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INTERVIEW: JASON BLADES of To Write Love On Her Arms, July 2014

The 20th annual Vans Warped Tour has been rolling across the United States this summer.  Along with the usual diverse line up of bands and musicians, Warped Tour also features a number of non-profit organizations, out to share their missions and engage the attendees.  Some of the non-profits support causes such as animal rights and cancer research/support, but others directly meet the needs of some of the kids that are there to experience the music.  One of those groups is To Write Love On Her Arms, and I had the opportunity to sit down with Jason Blades of TWLOHA at the Auburn Hills, MI stop on Warped.


Mike: Great to meet you Jason!  Most everybody in the scene knows the name To Write Love On Her Arms, but not everybody knows exactly what you guys are about.  Can you talk a little bit about what you guys are doing and what your mission and vision is?

Jason: We are a non-profit that’s dedicated to presenting hope and finding hope for people that struggle with depression, addiction, self-harm, and suicide, and we also exist to encourage, inspire, inform, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.  So this is our eighth year as part of Warped Tour, eight consecutive years.  We like to think of this festival as home for us, because of the friends that we get to see every year, all the attendees that come by, and the supporters that we have, both existing and new ones that we are able to meet and connect to our work, as well as resources in their area.  This year on Warped we have a couple different things going on.  We’ve got a campaign called ‘Fears versus Dreams’.  So we have a tent dedicated to people being able to write down their biggest fear and their greatest dream.  So part of that is really just inviting people to be honest, vulnerable, maybe feeling connected with sharing their words and seeing some others that may have the same fears and dreams.  And then on the other side we have resources and information.  We are funded solely through merchandise sales and donations, so we also have the ability for somebody to buy a shirt and donate to the cause if they’d like.

Mike: With your long association with Warped Tour, how has this scene and Warped Tour itself kind of affected you guys?

Jason: I think Kevin Lyman (Warped Tour founder) does an awesome thing by inviting non-profits out.  I don’t think every music festival does that, but they can take a lesson from him.  If you look around there’s a few booths over there, there’s this whole ‘take action’ area, and what he’s doing he’s inviting all these attendees, basically this generation and the next generation to really be a part of something whether it’s us or another non-profit.  For us that opportunity is huge.  We have this opportunity every summer to meet and essentially network and have supporters.  Over 600,000 kids, so the relationship that we’ve built with Warped Tour, with these kids, and with these people here I mean it’s incredible, it’s invaluable.  Some of our strongest relationship have come through the music scene and through being a part of this festival and tour every year.

Mike: You guys have become such a staple of Warped Tour do you think there are ways that you have impacted Warped Tour and how it operates and what it’s about?

Jason: Yes, I think something that we are really happy to provide and glad to be able to do is where we provide local resources from every city.  So I do know that’s something that if anyone on Warped sees someone that’s struggling they’re able to direct them to us.  We have these resources that we work with.  Today I have resources from the Detroit area that if someone needs help, we’ve worked with some of these mental help professionals, we can connect to, and whether you need funding, encouragement, or just being plugged into these resources that’s what we’re here to do, as well as just being encouraging.  We have posters that we’re putting up all over the festival as well that are just hopeful, like inspirational sayings like ‘we’re being hopeful’ or ‘people need other people’ that kind of thing.  So I definitely think over the last eight years the most encouraging thing and maybe the biggest impact we’ve seen is just having kids every year come back and saying ‘this means so much to me’ and ‘last year I filled one of these cards out and I want to fill another one out this year’.  ‘I was able to help a friend through some situation because of the advice or maybe the resources you gave me.’  I think every year we’re blown away by the response and the continued response to the work that we are doing and that just confirms why we need to be here.

Mike: Great! Particularly in the early days of To Write Love On Her Arms a lot of the promotion was through bands.  Are there some maybe new bands or bands playing on the tour this year that are particularly influential and involved with?

Jason: Yes, that’s something that’s really fortunate too, especially what you said about the way we began.  The first person to ever wear a shirt was a musician, because he believed in the work that our founder was trying to do by helping this one young girl, printing a shirt to pay for her treatment and trying to tell her story.   So now we are fortunate enough to have bands like Anberlin who are up here, Mayday Parade, The Summer Set.  I mean every year there’s so many bands that are just willing to support us whether it’s wearing a shirt or talking about what we do.  If their fans are struggling referring them to us as well.  I mean the relationships we have out here with the musicians this year and every year are incredible.

Mike: Ok!  I saw that there was a movie made a couple of years ago, but it really hasn’t been released yet.  Any news or thoughts about it coming out?

Jason: I don’t know where it stands officially, or what I can or can’t say, but there are official plans to do something in the fall.

Mike: Exciting!

Jason: I can’t say with who or what it ended up with, but a major distribution company finally picked it up.  They ran into some trouble because the guy that was producing it and funding it passed away.  It was a very tragic situation.  He was in a car accident.  He actually was also directly involved in the story of how we began, so it was a private person funding to see this as a movie, and especially Renee, the girl that the movie is about, to see her story being told to many more people.  He passed away, so it kind of fell into this weird situation.  That was a big part of why it was continuing, but yes fall, there’s plans for the fall.  The title has changed from what it initially was.  I don’t know what I can and cannot say.  It was going to be called ‘Day One’, then it was going to be called ‘The Renee Movie’, now it’s something completely different that’s a bit more relevant to the name of this organization.

Mike: Cool!  I’m looking forward to that.

Jason: Yes, yes, you can look, I want to say it’s late October or November sometime in late fall.

Mike: It’s quite a compelling story, dealing with a lot of things that a lot of kids are dealing with.

Jason: We’re excited because of that reason.  I know that Renee’s story, just on the internet, was able to resonate with a lot of people.  Seeing that on a big screen, I think, is going to have that same effect and will hopefully encourage people to speak up if they need help, asking for help, and finding resources that they can get plugged into.

Mike: I know that there are some big name stars in the movie that are familiar.

Jason: Yes, Kat Denning, Chad Michael Murray, Rupert Friend, just to name a few.  And the sound track, I think that’s something too that the company is really excited about.  They are doing this final preparing of the sound track.  It really just fits the movie and everything, and kind of the theme of everything really well.

Mike: OK, any last thoughts or word you want to get out to folks?

Jason: Yes, if anyone who ends up reading this finds themselves at Warped Tour we have people at the booth available to talk with them, and if they need help we are here.  More than anything though they can visit our website  MORE than anything if they find themselves struggling or know someone who’s struggling I encourage them to reach out and ask for help, and to really know that they are not alone.  If they want to visit our website to find help, we’ve got plenty of resources, both local and national, that we can point them to, that we’d love to connect them to.

Many thanks again to Jason and the To Write Love On Her Arms team, not only for taking time for this interview, but for the great work they do.  Look out for the movie this fall.  The story is compelling and the movie is sure to be a good one!

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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