INTERVIEW: Madness To Creation 'Where Creativity and Mental Health Merge'
How did you get into what you do creatively?
Answer: It all started with a person that I used to work with. He had a blog site(now defunct) called Bohemian Monk and myself, him and others started bouncing ideas off of each other. I've always wanted to go into music journalism. Back when MTV showed music videos, most kids were into like Nirvana, Madonna, George Michael and other bands/artists of the day. I was immediately drawn to "Downtown" Julie Brown, Kurt Loder and Matt Pinfield. I loved how they talked about music news and featured bands and recording artists. I was fascinated with those three. So, fast forward to Bohemian Monk, we tried our hand at music journalism. Then, true I swear to God story. Elias Soriano of Nonpoint called me, I asked if this was a prank, and we got to talking and I asked him about the blog that I'm on and he said, "you're a nice dude we have a greatest hits album coming out, "let's talk." My first two interviews were Nonpoint and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. Drew Holcomb is one of the biggest Americana artists in the United States. Then, Shauna O'Donnell(incredible PR agent) and Doug Weber(incredible PR agent) hit me up via New Ocean Media. We started getting bands like Anchored, Red, Sammus Theory, so on so forth. I wanted to feature indie artists and I asked Shauna to contribute for MUEN Magazine(now defunct). Then, all my stuff from Bohemian Monk without warning got deleted, I was working two jobs in retail and as a substitute teacher while contributing. Got some amazing interviews, and decided to branch off on my own. I wanted to be different. I wanted to cover mental health, be a mental health resource with a music/entertainment twist. I am a mental health advocate and wanted to be as authentic as possible. I started Madness To Creation in March 2017. We covered Warped Tour on two occasions. I'm blessed to have assembled a fellow contributor out of Iowa, then getting contributors all along the Midwest, East Coast of the United States, recently picked up contributors from Arizona and Ireland. Also have contributors out of United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Germany. It's been crazy with Covid and everything like that.
Tell me about the team you work with and how you keep them motivated?
I have several people that do music reviews. I have a dude named Glenn Fernetti, he is a special education teacher by day, like I am in Iowa. We actually coached basketball for a year together, then I left the district because I wanted to be closer to home. He writes the occasional music reviews when it's not football or basketball season. I have Holly Royle out of the UK, she's a podcaster, in Disconnected Souls(follow them on social media if you like metal), and she's getting her PHD. I also picked up Scottie Brown out of Florida, great dude, he just started and he's podcasting/onsite interviews, and writing. Other contributors include Mark Dean, who also writes for Antihero Magazine. He lives in the UK and he has helped tremendously with Facebook presence and with his interviews. I also have Meadhbh McElroy out of Ireland and her boyfriend Kurt Dean-Darby(who is Mark's son). She's an incredible photographer and Kurt is an incredible writer, he is branching out to more entertainment.
I have some incredible photographers that have been featured in MAJOR outlets. Crios Valentino, who has been featured in Kerrang! and Metal Hammer magazine. Check out www.criosphotographer.com, I seriously put him up against anyone in the world. He's also house photographer for The Paramount in Huntington, New York I have Kim Casper who is an angel, she seriously called me up out of nowhere when I was ready to call it quits with Madness To Creation, she's shot some amazing bands such as Blink 182 and New Kids On The Block. Kim has saved the podcast/website. Alex Valentovich has written several articles and he shoots for New Fury Media, he basically runs the Chicago scene. Eva Dang, she moved to Germany from Czech Republic. Her photography has been featured in Highlights Magazine and several modeling agencies. Eva is a wizard in photography. She's covered Peter, Bjorn & John and Switchfoot in the UK and she'll be shooting shows out of Frankfurt, Germany. Ian Storck, who is also a professional wrestling photographer, moved to Madison, Wisconsin and he's been featured by Korn's Instagram page and for AEW, which is an incredible wrestling organization(big enough to compete with WWE). Shawn Doyle out of Ohio and Pennsylvania has shot Tool for us and Will Wight who is a meteorologist out of Burnsville, Minnesota by day, has shot In Flames and Steel Panther for us. Amber Lyons, out of Iowa, she owns a boudoir boutique, she's shot for Jinjer, Skillet, Sevendust and New Year's Day, along with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. We also have several that have contributed in the past that don't go unnoticed. Michelle Barron out of Houston, Texas is back in the saddle, she's doing music reviews and health permitted, she'll be shooting shows. Mike Victorick, who is a tech teacher out of Houston has shot Of Mice & Men for us.
Lastly, but not leastly(is that a word), we have Don Thatcher and The Grizz, they run The Don's Hit List and we work as a team for cross promotion. Also, Bryan Porter we feature his Invite The Neighbors DIY Podcast, which covers the indie scene.
What inspires you to keep people informed about important matters, particularly mental health?
