Let’s talk about your personal history of being bullied when you were growing up…
It didn’t really start until around grade 7 or 8. I started feeling the pressure from other kids, just getting picked on in a general sense. I could never really figure out why that was, because I never said anything to anyone. The school that I went to was new at the time, and it was fairly small (only about 300-400 kids between grades 7-12). I only had a couple of friends.
Things got worse between 7th and 8th grade. At one point, I remember being out on the playground and some kids were just saying some nasty things. Before I knew it, I turned around and I was being punched in the face. I was completely knocked out.
The next thing that I remember was waking up on the playground with all of the teachers around me, and blood pouring out of my mouth. I didn’t know what had happened, but I could just see the panic on the teachers’ faces as they dragged me off to the nursing room. They called my mom, and she came down to the school. She was frantic, and they took me to the hospital, where I ended up having around 12 stitches all through my upper lip.
It was just really scary to not even understand why that had happened. I think that, to this day, it’s kind of left me with some form of anxiety. I don’t know if it’s a social anxiety thing, but I’ve always had a kind of nervous tension throughout my life. I’m not entirely sure that it was from that incident, but after that, I was very scared whenever I saw people fighting at school or anyplace else.
My mom pulled me out of that school, because it was probably not the right place for me to be, and put me into a boys’ school called Blacktown Boys High. It didn’t have a great reputation, so I still don’t know why my mom sent me there, but they were a good school in terms of learning.
Things were okay for the first year, and then it all kind of started happening again. I was never in any fights (which I was very grateful for), but I was kind of the outsider at school.
So, how did you handle things?
I always found myself going to the music room during recess and lunch, to try and take my mind off of all of the kids that picked on me. I didn’t even want to walk by any of the bullies at school, out of fear that they would say something nasty, throw something at me or push me up against the wall. I always did my best to avoid the people that I knew could hurt me physically or emotionally. The music room was truly my escape.
I guess it’s fair to say that you used music as an outlet…
Absolutely! At the time, it was just an outlet, but then it started to become a lot of fun, and I became very passionate about it as the years went on, and it just grew from there.
I ended up starting my very first band with a couple of my mates that I’m still very good friends with today. I think that really helped to build my passion for music.
The guys that I’m with now in Longreef have been together for so many years, and when you spend every single day of the week on the road, it’s more than a friendship. It becomes a family, a home where everything happens and everyone knows each other’s secrets. Bullying definitely steered me towards a career in music.
It’s good to know that one of the ways for kids to figure out their own “Battle Plan” is to find their passion and pursue it as an escape from tough times. When you were playing music in high school, did you feel like you escaped to a whole other world?
Totally…totally! That was the best part about it. I just looked forward to recess and lunch to get up to the music room where I kind of felt like I was alive. Because I had some sort of purpose, I knew that things would be okay in the long run. However, I do remember things getting so bad at one point that I started cutting school because I didn’t even want to be on the playground with the bullies.
Aside from music, did you have anything else that made your high school days any easier?
I played baseball for 10 years, and loved it. I felt lucky to have the baseball team at school to look after me, because I was the youngest kid on the team. Whenever I was around the team, I kind of felt safe. I spent most of my time on the baseball field or in the music room.
That’s interesting. I think that the impression out there is that athletes are the ones bullying the non-athletic kids, but even as one of the baseball players, you still had to deal with the bullies. I guess it goes to show that it really can happen to anybody, not just the kids who are outcasts because they are different…
I absolutely found that to be true!
The good thing about your success is that it shows kids who are being bullied that if you follow your passion, things do get better eventually. The inspiration for this anti-bullying campaign on Hard Rock Daddy was to show any kid who is being bullied that there is hope, that things will get better than they are right now, and that you can still have a great future…
Exactly! It must be so hard for kids in this day and age with the Internet, which was just coming out when I was in high school (and it didn’t seem to be as bad as it is now). Social media can be horrible. You see these kids committing suicide nowadays after being bullied on and offline. It has gotten very scary.
Let’s talk about the process of writing “Battle Plan.”
