I often say music is a powerful tool. It’s a catalyst to change and promotes healing, empowerment, happiness and so much more. It helps us cope with daily struggles and cherish beautiful moments. The power music carries is often on an intangible level, though, affecting us on an emotional level. There are some cases, however, where listening to or supporting music makes an immediate impact on society. Such is the case for the band Olden Yolk, spearheaded by musician Shane Butler.
Butler, also associated with psychedelic band Quilt, started Olden Yolk as another platform to explore and experiment with music as a means to express himself. His music has roots in traditional folk, but Butler expands on the classic features of this genre to push the limits of its characteristics to create something truly unique.
There is a lot of ambition in Butler’s work, and undoubtedly a lot of trial and error. In addition to creating new and interesting music, Butler also uses music to support better treatment of mental illness.
In his song “Beige Flowers,” released Feb. 9, Butler talks about his mother’s experience with mental illness. The song, he notes, was written in 2013 after an odd remark by his mother about her future death. Shortly after recording the song, Butler’s mother ended her own life after several months of depression, anxiety and hospitalization.
Butler admitted that he never imagined his mother would take her own life. He wrote that she was a strong and calm person who persevered through many struggles. But, like many in her position, she did not divulge the extent of her depression to others for fear of seeming weak.
In a personal statement on his Bandcamp page, Butler spoke about the stigmas surrounding mental illness. More often than not, we as a society don’t realize how detrimental mental illness can be until it’s too late. Those with mental illnesses aren’t told to be wary of symptoms such as individuals with physical diseases are, and the stigmas surrounding mental illness often portray those who suffer from it as weak or unable to deal with reality. Real progress for supporting mental health is often shrouded by secrecy and shame.
After his mother’s death, Butler shelved “Beige Flowers,” stating that it felt “too real” to release.
“But conversation is where real change can begin,” Butler wrote.
After four years, Butler has released his song with a powerful message and an even more powerful call to action. All proceeds from “Beige Flowers” will benefit the nonprofit organization Bring Change 2 Mind. This organization not only helps those with mental illness, but it also tackles the stigmas surrounding it.
By starting his own conversation about mental illness, Butler’s song highlights the tragedy of loss and the necessity to reach out to loved ones.
For more information about Butler, his mother or to listen to or purchase “Beige Flowers” visit Olden Yolk’s Bandcamp page here.