up around me and share their personal stories, so I used this skill to help people share their mental struggles and know they are not alone. It was a simple idea inviting musicians to share the meaning behind the songs they were about to perform but it was surprisingly effective. I invited Gail Porter to co-host our launch of Music With Meaning at Gibson Studios with live performances and stories that connected everyone in the room on a deeper level. We ran intimate gigs all over London from Sixty Sixty Sounds in Soho, The Bedford in Balham, The Camden Club, The London Palladium (theatre bar)… then an old school friend and lead trumpeter with The Royal Marines, Mark Upton, got in touch after seeing our work on socials and arranged a mental wealth partnership with their Mountbatten Festival at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019.
During Covid we moved the concert series online and hosted our first festival curated by KT Tunstall featuring James Bay and Brandi Carlile for World Suicide Prevention Day.
I also organised a roundtable discussion at the BRIT Trust HQ with music charities, record labels, publishers, managers and coaches to figure out how we might collectively improve the mental wellbeing of musicians.
Future plans include more roundtables, concerts and raising much-needed funds to cover coaching costs for unsigned artists with limited resources to receive help. We are partnering with more music schools and empowering students to run their own Music With Meaning concerts and develop a self-funding model from concerts for coaching.
Our Christmas event on Monday, December 18, is sponsored by the Karma Sanctum Hotel in Soho for record labels to experience Robin Lockhart’s “Rapid Change” coaching followed by intimate performances inspired by the theme Kindness at Christmas. We would love to see as many industry people there as possible.
To donate, collaborate or find out more about Music for Mental Wealth contact Laura@musicformentalwealth.com or visit their website here.
PHOTO: Chris Dwyer