How does music apply to psychological healing?
Music is a non-confrontational medium to address difficult issues. Conventional talk therapy can be pretty intimidating, [but] you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hates music. Scientific studies show that music is processed by different sectors of the brain than verbal speech. It even impacts your motor skills—like when you’re working out and your favorite song comes on, you’re more empowered to keep going. A number of studies in the music therapy realm show guided relaxation to music to have profound effects on those with serious anxiety and post-traumatic triggers.
Do mental health issues affect musicians more than others?
I think it affects all people equally. But if you look at history, musicians and creative type have used art and expression to navigate and cope with their particular issues.
Why create this inaugural event, Music for Mental Health?
In March 2015 my brother Preston committed suicide. I quit music and soon was on a downward spiral. When I finally admitted to myself that music is how I communicate, that’s when I found motivation to keep trying. Our goal in creating this event was that we create a fresh way to reach a community that may not otherwise be inclined to discuss their mental health needs, or admit to themselves that they may need help.
How did the benefit concert’s featured musicians come together?
Alfred Banks was my call, due to his very obvious connections to mental-health issues and music [Banks’ latest album is told from the perspective of a schizophrenic]. Kei Slaughter is also a clinical music therapist and a very talented flute player, keyboard player and guitarist. She’s a big champion of discussing mental health, particularly in the African-American community and the LGBTQ community. Mia Borders has been very candid about how music has helped her overcome anxieties and develop strength and confidence. She’s several years sober now and shows how using music is more cathartic than any bottle of booze could ever be. Mike Doussan and his wife Maggie have been my partners in this project all along. Mike was the one who suggested I reach out to Mia Borders to sign on in the first place. Not to mention, he’s a phenomenal Roots-Rock musician who has used the pain of grief from losing his brother to suicide to create some very vulnerable, sincere music.
What is the biggest obstacle to ensuring that New Orleans musicians have adequate access to mental health services?
Finances and insurance coverage. If you’re a creative type, you hustle—not many of us do the 9–5 jobs that come with built-in health insurance. The New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic does a great job in offering resources, but even they can be overwhelmed at times. And there’s the stigma of not having money, and needing help with mental health.
The Music for Mental Health benefit concert takes place 8 p.m.–10 p.m. Friday, September 22 at the Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Ave.). Tickets $15 (available at musicatthemint.org or at the door).