over the bridge

After 12 months of navigating through one of the most troubling times in modern history, cultural communities across the globe are left stewing in the fiery aftermath brought on by COVID-19. A stressor of such magnitude proved too much to bear for many, driving stress levels from those affected shooting upwards. We’ve all heard the buzz term “COVID fatigue” thrown around for the better part of 6 months now, which for all intents and purposes, extends beyond just wearing masks and/or physically distancing oneself from, well, everyone. “We have a serious problem of the emotional stress and anxiety that COVID has caused. And the longer it goes on, the worse it is getting…There is an emotional toll – one day they will be talking about PTSD from COVID,” stated New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo when asked about the adverse relationship between the sickness and depression. 

In fact, there is larger social issue in play that has slowly come to the forefront in recent years; one that affects creative beings far more readily than those in the general public. In 2018, then Toronto Raptors guard, DeMar DeRozan, shook the sporting world to its core with a simple seven-word tweet that read, “This depression get the best of me.” Admittedly unaware of what such a statement could unravel at the time, DeRozan felt it only right to share his story with the rest of the world, even if it meant exposing his most vulnerable side to those who continuously praise his strengths. Cleveland Cavaliers big man, Kevin Love, soon followed suit sharing his own tales of emotional turmoil, later laying out his emotional story in a post he penned for the Players Tribune. The NBA immediately threw its support behind both ambassadors by first identifying how to best amplify their poignant messages. What followed was an effective call-to-action campaign that included charitable events, television advertisements and other pertinent media spins. 

Despite these “super” human athletes peeling off their protective armor, so to speak, there is more of a perceived permanence being felt across the music industry, however. An exploratory look at the landscape today helps drive home this point completely: 71 percent of musicians believe they have experienced some form of social anxiety at some point in their careers. Is there in fact a direct correlation between musical acts and depression? Although difficult to answer with any sort of scientific certainty, there have been studies that suggest musicians are more prone to sensitivity imbalances compared to those with little to no musical aptitude. 

As record labels and digital distributors continue to syphon off the streaming revenue brought in from music sales, artists are left having to tour eight some-odd months of the year just to make ends meet. With that said, performers are being pressured to work twice as hard to bring in the same winnings they raked in earlier on in their careers. Is it then the pressure to perpetually remain in “go” mode to blame?

Financial instabilities aside, there are a number of stress points that help trigger such sharp mental collapses, like loneliness, drug & alcohol temptation, poor sleeping habits, unhealthy eating binges, and lack of access to quality health insurance, amongst others. It is widely believed that musicians suffer from mental anguish at a clip insatiably higher than so in other communities due to the merciless fluctuation of their routines.

Take Jim Morrison for instance, before setting the rock world ablaze as the lead voice of The Doors, Morrison’s “military brat” upbringing was rife with shifting variables that helped foster such an unstable environment. Prior to even reaching his freshman year of high school, the rock legend bounced from school-to-school, starting in Florida, before working his way through San Diego, Virginia, Texas, Albuquerque, and California. Morrison’s long, drawn-out battles with mental health, depression and narcotics landed him in hot water more times than he would have cared for. While on tour in 1967, the singer was approached by law enforcement officers for loud and unruly conduct prior to storming out on stage in a loose-tongued tirade that eventually landed him behind bars. At one point, Morrison saw the errors of his ways and even distanced himself from the life he once knew with a move across the “pond.” In July of 1971, his lifeless body was found by then partner Pamela Courson in the bathroom tub of their Paris apartment  from apparent heart failure.

Amy Winehouse is another musical icon whose bouts with situational depression pressed news headlines far more readily than her own artistry ever did; an absolute travesty in itself. Although Winehouse boasts a laundry list of accomplishments that includes an ever-impressive domination of the 2008 Grammy’s, the singer-songwriter spent years suffering in silence prior to the paparazzi digging their claws firmly into her back. In a previous interview with one of her family members, it was believed the 2006 death of her grandmother is what sent her spiraling into addiction. While on the road in the Summer of 2017, the crooner was hospitalized for a cocktail-style overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine mixed in with hearty doses of alcohol. Much of the same continued until her untimely passing in 2011.

