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One song at a time

City musician's new album addresses mental illness

SUBMITTED</p><p>Trenton Burton’s sings about his struggles with OCD in Six to Twenty-One.</p></p>


Trenton Burton’s sings about his struggles with OCD in Six to Twenty-One.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/1/2017 (1259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The goal of Bell Let’s Talk Day is to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by encouraging discussion. City musician Trenton Burton hopes he can contribute to that conversation.

Burton is preparing to release his debut record, Six to Twenty-One, which chronicles his experience dealing with mental illness from when he was six — when he first remembers experiencing symptoms — through the time of his diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder when he was 12 years old, the concealment that followed during his teen years, to now, at the age of 21, when he has accepted his mental illness as something that is just part of his life.

"For the longest time I didn’t say anything about it, it wasn’t supposed to be something you share with people," Burton says. "Basically I was told by various people — no one in specific — ‘Don’t say anything, people will think you’re weird.’"

But last year, Burton was able to take advantage of an assignment in one of his creative communications classes at Red River College — he had been tasked with writing a personal essay, and, knowing he would have to present it to his class, decided that it was the right vehicle to openly address his struggles with mental illness. His friends and classmates overwhelmed him with unexpected support, which ultimately gave him the confidence to spend a year writing and recording Six to Twenty-One.

"A lot of people told me they had gone through similar things, so I kind of wanted to do that (the essay) on a bigger scale," says Burton. "Two of the biggest things that I am afraid of is talking about it and singing for people, so I decided why don’t I just do both at the same time challenging myself in that way."

Burton will celebrate the release of his record at the Handsome Daughter on Feb. 1, with all profits from ticket, album and merch sales going to the regional chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Though there are direct references to Burton’s specific experiences with OCD — such as the song Check, which references the doubt that often comes along with OCD and the need to check things over and over again (he gives the example of locking a door) because your brain is telling you you’ve forgotten something — he says he hopes the album will resonate with anyone who deals with any form of mental illness.

"While the symptoms are different and the experiences are different, the overall story is the same for a lot of people," he says. "When you have it you don’t want to talk about it so you hide it and make it worse. So I thought I would use that as a concrete example of this is what it’s really like for some people.

"I was super-worried because this is a really touchy subject for a lot of people, so I really wanted to handle it in a way that would be acceptable to people," he adds. "I wanted to make it accessible in that way; I wanted to do it in my own way, but in a way others could pick up on."

Burton recognizes that what helped him may not be the solution for everyone, but he hopes opening up a dialogue and taking steps to reduce the stigma will yield positive results for some of those who will listen to his music.

"It’s not like your life is all of a sudden, ‘Oh, I’ve talked about it now, everything’s totally cool, roll credits.’ It’s more like it’s just a bit better, at least for me," he says of deciding to be open about his struggles.

"I’m really trying to get out the message that it may not be as bad as you think, and that it’s worth at least thinking about talking about it."


Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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Updated on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 7:49 AM CST: Adds photo

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