Im Interview: Gene Priest

Gene Priest gehört zweifelsfrei zu den Menschen, die unfassbar Facettenreich, so vielschichtig und auf so vielen verschiedenen Arten und Weisen begabt sind, dass es deswegen auch so verdammt schwer fällt, all das zu erwähnen, was diesen besonderen Menschen ausmacht und worin all seine Stärken und Talente liegen- denn ständig beschleicht einen das Gefühl, dass man irgendetwas Wichtiges vergessen hat, wenn man über diesen Menschen spricht.

Gene ist jemand, den man auf Anhieb sympathisch findet und einen direkt das wohlig warme Gefühl vermittelt wird, dass man sich schon seit mindestens 20 Jahren kennt. Ein liebenswerter Typ, der einen stets mit Respekt und auf Augenhöhe begegnet und immer ein offenes Ohr für einen hat, wenn man sich aktuell mit irgendwelchen Problemen rumschlägt, für die man allein einfach keine Lösung finden kann und in dieser altbekannten Sackgasse festzustecken scheint. Ob Ratschläge, aufbauende Worte oder eine feste Umarmung- er lässt absolut niemanden im Regen stehen und ist sofort zur Stelle, wenn man Hilfe benötigt. Herzlich, offen und immer für einen guten Witz oder Schabernack zu haben. Ein rundum angenehmer Zeitgenosse, den man gerne an seiner Seite hat. Ein liebevoller Partner und Vater, ein wundervoller Freund und Wegbegleiter. Gene gehört zu den Guten.

Seine allergrößten Talente lässt er in der Musik einfliessen: sein Kopf scheint niemals einen Ruhestand zu erreichen, denn irgendwie habe ich das Gefühl, dass er an so vielen Projekten zeitgleich arbeitet, dass mir da schon langsam der Überblick verloren geht, haha. Seine Kreativität lässt er nicht nur bei Nathan Gray & The Iron Roses freien Lauf, sondern tobt sich auch bei seinem Projekt Comfort Trap zusammen mit seinem besten Freund Derek Jones aus und ich bin bereits großer Fan dieser Songs, die hoffentlich sehr bald veröffentlicht werden! Ob unter seinem eigenen Namen, Cemetery Gates, im Odd Blood Quartet, Skeleton Beach und wo er nicht noch alles seine Finger im Spiel hat…dieser Mann liebt es einfach, sich an Instrumente, Regler und Mikros auszuprobieren und uns all diese eingefangene Schönheit zur Verfügung zu stellen.

Außerdem kann er so unglaublich gut mit Worten umgehen, dass ich immer hoffe, dass er sich eines Tages hinsetzen wird und damit beginnt, ein Buch zu schreiben. Ganz egal, welches Thema er dafür aufgreifen würde – ich würde es direkt in einem Rutsch verschlingen, so viel steht schonmal fest. In dem gleich folgenden Interview könnt ihr euch bereits ein Bild davon machen, was er aus meinen wirklich einfach gestrickten Fragen mit seinen ehrlichen, Detailverliebten und ausgeprägten Antworten rausgeholt hat und die mich auch noch jetzt regelrecht sprachlos machen. Er weiß es zwar nicht, aber durch seine Art und Weise, wie er Worte einsetzt und so fesselnd verpackt, inspiriert er mich dazu, besser zu werden, mich mehr damit auseinanderzusetzen, wie ich schreibe und einfach mehr daran zu feilen und auszuarbeiten und dafür bin ich ihm wirklich sehr dankbar.

Gene Priest bereichert unser aller Leben allein durch seine pure Existenz und ich bin so froh darüber, damals über ihn gestolpert zu sein und ich bin so gespannt, an welchem Projekt er sich als nächstes setzen wird. Hier jetzt das Interview über seine ersten Erfahrungen mit Angstzuständen und die daraus resultierende Depression, den Griff zur Flasche, den rettenden Anruf seines Freundes Derek Jones, der schlimmeres verhinderte und was er an Brian McTernan als Mensch, aber auch als Musikproduzent liebt und schätzt und was er über unser aller Lieblingsband Be Well zu sagen hat.

Vielen Dank an Gene für deine gnadenlose Offenheit und für die Zeit, die du fir für die Fragen genommen hast und in Rekordgeschwindigkeit beantwortet hast. Internetherz!!

