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Stories from Backstage

An Interview with Casey Seymour: Making the Best of 2020 with SIMS, Therapy, and Virtual Community

2020 was a positive and transformative year for Austin’s Casey Seymour.

Known for his fierce honky-tonk drum chops with bands like Croy and the Boys, Casey took to the studio this past year to record the just-released Hidden Hills, his debut solo EP that’s received acclaim in the Austin Chronicle and showcases a decidedly not honky-tonk sound.

When reflecting on his new music and what went into the writing and recording process, Casey cites therapy through SIMS, discovering sobriety, and a helpful community of other artists as helping him rediscover his identity as an artist. SIMS Development and Marketing Coordinator James Whelan was excited to talk with Casey and catch up with how he’s doing.

James Whelan: From what I’ve seen in the past year, not many people have come out with improved mental health. It’s great to see how well you’re doing.

Casey Seymour: I was very fortunate to have gotten some help through SIMS right before this all started, last January. I felt like I was a little mentally prepared. I had started renovating my studio, reading The Artist’s Way that my therapist gave to me (and I’m reading again this January). But that help really jump-started just going inward and getting creative again.

JW: In a recent interview you did, you mentioned the suicide of your friend (local musician) Greg Enlow was at least one of the sparks to look inward a bit and seek therapy. Was that the main thing that prompted you to seek help?

CS: It definitely affected me so much I kind of went off the edge drinking, and using that as self-medication. I’d been drinking for years before that, and had reached out to SIMS a couple years before when I was in a bad situation. But I didn’t really take it seriously enough that time. Taking that first step is really difficult, and drinking being such a big part of my life being a musician, it was something I didn’t want to give up. I think the sadness I experienced from Greg’s suicide is what drove my drinking to a point where I was talking in a way that was self-destructive, and coworker told me that I needed to get help.

I was having such bad panic attacks from withdrawing from alcohol, I had to drink in the morning. It just got so bad that I had to go to the hospital and get medication for anxiety. At that point, I said “I have to talk to somebody about this”. That’s when I talked to Patsy and was able to locate a counselor pretty close to me, and it worked out so well. But it really sucks that I had to come to a rock bottom moment to get help. I wish it wasn’t that way for people who are struggling, I hope they don’t have to get to a place where they hit rock bottom before they seek help.

JW: I think one the best ways I’ve heard it put was that rock bottom is just when you decide to stop digging.

CS: Exactly. I’ve been in that place where you’re just not thinking right. You think that there’s no help, you think that people don’t understand, but that’s not true. I wanted to seek help and luckily we have programs like SIMS.

My counselor is amazing, and knows so much about music. What really jumpstarted the creativity as well was the book “The Artist’s Way” that she gave me. It’s a 12-week book that gives you great tools like Morning Pages, where you get your subconscious and the negativity onto the page and are able to sift through your feelings. I’ve been doing that exercise for over a year now and it’s really helped.

Right after I finished the first book, my cousin in Dallas texted me and invited me to a virtual group who are also going through the books. It’s nice to have a community of other artists talking about their experience with the morning pages and different tools. One good thing about the pandemic is that it brings people together in that sense, where we never thought we’d be in an art group online.

JW: It definitely forced people to adapt, and in a strange sense feel more connected with people across the country and entire world. It doesn’t matter where you are, we were able to talk to and see each other from our living rooms just the same.

CS: That kind of inspired my song on Hidden Hills, “Come Together 2021”. For me, it means I come together with my friends through sharing a Spotify session or listening to music at the same time, or through a virtual art group. Just trying to come together and get through the pandemic together despite your differences.

We’re in a mental health crisis right now. And something that’s been inspiring to me is reading about mental health advocates and what that means, and thinking about ways that I can help, and just breaking that stigma of getting help in the first place. I think a lot of people need help, and taking that first step is so difficult – I know it was for me.

As I was getting better, I had a conversation with my therapist and asked “Do I need to keep seeing you? What do I do now that I’m getting a little better”? She put it into a metaphor – “You don’t just take the jet fuel out of the plane once it’s in the air”.

JW: One thing you mentioned earlier that I think is relevant now, is that you considered being a musician and drinker as part of your identity. Did you have any concerns that you would lose what made you creative or parts of your identity that were there that relied on drinking?

CS: I feel like I’ve always had my identity as this artist with these songs, but I lost my identity going out and playing in the honky-tonks and drinking all the time. Now I’m getting back to my identity. It’s nerve wracking putting out this type of music and sound of positivity when people only perceive you as the drummer for Croy and the Boys that parties all the time. It is awkward, but coming back to who I really am as an artist, I felt more comfortable putting those songs out there and saying “I’m not just a drummer, I’m also a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist”. There is more good reaction than bad, so I think people really resonate with the message, especially during these times.

JW: Any time I see someone throwing out positive vibes, I’m trying to latch on to that feeling. The last year was filled with so much negativity that I think people are looking for folks like you who can bring an uplifting message to what they’re doing.

CS: I’m happy to share that energy. I think we’re going to start seeing more artists come out with hopeful messages. One thing that stuck with me from the Inauguration speech was poet Amanda Gorman, and the last line of her poem really resonated with me. “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” It really does take bravery to see the positive side of things, and it takes bravery to get help, and to help others, but I think we’re a lot braver than we think. We have the opportunity to encourage people and I think we should take it during these times.

Maybe people will see that I went to SIMS, or that SIMS has helped, and that can be a starting point for what they have to do.

JW: Thanks so much for talking to me today. Hearing about your journey over the past year, and how you’re doing now, I’m thankful you’re doing this well and happy for you.

CS: Thanks, it’s been great. I just hope this inspires someone.

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