Heroes. We all have them: people we admire and respect; people who inspire us. For Joe Taylor, a seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter from London, it was his best friend, whose strength and courage in a battle with mental health inspired him to write his latest single.

‘Hero,’ which debuted in early February, is Joe’s message to his best friend, Freddie, who has been in hospital struggling with a physical illness since last year. Doctors were initially unable to identify the cause of the illness, but he was recently transferred to a hospital specialising in mental health once they determined that the physical effects were triggered by mental health problems.

Like for so many young people, the arrival of the pandemic and the restrictions brought about as a result, only served to exacerbate these issues. “He hasn’t been in the greatest place…and lockdown made it worse,” Joe said, going on to describe how he wanted to find a way to support and help his friend, but struggled to do so. “I didn’t really know what to say so I just put it all into this song.”

Originally, Joe had not intended to release the song – it was purely a tribute to his friend; something to express that he would always be there for him, no matter what. Freddie had no idea that it was going to be professionally produced and recorded and was very pleasantly surprised when Joe played it to him. “He loved it,” stated Joe, “he told me I had to release it.”

The importance of the song’s message cannot go understated: poignant, candid and beautifully written, it is a reminder that however you are feeling is valid and accepted. “Mental health is so important and crucial right now. Everyone needs to hear they’re not alone” Joe expressed when asked what he wanted people to feel when listening. Although it is mainly aimed at teenagers – since Joe is one himself and can easily connect with that audience – the song can resonate with a wide range of people, who themselves have struggled or seen a loved one struggle with feelings of hopelessness and isolation through this difficult time.

“The reason I got into writing music is because I wanted a lot of people to relate,” said Joe, who started playing guitar when he was just six years old. For him, music is an outlet; a way to convey what you can’t always put into words and he hoped to share these feelings with the rest of the world. “The most important thing about song writing is it’s a message and it’s a thing that people across the world can connect with.” Especially on a topic as significant as mental health, raising awareness and standing in solidarity with those who are suffering is extremely important, and ‘Hero’ does just that.

In order to further support his friend, and others in similar positions, Joe made the decision to donate all of the song’s proceeds to Mind, a British mental health charity that ‘(provides) advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.’ Despite being an unsigned artist, Joe has received a tremendous response to the song, with it having reached over 7000 streams on Spotify. Alongside this, he has donated a lot of his own money – a demonstration of how passionate he is about this cause.

With the distance put between us all through lockdown, it is more vital than ever to look after our mental health and to reach out to the heroes in our everyday lives: our friends, parents or grandparents, and remind them just how much they inspire us.

By Aashi Shah