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Ipswich singer-songwriter talks singing, pulling sickies and mental health

PUBLISHED: 17:14 06 January 2019

Suffolk Singer-songwriter Bessie Turner

Suffolk Singer-songwriter Bessie Turner

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It has been a good year for Suffolk-based singer songwriter Bessie Turner but it has not always been that way.

Bessie Turner. Picture: AIKONA RECORDS LTDBessie Turner. Picture: AIKONA RECORDS LTD

Her success over the past 12 months has included headlining the BBC introducing stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals as well as releasing her debut EP, 22:22.

However, it is for bringing the more important issue of mental health to the public’s attention for which Bessie has become best known in recent weeks.

An image of Bessie crying was posted on her Instagram page with a plea urging those suffering from poor mental health to speak out.

The post, which caught the attention of fans, gave a little insight into Bessie’s life and a clue to the inspiration behind her music.

Bessie Turner performing at her 22:22 album launch at the Manor Ballroom in Ipswich. Picture: ROSS HALLSBessie Turner performing at her 22:22 album launch at the Manor Ballroom in Ipswich. Picture: ROSS HALLS

“I started dabbling with a guitar when I was about 11,” she said, talking in the living room of her first floor flat in Ipswich.

“My first performances were at high school where they used to have these music evenings and I saw all the older kids do them and I thought that’s what I want to do.

“I always thought it would be great to be a singer but I’ve also been a bit reserved because of various things.

“I used to watch a lot of bands at the Steamboat Tavern in Ipswich which made me think maybe I can do this.”

Bessie Turner performing at her 22:22 album launch at the Manor Ballroom in Ipswich. Picture: THEA MCPHILLIPSBessie Turner performing at her 22:22 album launch at the Manor Ballroom in Ipswich. Picture: THEA MCPHILLIPS

Despite taking the Ipswich music scene by storm initially, health issues got in the way and Bessie found herself taking a break away from music.

“I used to come off stage and hate myself. It was too overwhelming for me at that time. It was the fear that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t strong enough so I took an unintentional break.

“I had a lot of problems with my health as well as my mental health and I also had an eating disorder.

“I would book these gigs and then I would call and say I was sick or that I can’t do it. I came up with excuses to get out of playing.”

After some time away, Bessie released a song in the spring of 2017, giving her the confidence to get back to playing live.

The break allowed her to concentrate on her own health making her more equipped to play live when she returned.

“When I had a break I was also signed off work with depression and anxiety and spent a lot of time with myself. I practised mindfulness and did yoga and walked a lot. I made this conscious effort to better myself and that made it easier to perform.

“I also think, and I know this sounds really fickle, but acceptance from other people liking it helped. The fact that strangers react to music that I don’t even listen back to myself and like it. It gave me some form of gratification.

“I can’t really believe that someone could be feeling bad and would think, I’m going to listen to that song by Bessie Turner.”

Now, following the success of her debut EP, Bessie is back writing.

She enlisted the help of former The Coral guitarist, Bill Ryder-Jones. Writing with someone else is a new experience for Bessie, who said that writing was a very self-indulgent process, a means of release.

She said: “All of my writing has been influenced by my mental health. I usually just write how I feel, or what has happened to me or if I hear a nice word, I’ll focus on it. All of my writing has been quite self indulgent. My writing is my release.”

With shows planned in the new year across East Anglia, Bessie’s career is going from strength to strength and it is now her role in the community she would like to consolidate.

“I’m so pleased that my post was recognised, it is important and we need to be talking about it.

“I’ve been approached to get involved with projects in schools across the area which I want to get involved in.

“I think that this is more important than music. If I can help a few people or get some people to talk then that’s enough for me.

“I just want people to look after themselves.”

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