Just like the father of my father, time stole his mind / And I can’t forget that one-fourth of his blood is mine / I try not to worry sing Larkin Poe in their song “Mad as a Hatter.” The track, eventually recorded and released for the first time by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell in 2021, was originally written by the duo a decade earlier as a tribute to their grandfather who suffered from mental illness.
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“Simply performing our song, ‘Mad As A Hatter,’ a tribute to our grandfather who faced mental health challenges, has brought our community closer and encouraged conversations about mental health and recovery, free from shame and stigma,” Larkin Poe told American Songwriter in a joint statement of the song. Larkin Poe’s performances of the song initially pulled in millions of views on YouTube before it was ever officially recorded.
Eventually recorded and released by the duo in collaboration with the Nu Deco Ensemble orchestra for their 2021 collaborative live album, Paint the Roses, “Mad As A Hatter” will always be an important song for the sisters and was part of their recent performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 4.
Prior to their performance, Larkin Poe also stopped by a special sober and wellness tent created by 1 Million Strong at Jazz Fest to show their support for the sober initiative at a music event and to help bring more attention to removing any stigmas around sobriety and more during Mental Health Awareness month.
“We are so happy to see 1 Million Strong at New Orleans Jazz Fest,” Larkin Poe tells American Songwriter. “The 1 Million Strong community and sober-supportive wellness retreats are a reminder that community is essential to our overall health and happiness and that everyone can enjoy live music and festivals whether they choose to drink or not. As touring musicians, we are fortunate to experience the power of community every night we’re on stage and strive to extend those feelings of connection to our fans.”
Creating a community of inclusive and exclusive sober events, particularly within the music industry, 1 Million Strong hosted a Wellness Retreat experience tent during both weekends of the festival, from April 28 through 30 and again from May 4 through 7. The tent was produced in partnership between Stand Together Music, which is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in America, and The Phoenix, supporting sobriety and creating sober experiences.
The 1 Million Strong sober-supportive wellness retreat experience opens daily once the festival gates open at 11 a.m. and is set up to help festival attendees recharge and cool down, and enjoy the fest with alcohol-free cocktails.
“We hope to see 1 Million Strong at music events everywhere,” adds Larkin Poe, “providing a positive and inclusive environment for those who choose not to drink and their allies, ensuring nobody is left outside the gates.”
Approximately 46.3 million people, aged 12 and older, struggled with a substance use disorder in the U.S. in 2021, alone, according to a recent report by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Through the festival tents and other sober-conscious events, 1 Million Strong hopes to erase the stigma of being sober through more alcohol-free concerts and other wellness events for those struggling with addiction.
“We are proud to partner with 1 Million Strong to make, for the first time, a wellness space part of this year’s festival—a meeting spot and retreat where individuals in recovery and allies can gather and connect with each other,” said Quint Davis, producer, and director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, in a previous statement. “We hope that this space will be a reflection of our commitment to fostering a vibrant and inclusive community where everyone feels welcome and celebrated.”
Throughout the past year, 1 Million Strong has already connected with thousands of fans at several festivals across the U.S., including Louder Than Life, Park City Song Summit, and Bourbon & Beyond, along with special event concerts with artists like The Chainsmokers, along with The Phoenix and their mental health and wellness support activities.
“Having 1 Million Strong’s sober-supportive wellness tent at the event demonstrates that sobriety doesn’t mean that people in recovery can’t be a part of events such as this, but that there is a need to expand music culture to include sobriety,” said Bill Taylor, director, music strategy and programs for The Phoenix. “There is tremendous strength in coming together as a community to support one another, and that’s what these spaces are all about.”
Photo: 1 Million Strong / Courtesy of The Press House