THERE is no sure and easy road to recovery. Mistakes will be made, and the margin of error will be perilous. On top of that, the pressure to just be "OK" is caustic, ubiquitous and unceasing. Some, tragically, never come back.

There is a fortunate cohort who will be able to call upon a strength that gets them through. Stephen McAll has been through it all and found music played a central role in his torment and recovery. The victim of an attack in Glasgow during his late teens left him scarred both physical and mentally – the former would heal much more quickly.

He was beaten, but not beat.

Now, a soft-spoken raconteur, he is calm and collected as he discusses his journey from despair to life as an every-day family man with a real talent for creating powerful ambient music. His current project, Constant Follower, released a new single just a few weeks ago with an album on the way later this year. The songs are brooding and pained but is not without a real beauty that comes from experience and experimentation.

The poignant tones carved out in the McAll's music is no accident and is the product of a life spent living. The aftermath of his attack some 20 years ago was significant, and he admits his poor coping mechanisms left him in dire need of help. He battled with his demons for years before taking the time to devote himself to recovery. Yet, all the while, he bored a dormant desire to create – to pour his soul out.

"I had music in me somewhere, but I couldn't get it out," he tells The Weekender. His physical injuries had robbed him of the ability to write or play instruments and the impact of losing that outlet only compounded his loss.

"I tried to recover," he recalls. "I was given medication from the doctor and that was making it worse; and I was self-medicating and that was making it a hell of a lot worse. But, actually, I was suffering from really bad PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and I wasn't having any talking therapies.

"After the attack, I spent a quite a bit of time in hospital. I completely lost all my memories and was paralysed down one side for a while. I couldn't play an instrument, I couldn't sing, I couldn't write songs and I couldn't even read a book because by the time I'd get to the end of a sentence I couldn't remember the start of it.

"I was frustrated and one night it all went horribly wrong and I ended up smashing all the instruments that I had been staring at on the wall all that time – thousands of pounds worth of stuff. I decided I had to get out of Glasgow to recover and to try get my life together."

While he had taken the first major step, there was a long way to go. McAll spent years trying to recuperate, first on his own and then with the help of his partner Kathleen Stosch. From the seclusion of a cabin on the west coast of Scotland he began to rebuild his life and 10 years ago moved to Stirling with his family.

Around six years ago, something shifted. An inspiration not felt for too long had resurfaced. It was a tentative joy and that has since developed into a real hunger for the craft – McAll the musician had returned.

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He says: "One day I sat down and wrote a poem. It wasn't very good, but it wasn't terrible. So, then the next day I sat down with the guitar and wrote a song. It turned out to be the first song on the album coming out – Neither is, Nor Ever Was.

"And then the next song I wrote is the second song on the album. From there, I sat and wrote a bunch of songs, and I think they came so easily because they had been gestating for so long. I had all this time to think and couldn't write or play music but now I was finally able to get it all out.

Music took on the role of counsellor and McAll became a diligent patient. His battle was by no means over, but he was now better equipped. The mental anguish he had suffered and then tried to ignore will linger for some time and in some instances he has sought help – something which seems trivial but it has proven to be lifeline, one he would not have grabbed in his youth.

McAll says: "It's easier to recover from physical injuries; you can deal with that. But it's not so easy for mental issues, especially in Scotland. We still have that macho culture where men are not supposed to talk about their feelings, and they are not supposed to tell people they are struggling.

"There are a lot of charities out there for men and all it takes is a phone call, but unfortunately there is still that cultural barrier for many people. There is a lot of pressure on men to just be OK – and I was really trying to be OK, when I really wasn't and that's where all the self-medication came in.

"I was trying not to be hurt and to just be normal."

He continues: "A big part of my recovery came from Help Musicians. Things got really bad and my partner Kathleen just told me to call someone. I found Help Musicians and contacted their mental health line and that, eventually, led to them paying for weekly therapy sessions for me for a good couple of years. And what change that was – even what a change from the first phone call; just talking to someone about it and getting it off my chest made all the difference.

"And all that feeds into songwriting because if you can't talk about it then maybe you can sing about it or maybe you can write about it. So many works of art come from hugely traumatic events in the world and it's the same for our own personal lives. If you can get all out through writing, then that will avoid you bottling it all up and letting your soul becoming black or whatever. It can be a way of saying that you're not OK – and that it's OK to say that. I mean, I'm OK but I'm not.

"My songs are not all doom and gloom, certainly not. In fact, they are about hope and were written at a time when I was coming out of all that – I was looking at the world again and could appreciate something beautiful; and not only could I see the beauty in things but I could feel a little bit of joy in it. That ability was gone for so long."

With his soul on the mend, McAll has been determined to make music a key part of his life. He writes and collaborates with others, records and mixes work for other artists and is a willing organiser of live events in Stirling.

The last few years have been fruitful where the latter is concerned with McAll helping to push the Golden Hum events around the city. He then got involved with the Weird Time nights, where music fans would subscribe to mailing list and they would be informed about upcoming shows. However, they would only be told where the gig was on the day and would only find out who the artist was when they came out on stage.

McAll is determined to see Stirling thrive as a gig city and hopes the lockdown period may well encourage many to appreciate live events a little more. However, he realises that, given the way the music industry is constructed at present, he may well be facing an uphill battle.

