Erica Krusen, Managing Director, Mental Health & Addiction Services at MusiCares Foundation joins us for a Special Edition of Gone In 30 Minutes. MusiCares helps the humans behind music because music gives so much to the world. Offering preventive, emergency, and recovery programs, MusiCares is a safety net supporting the health and welfare of the music community. Founded by the Recording Academy in 1989 as a U.S. based, independent 501(c)(3) charity, MusiCares safeguards the well-being of all music people through direct financial grant programs, networks of support resources, and tailored crisis relief efforts. Join us as Erica delights us with her positive outlook on life and the music industry.
Full Episode Transcription
Tom DeSavia [00:00:03] Hi, I'm your host, Tom DeSavia. Join me as I interview guests from music and entertainment from around the world about what they're up to right now. Stay tuned because we're Gone in 30 Minutes. Hey everybody, and welcome to the latest episode of Gone in 30 Minutes with my very, very, very, very, very special guest, Erica Krusen of MusiCares. Hello, Erica.
Erica Krusen [00:00:28] Hi Tom.
Tom DeSavia [00:00:28] What are you doing right now? What's going on?
Erica Krusen [00:00:31] Working. I was literally just signing off with some clients right before we got on this call.
Tom DeSavia [00:00:38] Well, I normally go straight into - You're our first non-songwriter, I believe, performer. I mean, you may write songs, but I just haven't heard them.
Erica Krusen [00:00:51] Nor do I sing.
Tom DeSavia [00:00:52] Well, maybe, but I normally don't do a little precursor like this because we're we're so strapped of time. But I'm going to want you to talk a little bit about MusiCares. And I also want to say to our audiences in this life, I think we all find a charity. We all find our charity. And for many, many, many years, mine has been MusiCares. Not only for what they say they'll do, not only for what their mission statement is, not only for sort of what they say they preach, but because of their practice and because this organization specifically in many, many cases, this particular human being has been essential in literally saving the life of friends, people I admire, people I work with, and I just think it's a really, I'm so glad you came to join us, because not only what you do is so important year round all the time, but right now there's so many things I want to talk to you about for myself, for listeners and everyone. So if you wouldn't mind, for those of us that don't, our listeners that don't understand and don't really know what MusiCares is, if you could give an overview of MusiCares.
Erica Krusen [00:02:12] Well and that was a very kind intro, and I, too, love MusiCares. So it's a great job. One of those things that everybody always tells you, get out of the job that you wake up and and don't love. I wake up and love what I do. My team is service minded. They're compassionate. They all love music. They all want, have giant hearts, and want to give. So it's a really beautiful family, if you will, to wake up to every morning. But, for those of you that don't know about MusiCares, we were established in 1989 by The Recording Academy as a safety net or a safeguard to help the well-being, the health and well-being of all of the music community. And a lot of people think that MusiCares is just for musicians and it's not. It's for the producer, the label executive, the music photographer, the makeup artist, the tour bus driver. So if you've had a career in the music industry for at least five years or have tracks, credited contribution to tracks, at least six of those, you'll qualify. And during covid, we brought those down because we knew everyone was struggling. You've got ten million people in the world in this industry and so many needed help. So a little bit about what we do, our programs and services. We have three teams. One is a health team that covers all medical, dental issues that that may come up with the music community. One is a human services team that is basic living expenses, senior services, taxes, financial, financial issues, senior living and on and on and on. I could go on. And then there's the mental health and addiction team, which I am now leading. And that is everything to do with addiction recovery, psychiatry, psychotherapy, group therapy and inpatient outpatient and and that goes on. So I like to think of us in a really quick one liner as the Red Cross of the music industry.
Tom DeSavia [00:04:26] I love that. And it's true, as you said, not only like I always say to folks, if you chose the life of a musician specifically or you devoted your, a period of your life, to working in the business, and one of the areas that you talked about either, you know, behind the desk of the studio or behind the desk at a record company or a publishing company, you may not have the benefit now of insurance. You may not have the benefit of help, of just advice. And most and I'm constantly surprised still, as I talk to people in our business or that are working musicians, that there's still not quite aware that this exists here. My question for you now, and I've been wanting to ask you this personally as your friend for so long, but I've watched you for I don't know how many how many years, take care of a staggering amount of people in normal times. We just are thankfully coming out of the first global thing that has affected us in our lifetime, global, which I still can't wrap my head around. Tell me about your instant reaction to covid and how you handled it and what, what was it like? Was it a tsunami of of people coming towards you?
