Fame, Creativity, and Mental Health

Alex Ebert may be best known as the lead singer and songwriter of Grammy Award-winning indie-rock band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the frontman of art-rock group Ima Robot, and a composer who won a Golden Globe for his score for the 2013 film All is Lost but his interests and creative endeavors extend far beyond his bands; he’s also a fledgling philosopher, app creator, author, and philanthropist. Nature’s Grace and Wellness Coordinator and Field Market Associate Alia Reichert recently had the privilege to Spark the Conversation with Ebert to learn more about his perspective on cannabis, fame, creativity, and mental health.

Alia Reichert: Where do you get your song ideas? Does your songwriting act as a kind of therapy for you?

Alex Ebert: If we’re talking about music and melody it can come from anywhere at any time. If we’re talking about lyrics, which are more personal, they usually come when I’m going through something.

AR: Is cannabis part of your creative process? If so, how does it help?

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Peoria Riverfront, 2016
Courtesy Alia Reichert

AE: For sure, it’s easily the most musical substance I’ve ever encountered. Nothing like it. It works with all of the arts, but music especially, in my experience—it begs music out of me.

AR: What is your go to method for consumption?

AE: Pax Vaporizer.

AR: Is there a specific strain that you find helps the most, with either creativity or your mental health?

AE: No, it really depends. The most important part is just that it’s clean and well grown.

AR: How does being considered famous impact your overall sense of well-being and mental health?

AE: Terribly. It erodes trust. You simply will never know to what extent your fame is playing a role in attracting friendship or lovers, nor even the degree to which your family puts up with you for it. No aspect of my relationships have been untouched by it.

AR: How do you combat the negative aspects of fame and life in general?

AE: I think. I analyze society, and what makes us tick. I write. Then I think more and write more. I make music. I channel it all into something.

AR: The last 2.5 years have been tough on us all. Dealing with the pandemic, job loss, deaths of loved ones, and lack of social interactions has caused many people’s mental health challenges to increase. How have you dealt with your own mental health challenges? What tools do you use to help, and how has your creative process and view on fame changed during this time?

AE: I think exercise is number one, sleep is number two, sunshine is number three, diet is number four, and creativity is number five. If I do those five things it doesn’t matter what’s happening, I’ll be good. I’ll be squealing and dancing around and feeling like I’m actually living. I think that’s the most difficult thing to even feel like you’re doing these days, just living. We’re so attached to our phone—tunnel visioned in digital worlds—that we can truly miss out on life itself. Don’t miss out on life.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) Toronto, 2015
Courtesy Alia Reichert

AR: What have you learned from any previous mental health challenges that have helped you persevere?

AE: The number one thing for me in overcoming all of my mental health stuff has been confronting death. All of my anxiety can be traced down to a fear of death. Social anxiety, status anxiety. . . all of these things are a fear of exile, which our bodies translate as a fear of death. That’s why when we get embarrassed we have actual adrenaline pumping through our bodies making our faces blush. The same substance that kicks through our bodies when we are afraid we’re going to die or in the midst of some sort of competition. So, really, just calmly confronting my own mortality and incorporating it into my thoughts has given me immense liberation.

AR: Do you have any new music or upcoming tours or other works we should check out? Where can we find them?

AE: Nope nothing at all. You can find me on my Substack or on Instagram.

AR: Lastly, do you have a mindful message you’d like to share that helps you spark your day?

AE: Success is not in the repetitions of you, but in the successions of you. Feel free to try something new.

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