We're excited to introduce you to the fine folks behind SMASH in our Mental Health Awareness Month series, where we are sharing their go-to tracks for mental health, why they are passionate about healthcare for musicians, their favorite local artists, and more. Give Big is also a statewide fundraising campaign where individuals and organizations unite across Washington to invest in our communities. Give Big in support of musicians' mental health today!
Meet Ian Moore, the co-founder of SMASH and recording/touring artist who has maintained a nonstop feverish pace in his 30-plus-year musical career. He has toured with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, shared stages with artists from James Brown to Willie Nelson, had numerous radio hits and national television appearances, and even snuck in a movie appearance or two.
Where did your passion for music come from?
I grew up in Austin. My parents were part of a small counterculture that was all about music and community. It seems that I saw live music every day, and the musicians were some of the best on the planet: Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, and the Vaughn brothers. Everybody knew each other, and playing music had a deep spiritual currency. Music was how our community expressed itself. It was inevitable that it would be part of my life as well.
What are your current favorite local bands or artists?
I’ve loved Dean Johnson’s voice and singing for a long time. I know that Scott McCaughey officially lives in Portland now, but he is such a community-minded artist, and music flows through him. I think he is my favorite artist, both for his talent and for his ability to build a cool culture around him.
Dead or alive, if you could see any artist live, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Jimi Hendrix, but not because of his guitar playing. He played and created with freedom and expansiveness that I don’t think I’ve ever seen with another artist. There was a childlike innocence combined with such deep wisdom and musicality. Those traits are the North Star that I am always aiming for.
Are there any upcoming shows or music festivals you are excited about? If so, why?
I love the THING! Festival. I’ve played so many festivals, and they tend to be like buffets for music, which isn’t my deal. I like a vibe. Something that is curated and intentional. I think THING! is ahead of the curve in creating an experience with multiple layers involved in its creation.
Why do you think it is important to offer healthcare to musicians?
I’ve been touring for 35 years and have seen far too many musicians suffer because they didn’t have access to sustainable healthcare, and the access they did have didn’t understand the lifestyle and how it affects the body and mind. The population has been underserved and has suffered for it.
What made you want to found SMASH?
I think it was 2015. I tour out of Austin and will try to use HAAM’s service. When I talked to them, they said they could do it, but it would make much more sense to have healthcare where I lived. We both assumed that Seattle, with its forward-thinking views, extensive social services, and world-class doctors, would have something. I was flabbergasted when they didn’t; that was the initial call to action.
What do you love most about working with SMASH?
Music has saved my life. Music and musicians were so gracious to me growing up, teaching me music and how to make a life within its crazy castle. As a Texas ex-pat, it brings me great joy to bring some of that culture up here and to help our community.
Tell us a little bit about your own experience with your mental health.
When I started SMASH, I did so because I felt solid physically and mentally to help other musicians. I’m the great irony of things. Within a couple of years, I started having major issues with my voice. This uncovered all kinds of deep psychological stuff I had never considered. I’m a survivor, a fighter that never falls. Constantly being subjected to everyone’s opinions in masse to my deepest thoughts took a big toll on me. I also got caught in the middle of the cultural war that has become so venomous. I believe in music's healing power, so I routinely have put myself at the center of social conflict. I had no idea how heavy the burden had become.
Why do you think musicians and artists struggle with mental health issues at a higher rate?
There are a number of components: The lifestyle is the very wild west. For instance, when I come through town, my friends save their energy for their “ big night” with me. I must remind them that this “big night” happens every night. We perform in bars where alcohol and drugs are used much more often. We are in transition all the time, often staying in the ‘fight or flight” mode for weeks at a time, accounting for adrenal fatigue. Additionally, creating art is dancing with the darkness. That space many people avoid psychologically is where songs and melodies come from. That sensitivity is needed in order to create. Being subjected to constant positive and negative judgment on your innermost feelings can be very damaging. I think a complex stew of the above contributes to many musicians' struggles with mental health.
What are your go-to things to do when you are struggling with your mental health?
For me, it’s a serious commitment to live on this planet and be a good version of myself. I’m amazed that it doesn’t take more work for other people, but I have to be really intentional every day. I do a lot of stuff to keep that balance. My home life and tour life are different, but I run, meditate, get outside, do yoga, actively practice positivity, and try to be intentional about my surroundings. So much of my life is out of my control, and I am constantly around people and situations that are challenging for me, so I do my best to be safe and solid, especially while on tour.
What is a song or album that, when you put it on, helps you feel better during times of struggle?
I have a lot of music that lifts me. I would say that is my main relationship with it. My ‘vitamins’ are Stevie Wonder’s mid 70’s treasure trove (music of my mind, full willingness first finale, talking book, and songs in the key of Life.) His voice and energy make me feel good. When I really need it, ‘A change is gonna come’ is my life raft. It has pulled me through more challenging spaces than anything.
MORE ABOUT IAN MOORE: Ian Moore is a recording/touring artist who has maintained a nonstop feverish pace in his 30-plus-year musical career. He has toured with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, shared stages with artists from James Brown to Willie Nelson, had numerous radio hits and national television appearances, and even snuck in a movie appearance or two.
He saw early on the need to amplify the challenges and voices of his musical peers. He became a strong voice for advocacy, working with HAAM, SIMS, and MusiCares and seeing their impact on the musicians and the communities around them. It was this awareness that inspired him to bring these ideas up to Seattle and ultimately led to the creation of SMASH.
He deeply believes in equity, social progress, and community and has fought for these in song and cause throughout his life. He leans into nature to maintain his ballast. He is deeply grateful to flyfishing, beekeeping, meditation, and his beautiful family and community for giving him the strength to keep pushing towards these goals.