Erica Krusen [00:05:57] It was a tsunami. I remember the week before there was rumblings for a couple of weeks before it really hit us hard before everything shut down. Right. And I remember getting on the phone with my boss saying I think this is going to be something big. We need to brace ourselves for it and she was like yeah, and you know, in the past, we had been on the front lines for big disasters like Hurricane Katrina, or the Nashville floods. But remember, that's local. And this became global and it happened very fast. And thankfully, MusiCares is always trying to be at the forefront of any of this kind of relief. And MusiCares along with The Recording Academy said we got to do something quick. And so we established the fund, the Covid Relief Fund, right away. I think it was March 17th, maybe, with a $2 million-dollar fund thinking, OK, we'll give a thousand dollars straight away to people and just get money in their hands. Because we had seen before that people need gas in times of disaster. They need lodging. They need whatever it is when they get displaced, they need it quickly. And typically MusiCares pays bills on behalf of clients. So it was really important for us to realize that's not going to be possible. We're going to have to just get money in their hands quickly. And so if you think about it, $2 million dollars, a thousand dollars a person that goes quick, right? When we're looking at the numbers of people that were all of a sudden unemployed, you know, I read somewhere that the music industry, 70 to 80 percent, something like that, of musicians earn most of their income through live performance, you know, done. Right? And so everyone was scrambling. And Tom, we got upwards of seven hundred calls a day by the end of March, you know, and requests for help. It was, it was exhausting. It was sad. We were, you know, we are a tiny little team of nine people and we just, we all hunkered down and just went for it. We were working from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed, entering cases, and like I said at the beginning, at the top of this, we all our team has such a huge heart to help. And this was exactly, it was so evident by this because we were so anxious about getting the money out that we weren't even necessarily taking care of ourselves. I mean, but it was awesome also just to know that we were able to help so many people. And I'll tell you this staggering number, by the end, we're about to launch our very last bit of the covid relief fund on Monday. And then we're going to close it out for the year. Now that people are getting back to work, they can still apply for MusiCares through regular assistance. But the actual covid relief fund, we're going to close out and we will have served over 37,000 clients with $28 million dollars since last March. It's mind blowing. It's mind blowing, and I'm so proud of not only our staff, but all of the people that gave to music cares. We had over 2500 live streams from artists at all levels giving. We had the PROs, we had the big organizations like TikTok and Spotify. Everyone wanted to give, and it was awesome to see the community come together like this the first time ever, really, and be so generous and want to help. And then also that they trusted us with their donations, with what we were doing for the clients. And so it's really, really heartwarming and and pretty fantastic.
Tom DeSavia [00:10:13] That's incredible. I'd like to know, too, because a huge part of what you do and I just know this is, there's also a psychological approach that you take with these people. Aside from financial, I know there was a lot of trauma going on in the world. What resources are there for those people dealing with this when it came out? And then I want to go later into now as we re-enter society.
Erica Krusen [00:10:39] Well, it's interesting because, I'll just back up a little bit at the get go of covid everyone was scrambling just to figure out what they could do. And so then as it kept going, we started to see, oh, this is this is still going and people's lives are still being affected. And then all of a sudden, the mental health and substance abuse issues started popping up. And then people needed help for not just their rent or gas or food or whatever. Then it was that surge. And and that was not only just musicians, it was everybody. Right. Covid cracked open our souls, you know, and we all felt it and saw it. And it was interesting because, you know, I was I was thinking at one point, boy, all of the anxiety, the isolation, the loss of connection, all of those things that we are all feeling, that's what a lot of artists feel that tour. And so it was it was an interesting spin for us to kind of like take a breath and really take that in, to see that. But what we did was MusiCares has always had a really great network of therapists and psychiatrists and treatment centers and mental health providers. And so we continue collecting that. And we had a lot of people that came to us to offer services. So that was really great. We offer online well, we offered support groups, addiction recovery and emotional support groups across the country in before covid in the idea of the touring musician can stop and always have a meeting to go to if they wanted to check in. And we were able to quickly move all of those online and then even add some more groups, which was fantastic. So you could be sitting in San Francisco and attending the meeting that normally was in New Orleans, you know what I mean? And so then we beefed it up and we started, we were hearing that it wasn't enough, that we needed some more specific groups, because with the racial injustice and all of these other things that were happening over the year, on top of covid, we needed to provide more. So we added an emotional support group for the Black community. We we started one for the LGBTQ community. We did a women's only group. And so now we have 10 online, completely free, weekly support groups that are led by licensed clinicians. So it's amazing. Everyone should take full advantage of it. I constantly push those out to people. So that was one of the biggest things. Then we had a resource page on our website and every day in between helping clients, we were all digging through multiple resources in every community that we could find that was offering support, whether it be general covid, whether it be mental health, whether it be addiction resources. And we were just posting those as much as we could through our socials on our website. And those are still up there.