Gene is an incredible friend. The kind of friend you can absolutely always count on. He is extremely caring and can literally make a friend anywhere he goes. After 20 years of knowing each other I honestly can’t remember any (serious) arguments we’ve ever had. That’s unfathomable to me. He has played a major role in my life and I’m thankful for him every day.

Derek Jones

When and how did you realize that something was wrong with you?

My struggles with mental health quite literally go back as far as I can remember. I honestly don’t think i can even remember what it feels like to be “normal,” or devoid of some type of stress, anxiety, and depression… in fact, when I really focus and think on it, I realize it has quite literally plagued me since I can even remember. 

For me as far as a first memory, I know that my depression began in the form of severe anxiety in which I still have to this day. I remember when I got my first job around 15 or 16, I realized REALLY fast that SOMETHING was wrong. I didn’t really know what it was at first, but it really started to scare me… I would go to work, and before I knew it, as soon as it got busy or I was surrounded by a lot of people I would get a tight chest, sweaty but not hot, and sometimes even the “tunnel vision” feeling and thoughts of “Oh no, I am either about to pass out or die…”

These feelings were all foreign to me at the time as my life really only involved going to school, skateboarding, and making music with my friends. I started to realize that when I wasn’t skating or creating something/ making music, it got worse and worse, until one day I finally snapped in the middle of an episode and in an almost “auto-pilot” mode, I remember telling my boss I had to quit, and I drove home… That was the first time, at the age of 16 I actually acknowledged it out loud to my parents. 

For YEARS I had been pretty good about hiding my anxieties and emotions from quite literally everyone around me, and I just suppressed EVERYTHING, but I think I let it build up and bubble to an unhealthy point, and I finally realized in that moment that I NEEDED HELP.

When did you get a diagnosis and how did you deal with it?

I was 16 years old, and I had been dealing with all of these feelings and emotions for quite literally as long as I could remember, and to be honest it’s quite scary how I had become such a pro at holding in everything and putting on a smile and still continuing to try and be “me,” the life of the party, the guy that was always happy, always smiling, always making new friends… I realized then that I had been lying to myself and everyone around me, and by doing so I was only making things worse for myself in the future.

I went to a psychologist, took a series of tests, and spoke to a therapist for a while and before too long they determined that I had “generalized social anxiety and depression.” I didn’t take the diagnosis well at first, because I had convinced myself that there was no way I had depression… I wasn’t really a SAD kid, I just got bummed out from time to time, and thought that was a totally normal thing, which it absolutely is. No one is at 100% all of the time. Anyone that tells you they are just hasn’t figured themselves out yet. I finally came to grips with the fact that I had some DEMONS so to speak, and it was time to start figuring out how I could come to terms with it, or at least become friends with these demons, because if I was OK being depressed, maybe it would all just kinda go away, or at least get better. From experience I can say that using that as a tactic isn’t actually the best, as I allowed myself to get pulled deeper and deeper into this dark place inside my head.

How would you describe yourself when you’re in a depressive episode?

For me, my WORST depressive episodes make me withdrawn from everything and everyone. I get an intense need to be alone, and then it swings pretty hard one of two ways, I either want absolute silence or I want to put on my favorite hardcore/ metal albums and SCREAM ALONG at the top of my lungs as it quickly became a very cathartic release for me. I generally get reclusive and angry at the world. I get angry and short tempered at everyone around me, regardless of who it is – family, friends, strangers, etc. but what I started realizing more and more was that I REALLY get angry with myself. A deep anger, almost a self-hatred, but there is no connective tissue so to speak as to the “WHY,” I’ve never quite understood why I have always been so hard on myself, but I think I found early on it was easier to be angry with myself as opposed to taking my own emotions out on others.

I started in those moments to realize just how important music was to me in my life… when I would sing along to these songs I loved so much, I realized more and more that I not only related to the lyrics in which I was shredding my throat to scream, but I discovered for me at that time I had an intense need to write lyrics and music in general of my own, and in fact, I would say that if anything has ever saved me from myself it has always been music, art, and creative expression.

What symptoms bother you the most?

