“Put Your Records On” is a campaign about the healing power of music. Musicians take care of us, so let's take care of musicians. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and all month long, we are sharing community features on musicians and music lovers about their go-to tracks for their mental health and more. It is also Give Big, a statewide fundraising campaign where individuals and organizations come together across Washington to invest in our communities. Give Big in support of musicians' mental health today!
Meet Jena Rockwood, an artist specializing in miniature sculpture and oil portraits. Her love of live music started in utero, and this love is reflected in her artwork. Although she never picked up the skills to create music herself, her portraits are usually of musicians, allowing her to connect with artists through painting. It is because music is an integral part of her well-being and mental health that volunteering for SMASH was a no-brainer. For the past decade, Jena has worked for one the most successful bands in the world, Metallica, which has given her a front-row seat to see the effects mental health can have, even on veteran musicians. Check out Jena Rockwood's art on Instagram at @JenaRockwoodArt.
Where did your passion for music come from?
My parents are both really into music and introduced me to many of the greats. My mom likes to say my first concert was Stevie Ray Vaughan. She was 8 months pregnant with me and said I bounced around in her belly throughout the show. I may not have been blessed with musical talent, but attending a live show is the greatest thing in life. And, of course, my earliest love of music came from the Muppets. Obviously, Jim Henson was a musical genius!
What are your current favorite local bands or artists?
Dead or alive, if you could see any artist live, who would it be and why?
Led Zeppelin, with John Bonham. They are my ultimate, I still feel all the same emotions and amazement when listening to them as I did when introduced to them at age 13. And I’m not ashamed to admit I had a huge *Nsync phase – being a teenage girl in the late 90s/early 2000s – and still would enjoy seeing them live again, but the day my dad gave me Led Zeppelin III was a day I’ll never forget. It was rock and roll from there on out for me.
Why do you think it is important to offer healthcare to musicians?
Everyone should have proper health care. Musicians have so much they have to worry about mentally and physically already; there should not be the added stress of worrying about how they can afford to care for themselves while they follow their creativity. Society puts great value on music, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find people who do not listen to music. It’s universal, a common language, and if we don’t acknowledge and support the real people creating this shared passion, we will lose it. I’m a type 1 diabetic, and if I did not have health insurance, I could not afford to live in Seattle.
Why do you support SMASH?
I have been attending SMASH benefit shows since they started, and I could see their impact on King County musicians. If every community had something like SMASH, we would have more shows, more albums, and more musicians able to dedicate their time and energy to being artists. The folks at SMASH are hardworking and want nothing more than to help keep our musicians healthy. That’s a mission I will wholeheartedly support.
Tell us a little bit about your own experience with your mental health.
I have been lucky enough not to have continuing mental health issues, but no one is immune. I’m not a musician, but I do work in the music industry, and my biggest stress comes from my job. Some weeks I work so many hours I barely leave the house, don’t see “real” people, or have any time to create any art. This makes me feel like someone I can’t relate to. I work for one of the biggest bands in the world, which is a huge honor, but as I get older, I know “me” time is crucial to my mental health.
Why do you think musicians and artists struggle with mental health issues at a higher rate?
I think this is a bit of a circle effect since a lot of great music comes from depression and trauma. A lot of work as an artist (even those in bands) means being alone with your thoughts, which isn’t always a sunny place. There’s also something to be said when the only time you feel like yourself is when you are creating. It makes it harder to live outside in the world. Of course, the fear of rejection or encountering rejection when presenting your heart and soul can’t help.
What are your go-to things to do when you are struggling with your mental health?
Art. Making something with my hands takes me out of everything else completely. Hours go by without a glance at the clock because there’s nothing more important. Even when I’m so frustrated because what I’m working on isn't going right, it feels more like a challenge than a problem.
Check out Jena Rockwood's art on Instagram at @JenaRockwoodArt
What is a song or album that, when you put it on it, helps you feel better during times of struggle?
Mother Love Bone – Apple
Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Goodnight, Texas – A Long Life of Living
Mudhoney – Mudhoney
Mark Lanegan – Whiskey for the Holy Ghost
Is there anything I didn't ask that you want to say?
I truly appreciate the work SMASH is doing for the community!