Using My Anxiety To Create Beautiful Pop Tunes!

My first grade photo

If there are 2 things that have been a constant in my life, they are my love of music and my struggle to overcome anxiety. I was born into a very loving Portuguese immigrant home, the youngest of four children. And, my parents were very excited to have a son after 3 daughters. It’s not that they didn’t want girls, but my father was thrilled to have someone to carry on the family name.

I excelled in elementary school, reading at a 4th grade level in the 1st grade and I was a friendly and popular kid. But, I was always “on edge”. I don’t know how else to explain it. It felt as if I was going to be “found out”. About what, I didn’t know. There was no trauma. No abuse. Only happy memories with a huge extended family. Yet I felt stalked by an undefinable fear of something. Maybe fear isn’t the right word. Perhaps unease is better. Yeah, unease. But, for what?

Me at 14 (Look at ALL that hair! 🙂

This general sense of unease continued in Jr. High, High School and College. And also as an adult, when I started singing in various groups and bands. It was only when I realized and accepted that I was gay that it dawned on me what I was afraid of. What I was going to be “found out” about. But even after coming out to my family and friends and luckily being accepted and loved, there was still a sense of dread. Even after the weight of being closeted was lifted, I still felt this way. I thought it was just a normal part of living to feel like this. It finally came to a head in my mid-thirties when I decided that this was not normal, and got help via counseling. Only then did I realize that I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I lived with it for over thirty years not realizing that there was something I could do about it. Now, I am much more aware of what triggers the anxiety, I am taking medication to treat it and I feel so much better than I ever have! It is still there but much more controlled and much less severe

Me at 19.

Music was and is also a huge part of my life! My Mother had a beautiful voice! She was always singing as she worked around the house. My Dad played guitar and violin and sang as well. I loved listening to him play and sing Portuguese songs. We would listen to Fado (Portuguese folk) records, which oozed melancholy and had beautiful, sad melodies. I didn’t understand the lyrics but I knew each singer was heartbroken or, in some way, in despair. I was also constantly listening to AM pop music on 77 WABC radio in New York City. It was an eclectic playlist of pop, rock, soul and even some country. I soaked in those sounds and words and they became a part of my being.

When I began singing and then writing my own songs, all these influences seeped into my creativity. So did my anxiety and the struggle to overcome it. I couldn’t help but write about it because it was, and still is, my truth. And, if I truly want to be an artist, that truth must be expressed. 

There are 3 songs, in particular, that are perfect examples of these life influences becoming part of the song.

Let’s start with the oldest song “Losing Yesterday”. It’s probably the most direct lyric of dealing with undefined anxieties and thinking that ignoring or denying them is the best (and by best, I mean worst) way to deal with them. The singer is desperate to let go of all these triggers that shake him to his core. The problem is they MUST be dealt with to overcome them. I also contrasted the troubled lyrics with a bright cheery sounding melody. Some of my favorite songs do this.

The smell of roses makes me wild 

The sound of bees alone can make me cry just like a child

I can’t explain it. But, all my fears are more than mild 

Goodbye yesterday. I’ve got to throw my past away

The ghosts lead me astray. So, I’m losing yesterday”

The next song is “She Walks Away”. A song about being trapped in a desperate situation without seeing any way out. In this case it is a poor guy who has been dumped by his girlfriend. All he has left is a video of their time together. In the video, she gets up and walks away. He is forever replaying this “movie” and trying to imagine her returning but it never happens. This one makes me quite happy because it won a National songwriting contest.

“I am alone. Sitting on the couch. I keep on playing this worn out video

And she’s the star! With eyes that melt your soul. 

They keep on saying “I know who you are” 

Her face is sunshine for the day 

But in the final scene, the blue sky fades to gray 

She walks away and breaks my heart 

Every time I press rewind and play this movie from the start

I’m pretending there’s an ending where she decides to stay

But, she walks away!”

The final song is about being inspired by young people to overcome crippling doubts in your life and renewing your commitment to climbing that metaphorical “Mountain” we all face. It’s called “Fine Young People (Living Life)”. This is the song that got me out of a difficult time and got me back in the studio to complete and release my first CD “See The World”!

Now I look at the fine young people. They blow my mind!

Here I go. My mountain will be climbed 

I’m on my way. I’m doing fine.

I’m living life again. I’m living life!

No more delay. No killing time.

I’m living life again. I’m living life!”

I hope you enjoyed this deeper dive behind the lyrics and music and what inspired them! I hope it inspires you, in some small way to overcome anxiety and doubts and to live your best life!


  • Pamela Lawless "Pam" says:

    I loved all three of your songs. I love to hear more.I responded to you and I never got a response until now.I know you are busy .I am so glad that you have reached out to me. You live your life to the fullest.I ‘m glad you told me where you are from.I’m from Kentucky. I live in the country I have been a country girl all of my life.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Thanks so much, Pam!! I think we have spoken via email in the past. Always great to hear from you!! I hope you’re enjoying my music! Wishing you all the best!!

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