Be good to Yourself: NC’s Inspiring Charity Project Dedicated to Improving Musician’s Mental health

North by Northwest was privileged to talk to Ed Bumgardner, the bass player of The DeFacto Brothers. He has worked together with over 60 musicians to produce a charity album project called Be Good to Yourself. The album includes 23 songs produced by an amazing group of North Carolina musicians. Some of whom are known nationally for their work with major bands such as R.E.M.

The album is being used to help raise money to provide therapy and relief to musicians struggling with substance abuse, depression and emotional issues. This is particularly important today. These issues have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in loss of income and self-expression. 

The project’s website has examples of the songs available for listening and purchase. They range in genres from power-pop, acoustic, Americana, country, and songs that flirt with jazz. The song “Essence,’ which is about addiction, is one you can’t miss.

In Conversation with Ed Bumgardner who Kickstarted the Project

Ed Bumgardner playing bass

Ed started playing music when he was 13 years old. Now 66, he has been playing bass for 53 years. He is a proud Winston-Salem native. He is also North Carolina’s first full-time music writer. Ed started writing for the Winston-Salem Journal in 1985 and worked there full-time, in addition to his music career, until 2010. 

Ed talked about being a member of what he describes as the “surreal class” of Winston-Salem’s R.J. Reynolds High School from which a lot of people went on to become famous musicians. “I think it’s largely due to Winston-Salem being a weird microcosm that didn’t play by the rules,” Ed explained. Sharing that when he was growing up, the Top 40 radio stations, combined with Wake Forest University’s “Deaconlight” radio show,  weren’t always playing the same music that other towns and cities were putting out.

Winston-Salem’s Unique Relationship with Music

They played unheard of records, songs by lesser-known musicians, alternative music and more. “Wake Forest’s radio station broadcast atypical records, which meant we just had access to all of this unusual music. It was a fabulous place to have grown up at a time when a lot of places were denouncing rock music as hedonistic. Our churches were turning their meeting spaces into rock houses,” Ed shared. 

Wake Forest’s radio station broadcast atypical records, which meant we just had access to all of this unusual music. It was a fabulous place to have grown up at a time when a lot of places were denouncing rock music as hedonistic. Our churches were turning their meeting spaces into rock houses.

Ed Bumgardner

Ed says music is to him like oxygen. He credits his mother being in the great tradition of “rock-and-roll moms“ by helping him realize his dreams. “My mom bought me records when I was five; I got my first ever drum and toy trumpet at (age) one,” Ed said, talking about how music is an integral part of who he is. This is one of the reasons he is passionate about  Be Good to Yourself, the charity project he helped get started which supports musicians at a time when they most need it. 

Be Good to Yourself Supports Musicians Struggling or Recovering with Substance Abuse

Out of the core of Winston-Salem musicians, there have been four very close friends that took their own lives over the last 14 years. “Everybody tried to help,” Ed told me, “and it just didn’t work. We could talk all we wanted and we showed them ways out, but at the end of the day we aren’t healthcare professionals. Unless there is someone to give them treatment, things won’t improve.”

Members of Be Good to Yourself: Chris Garges, Rob Slater, and Ed Bumgardner

Things came to a head as each subsequent loss hurt worse than the one before. In 2019, the core group that became The DeFacto Brothers decided to do something proactive, which is how Be Good to Yourself came about. At the time of speaking with Ed, there has been a record number of Fentanyl overdoses in the past year, with 100,000 overdoses recorded. “Obviously, not all of those are musicians, but I’m sure a great many of them were,” Ed said solemnly. 

Be Good to Yourself materialized as a nonprofit charity right before the Covid-19 pandemic. “I had the idea [for Be Good to Yourself] that had been percolating for a few years after I went to another funeral of a musician that had died of alcohol abuse.

Be Good to Yourself Becomes a Non-Profit

“So, The DeFacto Brothers decided to raise some money to give to a mental-health clinic with the stipulation that it be used to treat subsistence abuse,” Ed said. The DeFacto Brothers had produced four songs to raise money when the first lockdown occurred. Despite the setbacks, the group found ways to get moving and keep producing music. 