I really started to hate the feelings of hating myself as weird as that sounds… there have been times in my life where I’ve allowed that darkness to take me to some pretty scary places that truly hurt to think back on now. Even though these events still occur from time to time, and I KNOW I will never “get better” or “move past it,” although in the last year or so I feel like I have found a better balance of allowing myself to feel down, depressed, angry, anxious, stressed, etc. and I have found better ways to mentally and emotionally manage these feelings.

They can never be fully tamed, but I think that maybe after living with it for so long, I have found a way to at least live WITH it and to somewhat channel my feelings and emotions through music. This doesn’t always work, however as sometimes I am in much too dark of a mental place to even create. This led me down the path in my early 20’s of drinking in excess to sort of blot out the feelings and thoughts.

I would sort of live in a cycle for a series of those years, and honestly it’s quite remarkable looking back on it how well I hid this from everyone and that I even made it out the other end of it. I would go to work every day to an office doing a job I absolutely loved, but for a boss that was less than ideal. I was constantly made to feel like the “outcast” amongst those I worked with. For the longest time I just assumed it was because they knew my musical preferences, style, and overall life aesthetic as silly as that sounds.

To set the stage: essentially, here I was an early to mid-20’s dude who was covered in tattoos, played in various bands around town, and I was working as a video editor, a job I still do today for myself as a freelancer and business owner, but at the time, working in an environment where I was absolutely nothing like the folks I worked with. I mean, I literally could not have been more different, but I enjoyed WHAT I did, so I just dealt with the awkwardness of going to work at a place where I didn’t really feel like ANYONE understood me, or who I was. 

I felt like their impression of me was that I was the weird, disassociated, introverted, tattooed musician who just kinda coasted through life with zero real priorities of care. In fact, it couldn’t have been MORE the opposite. I cared, and do care A LOT about how I am perceived and what people think about me. I guess that’s the thing about hiding it so well for so long… you start to convince yourself that maybe you ARE the weird one. Maybe I was lazy, maybe I didn’t care, maybe I was anti-social… so I think I leaned into it REALLY hard. This was when I found my love for alcohol. Up to this point in my life I drank, sure, but like a normal person. This found me at the “cycle” I was speaking of. I would work, get off at 5 and grab a 6 or 12-pack of beer on my way home (depending on how the day went,) or go meet friends at a bar and drink until it closed.

That was when it became obvious to me how dangerous it was to mix a heavy amount of alcohol with sadness and the amount of anti-anxiety medication I was taking at the time. When I started having blackouts, I realized maybe I was doing something wrong…

To what extent can you confide in friends or family when you’re in a bad place? How easy or difficult is that for you?

Honestly I have to say that I have always had an incredible support system around me. My family, my best friend Derek (now of 22 years) and my wife who I married in 2017 have all always been very easy to talk to, very open, and easy to confide in.

When I was younger, my parents were always extremely rad. I was fortunate enough to have parents that also dealt with mental issues as far as my mom having OCD and my dad having a lot of anxiety as well, they both understood and it was always very easy to be brutally open and honest with them.

In my early twenties through now, my best friend Derek has quite literally saved my life more times than I can count. I don’t say that lightly. In fact, he’s really more like a brother to me. We’ve made music together since we were 16, and as recently as last year, September of 2020, despite the pandemic I was able to hire him as my first “employee” after 8 years of running a business on my own. He’s the only human being in this world I’ve been close to for a long period of time but never once had an argument with. That says a lot. He also very well knows depression and anxiety himself, so he gets it. 

This gets dark right here, but I actually only last week told him about a time about 5 or 6 years ago when I was living alone, and I was pretty down in life all around. One evening I had been drinking and started having thoughts that no one ever wants to have or acknowledge. I was tired. I was done. I was literally in the process of working out how I’d take my own life and I was in “preparation mode.” I remember pretty distinctly as you do with these things… it was late, between 11pm /midnight and I was just DONE. But as I was “preparing,” I got a phone call. He just felt the need to call me, so I answered, grabbed another beer, and sat out on my porch with a cigarette and talked to him until like 2am, never mentioning my thoughts.

