Rock to Recovery: Therapy and Healing Through Playing Music | Reverb Gives

Rock to Recovery

Reverb Gives provides students, teachers, and leaders of music programs with the instruments that they need, directly from the Reverb marketplace. Since its launch, Reverb Gives has had the opportunity to help support a variety of remarkable organizations committed to making the world a more musical place.

Wes Geer

With so many unique missions, all revolving around music and music education, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight some of these organizations, detailing their cause and highlighting the great work that they’re doing with music.

Today we’re speaking with former Korn guitarist and the founder and CEO of Rock to Recovery, Wes Geer. Rock to Recovery is an innovative form of a music therapy that helps people who are struggling with things like addiction, mental health, and post-traumatic stress to heal through playing music.

Can you give some insight into the history of Rock to Recovery and what motivated you to start it?

I went to rehab in 2004, and there was no music. There was yoga, there was art therapy, but no music. I had my guitar, and I saw how powerful it was when this anxious, cliquey group would be united by the creative moments we had between activities in rehab. The whole world and dark energy would melt away when we played music and sang. People would come together and let loose, dancing and singing. That really stuck with me.

I had washed out of my music career with Hed P.E. after ten years of touring. It was only after getting sober and because I was sober that I got the gig with Korn, playing guitar. When I saw the writing on the wall that Brian Welch—the original guitarist—was coming back to the band, I was lost. I was scared. I was going to be out of work, with no career to speak of.

I thought of my legacy—there’s been plenty of famous guitarists, but I wanted to leave something that could help people long after I’m gone. I prayed and meditated, asking, “If I am meant to be a sober musician, then how can I help people and make a living?” Then it hit me: I’m going to create a way to help non-musicians through music. Rock to Recovery was founded on 12/12/12 with that mission.

What kinds of programs does Rock to Recovery have? Can you talk about any workshops, recordings, performances, etc. that Rock to Recovery hosts/facilitates?

Since its launch, we have been adopted as part of the weekly treatment curriculum of over 100 treatment programs. We do 450-plus sessions each month and have a contract with the Department of Defense. For that work, we are flown around the country, working nationally with wounded warriors of the Army and Air Force. In each of these sessions, we record a song. We've recorded over 15,000 songs.

I've been able to hire 12 of my rock star friends who deliver our program many times a day. We also have a nonprofit and donate our services to nonprofit or state-funded programs that could not otherwise afford our services. This give my guys more work, and we get to help a bunch more people.

We started having the Rock to Recovery concerts to fundraise for the nonprofit. We honor rad, sober rock stars to show that you can be rad and sober and a musician. If WE can stay sober and still be epic artists, then anyone can have a rad, sober life. We've honored Mike Ness (Social D), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), and Wayne Kramer (MC5). This year we will honor Moby and Tommy Vext (Bad Wolves). We've had guys play at these events from Stone Temple Pilots, Guns N’ Roses, and Billy Idol's band. Chester Bennington, Fred Durst, and Mark McGrath have all performed at our events. It’s been amazing.

Can you talk a bit about the musicians on your staff? What are their backgrounds, and how did they get involved?

Funny how when you ask the Universe, it responds. Once I had Rock to Recovery working with great results on my own, I wanted to grow and expand. I thought, “Who can I teach to do what I am doing?” Then it hit me that Sonny Mayo (my sober homie who played in Snot, Sevendust, and Hed P.E.) and Nate Lawler (my other sober homie who sings killer and played in a rad band called Death on Wednesday) would be great.

From there, people started referring people and finding us. Most of my guys have had record deals and toured the world. They are all sober and have huge hearts. That is the key. We have a common mission and a bond unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We have a band together, too, called Sacred Sons, that plays our shows. To think that 12 guys can work and play in a band together and really have zero issues—no beefs, just rad times—is a testament to sober life, and living by the spiritual principles that keep us not just sober, but stoked on life.

How about the participants? What are their backgrounds, do many have previous music experience?

We are typically an ancillary service that plugs into a treatment program, like a rehab or wounded warriors’ program, so the people involved are just everyday people struggling with life’s problems. We always have some hidden gems that are musical, or actually may be musicians, but most are not musicians at all. That’s the magic of the program—connecting people with the power of music who may not have seen it as an option before.

Are there any recent events you'd like to highlight or upcoming events you'd like to promote?

This Saturday, September 15, we will host the Rock to Recovery 3 benefit concert, honoring Moby and Tommy Vext with our Rock to Recovery Icon award and Service award, respectively, for their radness in being rock stars who are sober, thriving, and giving back in many ways.

The boys and I, Sacred Sons, will play too. These are guys who've played with bands like Korn, Sevendust, Snot, Papa Roach, Ugly Kid Joe, System of a Down, Kut U Up, KillRadio, Hed P.E., Spacehog, etc.

Headlining will be the super rad and hysterical Steel Panther, with special surprise performances throughout the evening, all hosted by Academy Award winner and 3-time Emmy nominee Bryan Fogel (Icarus). We’ll have rock stars and a red carpet, for a good cause…and it’s a sober event!

How is Reverb Gives helping to contribute to Rock to Recovery's mission?

Rock to Recovery’s biggest expense is gear—we need tons of it to do what we do, and Reverb Gives has helped us to buy the guitars and gear we need to travel the world and help souls that are struggling. We will have some new axes to bring to the next Wounded Warriors gig we do in November at Andrews Air Force Base!

How can people get involved and support Rock to Recovery?

It might not seem like a big deal, but it really helps us when you check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and repost and share our page and event flyers. If you support the work that we’re doing, helping us to spread the word is really impactful. You never know who might see it, and all of the good that can come from it. That is the key to life: Together, we can make a big difference. We all play an important part.

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