Interview: Brenda Leeds (Old Game/epic.) Talks about Music and Being a Therapist

Photo by Trevor Richards

Interviews with musicians will be a major component of this blog. Our first interview debuted a couple of weeks ago with Bengt Alexsander Talks about Music and Depression. This interview will be our first in a different series – interviews with musicians who are also wellness workers. 

What’s a wellness worker? By “wellness worker” I mean anyone who works to help others be well in mind, body, spirit, whatever. That may include social workers (like me), counselors, therapists, case managers, doctors, nurses, yoga instructors, massage therapists, life coaches, spiritual leaders, sound healers, and many others. I’m particularly interested in talking to wellness workers who are also musicians, as I believe they’ll offer a very unique perspective on the connection between music and mind.

We’re happy to present our first interview in this new series…

Of Music and Mind Interview: Brenda Leeds Talks about Music and Being a Therapist

Old Game: Brenda’s Birthday Benefit Show at the BBT with Alex Spore & pals,  Matt w/2 t’s, The Park Plan, and There You Are (7/8/17). Photo by Trevor Richards.

Brenda has been living in Pittsburgh, PA for over a decade and she loves it. She performs regularly all over the city with Old Game, epic., and as a solo artist. When she’s not making music, she’s still creating and healing as an Outpatient Therapist. As a Licensed Professional Counselor she’s worked as a therapist for some time – in Outpatient Clinics, an inpatient hospital, a halfway house, and in wrap-around services. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling.

We first saw Brenda and Old Game back in July 2017. It was for Brenda’s Birthday Benefit Show at the (now defunct, sad face) Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. They raised a bunch of money for Planned Parenthood of Western PA. Old Game was really mesmerizing – energetic and moody performance, emotive vocals and guitars, and a driving rhythm section. You could tell they loved every minute of it. [The other bands were great, too! Check out more photos from the show here.

You can catch Brenda and Jess Klein (who together make up the band epic.) and many others perform on March 16th at Hambone’s for Clam Jam 3.0.

Old Game is releasing Flower Moon (their debut album – recorded at Wilderness Recording Studio [such a wonderful studio!] and winner of Best Alternative Album of 2016 by Sound Scene Express) on vinyl on 5/12 at Spirit for the 2-year anniversary. There will be 100 Limited Edition copies with all kinds of special merchandise. They are gearing up to record a new album [yes, thank you!], so this will be their big event to get them to where they need to be! They are excited to celebrate Flower Moon’s success, and give it one final farewell as they move forward!

Before we get into the interview, watch their music video for Hunter.

Brenda Talks about Wellness Work

What inspired you to go into this field of work?

My love for others has been present my whole life. I love being able to provide a safe environment for people to process and share, and I love connecting people with valuable resources.

What do you find to be most challenging about this field of work?

Not receiving adequate recognition for the valuable work that counselors provide.

What do you find to be most rewarding about this field of work?

Providing high quality mental health treatment to the community.

What advice do you have for others who are interested in pursuing this field of work?

Shadow positions, do your research and make the best choice for you. This field is not for everyone, but is amazing if you’re the right character.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in seeking help or supportive services?

Keep looking until you find the right fit for a therapist. There are so many different personalities and styles – you just have to see what works best for you!

Old Game: Brenda’s Birthday Benefit Show at the BBT with Alex Spore & pals,  Matt w/2 t’s, The Park Plan, and There You Are (7/8/17). Photo by Trevor Richards.

Brenda Talks about Music

What are your current projects?

Old Game, epic., Brenda Leeds

What do you play?

Vocals, Electric Guitar

What does music mean to you?

Music is everything to me. Music is healing not only for myself and my journey, but for those who experience what I’ve created and are able to connect with it. I also find meaning in connecting with the music others have created, and being able to feel heard through another’s story. Music is an expression of self in one of the most vulnerable ways – it is beautiful and spiritual and perfect.

Tell me the story of how you got into music. How’d you become a musician? What inspired you? What challenged you?

I have always been surrounded by music because both of my parents are musicians. I first started by singing in choirs and the chorus at school. I played the clarinet throughout my childhood. I did not start guitar until I was 16 years old and haven’t really worked on building those skills until the past few years with Old Game. People inspire me to create. I need to create.

What are some of the challenges you experience as a musician?

Being able to assert myself as a woman and navigate the social avenues of the music scene (local and at large).

What inspires you to keep playing music and performing?

My bandmates, my friends and family, and myself.

Old Game: Brenda’s Birthday Benefit Show at the BBT with Alex Spore & pals,  Matt w/2 t’s, The Park Plan, and There You Are (7/8/17). Photo by Trevor Richards.

Brenda Talks about Music and the Mind

Do you think that music and the mind are connected?

In every way possible.

How so?

For me, music is constantly playing in my mind. I am always singing and dancing in there even if my body must be still at the time. I also know that music heals the mind, and has great potential for re-wiring broken pieces, and making brand new healthy connections. Read up on EMDR and sound healing techniques if you want to know more! [Brenda suggests checking out Raion Zou Holistic Healing for sound healing classes, workshops, and experiences.]

Old Game: Brenda’s Birthday Benefit Show at the BBT with Alex Spore & pals,  Matt w/2 t’s, The Park Plan, and There You Are (7/8/17). Photo by Trevor Richards.

How – if at all – does music influence your life as a wellness worker?

I am more creative in my [therapeutic] approaches. I do not typically use music in therapy, but I do use art. I am always encouraging self-expression, and individuals tend to respond well to someone like myself who is open, non-judging, and kind.

How – if at all – does your field of work influence your life as a musician?

I write about myself and my experiences in my life – and work is definitely a part of that. Some of the most beautiful and resilient people I have ever met, I met at work. I am honored to hold their stories.

How can other wellness workers better support musicians?

The best way to support anyone is to meet them where they are, and find out what works for them. Be open and curious.

What can musicians do on their own to better support their own wellness?

Talk about it with someone trusted. Stay active. Stay curious. Be honest. Keep going, and get help if you need it.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about the connection between music and the mind? Between your field of work and music?

Being a healer and musician overlap in so many ways for myself, and I’m sure it is similar for others in a similar line of work. I can’t imagine my life without either personalities. I am my best self when I can actively help others in multiple ways whether through language and listening, or language and song.

Old Game: Brenda’s Birthday Benefit Show at the BBT with Alex Spore & pals,  Matt w/2 t’s, The Park Plan, and There You Are (7/8/17). Photo by Trevor Richards.

Brenda had a lot of great insights to share about her work as a therapist, her life as a musician, and the connection between the two. Let us know what you think in the comments or by contacting us here. Next week, we’ll look at the specific coping techniques that musicians can – and do – use to cope with depression and anxiety. If you haven’t already, share your techniques here. Be well.