“Everyone would quarantine for 14 days, then we would record for four days,” Ed said. “Then we would quarantine or get tested. By the time 2021 rolled around we had recorded 29 songs. Covid-19 destroyed everything for everyone and no one was worse hit than musicians. It robbed them of their ability to make money, which inevitably led to depression and substance abuse spiking,” Ed told me. 

Chris Garges playing drums

The Defacto Brothers went further by initially partnering with Abundance NC who is their official nonprofit partner. MindPath became their initial mental-health provider. MindPath has offices around North Carolina. Ed said that they worked out a deal with MindPath for discounted services that would enable Be Good To Yourself to pay for four or five visits. “I’m happy to say we have helped one person so far,” Ed said. 

But the charity didn’t end there.The SIMS Foundation out of Austin, Texas, was looking to move into North Carolina. The SIMS Foundation is renowned as the gold-standard in mental-health care for musicians and their families. Be Good To Yourself contacted them and was delighted when SIMS extended an invite to Be Good To Yourself to create a partnership as they moved into the Triangle in the coming year.  Ed is proud and excited to be associated with the SIMS Foundation, as well as all their partners and health care providers. 

More About the Album Be Good to Yourself

The Be Good to Yourself album was released on Monday, November 8, and Ed is happy to report in the short time it’s been out, it’s already reached five-figures in proceeds. “We are doing good and are excited to press forward with this and see how much money we can raise,” Ed said.

Obviously all proceeds are going to the charity, so he encourages people to head to the Be Good To Yourself website (begoodtoyourselfmusic.com) to browse around and purchase something. “It’s an extraordinary piece of work. I’ve heard it over 300 times. The only other album I’ve heard that much is Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones,” Ed laughed. “And I’m not just saying it’s good because I’m on it and am passionate about our project. I really think it is a very well-crafted album. We’ve put our best tracks on it. If you don’t believe me, go have a listen yourself,” he implored. 

Gino Grandinett, a DeFacto Brother

If you don’t need any more music, not to worry, you can still help the charity by donating on the website. As Ed said, there is no such thing as a donation too small or too big. “We need help. And rest assured, this is not just sending money to a faceless enterprise.”

Examples of People Saving and Preserving the Music Community

Ed pointed to the benefit to save the Cat’s Cradle, the venable Carrboro nightclub, as proof that people can make a difference. The Cat’s Cradle is a revered music club in North Carolina’s triangle area. After decades of operation, and hosting such bands as Nirvana, the pandemic threatened to close the Cradle’s doors forever. 

“They were hanging by a thread,” Ed said. “The music community in the Triangle came up with the idea of creating an online proceeds going toward raising money to keep the Cat’s Cradle afloat. The word is that they ended up raising over $100,000. That was inspiring to us. So now, with Be Good to Yourself, we’re asking people to stand up and save musicians.”

Be Good to Yourself Celebrates North Carolina’s Diverse Music Scene

Be Good to Yourself is an album with over 60 musical contributors, which is a special tribute to North Carolina as it combines the unique music scenes from around the state and celebrates them all. “There are the four major music scenes in North Carolina: The Triangle, the Triad, Asheville and Charlotte,” Ed said. “They are separate scenes, but with this album it becomes one scene united for one purpose. It shows the diversity of talent in our state, as well as the kindness of the people involved.”

Rob Slater, practicing in the studio

Ed was moved by the generosity of the musicians who contributed to the album. Despite most of them being out of work from the pandemic, no one asked to get paid. “We were prepared to do what we could to pay people, but everyone donated their time and talent to the cause,” Ed said. “It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye and it did on several occasions. I was blown away by the generosity and the support – and that extends beyond making music. All these folks have jumped in on the promo side of this. Everyone has been more than happy to help Be Good to Yourself be a success.”

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about the Be Good to Yourself project, and who your support is going to help, visit their website today and listen to some excellent tunes. The CD release includes 23 tracks. Coming soon will be a 10-song “best of vinyl release (and an exclusive 4-song vinyl EP release with tracks not available on any of the other formats). All songs and formats are available as digital downloads on the website, as well as T-shirts and stickers. 

To learn more about North by Northwest’s newsletter release contact us at info@nxnwconsulting.com. Please reach out to Suzanne Golden, Be Good to Yourself publicist for any further information regarding the charity project or to learn more about how you can directly get involved. You can contact her through the forum on the Be Good to Yourself website

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