We got off the phone, I played some video games, and eventually passed out. Since that night I’ve never let it go that far. I’ve never spoken this to anyone until I told him last week and he couldn’t believe it/ had NO IDEA. That’s how good I’ve gotten at hiding it. But it truly felt good, as a human, to tell him this. My friend Becky and I were recently talking and I mentioned to her how much he’s saved me through the years and she asked “Have you told him this?” It hit me… I never had. But now that has been rectified.

What do you find easier in dealing with this disease today than ten or fifteen years ago and what can you still not come to terms with today?

I certainly learned to better “live with it,” and not let it control me all of the time. We all have times of need, but I think my realization that I have such a rad family, friends, and wife, has given me a comfort that I’m not alone. 

I’m never afraid to speak out now on how I feel, pick up the phone and call someone when I’m in need, and overall just at a strange peace with the fact that this is who I am and there’s no changing it.

When I was younger, even ten years ago, talking about it wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t want to burden someone else with my feelings and emotions, but as Derek so eloquently put it a while back “Life is a cycle of saving our friends from breakdowns, because we also do our best to help them manage theirs.” It kinda made me realize how much truth there is to that. When you have close people in your life, you reciprocate the help when they need it as they do for you. It’s nice to know we aren’t as alone as we think.

When was the last time you felt worth something?

I’ve felt pretty good for quite a few years now for the most part. The last 4-5 years of my life I can honestly say have been the best.

I met my wife after a very toxic relationship where I was always told “Stop being so sad…” or “Suck it up, it’s not that bad.” and she is absolutely incredible, strong, supportive, and understanding. She was absolutely a turning point to me as well, because when we met, she had a 6 year old daughter who is now my daughter, and that also changed a whole lot in terms of my outlook.

She has always struggled with depression as well, so coming from an abusive relationship it was a relief to know that she understood on the deepest levels. It’s been a life-changing experience for me to know someone gives a shit because they’ve been there too… the scary lowest of the low.

Then in 2020 I was asked by a hero of mine since the age of 18, Nathan Gray of Boysetsfire who was one of the FIRST hardcore bands that made me feel like I wasn’t alone, to join his band. LIKE… seriously, this was huge for me.

I’d been struggling with (as I always do) feelings of not being good enough in music and art in general, and was considering a pause on music… but to have the guy that literally made me start writing lyrics, start a hardcore band, and scream out my emotions tell me he wanted ME to play with him, that made me feel a comfort and confidence in myself I thought was long dead and gone.

To have a hero not only become a friend but then years later ask you to join their project and write music with them, I felt beyond validated. I’ve told Nathan these things, and I don’t think I can even express to him just how much he meant to me then, and means to me now. He’s now “family” to me, because as him and I have discussed, true family are those you choose. I’m just beyond stoked he invited me into his family with open arms. 

Fast forward to now and he is someone I talk to daily, and being given the opportunity to make music and be so close now to someone I always admired is a feeling that really can not be put into words. It meant the world to me, and I feel like I’ve regained my worth through his kindness and the talent and WORTH he saw in me. And if you know Nathan, you know that means a lot. He keeps his family tight and I’m glad to be a part of it.

What thoughts, fears and worries are your constant companion?

Not being good enough, letting myself down as well as others, and a big anxiety I live with constantly is financial stability and being in a good place to support myself, my family, as well as my goals and dreams. 

Growing up in a lower-middle class family, I can honestly say I always had everything I needed, but seeing my dad work his ass off at multiple jobs, teaching karate during the day and working as a police officer at night, sleeping 2-3 hours a day then doing it all again, I always remember my mom being stressed about finances, and that always stuck with me. 

I always just hope I can continue to push forward, run my business, play / tour in my band and still support my family. So far so good, but it’s always on my mind. This irrational fear of everything crashing down at any moment. Losing stability is my biggest anxiety these days and it sticks with me pretty hard.

How is your daughter dealing with your illness? To what extent do you involve her?

She’s now 12 years old, and she’s a strong kid! I’m always extremely open and honest with her about my anxiety and depression, and that started a few years ago when I started seeing a lot of what I felt at her age in her. She gets anxious about change or being around a lot of people. I was the same. When I started seeing it, I just had a long conversation with her about my past and preference early on to push things down and pretend they’d be ok instead of talking to someone. I wanted her to know that I’m not only her dad and BFF, but I wanted her to come to me with anything.

