Helping Soldiers with PTSD through Music


As you know, a few days ago I set up a new Facebook page called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. It is about people helping other people. Today I came across a group that help soldiers with PTSD by using songwriting to express themselves and tell their stories in a trust environment, which is helping a lot of people, even those who are not musical themselves, or don’t realise they are.

Several years ago I wrote a song called Another Stretch in Iraq. You can hear a demo on my Reverbnation page. It was motivated by a newspaper story of a service woman who came home looking for some love and normality only to find that her man had left her for another woman. A common story sadly.

I joined a military blogging (milblogging) site and spent a good year or so talking to military personnel, mostly serving overseas at the time to get a feel (as much as that is possible, given that family members who served almost never spoke about their experiences when a civilian was present).

They trusted me and I learned a lot about their lives, their hopes, their agonies in losing brothers and sisters, general life and the isolation from their families where their fellow soldiers in fact became their families such that many could not and still can not adjust to civilian life without their brothers and sisters from he service.

When I was in Orlando some years ago, I played a couple of sets at a biker-friendly bar in Longwood and my song Another Stretch in Iraq was one of the songs I played with some great backing from the house band. I wish I had taken some photos because it was the classic bar with 30 Harley’s in a neat row out front, sawdust on the floor, the sort of place that Kiwis only see on movies and TV shows and that the cab driver thought I had no place being until he saw the friendly bear hug greeting I got from the woman who ran it.

After finishing the song a group of 6-foot something burly men came up to the stage. The biggest of them all came up to me with tears in his eyes and I thought I was about to become roadkill. He and his friends looked me in the eye and then he shook my hand and said I took him right back to the theatre at Desert Storm. He re enlisted twice and his son had just left for Iraq a week ago.

It was so rewarding to me that I had captured the emotions and environment with integrity and that the song gave them some comfort. I haven’t worked harder on a song and would love to record it professionally. It is on Reverbnation as a free download and is also on a couple of sites of free MP3 downloads that is made available to all serving US military.

Back to the Facebook page. There are thousands of returned servicemen in dozens of countries who suffer from PTSD. They come from all walks of life and many of them play musical instruments, or used to. Many of them can no longer motivate themselves and need a hand. Some of them join groups like the one in the video above. Many will not join groups, either because they can’t or won’t ask for help, because they don’t want to appear weak, or because they are still in service and don’t want to jeopardise their careers by showing weakness.

The concepts in this Facebook page mean that all they have to do is talk to a few friends and family that they are close to and trust. Then all they need to do is ask for a little encouragement, it’s as simple as that. For those who wish to or are able to contribute stories, I am hoping they will join the Facebook Group because it can only grow and flourish if they know about it.

I’m hoping that if you know people like that, you will share this post or the link with them so that they can be made aware that help is available and whilst it is not easy as it sounds, with a little help from their friends it can happen.

As John Lee Hooker and my idol Carlos Santana sang, Blues is a Healer. It heals those who play it as much as those who listen to it. If you can help someone pick up their instrument, or raise their voice and break the silence, you can have a profound influence on people’s lives and it can be as simple as my mate Rob sending me a TXT message saying “pick that gat up and play for 10 minutes man.”

If you know of anyone that could benefit, please share the Facebook group with them and perhaps join us yourself. My thanks on their behalf.

Liverpool 8 watch a 65 year old innovate


Last night I saw Ringo Starr on the Late Show, playing the lead song to his new album Liverpool 8.

Here’s what’s different. The album is a 2GB Flash Drive embedded into a rubber bracelet, of course the name of the album is on the bracelet and the price is around the same as any new album. $20 from memory. As well as the album the contents include a music video, interviews, photos and more.

If you buy the album, you will probably want to wear it because it is novel and this being the first time it has been done (to my knowledge) it will become a colectors item. This could become the ultimate fashion wear for 2008. What are you listening to? Check it out on my wrist. The only drawback is that you can’t plug it into your car stereo or your iPod, but that will no doubt come if the concept takes off.

Storing multiple albums could be a bit of a problem, but I’m sure there will be appropriate refinements.

About 8 years ago I tried to get the local media to publish a story I wrote, saying that if the music industry doesn’t take care of their music buying public and take advantage of the capabilities of new media such as adding video, interviews, photos etc to albums, they will have a hard time competing with downloads. But if they add so much material (that they have anyway and don’t generally sell) so that it isn’t worth the hassle or cost of downloading everything, they will be in trouble.

The media didn’t want my story because it was controversial and probably because a lot of there advertising revenue came from the record companies. Hey guess what, yeah I was right. Now I’m not super clever, I’m just being logical. I think the record companies were arrogant and had the attitude of some Japanese manufacturers of a decade ago, who said to their customers, we will tell you what features you want on your products and how to use them, but that’s another story.

The point is, we are in the world of new media. Consumers have loads of choices. BUT, they are prepared to pay for value. EMI, Sony etc. if you want to keep your market, you need to give value. If you don’t you may just find that you aren’t needed or wanted any more. It’s not too late, but you need to understand, its not just about the media you print your music on, it’s about being innovative, listening to your customers and being innovative, fun, inspiring, sticky and giving value for money.

Instead of sacking your staff, sacking your entertainers and making them do their own promotion, how about talking to them.  There’s a novel idea. Here’s the question. It’s 2010 and the music industry as we knew it has collapsed. It has taken with it major printing companies, media companies, wholesalers and retailers and increased unemployment noticeably. If you were able to go back to 2008, what would you do differently?