By Luke Voogt
Damon Smith dives into bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) with New Orleans jazz and contemporary song-writing in his latest show Mental as Everything.
The show, coming to the Potato Shed at 8pm next Thursday and Friday, is a raw and honest exploration of mental illness and living with two widely-misunderstood conditions.
“It’s a musical journey through mental health,” said Smith, who joins fellow muso Adam Coad for the show.
“We do it with good humour and original music.
“One of the things we’re trying to break down is how everyone uses the term OCD to explain how neurotic or meticulously-organised they are.
“People say, ‘I’m so OCD when it comes to my vintage broccoli collections’, or ‘I put all my red pens here and my blue pens there’, or ‘I have to hang up the washing a certain way’.
“I can’t diagnose OCD. But what I say is, ‘if you don’t organise your pegs in a certain order, do you feel like you’re going to die or your family members are going to be hurt?’
“It’s that sense of pending doom.”
If Smith fails to follow certain patterns, he develops a feeling that “I’ll crash the car later” or something will go wrong.
“I do things in threes, sevens and twelves,” he said.
“I wake up and put my shoes and socks on seven times – if I don’t do that I have a really crappy day right off the bat.
“That’s how my brain works every minute of the day. It’s like I’m living with a totalitarian leader.”
But when it comes to “the most magical and unknown things out there” bipolar is “right up the top”, according to Smith.
He experiences bouts of mania, while the other side of the condition can lead to “self-loathing” and “thoughts of suicide that come and go”.
He manages the condition, with medication, for himself, his wife and their eight-year-old daughter.
“To say I manage it completely, and that they don’t see the highs and lows, would be complete and utter lie,” he said.
“My wife is incredibly understanding with what I go through.”
The show, which Smith wrote a few years ago, has no connection to Aussie pop-rock group Mental as Anything.
“But I knew very well when I penned that title people would put two and two together,” he said.
Though he does have an odd connection to lead vocalist Andrew ‘Greedy’ Smith, who he shared a radio interview with over the phone.
“I think he died about two weeks after that,” he said.
Smith debuted the show at Adelaide fringe, where he realised “it was something that audiences wanted to see”.
“More importantly, programmers were very interested in taking on this work,” he said.
“Mental health is at the front of the conversation at the moment.“
But COVID-19 put a premature halt to their tour last year.
“That’s how we got this 2021 tour – the show that we’re doing now is the cancelled tour,” Smith said.
Just like the mania and depression Smith experiences, the show can switch from comedy to absurdity in an instant.
The show invites audiences into his and Coad’s minds for a journey with hilarious onstage buffoonery and songs exploring their diagnosed conditions.
“If I’m not thinking about getting the words right while playing, I’m having a great time,” Smith said.
For help phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.