Years Years are a dominant presence on UK charts and awards show stages, but the Brit band is familiar even to those who don’t know their discography. That’s mainly thanks to frontman Olly Alexander, who has been a powerful voice in the ongoing struggle to mainstream conversations around mental health, using his platform and experience to speak out on body image, queer identity, and depression. Alexander has now teamed up with the male suicide prevention charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) for its new Torch Songs initiative, which celebrates the power of music to lift us out of life’s dark spots. Alexander’s contribution is a heavenly, heartbreaking take on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” that people all around the world could probably use at this moment in time.
In a behind-the-scenes video, Alexander revealed that the song was the first he ever learned to play on the piano. “I had a chord song book I inherited from my dad,” he says. “This song was the first song in the book. It has always stuck with me since I was about 13, when I started learning to play. I just thought it was a beautiful song and gives you hope for life’s length, and looking back on it with some sort of wisdom but still knowing that you don’t know anything. That’s what you take with you into the future.”
“I feel very lucky to be a songwriter,” he continues. “To have that as something that works for me in terms of processing my emotions and the way I feel about things… I didn’t really have any sort of wider perspective as myself as a songwriter really, I was just making it up as I go along, doing stuff that felt right. That hasn’t changed so much now that Years Years has had some success, but I do feel like it’s an interesting position to be in now that I know that the next stuff we write, some people are going to hear it. I want them to like it, but I also want to keep saying what’s true to myself.”