Leeds City Council high-flyer swaps desk job for a record deal after falling seriously ill with COVID-19

One of Leeds City Council's most senior members of staff has left his job and signed a five year music record deal after falling seriously ill with COVID.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 29th March 2021, 8:22 am

Phil Mellen was the Deputy Director of Children and Families at Leeds City Council when he got coronavirus in March 2020 just before the first national lockdown.

Initially he thought he would be off work a couple of weeks and return to the office, but he ended up in hospital, was seriously ill for at least six weeks and has been left with further long-term health issues caused by the virus.

It meant Mr Mellen, a father of three, would not be able to return to work and the daily commute he made from his home in Manchester to Leeds. In August last year, took redundancy from his job and walked away from a career in education that had spanned more than 25 years and started after he graduated from Leeds Trinity with a PGCE in Early Years Education in 1994

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Phil Mellen has swapped a 25 year career in education for music.

During his illness and time away from work he re-visited his passion for music, which for years had been put on the backburner due to work and family commitments.

He said: "It was a big job and a job that I enjoyed and felt like I was making a difference. I thought I will be off for a couple of weeks and I will be fine but unfortunately it was not like that. I am sure if I had not been ill I would have carried on. When you work full time you don't often get the opportunity to step back and reflect and think where might I want to be in five years time.

"The difference between something useful and what you love to do is a big thing. I have always loved music and written songs but doing less and less in recent years. When I was off I started writing seriously and reflecting on being ill and that was the inspiration. All of a sudden I had written five or six songs which was the most prolific I had been for a long time."

After taking redundancy in August Mr Mellen, 50, spent September and October in the studio recording the songs and sent them out to people to see what they thought, including some record labels.

Phil Mellen has gone back into the studio for the first time in years.

After discussions with a couple of he signed with Wobbly Music, based in Lancashire, on a five year deal that will see him produce three albums and play live gigs.

He describes his style as Indie/Folk and away from creating music likes to listen to bands such as Prefab Sprout, Elbow, Crowded House, The Smiths and James.

His current single, "Zombie Romance" is out now and was inspired by watching zombie films late into the night with his wife Clare at the height of his illness and when he couldn't sleep. An upbeat love song called "She Makes Me Me" is the next single and is due for release on April 30.

Mr Mellen has so far written and recorded 20 songs for the first album and an EP with four tracks is set to come out in the Autumn. Alongside singing, he plays guitar, drums, keys, bass and various ukuleles and in his twenties was in a band but only got as far as pub gigs and demo tapes.

After illness forced him to leave his job, Phil Mellen has picked up his guitar and his pen again.

He added: "If you said a year ago I would be doing this, I would have laughed, but the 22-year-old me - this is what I wanted. You work for income and security, you get to a certain point and think I will always do this or the next role. But this actually has been really good for my mental health to have the chance to step away, have more time with family and do something I have always been passionate about and is now a permanent part of my life".

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