Aussie Mikey Votano shares his experiences ahead of WHO World Mental Health Day and why he’s covered Gnarls Barkley’s hit ‘Crazy’

Australian music artist & performer Mikey Votano released his second UK single ‘Crazy’ via Believe Digital.  This was originally performed by Gnarls Barkley and became a huge global hit. Mikey brings new life to the song in his unique style with an infectious jungle groove, overlaid by spaghetti western guitars alongside screaming vocals and gospel backing. He says:

‘Crazy’ has always had an extra special meaning for me, as I child I was often labelled that in a direct reference to the symptoms of my ADHD & anxiety.  Many people suffer from mental illness & all of us have circumstances where we feel similar symptoms, possibly even asking the question, Does that make me crazy? Simply asking that question pretty much guarantees you’re not crazy, I like the idea of taking control of words used against you and that is definitely a large part of the reason why I really enjoyed reworking this track.”  

The video for ‘Crazy’ showcases a dance sequence and quirky scenes with a rubber duck, toothpaste, spilt milk and cookies! Mikey says “the video was a lot of fun and represents a little of the struggles I & those with similar mental illness feel daily” .

Important, and very relevant, issues – especially in this anxious ‘Lockdown age’ we are all experiencing. We decided to find out more about Mikey and his experiences ahead of WHO World Mental Health Day on Oct 10th.

Your new single ‘Crazy’ is a really vibey retro take on the Gnarls Barkley mega hit – what made you choose that track in particular?

Thank you! I’ve always loved the groove & feel of this tune but over time the lyrics began to resonate with me more more & more.  ‘Crazy’ is a cry for help, a questioning of sanity & about the struggles overcome mental illness.  I have ADHD & anxiety & songs like this are comforting, as they remind those suffering, you’re not alone.  Aside from loving the original, I’d like to think my version & time spent discussing my experiences with mental illness may help another struggling too.

Explain to us the concept behind the video – what were you trying to convey?

I wanted the video to feel fun & exciting with a slight underlying darkness you can’t quite put your finger on.  It’s a colourful interpretation of how I feel most days, probably how a lot of people feel, mental illness or not.  A small insight into the life of someone suffering & a reminder that they are often required to give far more to achieve even the simplest of tasks.

What was your experience growing up with ADHD?

I wasn’t diagnosed until 17 so growing up I didn’t really know all that much about ADHD but I do know I was in trouble a lot.  None of family, friends, teachers knew all that much about mental illness & the stigma surrounding ADHD was simply that I was a very naughty boy.  As a child you have little to no control over the symptoms – inability to regulate focus & emotions, easily distracted, talk too much, act without thinking, frequently interrupt others & often forgetful, disorganised & can’t sit still – & because I looked just like every other kid, maybe a little shorter, definitely a little shorter, my friends, teachers & family expected me to behave in exactly the same manner.  It’s this misunderstanding of mental illness that caused the most suffering.  When everyone you trust & love told me I was a bad person for not behaving like everybody else, not matter how hard I tried, I begin to believe I really was a bad person.  This is the hardest part about growing up with ADHD, never feeling good enough, feeling like I was broken & that no matter how hard I tried, I’d never be able to be the person they wanted me to be.

How do you cope now as an adult?

Honestly, I didn’t for a long time.  However recently I began taking medication again & speaking to a therapist each week, learning practices to help tame the negative symptoms which will always be there but hopefully to less debilitating effect.  I’m also beginning to love my ADHD for the positive side effects, yes there are some, many even.  A heightened sense of creativity, sensitivity, energy & spontaneity, the ability to honestly believe anything is possible, a willingness to take risks, be resilient, a great conversationalist, generally pleasant, upbeat & fun to be around, great at motivating others & finally, the superpower of ADHD, hyperfocus – the ability to intensely focus on a task of interest for long periods of time.

Has Covid-19 anxiety and lockdown made your condition worse?

COVID-19 has definitely brought a heightened anxiety, it’s my understanding it has for many, not only those with a diagnosed mental illness.  During the first few months I wasn’t coping at all, I couldn’t sleep, over thought everything, could barely make a decision & would cry myself to sleep at night for no particular reason.  The great news is that massive low brought me to speak to a therapist who has been the most wonderful help.  I feel I have a better understanding of my mental health now that ever before.  This time of uncertainty has give me a break to learn & put into practice certain routines & triggers that, in some circumstances, halt the symptoms before them become too much to handle

Do you have coping strategies?
For anxiety I have a few small lines I like to say which pause negative thoughts, stopping them before they run away down the seemingly endless rabbit hole.  One of my favourites, that I’ve had to remind myself of a few times whilst answering these questions, is ‘these are just thoughts, not facts’ & then I put the thought aside & continue working.  I think it’s important to find a set of quotes/lines/mantras that have meaning to you.  This one really helps me & is from a wonderful book called ’30 Days 30 Ways to Overcome Anxiety’ by Bev Aisbett.
For ADHD, I have to force myself to be organised, an improbable task, otherwise I have no chance.  If it’s not on a list it won’t get done.  If it’s a new habit, I have to make it visual.  Post it notes are great for this.  Can’t remember to turn that light off your partner/parent always gets annoyed at you about stick a giant colourful post it note on the switch until the task becomes ingrained.  Post it notes are your best friend.
What message or advice do you have for people who have anxiety or mental health issues?

Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis or about your own mental health.  See a therapist, find one that you connect with, it may take a few tries.  Don’t feel guilty about taking medication, no matter what your family & friends think, &, super importantly, question your own inbuilt biases & stigma, often something we take as fact is just a regurgitation of something an unqualified friend or parent said one time.  Do your own research & learn as much as you can & trial different methods to find what’s best for you. Here’s a few online ADHD resources I’ve found useful… ADDitude Magazine, Totally ADD & How To ADHD

Finally – your sound embraces the rock n roll ethos of the 1950’s – what is it about that decade that attracts you? Oh, and thank you for chatting to us and sharing your experiences!
I just love the raw realness of rock ’n’ roll.  I grew up a sax player who loved jazz & the evolution from jazz through blues & soul to rock ’n’ roll just makes sense.  It’s real musicians playing real instruments.  It’s live & loud with energy & a whole heap of fun.  What’s not to love.
It’s been my pleasure.  Thank you for having me.

You can find more information about Mikey Votano at...

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