The is the song that’s gonna save my life, as I scrape for sanity, sings Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan in the opening verse of his acoustic ballad “This Is the Song.”
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In honor and support of Mental Health Awareness Month, McKagan reveals some of his own personal struggles with mental health on the track. The song is one part of his three-track EP This Is the Song.
“‘This Is the Song’ was written in the middle of a panic attack,” shared McKagan of the song in a statement. “I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t see straight, and lately, I have thankfully found my acoustic guitar as a refuge. If I just hold on to that guitar, play chords, and hum melodies, I can start to climb my way out of that hole.”
This is McKagan’s first new music in four years since. It follows his second solo album Tenderness, which was produced by Shooter Jennings, and his 2015 book How to Be a Man (And Other Illusions). Tenderness also navigated heavy subject matter, from addiction (“Falling Down,” “Cold Outside”) to mass shootings in “Parkland,” addressing the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and more.
The album even gained some praise from Bob Dylan, who recently referenced McKagan’s track “Chip Away” as a song that had “profound meaning” for him.
“It’s a graphic song,” said Dylan of the track in his interview with Wall Street Journal. “Chip away, chip away, like Michelangelo, breaking up solid marble stone to discover the form of King David inside. He didn’t build him from the ground up, he chipped away the stone until he discovered the king. It’s like my own songwriting, I overwrite something, then I chip away lines and phrases until I get to the real thing.”
For McKagan, “This Is the Song” breaches something more vulnerable, along with the EP’s more soulful “It Can’t Come Too Soon,” featuring singer/songwriter and educator Shaina Sheperd, and “Pass Me By,” inspired by his interaction with a gun-toting woman during a motorcycle trek through the Cascade Mountains.
In the video for “This Is the Song,” McKagan is seen playing in front of a screen flashing through the raw lyrics, further illustrating the paralysis often felt around mental struggles — Tried Lexapro / And what else, I don’t know / But still they can’t agree and urges Come along … Come along with me / This is the song that’s gonna save my life / It’s gonna set me free.
At the bottom of the video, McKagan also urges listeners to “take action for mental health causes” via the mental health awareness campaign Propeller.
“For those of you who have never experienced something like this, count yourselves blessed,” said McKagan. “To those of you who recognize what I am talking about: You Are Not Alone.”
Photo: Charles Peterson / Courtesy of Big Hassle PR