Guest Post by: Gina Horswood, Singer, Songwriter, Artist
I was eight years old when I first sang in public. I remember the song, I remember my outfit, and I remember having absolutely no idea what I was doing. When they handed me my “encouragement” trophy I could barely contain my excitement. I’d never won ANYTHING. When that award led to my morning off from school to get my photo taken for the local paper, I was practically bursting with pride. I’d always been a nerd, and for the first time in my life I felt like I could be one of the cool kids! Back then, I had no idea that singing would take me all over the world, that I’d pursue it professionally, or that it would save my life. It just felt nice to be cool.
I was twelve years old when the idea of songwriting really caught my attention. I had a lot I wanted to say and for the first time in my life nobody else seemed to be expressing it correctly. So I wrote my own songs. I wrote about my great grandfather in the war. I wrote with my older sister about our home. I wrote about Liam Dalzell, the boy who my 12 year old self was madly in love with. Of course, Liam had no idea, I was too scared to tell him! So I wrote about it instead and would sing that song with as much soul as my sheltered little self could muster, any time he might have been within earshot.
The truth is I wasn’t a very good singer, so even if the song had reached him it would have been brutally off key. I was chubby with bucked teeth and a boy haircut and very happily (at least in terms of music) lived in my stunning older sister’s shadow. Again, I had no idea how much music would influence my life at that stage. But it brought my family together (“The Horswood Family Band”…so very original), it gave me a way to say things out loud that normally I never could or would have, and we had a lot of fun.
I was thirteen when my Dad asked my Mum for a divorce. My Dad was my best friend back then. I had no idea what I was going to do without him, and my sister had gone off to boarding school to pursue music (our small town high-school didn’t offer it as a subject…so backwards). Around 6 weeks later, my Mum tried to kill herself while I was visiting with my Dad. When I actually started paying attention to mental health, I realized nearly everyone in my family was on anti-depressants. I watched my mother go through countless changes to her medications, then no medications, then another suicide attempt, then another medication to try. It was a cycle, and I was stuck in it with her.
I don’t share this story for pity or sympathy. The truth is I turned out relatively well-adjusted and, despite its challenges, my childhood was pretty great and full of love. And there was always music. I share this story because I’ve been asked to address the importance of having a creative outlet, and how music has benefited my health. I share this because what follows wouldn’t make much sense without the back story.
Watching my mother become so sick, and other family members struggling with their own depression, I realized that I probably had some kind of predisposition to mental health issues. I was also terrified of medication. That’s when songwriting got really serious for me. A lot of my “friends” disappeared after Mum was put in a mental asylum or I became the subject of their jokes or curiosity. I struggled for a long time to forgive my Dad and consequently we didn’t talk much (if at all), and for obvious reasons I didn’t want to talk to my Mum about anything that might cause her to worry.
So there I am. This chubby kid (thankfully my teeth had straightened out by then) with no friends and a whole lot of questions about life, marriage, parenting, boys, bitchy girls…the works. I was fourteen. EVERYTHING in my world was changing at a rapid pace and it felt impossible to keep up. I dressed like a Gothic for a little while (all black except for my red Doc Martins). I revisited my faith and tried really, really hard to believe in God. I found new friends. And I wrote. I wrote poetry. I wrote songs. I played my guitar everyday. And that’s when I found my voice.
The meek and mild little-kid voice that used to come out when I sang suddenly became strong. People started listening. REALLY listening. Then when I told them my stories and sang them my songs, they would cry or laugh or connect somehow. That’s when the penny dropped. I was connecting with people and our conduit was music. I realized I wasn’t alone. Other people were going through the same emotions I was and through songs, we could go through it together. It was a truly magical experience.
I’ve always written honestly…sometimes brutally so, much to my ex-boyfreinds’ disgust. But to this day, when people approach me after my shows, or I see them crying or laughing in the audience, I get the same feeling: Connection. It’s a basic human need and one that I lacked in my life until I started performing my own songs. So would I have survived if I hadn’t written songs? Maybe. Would I have enjoyed “survival”? No. Am I the picture of perfect mental or emotional health now? God no. Do I feel a sense of relief each and every time I perform? Absolutely. The stage is one place where I can be completely alone, but connected at the same time. It really is quite extraordinary.
Nearly every musician or artist will tell you they use their art as a form of expression. What people often forget is that the art gives back to you and it gives to others. It’s a way to connect, to feel, to share, not just to express. It’s a way to expel the demons in your mind, to tell someone you care or to just realize you are not alone. It’s happiness.
So find your outlet. Find your voice. Then use it and don’t ever stop. I truly believe it’s the magic little pill we’re all looking for.
When Gina Horswood packed her life in a bag and bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the world, she had no idea what was in store for her or her music career. Since October 2011, she’s traveled to a whole new hemisphere, bringing with her a distinctive voice and songs inspired by her nomadic life.
Gina’s debut “Our Way”, penned with sister Melanie (the duo toured under the name Horswood), was released in 2006 and boasted two Top 10 country singles in Australia. Gina’s sophomore CD, and first solo album, “Crazy Brilliant Mess” received critical acclaim in the rich musical landscape down under, with the video for her single “Ordinary Girl” reaching the top 50 on the national Country Music Channel charts.
In 2013, Gina followed the troubadour tradition and traveled to the heart of the North American music scene: Nashville, Tennessee. There she collaborated with renowned songwriter and producer Jim Reilley. The result, “The Nashville Sessions”, is Gina’s most accomplished work to date. The sound is rich, organic and compelling, inspired by her experiences around the world.
Gina’s alternative country repertoire features a glorious voice ‘like the smoky warmth of a front porch on a summer evening’ and just as honest, clear and true. She is a storyteller, a traveler and a consummate musician. As she said when describing the process that created “The Nashville Sessions,” “the project is complete but the story is far from finished.” Gina Horswood may have started out her career in Australia, but her music has found a home here in Canada.