Following on from our popular interview with singer-songwriter Emily Maguire in 2014, we caught up with Emily to talk about her most recent work.

Singer-songwriter Emily Maguire

Can you give us an overview of what you've been up to since we spoke to you in May 2014?

For much of the time, I've actually been unwell. In 2014, I got chronic tendonitis in both arms following an intensive tour of Germany and was unable to play my instruments for 18 months. This was devastating as music is my life and it triggered a severe depressive episode that lasted for about a year.

I couldn't do anything - couldn't do any gigs, couldn't write songs, couldn't even listen to any music. I got completely lost inside myself. It was a nightmare.

In 2016, I finally started playing music again and got my life back on track. I've now just published my second book Notes From The North Pole and have a new album A Bit Of Blue, which will be released on 24 February 2017.

What made you want to write your book at this time in your life?

I guess I felt like I'd been on a journey. I'd gone to hell and back and I wanted to share some of the thoughts and feelings I had on surviving that. In 2015, my cousin had said to me that she wasn't surprised I was going mad as I wasn't doing anything creative. So I started writing a poem a day.

Every morning after my meditation practice, I'd sit down with a coffee and spend five minutes writing a poem - no rhymes, just stream-of-consciousness off the top of my head. That helped enormously. A lot of those poems ended up in Notes From The North Pole.

How did you choose which lyrics and poetry to include in your book?

My first book Start Over Again, which I published six years ago, included some very personal diary entries but this new book is simply a collection of writing. I had a lot of material to sift through. I was looking for connections between pieces of poetry, prose and song lyrics to take the reader on a journey of the mind. The prose in the book is all taken from my journals.

The title Notes From The North Pole is a pun on bipolar - I imagined the North Pole as being the depressive end of the cycle. I chose pieces of writing that conveyed the thoughts and feelings I have about being bipolar and, above all, being someone determined to make the most of the life that I have.

What kind of themes are you focusing on with your new music?

It's three years since we released my last album Bird Inside A Cage (which included the song Over The Waterfall - the most direct song I've ever written about being bipolar). We knew we wanted to call this new record A Bit Of Blue and we knew we wanted the songs to be stripped bare, haunting and as beautiful as they could possibly be.

I wanted to say that even in the midst of suffering, there is hope, there is potential, there is even joy. That a bit of blue is sometimes a good thing: to make you think, reassess, to change direction, find some freedom in this crazy world we live in. The music video for the first single For Free has been shared far and wide now and the song is getting airplay on BBC radio around the country. In all the craziness of this time, For Free is my song to the world.

What are your plans for 2017? Will you be touring?

I'm touring the UK for the first six months of 2017 and then doing a tour of Germany and possibly Italy in the autumn. I can't tell you how fantastic it feels to be playing music again and able to do gigs. We played some pubs and clubs last autumn to help me get my confidence back and now this year we'll be back in the arts centres I was playing before I got ill.

We had to cancel a whole tour in 2015 and I was worried people might have lost interest, but when we launched our fan-funding campaign for A Bit Of Blue last year we were inundated with support. It was so lovely to realise that although I might have disappeared for a while, I hadn't been forgotten.

I'll also be doing more gigs this year for mental health hospitals and groups around the country. I did a hospital tour last year, which was challenging but incredibly rewarding.

Do you have a message for other people who also have a diagnosis of bipolar?

I've come to realise that all this energy in my head is something precious, something I can transform into creativity if I choose to. I can't change the fact I have bipolar disorder but I can change how I deal with it. Having a creative outlet, no matter what it is, I think is the most important thing.

I've recently become a patron of the Oxfordshire mental health charity Restore. They do fantastic work with people recovering from mental illness, providing the opportunity to get creative in a safe and supportive environment. Arts, craft, music, writing, gardening...all these things work wonders on the mind.

The main thing, however, is to keep going, through all the highs and lows, not to give up. That's the message of my song Keep Walking, which was used by the Defeat Depression campaign in Canada. I make the most of the times when I am well and try to regard the bad times not only as temporary but also as the manure for my creativity. If out of that I can write a song that helps others, then it was all worth it.

You can find out more about Emily Maguire and her upcoming tour at www.emilymaguire.com