0 In Cast of Creatives

Wedding Industry Mental Health and ADHD with Ryan James Mehigan, Musician and Artist “Ryan Static”

James Pearson
Hello this is Cast of Creatives, the series dedicated to exploring creative work and the impact that this has on mental health and well being, I’m James Pearson, I’m the founder of Wedding Industry Mental Health and Wedding Espresso. And as many of you will know, I’m well into my music, so I’m really, really excited today to be joined by Ryan, who goes by the artist name, Ryan Static. Ryan, how’s it going today my friend?

Ryan Mehigan
Beautiful man, beautiful.

James Pearson
So one of the things that really attracted me to your work Ryan was the fact that you are an ADHD advocate, having been diagnosed with a disorder in 2015. Is that correct?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes.

James Pearson
So, can we start right back at the beginning, and, are you okay to share with everybody a little bit about what it’s like living with ADHD?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes. So, I love it. It’s funny because I think people really don’t understand exactly what having ADHD is. And to be honest, it took me quite a few years to understand exactly how it affects your daily life. It’s always affected me like in my early days in school. Things like I was really overly sensitive and emotional. I was really impulsive in how I reacted, maybe overly dramatic. My short term memory was so, so bad, one or two things, and I’ve literally forgotten them in the next 40 seconds, because it’s literally that I can’t hold up information. I think a lot of time people just think okay, you have an attention deficit. But it’s more of a spectrum. When I discovered more things about it, it made more sense in a lot of scenarios in my life. I was diagnosed quite late as well, so a lot of things from when I was born, when I was a kid, has changed a lot. When I started discovering what it was, I knew it would be different.

James Pearson
So have you always felt a draw to the artistic side? The painting and the music? Is that something that’s always been a part of your life?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes, so I’ve always been an artist from day one. Like my mum told me… I was drawing at four years old and it freaked her out because the line work was a few years ahead of my age. And she was wondering how I drew St Paul’s Cathedral and I’d never seen it. She was very confused at how I’d managed to draw it so accurately. And so I basically just became the art kid in school. It was kind of just like my thing. I used to draw a lot. And then just a little bit after college I did a lot of painting. And then I kind of found music, I think, maybe around the same time, Or maybe it’s a little bit afterwards, but yes, I’ve always done it. It’s been my crutch, I suppose. My way of just kind of being able to communicate with people, because I was never really good at doing it in school. And a lot of the time, people didn’t really want to give me the time of day. So I could draw and I could really get attention, I suppose.

James Pearson
That’s fascinating because one of the things that really kind of interests me, is the connection between… we call them mental health disorders but, challenges, and artistic work, and it’s always the case that the greatest artistic work is born out of challenge. Am I right?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes, I would say so. For a lot of what artists do in general is kind of just a lot of self discovery, and understanding about how they work, how they learn, and how they essentially manifest ideas. And I think a lot of time, people base creative work on a skill level but it’s a lot more than that.

James Pearson
There’s an emotional core in the artwork, it goes beyond an intellectual understanding of the artwork, doesn’t it?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes it’s more like a sub conscious kind of instinctual kind of thing. A lot of artists, even really big ones like, I don’t know, like John Lennon or something. And the way that the words come across in the song, they will kind of just write random stuff that will just fall out their heads, and then they would slowly make it more into concepts. But lots of the time it’s kind of coming from somewhere else, which I can’t really explain to be honest, can’t really take credit for a lot of the stuff I do.

James Pearson
Do you have this sensation that when you appreciate a piece of artwork, whether it’s a painting, a picture, or a piece of music, are you obsessed with the intensity of that artwork, is that something that appeals to you?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes, I like problem solving. I suppose, in a sense, like I see creating a new art piece, or song, or something like that as a puzzle, and essentially finding the right pieces that kind of fit it. But essentially trying to figure out how to find the pieces is like the challenge I suppose. And there’s moments where it’s kind of flowing really well. I’d say you get completely immersed in what you’re doing, and at times you hit a full stop. Because you gets caught up and really can’t get over it. Like you can’t figure out how to paint this hand like you wanted to. And so you need to figure out what the problem is. Like why can’t I go over this hurdle, you know, I think sometimes it’s kind of just over thinking that when you’re not being able to see the rest of the big picture.