Tom DeSavia [00:13:54] I was going to say, is that the best way for people to find resources that are just looking at because those people that are feeling isolated or alone or confused or dealing with addiction issues, if it is just making that first step, is MusiCares.org?
Erica Krusen [00:14:12] MusiCares.org. Yeah, and here's the great thing that I want to remind everyone. All of the directors at MusiCares are licensed social workers, therapists or chemical dependency counselors. So you know that when you call, you are in good hands with a professional so that we can do a proper assessment and get you those resources and needs right away.
Tom DeSavia [00:14:32] And taking one step back, when you just said, like everybody, this thing hit us. So you were able to scramble and set these things up. So does this change the future of MusiCares? Is this now a permanent thing?
Erica Krusen [00:14:46] A hundred percent. We, you know, there is the there are the people that are saying they miss that connection and they can't wait to get back face to face. So I think what we'll probably do is some sort of hybrid. So maybe what we'll do is have a camera in there, obviously releases, but we'll have some sort of a live and in person option. I think it's Important. People really love it. And, you know, like we said, you can be anywhere, and the traveling musician, it's easier for them too, or the traveling production crew. They can pop on any of those if they're in London, if they're in New York, wherever.
Tom DeSavia [00:15:25] Well, and what is the first step for someone? Be it addiction, be it mental health, which is not talked enough about in this country, in the world, the shame someone feels of not being able to pay their bills. What is just so our viewers or listeners can know, what is the first step to take?
Erica Krusen [00:15:45] So well, for someone that needs that, that's ready to get any kind of help, they can contact any of us at MusiCares. There's three teams, but the mental health and addiction team, they can contact me or anyone on my team and we'll get back to you within twenty four hours. We are very diligent at that. But if you are a friend or you are a manager or you are a label, be that bridge. If you know, direct them to us, don't try and diagnose because you're not a professional, but be the bridge to connect. Be open. Be available. There's a few things that when we talk to, we often do forums with managers and agents. And one of the things I say is schedule an hour, a half hour, whatever you can, a week with your artist or your songwriter or whatever, whatever you can do. Or maybe it's a month, I don't know, but just schedule it and be open and find out what's really going on with them. Ask about their personal life, ask about what how they're feeling, how it feels to come out of covid and go back back into what they were doing that they've been out of for a year and a half, help them to be vulnerable. And if you can't, just say hey, I know someone who can. I know people who are there to help you, whether it be through our meetings, whether it be just talking to me. Tom, you've sent people. I'll get on the phone any time with anyone you know.
Tom DeSavia [00:17:18] Well, I'd like to ask you a question. Putting on your psychology hat for all of us, because I think because this applies to any listener we have and I'll just I'll just use myself as an example. I consider myself to be an extroverted personality. But this, one thing that this has brought about is like, well, maybe I'm actually not. I might be an introvert who was just forced to be an extrovert their whole life, because once this happened, I really took to it okay. Meaning I took to the solitude. I went, OK, I can do this. You know, I could I could I could reach to that latch key kid that existed at one point and I can just watch TV. I found myself going through just the variety of emotions that the world went through and all I can do is go like, oh, and some day I'm going to get back to my office. I'm going to sit there. And now that we're getting closer. I'm finding even myself go, OK, am I ready to do that? I've found myself caught in this, this world, this isolated world we live in. And the the idea of going out there is hard. And I look at a lot of my writers who I know are introverts. But their job requires them to go out. So they they've known how to do this and taking 15 months or however long it's been away from them going back, it's making them harder. Will people still like me, will people still want to hear, will people have the money to come to a show? Can I still do this for a living? And this cocoon is sort of comfortable, and maybe I'll just stay here. Again, I'm trying have you validate me at this point. That's normal, right?
