Charity album featuring KT Tunstall set to raise funds for Samaritans

Tunstall and James Morrison among British artists featured on Songs to Save a Life, highlighting awareness of the support provided by the Samaritans charity

A group of British artists have come together to make a charity album in aid of Samaritans. Songs to Save a Life is a collection of original tracks and covers recorded by, among others, KT Tunstall, James Morrison, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Ed Harcourt.

The album is the brainchild of musician/producer Richard Cardwell. Having travelled with Annie Lennox as her musical director, Cardwell said he felt inspired by the work she does in Africa for HIV sufferers to "give something back" by founding the organisation Songs to Save a Life. After a chance encounter with Tony Maidment, a Samaritans volunteer, he decided the first project would be an album to both raise money for and boost awareness of the charity. It seemed like a natural choice. "Many people I know – family members and musicians I have worked with through the years – have suffered from depression," Cardwell said.

According to research by, people working in the arts came fifth in the top 10 list of professions with the highest rate of depression, with around 9% of them reporting a major depressive episode in the previous year . Cardwell thinks the high rate among musicians is due to the professional uncertainty and the lifestyle as well as, in many cases, a heightened emotional sensitivity. Yet, he says, people in the arts are also more comfortable talking about depression. He praised the artists for agreeing to lend their voices, not only for the record but also to the debate on mental health.

Brook X, who fronts Queen Orlenes, one of the acts involved, described her battle with depression. "It was something I struggled with from the age of maybe 12 or 13. It was like a dark cloud following me wherever I went. If a Samaritans helpline was offered to me back then I'd have been on the phone in a flash."

The project is also very close to James Morrison's heart. As he was growing up he watched his parents suffering heavily with depression, and said he didn't know what to do. "I think just having someone to talk to – what can I do to help, or what can I do to get out of this situation, or some advice in general – would have helped me to be able to know what to expect some days," he said. "I think Samaritans is an amazing charity. It's easy to see what a good job they do."

Every year, Samaritans' 24-hour-a-day hotline receives five million calls for help – that's one every five seconds. Every 60 seconds they get a call from someone feeling suicidal (around 6,000 people kill themselves every year – more than the number killed in road traffic accidents). A recent survey by the organisation showed calls about financial, employment, housing and debt worries are on the increase. With the unemployed being two to three times more likely to kill themselves than those in employment, the need for support is vital. The charity has 18,500 volunteers and is reliant on public donations, as it costs £10m a year to run and less than 2% of its funding comes from the government.

Describing the reason for her involvement, Tunstall says: "Samaritans' existence is so vital to aid those in desperate need of someone to talk to. And music, too, can be a route out of places too dark to stay." The healing powers of music was illustrated in a recent study of depression treatment by Finland's University of Jyväskylä, which found that patients receiving music therapy showed a greater improvement in scores of anxiety and depression than those receiving standard therapy.

Cardwell says each song included on the album was selected extremely carefully. The artists on the album chose songs inspired by the work the charity does, including David Bowie's Changes covered by Morrison, Simple Minds' Don't You (Forget About Me) covered by Tunstall and Bill Fay's Be Not So Fearful covered by Harcourt.

Everyone involved with the album has given their time for free and all profits go to Samaritans. Catherine Johnstone, the charity's chief executive said: "By buying this album you could help us to save lives."

• Songs to Save a Life is released on Monday 3 October and is available to pre-order now for £5.99 on, where you can also sample the album and watch videos of the artists talking about their involvement, as well as iTunes and Amazon.

• For more info on Samaritans or to book a face-to-face appointment with a Samaritan visit Confidential support is also available by phoning 08457 90 90 90 or emailing


Helienne Lindvall

The GuardianTramp

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