James Pearson
I was really attracted to, I forget the term that you used… deliberately styled black canvas, that was it. I love these pictures because rather than there be an overload of coloured information, it’s actually super minimal. Just tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind that and where that comes from.

Ryan Mehigan
Yes so I completely ripped it off from Caravaggio. If you’ve ever heard of him?

James Pearson
Yeah, absolutely.

Ryan Mehigan
Yes, when I first started painting, I did start with black canvases. I think because I was going for a very dark kind of colour. I was doing a lot of research into artists, and then I started doing colour pictures. I went to Italy in 2015 with my dad and I just saw a lot of the chapels over there, had a lot of his work. Even in the museums, in Rome they just adore him, in Rome it’s crazy. And I was just taken aback by the fact that everything stands out so much more when it’s against a blank canvas. It’s so much more thrilling and vibrant, kind of more impactful. I wanted to do something like that, because I like things being simple to the point, even in the way that I like music, I want it to be very simple and to the point, so people can understand the concept as easily as possible. So he was the first… he’s the main motivator for the black canvas kind of idea, of artists who are arguably kind of very minimalistic, or to the point. Like Edward Cropper, I was a big fan of his stuff. But yeah, I’m kind of a dark personally anyway so it appeals to me straight away.

James Pearson
So in terms of your artwork then, your music and your painting, would you say that this is a very therapeutic process for you? Does it help to be busy, to be creating? Does that create a sense of calm?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes I’d say so. I guess it’s one of those things that I’ve been doing for so long, it’s kind of just a part of my makeup. It’s not even like a therapeutic thing, it’s literally that if I don’t do it, then I don’t know who I am anymore. On that level, it’d be if I ever stopped doing anything to with art, then I’ll it’d be like killing my identity. So I guess in that sense, it’s weird because sometimes when I’m painting something, I get so aggravated with it, that it’s not therapeutic anymore. Because yes, I need to get done, because I’ve restarted it and I needed to get to this point. But when I’ve finished it, funnily enough, it’s more therapeutic kind of experiencing it, as apposed to creating it. Especially with music. You know I love to listen back to stuff that I’ve made, because it’s the sounds that appeal to me the most, and so it’s the most therapeutic for me to listen to over anyone else’s music. It’s exactly what appeals to my brain the most.

James Pearson
Okay. Is that why you work quite a lot with instrumentals then?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes with the music I want to create this balance of like somewhat melancholic and somehow chilled. It had dark and vibrant tones and stuff. I’m a big fan of rock music, and hip hop at the same time. And so a lot of the instrumentals in my music are created by guitar. Me just playing around to create some weird kind of other worldly kind of sound. Like I dubbed it last year, I called it the Static Probes, creating like a whole thing around photos and whatnot, which I think I’ll bring back. I wanted to create a world around this character. So we’ll see.

