THE man who taught Ed Sheeran to live loop returns to the Fringe next month with a show about how opening up about mental health helped him recover from suicidal depression.

SK Shlomo’s autobiographical one-man show Surrender sees the acclaimed beatboxer tell his true story of how making his debut album triggered a breakdown, and how, to paraphrase the title of his recent TEDx talk, social media saved him from suicide.

Listed in the Fringe programme in the music section, Surrender uses storytelling, breathtaking mouth skills and tracks from his crowdfunded LP to chart his journey from desolation to good health through the forging of connection with others.

The show marks the first time Shlomo has performed at the Fringe since 2015. In the early 2010s, the Buckinghamshire-born musician (he’s also a classically-trained percussionist and accomplished jazz drummer) was a fixture in Edinburgh, selling out shows every August.

Since coming to global attention in 2004 when Oceania, his collaboration with Bjork, was beamed out to 3.9 billion people around the world, Shlomo has barely stopped to refill his lungs, working with a succession of luminaries from Damon Albarn, Lily Allen and Jarvis Cocker to Imogen Heap, Martha Wainwright and Rudimental.

An artist in residence at London’s Southbank Centre for years, he also founded a programme at Battersea Arts Centre teaching young people to beatbox. Next month, BAC Beatbox Academy, now in their tenth year, bring their award-winning touring show Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster to the Traverse Theatre.

In 2010 Shlomo scored a global first with Scottish Album Of The Year winner Anna Meredith, the pair creating and performing Concerto For Beatboxer and Orchestra, the first ever fully developed orchestral work to feature a beatboxing soloist. The following year, he was flown to Los Angeles where he was crowned World Loopstation Champion; skills which he passed to his friend Ed Sheeran.

“I was in this seemingly perfect whirlwind of constant touring, of living life at a thousand miles an hour, of travelling the world,” Shlomo tells The National, en route to a gig in Bedford.

“But there was a crack in the works I’d been hiding.”

Determined to take a hard peer into that fissure, in 2017 he cleared his diary, cancelling an entire year of forthcoming gigs and appearances.

He set himself a challenge – to write a song every day for a month. In the first five days he wrote five of the tracks which now feature on his excellent, dark and euphoric debut album.

Then things crumbled, his mental ill health necessitating several months of therapy. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he was supported in confronting an experience from childhood.

“Achievement had been my addiction, a way of not looking at things,” he says. “I had told myself it was only by making an album that I was a valid artist. I thought I would lock myself away until I’d written this thing. That was a recipe for a breakdown. Maybe my subconscious was trying to make that happen so I could get better, properly heal.”

He continues: “After the first few days, the pressure to keep going like that was horrible. I was in this nightmare feedback loop of self-flagellation. I told my dad about it and he said: ‘Imagine if you said to your child that they had to do something amazing in the next 24 hours, and if they didn’t, you would humiliate them as a punishment’.”

“Of course I would never say that to my children, but we say those things to ourselves.”

It was opening up about his inner life that turned Shlomo’s life around.

He discussed mental health with fans online, was invited to speak on panels and recorded a TEDx talk, How Social Media Saved Me From Suicide, which premiered in June.

He also began #WEARELISTENING, a monthly live stream discussion on mental health and creativity with the likes of Gilles Peterson and Bill Bailey.

Double Grammy-winner Jason Mraz was first guest, beaming out to 90,000 people across the planet.

He has learned to use social media more wisely, he says, deleting apps and resisting many of those urges to get sucked into the post ‘n scroll vortex. “You have a direct line to your audience. If I’d gone to a TV station or radio station, it would have had to go through so many people and taken so long.”

He adds: “It’s a double-edged sword. But by encouraging people to use it in a safe way, especially young people, giving them a platform as a way to get the dark side of their souls out in a safe way – that’s what was missing out of my life.”

Feeling safe enough to be vulnerable; to show “weakness” is key, he says, an idea he brings to Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure For Kids.

Originally created for fans with children of their own, it sees the record-breaking beatboxer teach kids from 0 to 100 to make all kinds of music with their mouths.

“Although on the surface it’s 45 minutes of fun, making silly noises with our voices, I’m trying to teach them about them about well-being without getting in their face,” he says. “It’s really about standing up to the ‘frightening thing’, whatever that is, and telling your truth. I tell them that I encourage my inner child every day to stand up to that fear.”

SK Shlomo: Surrender, August 1 to 23 (not 12), Belly Dancer, Underbelly, Edinburgh, 10.10pm, £8 to £12.50.

Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure For Kids: August 3 to 18 (not 10), Ermintrude, Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh, 3.35pm, £7 to £10, under-2s free.
Tel: 0131 510 0395.

BAC Beatbox Academy: Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, various times, £22, £5 to £16.50 concs.