Each year, the government’s Arts Unit hosts The Boys’ Vocal Program which promotes wellbeing among NSW schoolboys through music. Over the course, students from Years 5-12 and teachers work on vocal warm-ups, vocal techniques, ensemble singing, filming a clip and developing a harmonised repertoire.
This year, a song by 16-year-old country artist, Rory Phillips was selected for the program. Because Boys was co-written with Ashleigh Dallas and Freddie Bailey and produced by Roger Corbett from The Bushwackers.
The Americana and blues-infused track takes a look at the struggles boys and young men have in talking about their feelings and addresses the need to break down those walls. It's an insightful song from such a young artist, which shines a light on mental health.
"If [the song] does even as much as just make one person feel better or even, God forbid, save one life, it shouldn't have to, but if it does, it's mission accomplished," he told ABC News.
“The song has men’s health and mental health focuses around it, that was how the song was intended to be from the outset. It happened from having two young boys sitting in the co-write, it’s a big part of culture being a young man in today’s society, I thought it’s something if we wrote a song about, it would really resonate with people,” he added. “That’s what we set out to do and I think with The Arts Unit picking up the song, I think we’ve achieved our goal.”
“I think it’s so refreshing to watch a young artist be confident to share and convey the important message within this song which is all a positive step in the right direction towards change and removing the stigma,” Dallas, who co-wrote the song in 2021, added. “I am really proud of Rory, the artist he is developing into and sharing this song while embracing his own strength in sharing his vulnerability and shining a light on the importance of talking to others about how you feel.”
2022 Toyota Star Maker winner, Max Jackson, echoed Dallas’ words. “I was about 25 when I first started talking about my own mental health journey on stage. The really cool thing about Rory putting this song out now, when he is so young, is that he’s able to share such an important message at a time when it’s needed most, when young people are in the thick of growing up, working out who they are and navigating mountains of ever-changing emotion… and messages are always best received from someone who we feel understands. Young men will hear this song from Rory and take it like a high five from a mate, rather than a lesson from a teacher.”
Phillips dedicated Because Boys to a young friend sadly lost to suicide in 2019.
“I’d often wondered if he’d still be here if he’d only reached out and spoken to someone. We don’t like to do that (us boys), but we should. There’s no shame in saying that you’re struggling and if this song helps just one young bloke to speak up, then I’ll be happy.”
"It's something that should be talked about, and I think society agrees that it should be talked about, but somehow still nobody does. It's still a bit taboo."
Research from Beyond Blue shows boys are less likely to seek professional help for mental health issues, with only 13% of boys reaching out compared to 31% of girls.
"I've seen it – people's feelings being suppressed because you're a man and you're not supposed to talk about these things, that's not what men do. That kind of toxic mindset," he said. "It's what people say at school – 'Oh that's weak, don't talk about your feelings.'"
“For whatever reason, the way evolution and the way things have happened with men, once upon a time that whole machos stigma which is still very much there but I do feel like the paradigm is shifting that men are starting to talk more, they're starting to open up more and I think sometimes it takes people in the public eye to say, ‘it's okay if you're struggling,’” Cornell said. “Let people know what's going on because we know worst case scenario what happens when both men and women feel like they've got no other answer.”
“Maybe, as men, we’re guilty a bit of that in the past making fun of your mate if he shows a bit of weakness [or] more vulnerability. It's part of our culture, especially Aussie males, that have a go and rib each other," Brand added. “When you feel like you mate who you're going to open up to will take it the right way and will support you through it, we will open up more and that's what's beginning to happen.”
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