Artist, photographer and writer Alex Boyd wrote to the songwriter personally to ask for permission to use the lyrics for his song Fireflies to accompany his work in a book that will raise money for a Hebridean mental health charity.
The new book, The Broken Land, features a collection of “disorientating” images taken by Boyd after he broke his camera while walking in the Quiraing mountain range in Skye at a time when he was suffering badly from depression.
Boyd rediscovered the images in his archives after Scotland went into lockdown last year and decide to produce a book to raise money for the Western Isles Association for Mental Health.
He wrote to Cave as he had been listening to his music at the time the images were taken on his trips to Skye and St Kilda.
The singer wrote back to Ayrshire-based Boyd almost immediately to agree to allow his lyrics to be used and adapted into Gaelic for the book, which is said to depict “a world out of focus, peaks looming menacingly above the viewer”.
Boyd, who was born in Celle in Germany, was brought up in Ayrshire and studied at Glasgow University. His previous work includes a collaboration with the late Edwin Morgan, the first Scots Makar.
The images were brought together for his new book while he was based on Skye as a Royal Scottish Academy artist-in-residence at the island’s Gaelic college, Sabhal Mor Ostaig.
Boyd said: “During that time I was going through the beginnings of a relationship break-up, suffering quite badly from depression, and was alone in the big mountains of Skye.
"I tried to get up in the hills as often as possible to help with my mental health, always taking my camera with me to document the process.
“With lockdown I could see how much people were struggling with their mental health. Having lived there for a number of years, I saw the incredible work that the Western Isles Association for Mental Health does.
"I remembered I had made these images and how during that time I had listened to Nick Cave’s music as I navigated the peaks and ridges and how it had helped.
"I decided to bring both elements together and wrote to Nick earlier this year to ask how he would feel about having his words included in a publication to raise money for charity, but didn’t expect to hear anything back, as I’m sure he is inundated with these kinds of requests.
"To my great surprise he got back to me within an hour, and agreed to let me use his words for free.”
Rebecca Mahony, project manager at the charity, said: “Although a definite sun worshipper, I’m a goth at heart, having experienced mental health issues stemming from my teenage years.
"I’m a huge fan of Nick Cave’s music and his lyrics have always resonated strongly with me.
"I’ve really enjoyed having the time to listen to his work going for my daily peat track walk during lockdown.”