Brett Newski is an artist/musician who has opened for many well known ‘80s/’90s bands (most notably the Pixies and the Violent Femmes) throughout his career. He also grapples with anxiety and depression, but instead of considering that grappling a taboo topic, he has chosen to incorporate it into his artistic life by hosting a podcast, “Dirt From the Road,” and by writing a book, “It’s Hard to be a Person: Defeating Anxiety, Surviving the World, and Having More Fun.” The book grew out of doodles Newski made and shared on social media about how he dealt with his anxiety and depression. The overwhelmingly positive response prompted him to create the book, as well as a soundtrack to accompany it.
Newski and his band will be at Zanzabar Wednesday, Feb. 9, to perform, and we spoke via email about anxiety, creativity and relationships between the two.
LEO: How do you harness your anxiety and use it to cultivate your creativity? Obviously, using it as a subject matter in your songs and for your book, but do you ever have to push past the fear of beginning or the fear of putting yourself ‘out there?’
Brett Newski: Fear is useless. Yet, we live in a fear culture. Fear is one of the primary mechanisms that drives capitalism: news, social media ads, products that can solve your fear/problem. Lots of things are scary through your screen but not in real life.
Our surroundings — aka society — creates a lot of problems for us that don’t actually exist.
Do you consider yourself an introvert? How do you help yourself shine, and what advice do you have for other introverts — especially those in creative fields that require a lot of promotion or extroverted behaviors?
Most people are introverts. If you’re an introvert, being around (most) people slowly drains your battery. So, be efficient with your energy. It’s ok to leave a group hangout and go for a quick solo walk. De-stimulate.
Do you have a daily practice of creativity that helps you with depression/anxiety? What advice do you have for someone looking to develop their own daily practice?
I’m hypersensitive, so I try to dose out stimulation. Whether it be the phone, tv, caffeine, booze, etc. — anything that gives me a boost must be paid for on the other end. Yin and yang. Once I hit hyperstimulation, I’m in a bad place and it takes longer to climb out of it.
Everyone wages a war against stimulation, whether it’s consciously or subconsciously.
How has living in these COVID times changed your creative and mental health processes?
I’m a more efficient human and I say ‘no’ to things more often now.
What is the biggest takeaway you hope someone gets from your music, your art, your book or your podcast?
The brain is weird. It will probably attack you at some point, and just know that’s part of having a brain. Everyone wobbles, even the seemingly, immortally, confident people. Hopefully, this book will make you laugh at how funny anxiety and depression can be often times.
Brett Newski will perform at Zanzabar on Wednesday, Feb. 9 with Red Wanting Blue. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $13. Get them here.