CreatiVets launched in 2013 with the mission to reach every veteran in the United States through the non-profit’s music, and now that dream is coming closer to reality thanks to a partnership with Big Machine Label Group. Veteran Songs is an 11-track compilation that includes songs written by combat veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress with the aid of Nashville songwriters. Since 2013, CreatiVets has connected veterans with ace songwriters to pen over 100 songs.
Over the past year Richard Casper, CreatiVets co-founder/executive director, met with several industry executives including Sean Kelly, head of global hiring at Amazon, John Quintas, managing director of global military affairs at Amazon, and Kelly Rich, Amazon Music’s country lead, to share his mission for the organization. When introduced to Big Machine Label Group president/CEO Scott Borchetta, the label head was inspired by CreatiVets’ goal to empower veterans in and outside of the writing room.
“Richard’s vision and passion to help veterans understand their value and offer them the chance to heal through creating music is nothing short of groundbreaking,” says Borchetta in a statement. “We welcome this partnership with CreatiVets to provide therapeutic solutions not only with our record and publishing divisions but also with our Music Has Value fund, which is dedicated to providing support to music programs that educate and encourage those who aspire to make music.”
Veteran Songs is being released via Big Machine while Big Machine Music will serve as the co-publisher for CreatiVets, providing licensing, administration and royalty collection services for mentor songwriters and those participants who opt in. A majority of the proceeds from the sales and consumption of Veteran Songs benefits CreatiVets.
Casper says the collaboration is a dream come true as he has witnessed firsthand how music can help in a time of struggle. After he returned home from a tour in Iraq where his Humvee was blown up four different times and his best friend died beside him, Casper turned to songwriting where his anxiety and depression minimized. He helped co-write two songs featured on Veteran Songs and says “Stories” holds special meaning to him.
“As a mentor on this session, I got the opportunity to work with the veteran before he came out to Nashville,” Casper tells me. “My job is to get veterans talking about what they need to get off their chest. As he was talking more and more, I was relating to all the things he was saying. He had spent over 20 years in the military with multiple jobs and I knew that it wasn’t just one story that he needed to talk about, it was all of them. So I suggested that as the possible angle to the song and he was all in.”
“Stories” was written by Casper, Johnny and Heidi Bulford, with veteran Geneo Graves. Casper credits the Bulfords for making the song what it is today. “The line that gets me every time is, ‘They call me a hero, but I’ve stood next to saints/ They are no longer here though/ So who else can relate.’ This line stands out because I watched my buddy get shot and killed bedside me while I was in Iraq and I know how hard it was to tell that story for the first time,” he adds.
The veterans that come through CreatiVets’ program are not typically singers or songwriters, Casper says. “We are trying to teach them songwriting as a skill to help them heal through the creation of music and also give them a voice through the song they write with us. All the singers are the songwriters that helped us create these masterpieces,” he adds.
While several songs on Veteran Songs detail a veteran’s time at war like the nostalgic “If I Change It” and anthemic “Need Savin’,” others include messages of gratitude to family members like the heartfelt “Unbroken” and hopeful “Light Like Mine.” The optimistic and confessional “The Man I Wanna Be” is a song Casper says has already had a major impact on the veteran’s life who penned the song.
“When I called the veteran to let him know that his song was going to be on our album he was so excited. He told me that he was at Universal Studios with his family and six months ago he would have never been able to go on a vacation like that,” Casper says. “He said that this song that he wrote gave him a way to communicate with his wife and kids for the first time and the experience completely changed his life.”
CreatiVets’ programs and music has saved lives, and the revenue generated from Veteran Songs will allow the non-profit to expand its reach and the amount of veterans it can help.
“What I hope this album will do is help veterans understand that they are not alone in this fight. We want them to use these songs to share with their families to explain how they feel,” Casper says. “It’s not just the program that can help veterans, it’s the music that is created. If we can pull one veteran who is struggling out of their home and into one of our programs it would be all worth it.”