In looking at both musical acts noted above, what was the common denominator linking each artist to the other? Obvious answers will surely revolve around unparalleled musical pedigrees that helped shape contemporary pop-culture forever and for the better. An exploratory look at what drove each’s internal conflict and the ensuing results of such strains reveals something radically different though. Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and many others all fell ill to mental health. Despite efforts from those closest to each, members belonging to the 27 Club—a group of artists, musicians and actors who all died at the age of 27 from battling addiction and mental health—lost their lives to a lethal mix of vices that has claimed far too many to mention. Here is where Over The Bridge steps in.

Over The Bridge is a Toronto-based non-profit dedicated to helping music industry professionals deal with mental health stresses and addiction recovery goals. With several of its board members also knee-deep within the field, OTB understands music’s ability to influence millions of people the world over, and believes by “influencing the influencers,” the world becomes a much better place to live in. Through various support groups, workshops and other kinds of educational reforms, Over The Bridge encourages musicians and all those making a living within the field to seek out the support they need in order to continue their march forward. 

To help highlight the disproportionate effect mental health holds over the music industry, Over The Bridge initialized the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club campaign. Similar to our setup here at urbancoolab, the power of artificial intelligence was tasked with powering up a groundbreaking, albeit, experimental agenda. As a result, four new songs were created as a way to showcase what the contemporary pop/rock scene could have looked like under vastly different circumstances. “We’re trying to show people that the lives of these artists are soo important, and these deaths could have been prevented had they had the proper support. Because nothing, I mean, nothing, replaces the real artists,” Ace Piva, co-founder of Over The Bridge” shares with us.

As far as the creative process is concerned, Over The Bridge ensured each lyric generated by the AI hub was created in a meaningful, thought-provoking manner. Rather than inputting complete songs that would have to be synthesized as whole entities, songs were divvied up into manageable phrases of three to five words that then were used to concoct new lyrics from. Mapping out the song process in this way safeguards the platform from creating lyrics that match the original: it reacted solely on the one phrase it was fed; rinse and repeat. “10-15 tracks from each artist were selected, and from each of those tracks, the lyrics were taken and put into one program, while the music was taken and put into a second program. From there, the lyric program combed through all of the lyrics and put together lines that were something similar to what could have been created,” explains Ace, adding, “On the music side, the same songs were used to develop the chord structure, the melodies and basically the favorite parts of the songs, and than using a human engineer to marry both sides.”

On that note, Over The Bridge enlisted the expertise of Lemmon Entertainment to bring it all home through a livestream concert happening in Toronto. On the evening of March 25, 2021, the pair hosted a virtual broadcast that factored in the worlds of music and mental health in a radical new way. Hosted by legendary music journalist, Alan Cross, #Lost TapesLive featured musical performances from Jon Harvey (Monster Truck), Tyler Shaw, Francesco Yates, Alexander Saint, and Command Sisters, with special guest appearances from renowned guitarist Dan Kanter (Justin Bieber), country artist Madeline Merlo and Juno-nominated artist Fefe Dobson. The special event gave new meaning to the four AI-generated tracks, as each was performed by a dedicated musical act noted above. An extensive representation of industry professionals and mental health experts were also be on hand to explore the inexorable link that binds both worlds together.

urbancoolab entered the conversation in its own unique way by utilizing its very own AI matrix to fashion a thematic capsule collection. Nostalgic elements referencing old-school, ‘80s-style cassette tapes took a spin through the company’s “forward-thinking” platform in which to build a set of designs around. What transpired is a range of closet classics that have been elevated through the campaign’s worthwhile message. More so about spreading self-love than satisfying  some kind of self-serving sartorial sensibility, urbancoolab is proud to release its new Lost Tapes of the 27 Club capsule collection. 

For more info on Over The Bridge’s tireless work around mental health, the virtual broadcast concert, and the 27 Club in general, be sure to drop by losttapesofthe27club.com. A portion of sales from the collection will automatically go towards Over The Bridge in its fight to protect the music industry against the pitfalls of mental illness and all that comes attached. Support the cause by shopping the collection at store.urbancoolab.com

“If you feel you are alone, OTB, myself, and our community members are here for you, because we don’t want anyone else gone too early.” — Ace Piva, co-founder of Over The Bridge

Meanwhile, in other style news Bucktown USA honored Sean Price with a commemorative capsule collection. Proceeds from the capsule will be used to set up a college fund for his daughter, Shaun. Read up more on the collection here.