We’ve had some pretty incredible conversations since then, and I feel so relieved that she is willing to be more open than I was at her age. I’ve got her into skateboarding and playing the drums and music in general as these were the things I gravitated to when I was her age and feeling anxious or depressed. As a dad it makes me smile to see her not only love, but pick up and excel at the things that have always helped me.

To jump ahead because it relates, every time I watch the video for “Confessional” the moment I see the written words “Am I a good influence,” I break down in tears. I feel that nearly every day. I was raised to be open and honest with rad parents and I want to reciprocate that with her, but the question is always there.

Who or what helps you through hard times and what role does music play in that (whether as a musician or just as a listener in front of the record player)?

Music has always been number one. It’s saved my life more times than I think I even realize. As a hyper-creative person who deals with OCD and ADHD I’ve recently learned that my depression stems from a history of having both of these very polar opposite diseases that really just battle and rage at all times in my head.

Now that I’ve learned my worst episodes are born out of this manic firestorm of contradicting mental health issues, I’ve learned how to channel this more easily through creating music. It’s my alone time. It’s my ritual. I’ll allow my mind to go numb and let the music create itself without thinking too hard on it. I’ve never been good at meditation, but this ritual is the closest thing to transcendence I’ve ever found. No thoughts, just me, a piano or guitar to start, and I let my emotions take me over.

As for being a listener, I’m a huge record collector and just as I did at a young age, listening my all time favorite bands, a few for example that bring me comfort: Boysetsfire, Every Time I Die, Neurosis, Battery, and Nine Inch Nails, as varied as that lineup is, they are all bands that make me FEEL SOMETHING again when I feel I’m slipping. I’m a definition of “Music LITERALLY saved my life.”

When and how did you meet Brian McTernan for the very first time and what impression did he leave on you?

I have been a fan of Brian’s since I first heard his band Battery at the age of 16 or 17. They were an absolute favorite throughout my late teens and then watching and following Brian’s trajectory as he became one of the most prolific musicians and producers to exist in my lifetime, I’m not going to lie, I thought he was larger than life. 

Brian is one of those people you so deeply look up to for so many years, it becomes stigmatized in a way that you think you’d never in a MILLION years be afforded the opportunity to not only MEET this unbelievably talented person who has created and crafted so many life-changing albums but actually RECORD AN ALBUM with this person, and then be able to call him a friend. It’s something I still haven’t wrapped my head around.

If someone would have told me at 17 that I’d not only meet and record an incredible album with him one day as well as be close enough to become friends and text/ call him from time to time I would FIRST tell you there was no way in hell, and SECONDLY likely follow that up with “What’s a text!?” Seriously, it’s insane.

My first impression was actually pretty amazing. I was nervous from the images I’d built in my head, but within the first day of hanging out with him he was already calling me “princess,” which from him I take as a term of endearment. He shattered my expectations, and was hands down one of the sweetest dudes I’ve ever met and I’m so honored to now call him a friend.

How would you describe him as a music producer?

This is a fantastic question, because honestly the impact he had on me – as a producer – was not only the fact that everything he produces historically sounds incredible, I mean, no joke… the drum sound he dialed in for me on the new/ upcoming Nathan Gray album “Rebel Songs” I played on is MONSTROUS. I’ve never been so proud of a recording. Then to find out he achieved that sound through nearly the room he chose alone paired with recording to a 2” tape machine, and no EQ, just a knowledge of mic placement and production, I couldn’t believe the skill and precision he had, not only in how to make the gear work, but more importantly how to make ME work.

Brian is an extremely hands-on producer. If he was hearing something wrong with what I was doing, it was never a “That needs to be different…” it was more “Here’s exactly what you need to do…” to the point where he would come out, sit down behind the drums like the amazing talent he is, and SHOW ME something I was completely missing. I’ve never worked with a producer that taught me so much not only about music in general, but about myself.

He would spend time with me going over drum patterns, like, phone voice memos out and recording ourselves mouthing a beat before leaving the studio that day so that when we left the studio that night, I could really focus and break down/ analyze every single hit and make sure that NO hit was an accident, and that I needed to reign in some of my “avante-garde jazz drumming” tendencies and play with more precision. I can’t overstate how much he helped me develop a skill I thought I was already pretty damn good at, but kinda make me step back and realize that there is so much more I could learn.