Answer: Well, my main inspiration is my faith in God. Lean not on your own understanding. We're all humans trying to navigate through our troubles and our struggles in this world. Our slogan is #YouFreakingMatter and that slogan is everything to me. The word Freaking is bold and intense and it addresses my weariness of mental health being a stigma in this society. We all have our struggles, myself included. I battle anxiety and "mind monsters." My "mind monsters" include getting discouraged easily, not wanting to face the day and worry, which leads to anxiety. It is therapeutic for us to utilize content that helps us. We call our concert reviews, concert therapy. We can all relate to being drenched in sweat, having tears in our eyes when lyrics or an arrangement moves us and shakes our core. We focus on mental health without being forceful. I'm a teacher and trained to help those in mental health, it starts with listening and learning and being engaged. We engage our guests not only in whatever they're promoting, but them as people. I've had a black transgender artist tell me about her suicide attempt. I'm having an artist coming on that's going to speak about her outpatient clinic routine. I've gotten to tell E Roland of Collective Soul about "The World I Know" and how that song saved my life as a teenager. If ONE person is changed and moved from listening to the podcast or reading our content online, then all the hours of labor is worth it.
Do you feel now more than ever musicians need to talk about mental health?
Answer: 100% more than ever! We've lost some incredible musicians to dying by suicide, drug/alcohol overdose and from heart attacks due to being so stressed. We went through an awful pandemic. We are still going through it with this Delta variant. People were quarantined in their homes and with that comes increased rates in suicide attempts, successful suicides, divorce, isolation, poverty, hunger and other mental health issues. We absolutely need to address but not force it. Sometimes dealing with mental health involves staying in bed, and maybe only getting up to use the bathroom or to get something to eat. Sometimes, it's battling mind monsters whether it's at the workplace, our relationships, our friendships or family problems or societal problems. Artists are held up on a pedestal and are expected to save people with their music and lyrics. We don't check in on them. Sometimes just asking someone if they're okay if they seem to have it all together is the catalyst to prevent someone from carrying out their suicide plan.
What is your favourite accomplishment to date?
Answer: Honestly, my favorite accomplishment hasn't involved being accepted to cover a show or dealing with traffic on a website. Several weeks ago, I posted on Instagram my podcast conversation with Collective Soul. I made sure to tag the right tags on Instagram and I received a private message from a listener. This listener was saying how she had plans to take her own life in two weeks but Collective Soul(who she never listened to before) saved her life and when she feels down she listens to the podcast. I immediately had tears in my eyes. I accomplished a goal and that was to help someone. This is the first of many. I want to help more people. In terms of the site, honestly, it's the friendships I've made with PR and with several bands. I talk to Hyro The Hero sometimes on Instagram. I texted Eddie Money for about two weeks after our interview(that was with MUEN Magazine), I talk to Nonpoint once or twice a year. Plus, contributors getting a sense of accomplishment and living their dreams of covering shows, whether they move on to do it for a living or if this is their side hustle, I'm grateful for them. I can't pick just one.
Can you tell me about your book "Lighthouses In The Darkest Distances: How Your Favorite Musicians Overcome The Challenges of Life"?
Answer: The idea is very early in the works. It probably won't be out for a couple years if not longer. Honestly, I'm going through writer's block and figuring out where I want to take it. I'll update you as I have more information.
Who do you define as a visionary?
Answer: A visionary isn't an individual person. It's all of us. If you have a goal in life, you're a visionary. We all have stories to tell. I remember when I interviewed Chris Jericho he was saying how each fan has a story to tell, one fan might have gotten someone to work for them, another fan might have hired someone to babysit their kids, one fan might be checking us out for the first time, it's our goal to win everyone in the room over. I've taken that to heart. We are all on a journey and we are all visionaries. It's not the destination it's the road you take to get there. The traditional music website is the mainstream highway with all the cars on there. I'm choosing to carve out my own niche and bring a sense of authenticity and "chicken soup for the soul" vibes to the site. I want the podcast to help anyone that's listening or at least reinforce feelings they may be going through or ideas they may be thinking. I want the concert therapy reviews to show the electricity and drive of the band, along with getting people to come to the concert. I want our reviews to feel reflective and relatable. I want to show people that "You freaking matter" and it's a safe podcast/website on Madness To Creation. My goal is to make it a family-oriented site as well.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles of running and maintaining Madness To Creation?
Answer: The number one challenge is not getting distracted and time management. I am limited with my time cause I'm a teacher by day. I have to basically make sure I'm not messing around or wasting time. The other is the financial piece, but I've always found a way. I'm working on getting sponsorship letters sent out so it can be a non-profit website/podcast along with covering the costs and making it to where it's a viable second job for the contributors. I send them what I can, but I'm blessed with this team.
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