Erica Krusen [00:18:59] It's normal. It's absolutely normal. Everyone's feeling it. And I've had a lot of artists say that exact same thing. There's a lot of insecurity around. Can I still do it? Can I still perform? All of that's normal. And I think it's baby steps right now. I think it's allowing yourself to know that, A, that is normal and that it's going to take some time to kind of step back into it and see how it feels. And that's the thing. Make sure you have those resources. Make sure you can talk to people and talk about it just like this, you know, but it is, it is something that we are seeing. And so many people also shifted careers just to make ends meet. A lot of production people went into the covid testing field. They went into a bakery. They went into all kinds of things I heard or they went into the film because music was the last thing to open back up. But now they're kind of going is, is that what I really want to do? Was I that great of a player that wants to continue this and that struggle. And but I think as what I'm also seeing, you know Tennessee has been open quite a bit. And I've already been to a couple of shows, which has been fun. People are loving it and they're feeling that excitement and that passion that we all have that I know you have. And of just listening, and being, and getting that complete joy out of hearing a song and doing the work behind the scenes to help promote and produce what we love.
Tom DeSavia [00:20:39] If ever there was a time, we all say it in life. Everyone I know is feeling a completely new appreciation for what they have. My thing is I said I'm going to say yes to everything for like three months and I'm just going to go back into flaking on people again. But for three months, I'm going to do whatever.
Erica Krusen [00:20:57] But then you know, Tom, there's a lot of there's we all got to see what anxiety is over this last year. And there are a lot of really simple things you can do if you don't have the ability to go see a therapist or, you know, you don't or you're just not ready to. There are all kinds of apps. One that I use that I just got a notification for as I looked over at my phone, is a breath work app and it's a very simple, awesome one that just when you start to feel that come on to just do some quick, easy breath work exercises, meditation, mindfulness, and then getting your body to move, walk, ride your bike. My favorite toys during covid have been my peloton and my beach cruiser, you know, and it really helps to just get out of your space. I think, like for some of us who are behind the scenes, we're sitting at this computer all day long in our dining room or our bedroom or whatever our makeshift office was. Get out. Like take those steps of just walking and getting fresh air and doing something different, changing the direction, setting your phone down, by the way. Digital detox is what I love to call it. Nothing's going to implode if you don't look at your phone for thirty minutes. Everybody is going to be OK. Leave it and go take a walk. I was just telling a manager that yesterday because he said, oh my gosh, I'm so busy. It's crazy. All of a sudden shows that were canceled are now back on and there's not enough agents and on and on and on. I said, set your phone down and go take a walk. Even if it's ten minutes, just go do it. Nothing's, you're not going to lose anything in that time.
Tom DeSavia [00:22:41] You know, I didn't even think about that. It's funny, I'm looking back and it was so clear because I don't have anyone here but my dog telling me, put your phone down. I've always, I've always been addicted to my phone. I've always I've always had it on there. But you're right. That's been a companion. That has been something that you're so tethered to during this break. I've been in the best shape and the worst shape I've been in my life probably, and no one was around to see either. It was great. Can you give us a name of a couple of these apps now? And we can get them from you later and put them online.
Erica Krusen [00:23:12] Yeah, of course. There's one called Calm that I really love. Headspace is a big one that a lot of people use. Insight Timer is another one. And then this last one that I just did a workshop with, I did two workshops with, is called Breathwrk. And it's fantastic. The Breathwrk one leads you, it even shows you, it gives you a visual of when to inhale and when to exhale. You can even have a ding if you don't want to watch, you want to close your eyes. And then the other ones do guided meditations. And there's all kinds of ways to look at ten minutes on worry or 10 minutes on sleep or 20 minutes or 30, and you can really just curate it to exactly what you want. So I would say any of those are a great place to start and then go to MusiCares.org. We are having panels and workshops every day on things like this, holistic topics such as meditation and mindfulness. I've got a series going. We just had Justin Boreta from Glitch Mob. We're having Ricky Bell, Valerie June, and we're doing these monthly. And just to talk about what it is, there's no right or wrong way to do it, but just providing more self care resources for people. So please, please go there and look on our events page. We are trying to fill it with as many topics that we can that are important to the community.
