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Grammy-nominated artist Marcus King on his guitar being his salvation during his mental health journey: "Music is all I really had"

Grammy-nominated musician Marcus King's new album, "Mood Swings," explores the darkest days of his mental health journey and the hope he's found through therapy and music after overcoming depression, body image issues and abandonment.

King is a fourth-generation musician whose first memory growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, was opening his dad's guitar case. For King, the guitar feels like an extension of himself.

"'Cause it was my like original safety blanket, to escape everything," he said. "Music is all I really had to provide any kind of peace and calm waters within this storm going on in my brain and in my heart."

King said his mother left when he was young, triggering abandonment issues.

"We've got a better relationship now," he said. "But that's pretty difficult for a young boy."

King then lost several family members and began to wrestle with his body image.

"My heart aches for him," King said about his younger self. "His self-confidence was so diminished by so many people."

By age 14, he started playing gigs. With his long hair and hippie outfits, King felt like a high school outcast. So he quit school his junior year.

"I got on the road as soon as I could," King said. "I just, right away, got really into the hustle of it all."

Getting started, King said he was using a pseudonym in his email to book himself and the band.

"I used a little smoke and mirror tactics," he said.

Marcus King talks about his new album, "Mood Swings," and his journey through music. CBS News

Now, the 28-year-old has built a reputation as a mesmerizing live performer, which he said is a result of throwing himself into his craft.

"I've always been deeply insecure, so I'm a little perfectionist when it comes to my art," King said. "You can't deny me if I'm the best at it."

He released three acclaimed albums leading the Marcus King Band. In 2020, he earned a Grammy nomination with his solo debut, "El Dorado."

But his demons caught up with him.

"I was just in a really rough spot. I had just gone through a really bad breakup, and I was just, I don't know how to put this. It was just a series of benders, you know, followed by, you know, deep, deep depression," he said. "I was hurting so bad that it was difficult to perform."

King was near rock bottom when he met Briley Hussey at a gig. He said she helped to save him.

"What I saw was a woman who wasn't gonna tolerate any nonsense," King said. "She made me fight for it, fight for her."

The two married last year, while King was working on his new album, "Mood Swings." King worked with legendary producer Rick Rubin on the album.

Rubin urged King to make mental health a writing partner. King said that took him into the "basement of his soul."

"There was a lot of acceptance and a lot of just reckoning with, you know, my guilt and the way that I behaved in past relationships," he said. "I'm the problem. Call is coming from inside the house."

King said for so long, he was afraid to talk about his mental health.

"I didn't want people to get the wrong impression of me, I didn't want people to say, 'Wow, this guy is just a little nuts.'"         

Now, King feels blessed and "absolved," but he knows that his mental health is something he has to take day by day.

"I always say I'm in remission from depression because it comes back around," he said.

But with meditation and medication, King said he's able to keep it in check. Plus, he'll always have his music.

"I mean it's great therapy," King said. "But real therapy in addition is always best. I found that out later."

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