James Pearson
Interesting, there seems to me, I listen to a lot of music, and in all sorts of different genres, and some of the most iconic and memorable tracks of all time seem to be talking about the human condition, and our thought processes, and you know the struggles that we have mentally, rather than physically, and all that kind of tussle that we have when we’re struggling in those areas. And so your song “ADHD”, is the intent, if I’m not mistaken, is the intent of that song to try to raise awareness of the condition, and help people understand it?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes, it’s funny because it wasn’t even the first ADHD song I wrote, but I wanted to… because I started really to promote myself as like this ADHD kind of figure in music. I needed to create some sort of Anthem, in a sense, for ADHD people. Some of which I felt like they could feel a bit more, what’s the word… confident in having an interpreter having it essentially laid out as easily as possible, for people who didn’t have it or understand it. If you can understand the lyrics. It’s me really, kind of basically telling you what it’s like to have ADHD. So yes, and it’s great because since I dropped that, a lot of people have come to me and want to speak to me about their ADHD and whatnot. Kids this is how we calm down, or blah blah blah, listen to it. And so the fact that it’s helped people is great. There’s not a lot of… I mean more so now, but there’s not a lot of awareness for ADHD. People don’t really understand it as well as they should. So I kind of want to make it a bit more easy to find out what it is for people. And when it comes to something like music, it’s one of the biggest platforms to have any sort of voice, or to kind of really rally people together. I definitely agree, I love writing stories and talking about things that have happened to me in my life, because A it’s a lot easier to write about and be a lot more understandable for people. Because most people go through some kind of difficulty in their life. And, yes, it’s going to impact at least a few people, because you know that, essentially, you’re not just one person that’s going through all these specific things that no one else has gone through before, there’s a lot of people out there who have also gone through the same stuff you have. And so, essentially when you start expressing those in an art form, you become like an archetype. And so people can go to you because they’re expressing exactly like me, you know, in a wrapped up kind of sense. So, for me, you have to talk about more humane things, just so conversations in those areas don’t get lost.

James Pearson
I think art and artwork, and music, they seem to be a very safe place to kind of discuss and express these very difficult subjects, especially when, like you said, you know they’re not quite so well understood as perhaps they should be. It’s not mean it’s not a mainstream understanding and a lot of these conditions are hidden out there like we don’t necessarily immediately identify somebody as X, Y or Z. We might not even be aware of them. And so it really does help to raise awareness and I feel that the arts are somewhere where we have a safe place to express that and express ourselves.

Ryan Mehigan
I’ve spoken quite a bit about my family and my son’s as well. Because I’ve got a lot of turmoil, especially with my parents. Both my parents, they suffer from depression, my mum more so. She suffers from by really bad depression and bipolar disorder, and OCD. There’s a song I wrote, which is called… it’s not released, but it’s called “Sit On The Stairs”. It basically about the time where my parents broke up. But then it turned into a really messy kind of split, because a big situation happened Christmas 2014. And then my Dad, once we’d all left, he tried to try to commit suicide. And it is one of those moments where it kind of hits you, but you don’t react to it externally. And so there’s a lot of moments like that, that I’ve gone through, where I never really kind of really expressed it outwardly, and I kept it inside. And then I was like, I need to write about it, because if I write about it, I would fully understood it, or really kind of grieve over the situation. Get it out of my system, rather than have it sit there. So, yes, mental health is definitely a big conversation in music. Now I’m in a punk band, We also talk about mental health, it is such a big topic nowadays.

James Pearson
So you definitely feel there’s a sense that it’s better to, rather than cage these things up inside, it’s better to have a physical manifestation of them out in the world, so that you have fully expressed that externally? Is that how you view that?

Ryan Mehigan
I think it’s really healthy, because one of the things that saves a lot of people, especially people who go through quite heavy mental health problems, is communication. And if you feel like you can communicate in some sort of way, whether it’s artistically or even just talking to someone, then you’re saving yourself a lot of darkness. From being in a place where you don’t really need to put yourself in, anyone can really help themselves out to a degree when it comes to this kind of stuff. It’s just a matter of starting a conversation. And if there’s one thing I want to do for a lot of people is to help them feel like it’s okay to talk, because I feel like a lot of people, especially kids, they don’t want to talk about whatever’s going on, because they don’t want to put their problems onto somebody else, or disturb somebody else about it. So they kind of just let it sit there. If you look at the kids that follow me as well, a lot of them are artists, so I also want them to really express it, and then talk about it outwardly, once they’ve created something from that. Because I feel like the most beautiful art comes from when you express it with a lot of these internal emotions, it’s so much more passionate and more authentic. Rather than just talk about the same thing that most people talk about, which you can if you want to, but rather than talk about love for the 3,000th time, or talk about, you know, your Ferrari or wherever. You can talk about that if you want to, me, personally, I connect with artists who I feel have demonstrated some sort of courage to talk about what is going on, or what’s happened to them.