Late last year, we were on the road with a band called 3 Pill Morning. During a day off, I was sitting in one of the band member’s houses, strumming away on the guitar, and started singing some words around it. I kind of felt from the music, that it needed some sort of positive lyrical message. At that point, I hadn’t even thought about the anti-bullying thing; I was just trying to come up with positive lines throughout the song. It wasn’t until we had a rough version of it, that I listened back to it and thought…hey, this is the song that I’ve wanted to get out there for the past 15 bloody years, so the anti-bullying idea was always in the back of our minds.
We really didn’t need to change many of the lyrics because it was very much geared towards anti-bullying already. It kind of happened very organically, which was the best part about it. Once we recorded it, we thought that it would be a cool thing to try and get out to anyone being bullied, and the parents of kids who are being bullied.
So, how did you get hooked up with Friend Movement?
We were looking for an organization that could help spread our message. It’s always better to do things in numbers, so we searched around for a little while with our management company until we found Friend Movement. We approached them, and they loved what we had to offer in terms of the song, the video and the message.
We’ve been working together since just before Christmas on ways that we can keep spreading the anti-bullying message through “Battle Plan.” We’re hoping to keep it going for the next few years, or as long as we possibly can.
It’s definitely a song that has some serious meaning behind it, and it feels great to be a part of something that can actually help kids. The song is something that we’re very proud of.
The video for “Battle Plan” is incredibly powerful. Can you talk about the making of it?
The filming was done with two GoPro cameras (which were brand new at the time). We just went out on the street and approached parents and kids. We thought…what better way to help try and spread the word than to have kids appear in the video, and hold up the signs with the lyrics?
It was challenging in some places, but 98% of the time, they were all for it when they found out what we were doing. We were also very lucky to have connections with some schools down in the south, so it made it easier to get a whole bunch of students involved.
How long did it take to put the video together?
I think that the filming process went on for about two months. We had the cameras on the bus with us. Everywhere that we stopped, we saw kids, and asked them if they wanted to be a part of the video.
We probably shot footage in six or seven different states, which was really cool. When we had all of the footage of the kids done, we wanted to make it look really cool, so we thought…what about Times Square? We were playing in Atlantic City at the time, so we took a road trip into Manhattan. It totally worked! I really like the fact that we’re not in the video, except for holding up signs with statistics.
Did any of the kids share bullying stories with you during the making of the video?
Absolutely! Most of them, actually.
Is there one story, in particular, that comes to mind?
The story of the kid in the wheelchair on the football field really stuck with me. One of his caretakers told us that people often yell out very silly things to him. Even though he is disabled, he understands everything that’s going on, but people took advantage of his disability anyway. It was terrible to hear that story.
Since the song came out, have you heard any stories about how it has helped kids who are being bullied?
Oh, absolutely! All over our Facebook page, we’ve gotten messages from parents and kids who are being bullied, thanking us for making people aware of this horrible situation. A lot of the parents go in-depth about what’s happened to their child, and kids have also shared their stories. People are really getting on board with what we’re doing. It’s already making an impact and helping to change peoples’ lives.
The following story was taken directly from Longreef’s Facebook page. This story (which is one of many) shows the impact that “Battle Plan” is already having on real people dealing with a real issue. If you would like to help spread the anti-bullying message, please share this article and the link to the free download of “Battle Plan” with your friends on social media…
Susan Petersen Oldenburg “WE’LL RISE”… (Lyric from Battle Plan” – or as I like to call it: “ABBEY’S ANTHEM”!!) – I met you guys 2 years ago when you played at the Hard Rock in the Four Winds Casino. My daughters have LOVED the signed CD & DVD I brought home that night!! MOST IMPORTANTLY… My 14 year old daughter had been bullied for the last year by a group of girls to the point of having panic & anxiety attacks, became anorexic, and wanted to not go to school anymore. Counseling helped give her the tools to cope, but YOU GUYS, and YOUR MUSIC gave her the strength to FACE these kids, stand up for herself, get help from teachers if she needed it & helped her realize she was NOT ALONE in this BATTLE FIELD!! She’s become a stronger, more confident young lady AND an advocate for Anti-Bullying in her school, helping many others who were suffering in silence to speak up & speak out against bullying!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! This one’s for ABBEY!!