Dean Lewis Shares the Mental Health Struggle Behind His New SingleHow the “Trust Me Mate” singer keeps his anxiety in check.
One year after singer Dean Lewis released “How Do I Say Goodbye” about his father’s battle with cancer (FYI: he’s now in remission), the TikTok sensation is releasing more music to sob to.
Amid an international tour, Lewis just dropped a new song, “Trust Me Mate,” about anxiety, which is sure to resonate with his millions of followers. “Anxiety is a tough thing to talk about because, for me, it's so intense,” he tells Wondermind.
But Lewis is not one to bottle up his emotions, and his candid lyrics continue to speak to listeners. “I just really need to be honest and write about what I'm going through personally. I think, in a way, that's how everyone relates to it,” he says. “I have found that through ‘How Do I Say Goodbye’ or my song ‘Be Alright,’ people connect to it and you become kind of a voice for what they're going through, which is really cool.”
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WM: How are you doing lately?
Dean Lewis: My mental health is good. I mean, I'm on the road. I'm probably on month number eight of touring for the year, so it's been kind of nonstop. I've done something recently where I've been off my phone a lot more, so I'm actually feeling a lot more present, which has been really good. I'm doing well.
WM: When you're on the road for that long and doing such an intense job, do you ever hit a wall?
DL: It's hard, to be honest, but I don't want to sound ungrateful because of how lucky I am to be doing this. I think I do hit walls quite a lot, but I have this weird way of just being able to push through them.
It’s a weird job where you have this whole day off where you're not really doing much, and then you have this big show at 9 p.m. where there's sometimes 10,000 people, sometimes 2,000 people. So you have this anticipation of something coming through the day, so you can't really relax. I'm one of those people where I can't relax until I've done the job. It's quite intense waiting for that moment to happen where it's going to be an hour and a half of shock to your body because you're playing in front of people and you want to do a great job.
The way I push through it is I have this urge to be great at something. These people came to see me. I want to be great for them and for myself. I don’t know if that's the healthiest thing, but it's definitely a thing.
WM: How do you take care of your mental health while on the road?
DL: For me, the biggest thing has been [the idea of] result and effort. How do you detach effort from result? For me, if I want to succeed at something, which is important for me, I have to put in an insane amount of effort. But the problem is if you don't put in effort, I have always attached the result to my self-worth. I'm learning now that the effort and the result doesn't [always] line up. You can put all the effort in or you can put no effort in, and you can get lucky and a song can blow up. So [I’m] trying to detach those two things … [and] not even pay attention to the result. … I'm horrible at doing this, but it's like the biggest thing for me to try to work on. … Put all the effort in, but just don't pay attention to the result [because] you don't have control over it.
A thing that I'm obsessed with is stoicism. Once again, it's something that I'm horrible at. Stoicism is about a lot of things, but it's really a philosophy about letting go of things that you don't control. I'm always trying to control things in my life, and the big thing is that effort-result thing. I can't control how well it does. Sometimes you hit a lucky wave of a moment in life. Sometimes you write a song that just has some magic in it. Sometimes you have a song that you think is the best song you ever wrote, but for some reason, it doesn't connect. That’s OK.
This other philosophy I have is that great art finds a way. I try to remind myself of that a lot. … That doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a big hit every time. … But if you make something great, it will find a way.
Another thing I've been doing for eight years—and I don't know where I would be without this—is I go to a coffee shop alone every morning wherever I am in the world, and I get an iced Americano and I sit there and I write down the date, where I am in the world, where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going. … What do I have to do today? What are my dreams? How am I going to get from here to here?
From the first day I did it, I felt so much more clarity. … It's really charted a course of where I'm going and created a narrative in my life of: I know who I am, I know where I've been, and I know where I'm going. I know the mistakes that I'm making, and it can take years of being an idiot to change those, but I'm aware of 'em.
WM: How often do you revisit your journals?
DL: Sometimes I look back. I remember writing in there, “You'll sign a record deal with a major label.” And everything I used to write came true. I used to write affirmations down. “You'll have a hit song.” I don't think it's magic; I'm not that spiritual about stuff. I think it's perspective and context. When you write something, I don't think the world magically starts to do it. … You have a north pole [pointing to] where you're going, so every little action that you do is aiming at something.
WM: What are some goals you’re working toward now?
DL: Just trying to take the pressure off and lower the stress levels. Because I'm one of these people [who] doesn’t take a day off. I don't know what to do if I have a day off. I feel weird. I've always got to be doing something. … When I'm not working toward something, I feel so guilty.
Another thing I'm doing right now is I'm basically logged out on my social media. I log in basically once a day to post stuff, and then after 30 minutes, I'm out again. … When I am off it, I feel alive again. For me, I'm always trying to be a creator, not a consumer. It's so easy to get caught up in just consuming stuff.
WM: You’ve shared that you experienced severe anxiety, especially before you perform your music. Have there ever been times when you've considered not going out there, and what helps you actually take the stage? Other than potential legal obligations…
DL: Yeah, there's that. I don't really talk about this, but it's true. I get so anxious before shows [over] the dumbest things. I think a lot of it's related to my childhood. We all have those things where you weren't given love in a certain way or maybe you were in another way, and [that manifests in different ways]. For me, it's anxiety and pressure before a show.
One way that I've dealt with it in the past is having my brother and friends around and asking them questions, getting a bit of reassurance.
One thing I've really noticed is in the last two weeks, being off my phone before shows reduces my anxiety to a point where I feel pretty good before I go on stage. I think it's just you get caught in those spirals of TikTok and you're just scrolling and then your mind's just all over the place. There's so much happening.
I always force myself to go on stage, and it always turns out to be quite a good experience. It's just the nature of what I do is an explosion of energy all at once for an hour and a half, and it's always going to be stressful, but those are some ways that I'm sort of managing it.
WM: What do you do with all your free time now that you’ve cut back on social media?
DL: One thing I've done to replace it is [I got a Nintendo Switch]. … [Social media is] sort of like a game. You watch your numbers go up on social media. On TikTok, you have 3 million followers, and that person has 4! … So instead of being on social media before a show, I'm on Nintendo Switch now, and I'm playing a game with my band. We're playing “World War Z,” and we're in cooperative mode. Replacing that habit with something else can help because I think a lot of people [get off their] phone, and you're just sitting there doing nothing.
WM: If you could give yourself a pep talk right now, what would you say?
DL: You are there. You are where you want to be. I don't need more of anything. I don't need more stuff. I don't need another hit song. I don't need to do arenas, [but] I would like that if it happens. I just remind myself that I am where I want to be. I'm healthy. I've got great songs coming that I'm really proud of, and I'm helping a lot of people around me in my family, my friends, and the whole crew of people on the road with me. Keep doing what you're doing. You've already achieved more than all your dreams.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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