Pills, blades, a handgun found in an uncle’s dresser drawer, that’s a point in reality all of us see much too often, but for people who are able to find solace in their friends, family and their favorite things, those are the lucky ones. At the end of the day we all have to realize we’re not the only ones who think the world is against us. Because of that, one young man was able to turn a friend’s story into a worldwide non-profit organization that helps individuals of all walks of life with depression and suicide.
It’s not a pretty subject to deal with, but with all their hard work and the time they spend hustling and bustling every summer on Warped Tour, To Write Love On Her Arms is able to take in and give back to the world. So in the midst of music and heat, I was able to sit in the shade of the TWLOHA tent to talk with Jason Blades of TWLOHA about the visions and future of TWLOHA, and ups and downs of Warped.
Kendra: I always thought this was a band. You see the shirts and obviously Warped Tour; music. Does that happen often?
Jason: I think we have a pretty big presence in the music industry so a lot of people will come up to us wondering if we’re a band or not especially with the title, To Write Love On Her Arms. But I think it’s because a lot of artists have chosen to support us by wearing the shirts and things like that, so I can see how that does happen time to time; confuse us for a band.
Kendra: You guys have a lot of visions for the organization. Is there one vision that has come true that you all never thought would?
Jason: We’re fortunate enough to reach people all over the world and I think our mission as a non-profit organization is to address depression, addiction self-injury and suicide and also to provide hope and help for people who are struggling. I think that getting to see that throughout the world, whether it’s any ethnicity, race or gender, I think that’s probably for me, has been the biggest vision accomplished, just getting to communicate to all sorts of individuals in music events, colleges, churches, wherever it is.
Kendra: When did TWLOHA go from being just about one girl to a whole organization?
Jason: I would say the moment it was posted online, the moment that Jamie, the founder, wrote the story and put it on the internet it became everyone’s story because we heard so many people responding to that story with their own stories of their friends. So I say the moment it was posted online it became everyone’s story really.
Kendra: I read that you say depression is not an American issue, it’s not a white issue, it’s not an emo issue, but when do you plan to expand beyond the Warped Tour scene because it is mostly white kids at here. Like would it ever go into Hip Hop?
Jason: That’s a good question. We do Warped Tour every year because we’re able to reach 600,000 to 700,000 kids, adolescents, individuals a year so to be able to reach that amount of people in one summer is pretty staggering, so that’s why we continue to do Warped. But we did the New England Metal Festival which is a hardcore festival, which was our first venture into that world. And then we do a festival in Australia called Soundwave and we’re also in Europe doing some surf festivals. So we’ve definitely started to branch out, but the Hip Hop world is one that we haven’t really found an in to, like whether it’s the music or anything like that but we’re hoping to go wherever people are.
Kendra: People always ask the bands what’s the best and worst thing about Warped, but what’s the best and worst part for an organization?
Jason: The best is getting to see so many different people every day for us specifically is people that come up to our tent. Everyone has their own story and so getting to share their story with us and just getting to hear their stories and getting to see where they’re coming from on a daily basis, is for me, the best part. And if I had to pick a worst, I mean touring life isn’t easy but the good parts definitely make up for what’s hard; living on a bus, not showering. But at least we get a bus; we did it in a van and a van is even harder.
Kendra: You’ve talked about branching out, but what is the next step for TWLOHA?
Jason: We’re working on what’s called “university chapters.” So we have an upwards of 50, I don’t know the total number because it’s always growing. We have university chapters on campuses all over the US, in almost every state. What they do is they bring the message of hope and help to their college campus. We’re still pretty young so we’re always working on branching out.
Kendra: Okay last question, I always like to ask people to make me a mixtape for me, so what would be your top 5 songs to take you to a happy place?
Jason: Oh man, does it have to be bands on Warped?
Kendra: No, it can be anything!
Jason: I’m a big fan of post-rock so there’s this band called God is an Astronaut, anything by them would be on it. It’s just instrumental, no lyrics. And then there’s this classical composer called Yasushi Yoshida and if you look him up, anything by him is super good. Then there’s this band on Warped I’ve seen a couple times, they’re absolutely my favorite out right now. They’re called Moving Mountains. So if I had to pick a song by them it would have to be “Armslength.” How many is that, three? Let’s see who else, the new August Burns Red CD is really good. They’re out here too, so anything off that CD. Let’s see that’s four…then five, I like Four Year Strong, guilty pleasure, so I’d say one of theirs.