Years & Years have covered Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” for Torch Songs, a new campaign launched by CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably, a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide) to celebrate the therapeutic power of music. “Men especially can find it hard to speak up when things get tough, but Torch Songs shows it’s not unusual to struggle sometimes,” CALM write on the Torch Songs website. The cover was released on Saturday (November 19) to mark International Men’s Day.
Years & Years singer Olly Alexander launched the campaign by discussing the personal importance of Mitchell’s music. “At thirteen I taught myself piano from an old song book and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ was the first song I learned,” he said, “That’s the reason I chose to cover the song... I love how she’s so vulnerable, she sounds so wise and poetic and exposed. I really believe that she’s lived, been hurt and still figuring it all out. I take a lot of comfort from that. It always feels like a thump in the chest at the end of the song when she sings ‘I really don't know life at all.’ It’s a brave line, it’s sad but it also feels hopeful to me. There’s always something new to be discovered.”
Torch Songs is being championed by BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens, and will see other artists including The Vaccines and Twin Atlantic contribute their own covers to the campaign, which will continue into 2017. “The songs strike the right note; give you hope; remind you of the possibilities; remind you you're not alone. We launch Torch Songs with some spectacular talents sharing their intimate Torch Songs with us – it’s a great way to get people talking about talking,” Stephens says in a press release. James Scroggs, chair of CALM’s and creator of Torch Songs, adds: “It’s normal for all of us to encounter tough times. We also know music is a universally powerful tool to lift the spirits. So we hope Torch Songs provides the inspiration men need to find a way through.”
Olly Alexander is very outspoken on mental health issues, having previously discussed his own experiences and what the music industry can do for those facing struggles to help break the stigma surrounding mental health.
Watch a video interview with Alexander discussing the song and campaign above, and listen to the full cover below.