James Pearson
I think it’s a really valid point because I noticed that a lot of your music does act as a starting point for conversation. I think one of the hardest things in mental health today is opening that line of communication so that people feel that they are able to talk to somebody, or even just express, even the smallest way, hey, I think I’ve got something going on, and I’d like to talk to somebody about it. I love the way that your music opens that door for people, because I think, rewind to like, my grandparents generation certainly, possibly, probably my parents generation, it wasn’t okay to talk about these things. Then suddenly we’ve got people like you, who are heroes, because you’re leading the way in opening the door to those conversations. I think it’s really important, I think it’s really, really important.

Ryan Mehigan
I appreciate that. I guess I wouldn’t really be true to myself if a lot of people that I looked up to hadn’t done the same thing. I’m a very big, huge fan, of 90s music. The 90s was such a moment for self expression, not in just rock music, but in a lot of genres, like even in hip hop , country. People just really opened up about their struggles, or like themselves mentally, which I thought is really empowering. I want to do the same. Because at the end of the day I feel if you’re not trying to help inspire somebody else, then I don’t really get what you’re getting out of it. I like to create art because I want to help inspire someone like me to do the same thing. So it’s important, especially as art of one of the biggest ways to have a voice, more so than being a politician or being an entrepreneur. People listen to artists because they are trusted to be honest with themselves, that they’re talking fr themselves, and nothing else. So,

James Pearson
Yes, I think I’ve certainly used songwriting in the past as a means of kind of expressing things that I don’t necessarily feel able to talk about, so I’ll bury those meanings in lyrics, and it kind of satisfies that need to just tell somebody I’ve got something going on. But it’s in those lyrics, go find it if you want it. But obviously, opening up about a condition, especially publicly, is such a moment of potential vulnerability. So did it feel good to get ADHD out in the open, and say, Okay, let’s get together, let’s talk about this, let’s make art?

Ryan Mehigan
Yes, I think it did. Because when I first got diagnosed, I admit, I didn’t know how to feel about it. First of all, I didn’t really understand what it was before, it was kind of relief, it kind of made more sense with a lot of how I grew up and whatnot. I kind of suddenly felt like I’ve been given something which was really bad. Which wasn’t the case, it was, you know, this is how your brain works. And so we’ll start talking about it and maybe, I guess, accept some more, and be able to be like, you know I do have ADHD, and this is actually fine. I still live the same way other people do. I think writing about it definitely helped me accept it a lot quicker, and helped me talk about it more, or tell people more that have it, to let people know, or even in jobs, just be like yes, I have this, even though I’m worried that they wouldn’t take me seriously if I tell them that I have this. Because a lot of the time, when you have ADHD, when you tell someone, especially in a work environment, they are not taken seriously. Because people don’t view it as a learning disability or anything so it’s still kind of difficult to be open about it. But for me I think I’ve just tried to be as openly expressive about it. Possibly because for me it remains important and taken seriously.

James Pearson
Amazing. Well, Ryan, listen, that’s absolutely wonderful. We’re just about running out of time here but I just want to say thank you so much for being so candid and honest with us and sharing the inspiration behind your work. It’s been, for me, absolutely fascinating. So I hope everyone else enjoys it too and once again thank you very, very much for your time.

Ryan Mehigan
Thank you for having me.

James Pearson
So if anybody wants to check out your work, Google, “Ryan Static”. Good place to start?

Ryan Mehigan
Yeah, basically, out there in the ether!

James Pearson
Excellent. Awesome. Ryan once again thank you so much. Thank you so much for your time.

Ryan Mehigan
No problem! See you later!

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