He is an intense producer, so I always felt it when he wasn’t quite on the same page as I was, and he is a brutally honest producer who is NEVER afraid to tell you when you are wrong. To that point, what makes him even more exceptional as a producer and human, is that he REALLY DOES give a shit. I’ve never been pushed so hard in my life, but he operates on that level because he knows how to pull the absolute best out of someone, and just in the way he could tell you what you were doing wrong, he EQUALLY gave you praise when you nailed it. He could be intense when it was needed, but he could also laugh, joke, and call you “princess” when you needed it the most. Recording with him was a life-changing experience that I would never trade for anything.

What do you have in common and how do you differ?

I actually feel we have a LOT in common. Obviously there is music… in fact, I noticed on a few occasions when we were sitting with guitars and he would play something, that he and I play guitar SO SIMILARLY. I’m pretty sure it’s because I grew up listening to HIM make music, so I would have to assume a lot of those similarities were from the influence he brought to me throughout his career. We listen to a lot of the same stuff and dislike a lot of the same stuff equally. He is also a big fan and connoisseur of food and Hazy IPA beers, which I think kinda bonded us for life.

As far as differences, I think the only thing I noticed was his confidence in doing whatever he was doing on any instrument… when he plays, you can tell he not only knows what he is doing, but he knows exactly what he wants to hear and how to achieve it. For me, I get really stuck in my head sometimes when I try to change things up (on any instrument) on the fly, and that is a skill I hope I slowly absorb through our friendship.

What makes him as a person? What do you like/love most about Brian?

I love Brian because he is exactly what you would want in a human, producer, and friend. He is brutally honest in every way, and that’s how it should be. He has proven himself in the industry for being a fantastic producer, and this is one of the biggest reasons why. At the end of the day, he is helping people to shape a piece of art that will live forever. You absolutely want someone on your side that will tell you, good or bad, what’s on his mind. I absolutely love the fact that he is such a phenomenal teacher. He has ways of explaining things to you that you may not intrinsically get, but you quickly piece the puzzle together and in perfect clarity it all becomes revealed… when it comes to music and the creation of, I am pretty sure there is no one out there more DEDICATED, PASSIONATE, and TALENTED doing what he continues to do record after record.

I love that his way of working is that once you work together, you are friends for life. He cares THAT much and takes what he does THAT SERIOUSLY, and in our world today that truly means a lot to me and I will forever love and be thankful for what he’s continually teaching me.

What was the very first song you heard from Be Well and what thoughts went through your head?

When I heard he was doing Be Well, I was so very excited. I didn’t really know what to expect, but from the opening swell of “Meaningless Measures” I knew I was about to discover a new favorite album and I was right. The Weight and the Cost is hands down my favorite album that came out of 2020 and I truly can’t wait for the next record.

From the first lines “Scattered amongst the wreckage. Memories and moments are left here in tatters. It only makes it sadder. To think that at one time I thought that it mattered at all.” Those words hit me HARD and I knew that on this record, as we’ve come to expect in everything he does, Brian wouldn’t hold back, and WHOA… WHAT A RECORD.

What feelings rise up in you when you listen to The Weight and The Cost?

As someone that grew up obsessed with punk rock and hardcore music that was honest and open about depressions, anxieties, and living in this world, I felt the greatest swell of joy on the very first listen, and that feeling has never gone away. The more I dive into the lyrics, the more I absolutely connect to this record and love it even more. I can certainly relate to lyrics throughout the entire record, for example in “Magic,”  “I’m at the end of my rope and most of my hope is gone” and “I hide it well, I’m like a magician. But it haunts my thoughts, keeps me lost, and it blurs my vision”

If you had to choose: which song is your absolute favorite and why this one in particular?

Confessional hands down. It was this song that made me connect even deeper than I already had with Brian’s struggle when I heard “One day I’ll be better. I hope that you never feel as lost as I do today. It changes with the weather. It’s the worst in November. My head swirls as the colors change. I drown it in alcohol. I never thought that I would end up here this way.” Just hearing that brought me back to my struggles with wanting, trying, and hoping to drink my problems away, but as we all know, that’s just not how it works. Every single song on this record hits home to me, but this one made me physically swell up in emotions the very first time I heard it. The intensity and dynamic power and fragility in Brian’s voice tells you everything you need to know… these songs are REAL, the stories are real, and NONE OF US ARE ALONE.

