SHE’S just 23 years of age but speaks like someone much older and wiser.
Perhaps that’s because singer-songwriter Ruth Brosnan has been through so much and now, through her music, wants to reach out to others and offer words of encouragement during times of sadness and grief.
Her recently released debut single, a beautiful song, passionately sung, contains a spoken word passage that includes the lines:
Her message is partly directed towards young people who are negatively influenced by the ‘perfect’ lives depicted on social media.
“It’s not real, it’s fake,”says Ruth. “People need to accept themselves for who they are and that’s really hard to do. We crave acceptance from others and feel an enormous amount of pressure. But we’re good enough and that’s a great place to start; we’re ALL good enough. It’s a starting point,” she adds, hoping the song will open up discussion about positive mental health.
Ruth, daughter of Cllr Tim Brosnan, has lost a number of friends to suicide and most harrowing of all, her mother, Mairéad, a secondary school teacher, who died by suicide in November, 2010, when Ruth was 14 and in her Junior Cert year. Her sister Susan Kate was in Leaving Cert.
“Mum stayed home sick from school that day but was up in the morning to say, ‘Enjoy your day, have a good day’ to us as we left for school. You just don’t know what’s going on in someone’s head. A lot of people who are the saddest shine the brightest,” reflects Ruth.
“Dad collected us and we came in from school. I found her in the kitchen. Your world just falls apart. It’s the worst pain ever. I went through a very tough time afterwards. It was very tough for the family, it’s just awful. We were all mad about her.”
Ruth had no inkling that her mother had felt such desperation and wonders if it was “a moment of madness”.
“It was so out of the blue. She was so selfless and she was always smiling and always positive. She was very active, cooking our dinners, bringing us everywhere. She was the PRO for our camogie club. She was so positive and encouraging. She was always helping people. A lot of her students came up to me afterwards telling me she was always fighting for the students. She had a special effect on people. She made people feel good about themselves. There would have been students in her school that would have committed suicide and she was so against it. That’s the scary thing”, says Ruth, trying to find meaning in something that can never be explained.
“She had battled breast cancer for seven years and she’d had the all-clear. Was she paranoid herself that it was coming back?
She was supposed to come off medication that summer but had been told to stay on it as a precaution. Medication can exhaust you; you’d be so looking forward to coming off it.”
Eight years down the track, Ruth has some advice for others suffering similar heartbreak.
“I would say to anyone who has lost someone, there’s brilliant help out there. Time doesn’t heal; the pain never goes away, but you learn how to cope. People who are suffering now, they WILL feel happy again. It’s all about support really. My way of coping and healing was through music.”
Ruth completed a BA in Popular Music at CIT Cork School of Music where she graduated with First Class Honours in May, 2018. It’s clear that she absolutely loved her time there.
“It is such a positive environment. Everyone is so ambitious but everyone is helping each other. The lecturers are so encouraging; they’re a bit like your friends. There’s a special connection with the lecturers. There’s something magical about it. And the facilities in there are amazing. There’s a Steinway in every studio … and there are 52 studios! There’s a recording studio as well, and to have all that for free, it’s amazing. It was the best four years of my life.”
Upon the completion of her studies she went to LA for six months on a graduate visa and worked with a label called Love Harmony Records, while on a mission to learn more about the industry.
“I learned about music promotion, open mic nights and making contacts. There are brilliant venues there to get heard and be seen. To build up a career it’s all about online presence. A record label won’t look at you now unless you have that big following.”
While in LA, she entered an online competition called The Great American Song Contest and was chosen as a finalist with her debut single, which she says was a great honour. It was also something for which she has had a lifetime of training.
“I always wanted to be a performer. I did a lot of acting and singing with The Performers in the Firkin Crane with Irene Warren, I had been in The Monforts and I was in the Cork School of Dance with Sinead Murphy. I was in pantos with Bryan Flynn and I’m so delighted I got to work with him. These people were all very influential when I was growing up.”
A video forwas filmed by Epic Productions at Bubble Studios in Douglas and can now be viewed on vevo.com. As well as Ruth singing her heart out, it features several people whose facial expressions seem to go from troubled and sad to strong and happy during the course of the song.
“We had men and women of all shapes and sizes and ages. There’s a woman in the video — she had breast cancer and got the all-clear recently. There were tears and laughter on the day. It was nice having her there. It was almost like my mum was part of it; she was representing my mum in a way.”
Ruth — whose musical influences include Kesha, Katy Perry and Sigrid — has released her single at a time when there is a huge build-up of pressure among students in schools and colleges facing exams.
Resident in Montenotte, her own school days were spent at Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire, before transferring to Bruce College on Patrick’s Hill for the final two years.
“There’s a huge amount of pressure on kids. They have to learn off a huge amount. Do your best, that’s all you can do,” she advises.
In the press release for her single she invites everyone to take comfort in her song: “Mental health and wellness are really important and I want to increase awareness. I think my song and video have a very important message and I think if younger people particularly had this song/video on their phone to listen to and to watch, it might encourage them to think before they act. It could be a resource for people, as sometimes we don’t talk but we look and listen.” Meanwhile, on her Facebook page she says: “I hope when you hear it and watch the video you will feel good enough and you will feel special.”
Along with her music, Ruth has found another outlet for her own personal wellness.
“Exercise is brilliant, it really does help. I play camogie with Brian Dillons intermediates. I played for Cork growing up — the under 16 minors. It was great to have that when mum passed away. It’s important to get out and socialise and be in fresh air.”
Ruth’s future is looking bright. She has also done a course on special needs and has a strong interest in Music Therapy.
She says: “My passion is writing music and connecting with people but I would like to go into teaching music too. I’m keeping my options open.”
Any final piece of advice?
“Try to be more gentle with people and with ourselves. And use social media for good.”
The songis available on various different platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, Tidal, Deezer and Apple Music.
Keep up with Ruth on https://www.facebook.com/ruthbrosnanmusic, https://www.instagram.com/ruth_brosnan and https://twitter.com/ruth_brosnan
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, call the Samaritans on their free confidential 24/7 helpline on 116-123.
You can email j o @ s a m a r i t a n s . i e
Or contact Pieta House National Suicide Helpline on 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444.