Tom DeSavia [00:24:39] And on the flip side of it, I want to say, because you said early on, and I think it's obvious, but it's it's worth repeating that you are a nonprofit. You are reliant on donations, on volunteers, on the community keeping you alive, as well, so you can keep the community alive. So please, if you if you have the ability to donate in any way to this organization, be it financial be it in any way, there's volunteer work and anything. I've known bands that have done shows to raise money and just awareness, just raising awareness. But it's so, so, so important and just spread the word to all of you, as Erica said, and talk and let people know this resource is there. It's so important because that is the biggest first step that you can make.
Erica Krusen [00:25:33] Yes. And we are a healthy foundation and ready to help anyone that needs it that qualifies.
Tom DeSavia [00:25:40] Yeah, well, I just I cannot say it enough. I cannot say it enough. I've seen the actions. I cannot believe I actually did not know when I went in there, that there's only what, nine of you?
Erica Krusen [00:25:51] There's nine of us.
Tom DeSavia [00:25:53] This is herculean. I mean, it truly is. I can't believe that. I know that I've sent you more work than nine people can handle. It's fantastic. Well, I want to segway out because we always talk about music a little bit and we only got a couple of minutes left. I'm back in and we'll wrap it up in a nice little bow. But aside from anything, I think how we became friends all these many twenty years ago or however long it's been is aside from caring for musicians and people in the music industry, you were one of the biggest fans of music I've ever met. What have you been listening to? What have you been, what have you been, what's been getting you through covid?
Erica Krusen [00:26:39] A little Harry Styles. I think Kevin's heard it on repeat so many times. Phoebe Bridgers, I'm diggin so much. She is a rad woman that has such a cool vibe about her and so many good things to say. In fact, I just interviewed her last week. And then I'm going to shamelessly plug my son. He playes with a kid named Roy Blair, and they're working on their big record to come out, I think, in the fall or first quarter next year. But a really cool group and love them.
Tom DeSavia [00:27:23] Well, OK, if you're going to plug your kid, you got to say the name of the group.
Erica Krusen [00:27:26] Well, Roy Blair.
Tom DeSavia [00:27:30] Oh Roy Blair. OK, I got you. Erica Krusen [00:27:31] Yeah. And then my son does a lot of the producing and production and drums and things like that. So I'm doing it. I'm a mama.
Tom DeSavia [00:27:40] Well, and now I want to I want to bring in one complete disclaimer. If I can make the disclaimer here. You referred to Kevin, this Kevin guy. So this Kevin. So you're now-
Erica Krusen [00:27:54] Who you introduced me to.
Tom DeSavia [00:27:54] So it's my proudest, my proudest moment is Kevin Griffin, former guest on this esteemed podcast and Erica are engaged to be married next year.
Erica Krusen [00:28:09] We are. And Tom is going to do the officiating.
Tom DeSavia [00:28:12] I am going to officiate it. I had been in retirement from my Universal Life Church duties for years, and I'm thrilled to come out of it to perform this wedding in New Orleans. But two of the nicest people I know got together. But we lost, we lost you to Nashville, which I'm not thrilled about.
Erica Krusen [00:28:30] You did. Most of the time.
Tom DeSavia [00:28:32] Most of the time. Erica, we've got to go. I just, again, I know again how busy you are. I know right now how insane it is. I think it was really important to do this particular episode, and I've wanted to do it for a while. But I think now as we're re-entering the world, I think it's really important for people that don't know about y'all and that to know about it. And I thank you for coming on. And I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you do every single day.
Erica Krusen [00:29:02] Thank you. I'm happy to be here. And thank you for all the continued support you give us.
Tom DeSavia [00:29:08] Big fan, big fan MusiCares everybody. MusiCares.org. Also you can find their socials at the usual, just MusiCares, one word, one "C." Which is important, one "C." MusiCares. M-U-S-I-C-A-R-E-S. Go find them. Go follow them. Go support them, and reach out to them if you need them. Erica, thank you. Say goodbye to everybody Erica.
Erica Krusen [00:29:32] Bye everyone.
Tom DeSavia [00:29:32] Take care y'all.
Tom DeSavia [00:29:36] The show was presented by Craft Recordings. Thanks for joining us for Gone in 30 Minutes, produced by Laura Saez. I'm your host Tom, and we'll catch you next time.