The lyrics are about Brian McTernan’s struggles with depression and anxiety: What parallels can you draw to your own life? Which statements in the songs speak to you from the soul? What in particular can you relate to?

As I was saying above, some of my favorite lines from the record are from Magic, Confessional, and Meaningless Measures. By far my favorite three songs, if I was forced to narrow it down, as hearing Brian recite each line feels almost like I could have written these same things myself if I allowed myself to stop being self-conscious about my writing and singing voice. This album has made me re-evaluate that fear and start writing more, knowing how much this album helped me, it gives me hope that maybe writing about my anxiety and depression could even help just one single person out there, and that would be worth more than any other feeling in the world.

What is it like for you to hear someone you know sing so intensely about his hardest time?

That’s always a tough thing. When you know that people you’ve always admired and grown closer to battle with the same mental health issues it really cuts pretty deep. But when I say that, I mean it in the best way… it truly makes you feel less alone to know that the thoughts we have from time to time actually happen to others we are close to, regardless of how good we’ve all gotten about hiding it away. 

I never would have thought some of these things about Brian, as I always envisioned him as being a massive talent, and with that I assumed there was a certain level of confidence that MUST come from being as prolifically talented as he is, but when you realize your heroes deal with the same struggle that you do regardless of how successful they are, it’s an odd comfort. On one hand you’re glad you’re not alone, but you equally hate knowing that someone you enjoy being around get’s the same dark feelings as you.

What makes Be Well so special?

In one word Brian. We need more artists willing to open up and be so open and honest about these feelings that so many of us feel. When you hear someone you admire and deeply respect say things like “I’m not brave, I’m not strong” it really does make you take a step back and try to re-evaluate the struggle we are ALL going through, and to be able to take this sadness and make it into something as beautiful as “Be Well,” it’s such a breath of fresh air in our current world of so much “emotionless carbon copy” music that seems to exist everywhere these days. It’s nice to hear something REAL, and Be Well is AS REAL as it gets.

Why are Brian McTernan, Mike Schleibaum, Peter Tsouras, Aaron Dalbec and Shane Johnson such a perfect match?

These guys are all well known in their previous projects, and honestly, this is such a powerhouse of a line-up, when I first learned of Be Well and who was involved I instantly knew it would be something magical.

Why is a record like The Weight and The Cost so important, especially at this time?

There are so many of us in the world that are afraid to be open and honest with ourselves and the world about the weight and toll that depression and anxiety can take on someone, and it has it’s claws on more people than we can even imagine. In recent years I have really felt uninspired with SO MUCH of the music that has been coming out, I was starting to feel like a lot of music was losing it’s true passion and a real and steadfast meaning of importance. This record came along just at the right time in our lives when I think so many of us are feeling alone, tired, alienated, and just “off” in the world. Being able to listen to a record that instantly makes you feel less alone is a very important thing in our world right now and we could absolutely benefit from so many other artists being open and honest about their mental illness and the way they manage it and live through it.

I feel like it’s always important to sing your honesty, but in a world of “influencers” and “reality TV” it’s almost hard to know WHAT and WHO is real anymore. That’s the beauty withBrian and  Be Well. Well, from the moment you press play, you aren’t just listening to a beautifully crafted record, but you are listening to real stories from a real human being about a VERY REAL STRUGGLE that so many are afraid to talk about. We need more Brian McTernan’s in the world.

Anything else you wanna add?

I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to talk about everything above. I never imagined I would be able to work with/ make a record with Brian, but it has quite literally been the most valuable learning experience in music that I have had in my 20+ years of making music. I didn’t feel like I was just “making music,” I truly feel like we made a piece of art and more importantly to me a friendship that will last a lifetime.

I can’t thank Brian enough for his time and dedication to becoming somewhat of a “guru” to me, and teaching me to step back, take a deep breath, and to really FOCUS on what I am doing, no matter what that is. I never realized how much I spread myself thin as a musician, artist, creative, and human being in general and the lessons he has taught me thus far will be amongst some of the greatest of value in my life moving forward.

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