The hard road
St. Vital musician delivers message of hope with new album
Robb Nash knows a thing or two about life and death.
“Pre-COVID, one in five teens had considered suicide,” said the St. Vital-based rock singer and mental health advocate, whose latest record This Is War, was released June 10 by Warner Music Canada. “And this last couple years have been hell on people’s mental health. It’s heartbreaking. We’re bombarded with stuff. Now that I get to share these stories, we want people to know that there’s hope out there.”
Over 12 years ago, Nash was in a car crash that nearly killed him. As he recovered, physically, he became severely depressed.
“Frankly, I did not want to be alive,” he said. “I was an athlete; my identity was lost, and that brought me to a very dark place for two-and-a-half years. Men in this society can feel like talking about our feelings or struggles is weak, so I kept it inside. One day, I picked up the guitar and started my entire journey into music to tell my story.”
That journey has taken him across the country, playing to thousands of students every year in free concerts where he shares his story of recovery and hope, while acting as a spokesperson for the Kids Help Phone and the Canadian Mental Health Association. His work has earned him a Meritous Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada, among other accolades.
“I only accept awards because it gives me more credibility with schools,” Nash said. At the ceremony for the Meritous Service Medal, Nash appeared alongside two veterans. “But when they introduced me, they said, this guy is fighting a different kind of war, a war against mental illness. The artist in me went, I can work with this. The album talks about that, talking about being on the front lines, talking about being in triage and moments in victory.”
Leading up to the release of This Is War, The Robb Nash Project released the single Ally and an accompanying EP. Building off previous releases Tell Me Why (2019) and Live on Arrival (2020), the new record contains 13 tracks that deal with Nash’s trademark themes of mental health, anger, hope, and empathy. Produced by Anthony Anderson and Steve Smith, a total of 18 tracks were recorded.
“We toured so much for 12 years (that) I didn’t have much time to write,” Nash said. “But during this time I had a chance to write. I had collected so my stories from young people, both the hurt and the victories. I had no idea how much I had built up.”
Along with the album, a documentary film was recorded, detailing not only Nash’s journey, but those of many of the students he’s connected with in a profound way over the years. Many of those stories are being released as part of The Robb Nash Project’s online curriculum for schools.
“Not every story of mental health ends in a suicide, not every story of addiction ends with an overdose,” Nash said. “There are some incredible stories in this documentary and curriculum that I can’t wait for people to experience.”
One day, I picked up the guitar and started my entire journey into music to tell my story.
That’s not to say that the road has been an easy one for Nash.
“I don’t like sharing my story in front of thousands of strangers,” he said. “It’s not fun to be vulnerable. But kids watch it, and we’re just trying to validate what they’re going through and that it’s OK to get help.”
For more information on Nash’s music or outreach work, visit RobbNash.ca
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112