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I Don't Know if I'd Be Here if Not for Music

26/03/2014 17:07 GMT | Updated 25/05/2014 10:59 BST

I have very few "happy" family memories. The ones I do revolve around music and road trips with us all singing along to the likes of James Taylor.

So when my dad passed away in 2012, I decided to make fantasy a reality and work with the same consummate players who played on those records.

It's a pattern really. You see I've always turned to music in bad times. It's been my best friend and the most reliable form of self-medication since I was a kid. Of course going to live in LA gave me entree to therapists and pharmaceuticals but sitting at the piano still does something nothing else can. It makes me feel good, better than good actually, beautiful, alive, sexy and confident.

The problem was always what happened when I stopped playing when the "good chemistry" stopped being produced and I went back to being "her". The same "her" my mother was when I was a kid until finally, unable to cope any longer with feeling like the "living dead", she committed suicide.

I don't blame her although it just about ruined the rest of my family's lives. I couldn't because I had the same illness even as a child. But I also had music, and that made the difference.

Fortunately for my sister and me, our father was an Opera singer at Royal Opera House Covent Garden for 35 years and as kids we would go to the dress rehearsals just about every Saturday morning. Armed with jam sandwiches we'd sit enthralled through Puccini or Wagner. We didn't care. The overtures made me smile until my face hurt and the music - all star-crossed lovers, consumption and multiple deaths - made me cry until my eyes closed up.

I didn't realise it then but what I was doing was a form of therapy. Something wasn't right with mum and it terrified me, made me ill with stomach aches and bouts of "can I miss school today and be with you?" So when I sat in that audience and was given permission to feel, to really go in deep and let it all go, I did and it was the greatest thing in my life.

Of course I saw how my dad's face lit up when he went to work, sang at the piano, or just listened to music, and not just classical (he was a huge jazz and blues fan). I wanted that, I needed that to survive.

I was also lucky not being forced into music. I'd mimic what I heard my sister play at the piano and fooled everyone into thinking a concert pianist was inside. In actuality, perfect pitch, a finite ear, and a stubborn streak made me both lazy and recalcitrant.

I wanted to write music and sing; not learn other people's music. In truth, it took me about a day to read one line. So the whole theory/fingering/practicing aspect was a bloody nightmare! So I was left to my own devices and happily entered a private world of self-expression.

By the time my mother checked out, I was at that piano night and day. No more cute "ditties" for me; now it was a lifeline.

And one really talks about suicide, hardly in the home anyway, and definitely NOT outside of it. You're in post-traumatic stress, with nowhere to put it. And for Brits, therapy wasn't an option, more a betrayal. And so it carried on, through panic attacks and eating disorders and agoraphobia and mountainous mood swings and appalling boyfriends (I chose them for that reason), and secrets, secrets, secrets.

But so did the music. It all came pouring out in the songs and as long as was playing I was fine. Not just fine, I was a rising star on the London scene. What did it matter? When I went home after a terrific gig, I'd cry for hours and play over in my mind everything I'd screwed up; so scared that someone would see what was really inside...ugliness and illness.

So when I met my husband and followed him to the States, it was for love but also for a second chance at life.

Music made that happen too. He saw me singing and fell for the "healthy" me, I made sure that the plate smashing didn't start until I'd landed on US shores!

So I got help and I got better with each album and it took years of re-learning and un-doing, and it was cathartic and insufferable and I sang about it all. After a while I stopped being "on" all the time and healthy times began to outweigh "her"!

Finally I got to go back to the UK and co-create a show about depression with a fellow sufferer. We played institutions, hospitals and lock-ups, toured theatres, played the Edinburgh festival, and finally took it to London's West End.

The music was the emotional heart, and I got to give an audience of sufferers, and their families, what it had given to me over the years...a voice.

So I've made this up-lifting record "Ebb & Flow", with the guys whom I heard when I was young, riding in the car with my mother and father and my sister Sue. I'm well and I know I'm well because I can feel joyful to my bones, not only when I'm playing but when I stop, and if I'm down it's for a reason and I know it's not forever.

I'm grateful I'm still here; still doing the thing I love the most in life.

Maybe it's having seen my mother's demise that gave me the determination NOT to follow her path, or my father's genetics, or getting the right help and meds.

One thing's for sure...I don't know if I'd be here if not for music, or who I'd be today without it.