The Gazette: Western alumnus finds peace of mind in music

by Emily McWilliams | originally published at The Gazette

On his sophomore album Now and Then, Western alumni Paul Federici reflects on the changes and struggles that inspired many of his new songs.

Federici graduated from Western in 2001 and worked for many years managing a crisis network for people with mental health issues. When it came to battling his own experiences with mental health, Federici turned to his guitar and songwriting for help.

“It was one of the few things that really helped clear my mind. I’d always had this really strong connection with music and songwriting, and always used songwriting as a personal sort of thing. I’d always been self-reflective with it,” Federici says.

Soon Federici’s personal music therapy re-launched his career; he gave up his role as a mental health counselor to pursue music full-time. Since bringing music back into his life in an effort to explore some of his personal issues, Federici has successfully recorded two albums and received recognition in the Canadian music scene.

“When I found myself in that very bad spot songwriting gave me hope again — it made me feel good and gave me a sense of purpose to try to do something bigger like try to record my first record. It was sort of a journey for me because I’d always had these anxiety issues around performing. By putting myself back into that area where I was uncomfortable it helped me grow and get past those issues.”

Once rarely talked about due to the stigma associated with it, mental health prevention and awareness has now been receiving a lot of recognition on campus and across the country. As someone who has worked professionally as a mental health counselor and experienced mental health issues personally, Federici encourages students who also may be struggling to reach out to people for help.

“As a counsellor and a musician I think one of the best things you can do is be open and talk about it. I remember I used to stay very quiet about it. Just realize that there are a lot of other people who are struggling.”

The arts and music helped Federici immensely when it came to communicating his experiences with mental health and bringing attention to this cause. Now and Then is a testament to that journey, with songs like “Sail On” that encourage listeners to work through their own problems. With the successful completion of Now and Then, Federici can focus on the bright future he has ahead of him as he tours with songs from his new album.

“[I’m going to…] just keep pushing myself artistically and try to establish myself as an artist and be recognized in Canada and just keep growing. That’s a big thing for me — I want to keep writing better songs and keep putting out better records and just keep learning as I go.”

Now and Then is available for purchase on iTunes. Paul will be playing at the London Music Hall October 4 at 9 p.m.