He reflects: "Back in the day, before the internet and so on, musicians would only ever join their local scene and that's way local scenes were so vibrant. If you wanted your music heard, that's what you had to do. But nowadays, people can get their music out on Facebook and Spotify – so, there isn't really that need to get out there and connect with other musicians.

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"For me, all of making music is about connection. How do you find someone you want to collaborate with? Two heads are better than one in music – I find myself getting to a point with my own music that I need someone else to come in and add something complete different. It might have taken me a long time to finish that part or something.

"Even just talking to other musicians can be a huge benefit. That's so essential to make good music and it's maybe why today we have so much music that seems so unfinished. There are a lot of songs online that could go a lot further, but the artist is just putting it out without connecting with other people and learning to push themselves a bit more."

"It's part of this instant gratification culture that we live in. Every day you are bombarded with these fast, bright, flashy, fun things and it can be harder to find the time, in amongst all of that, to sit down and listen to a full album or sit down and watch a four-hour film.

"But there are other options. It will always be human nature to take the easy route that satisfies you and I think this is why things like Facebook and TikTok is so addictive – they satisfy some quick-fix need to obtain some satisfaction of sorts."

He adds: "I'd like people to realise that a band playing music is not the only part of a gig. It needs people in a room. And even having an audience on the other side of a screen just doesn't give it what it needs. It needs people in a room listening and responding and the band responding to them – it's a conversation and one that can only happen in person.

"I hope that if people realise that, then it could lead to an explosion of live music when gigs are allowed again. It could spark a vibrant music scene that we haven't seen for 30-40 years in the UK.

"And Stirling is the city of small basements that nobody knows about – so many places have these unique spaces that are unused or just filled with old washing machines. I'm hoping these places will be rediscovered and there will be gigs happening all over the place."

But then it's not just the live performances that are under threat – it is artistry in general. As he continues to work on his own material in Constant Follower, McAll sees more and more the challenges facing musicians in the modern industry.

Streaming services grant anyone with an internet connection the opportunity to reach anyone in the world. But the game is rigged to the extent that only those carrying all the cards will ever be able to take home the pot. Criticisms are often made of the likes of Spotify who pay artists a pittance in royalties, but then artists need a cheap method of getting their music out without the need to enlist other industry professionals.

McAll argues that the current framework will be, in the long-term, damaging to the standard of music created by artists. Some bands may be in a position to take as much time as they want, with all the help they require, to create an album that is widely promoted and supported. Most artists do not.

McAll says: "It wasn't long ago that the CEO of Spotify was saying that artists cannot only be releasing albums every three or four years and should be putting out singles, or whatever. But that's just ridiculous.

"Part of being an artist is the process. I've talked a few times in the past about the way musicians write and some will describe a memory of sitting on a couch for a month playing the guitar only for some kind of inspiration to come out of nowhere – but it's not out of nowhere, it's out of years of practice and years of analysing other songs, reading poetry, reading books and watching films, being in nature and talking to other people.

"For any kind of creative person, an artist, musician, or a writer, they just fill up and fill up until you're full and spills over and then a song will come out. So, how do we satisfy Spotify's need for a yearly album if we don't ourselves the time to fill up? The result is that all we will get is the s**t."

He adds: "It's great to live in times where anyone can make music – whether they are trained or not – they can just use FruityLoops or something and make song, but the quality won't be there. When I listen to a band like Sigur Rós and there is so much emotion in it and you can tell the guys can really play – it's something that will stand against time. But there is so much coming out now that is just fast-food music. It's fine, but you'll be hungry again soon.

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"That said, some of it is still good, though it still lacks any lasting impact. My daughter listens to a lot of music and I hear it and think it's fine. But I know I won't be listening to it in ten years' time and she won't be listening to it next week. It's just music that hits you quick, gives you what you need and then you move on. And then in the background is Sgt Peppers, which everyone is still listening to, including my daughter.

"Will we ever get another Led Zeppelin, for instance? Maybe some people will look back and say the same about Radiohead or something. But the industry does not put the time in with artists, allowing them to make albums that are mistakes. Bands are not allowed to make mistakes, they must put out what is good – or, at least, what the record company says is good, if those bands even have a record company."

Before the end of the year, Constant Follower will release a debut album. If it is anything like Set Aside Some Time, the band's most recent single, then it should produce something worth listening to. He is clearly proud of the songs he and his bandmates have written and he stressed the importance of working with other artists if the end product is to be something truly worthwhile.

"Collaboration is key," he adds. "I had come to the end of where I was going with my music and I realised that I needed something more. And that's where our guitarist Andrew Pankhurst stepped in.

"He is an amazing musician and I'm trying to persuade him to record the demos he has. He showed me them and they are wonderful; it's so different to what he does for us in the band. Amy Campbell, our backing singer and synths player, she makes her own music and it could not be more different from Constant Follower.

"And that's the whole point – if there were three of me in the band then we're not going anywhere. You need other people, with completely different outlooks, to make something amazing. That's a band – it's about different personalities coming together. I guess that's why so many great bands fall out, because you do need a wee bit of conflict to spark something.

"But I love working with my band – we make this kind of music that I want to listen to. When I listen to my stuff on its own, I'm not really comfortable with it, but when it's all us together we make this different thing that, to me, is quite wonderful."