Singer/Songwriter With Bipolar Disorder Makes Album With Help From Kalamazoo Musicians

Jul 27, 2017

Credit Fran Dwight

Imagine living with a disease for years without knowing that you have it. That’s what happened to Kalamazoo singer/songwriter Brian Koenigsknecht

The cover for the new album. The art featured is called "Child with Bull" by Newaygo artist Lance Moon.
Credit Lance Moon

Last year - in his 40s - he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings.

He'll play at Craft Draft 2 Go on Stadium Drive on Friday, July 28th at 8 p.m.

“I’d thought I just felt things heavier sometimes or that I was an artist. So I’d just get through it," says Koenigsknecht.

"And this past year was really tough, my dad had a stroke and I was having difficulty in my marriage. And just really struggling with a lot of things - with the election and climate change, I mean everything.” 

Around that same time, Koenigsknecht was making a new album - which is out now. It’s called “From the Shallows to the Deep.” He says he didn’t notice it at first, but all of the songs have something in common.

“I started putting it together for the album and I looked across and it was this common theme of different emotions. And I was like oh my gosh this - if I just read the lyrics - that it was really the story of my dealing with depression.”

Koenigsknecht describes bipolar disorder and extreme highs and lows: 

“I would be up and you have lots of energy and you want to do everything. And you feel very positive about it and that you’re good enough to do it. And then - it may happen over a long course of time or a short course of time - where all of the sudden you don’t feel good enough."

Facing His Dad's Stroke

Koenigsknecht says it was hard for him to continue on as a musician. He says he felt selfish making art while his dad was in recovery.

“It made me want to give it up, but then I realized that some of my best memories I had are playing music with my dad. We would play in churches and festivals. I’m the oldest of four and all of us played together with him,” says Koenigsknecht.

Koenigsknecht says his dad would often play instrumentals of folk songs at their Catholic church. 

Producing The New Album

How could Koenigsknecht produce this new album at such a difficult time in his life? He says it was his local musician friends that gave him the last push he needed.

“I almost didn’t finish the project and then I talked to somebody about it - an artist who’s on it, Megan Dooley - and she said no, you need to do this. There are people that will sing on it with you and help you finish it," Koenigsknecht explains.

He says, as a result, the album came out more beautiful and brighter than he had expected.

There are a total of 12 collaborators on "From the Shallows to the Deep" - including Megan Dooley and other local singer/songwriters you might recognize like Samantha Cooper, Carrie McFerrin, and Mechele Peters. His band-mates from his other project, Pillar to Post, are on the album too - Brad Frank and Jason Huber. 

Koenigsknecht says things are better now. His dad is recovering well from the stroke. And as for the album, he calls it his best work yet.

“It was very rewarding and saved me in a lot of ways - saved my music, saved my family, my everything," he says. "And whether it gets heard by a few people or a lot of people, that’s why it’s really a success to me.”

Brian Koenigsknecht will play Friday, July 28th at 8 p.m. at Craft Draft 2 Go on Stadium Drive. He also has a show on Sunday, August 6th at Harvey’s on the Mall at 2 p.m.