Phil Harrington part 1 – Tea Memories and From Medicine to Music on TeaDeviant.com
Tea Deviant: So we are here with Phil Harrington who is the creator of the Youbloom festival that started in Dublin and then also has a LA component. You do two festivals a year?
Phil Harrington: Yes
TD: ...and that’s been going since?
TD: Bob Geldof was originally involved when it was starting in Dublin to support it as well. You’ve had numerous speakers of note from the music industry and probably hundreds upon hundreds of bands by this point.
TD: Very cool. We’re having some tea of course. I brought an Assam for you. You like your tea without milk?
PH: That’s right. Since I was about 10 I decided to give up milk for some reason.
TD: Do you remember the first time you had tea, or has it just sort of always been a part of your family?
PH: I think probably when I was like 7 or 8 or something like that, you know. It is kind of like a big boy moment when you got to drink tea, yeah.
TD: Do you have any remembrances of tea, like how your mom served it or anything like that?
PH: Oh yes I do indeed. I remember that my grandmother who was in Cork and would come and visit. She would, you know, have a cup of tea brought to her in bed and she would send the child back down with the tea with the explanation that it was like piss and she wanted a real cup of tea. (laughs)
TD: (laughs) It was too weak?
PH: Yeah, it was too weak. And in Ireland everything is punctuated with when you have a cuppa. I would come home in the afternoons and my mom would be there with one or more of her neighbor friends, you know, sitting around the table. They’re all drinking tea and chatting and so on, before like coffee became a thing.
From Medicine to Music:
TD: If I am not mistaken you started in medicine
PH: That’s right.
TD: From medicine to music and music as medicine?
PH: That’s right. I sang and I came from a musical family. My parent’s were great singers. My dad was a great piano player. So there was a lot of music around when I was a kid. When I was in medical school I was the guy in the pub who on a Friday or Saturday night would love to get everybody singing. It wasn’t so much that I was performing as much as I got it going singing you know, folk songs. I loved as well the drama of having a few pints under the stools, closing time coming and the guards at the door banging at the door because it was closing time, and the Publican going crazy about losing his license, and where we would continue to sing. It was this whole kind of drama of youth that would go on. The Publican would get quite upset, but once we were out I mean we were all friends again.
After I qualified as a doctor I found that working in the regular medical system really didn’t suit me. I was just a more creative kind of person.
TD: The rigidity?
PH: Rigidity, yeah. I jumped up out of bed at five o’clock in the morning with maybe two months to go to where I got my papers and it was just really clear. You have to go off out your own road. So I got my papers and I stayed practicing for year as a regular doctor. I had worked through the summers to put myself through medical school as a kid. My dad had died when I was 18. I carried on being in business. At the same time I stumbled into alternative medicines. So I immersed myself into the medicines and I got the idea to do a TV series on alternative medicines. I came to London, and to LA and to San Francisco to interview the leading people whose books I’d read. That was like doing a thesis. Out of that really came a philosophy. Up till then it was difficult to go from western medicine to the other medicines, but after I’d gone through that process I came into a whole new paradigm in myself and with people.
A workshop that I was on in the middle of all that with Paul Rebillot called Transformation Ritual, he did work based on the work of Joseph Campbell. That workshop helped you to look at who you were and your past, what you wanted to let go of and what you wanted to bring into your life. Then you created your own ritual to symbolize that. In that ritual I went into hyperventilating then I went into screaming.
TD: As a release?
PH: It was completely spontaneous. There was nothing planned about it. I had been at these workshops before where I heard people screaming and I was like “Oh my god, let’s get out of here now.” Now here was I the guy screaming. The stuff I saw… I saw my parents and so on in front of me saying “Do this. Do that.” The scream was basically “Let me speak! Listen to me!” But in that moment as well I saw myself that I was somebody who needed to be singing to be well. So I went on a journey into sound healing and I developed a music therapy called Voce, which is the Italian and Portuguese word for voice, because it was like I was getting the voice out of people. I still do that to this day. At the same time on the medical work I was coming to a philosophy. I had this insight that it’s a wonderful thing and I want to be involved in helping people to get better but I was also aware of all the people who want to try to live the creative life.
TD: To be whole. Like you had found that you needed to sing to be whole you recognized in others that need?
PH: Yeah. I saw how many people who wanted to do that. Those people in the context of the US then I don’t think it was referred to as a term, but maybe 15 years ago or something like that they came up with the term Cultural Creatives…who are people who are some kind of artist in the way in which they approach their lives. I was really attracted to the idea of more and more people being able to have that life …more singing and dancing and less fighting. That’s where the spark of Youbloom came from.
The original idea behind Youbloom was if you were to bring the same sophistication to all these independent artists and Cultural Creatives as micro businesses that there is in larger business, big corporations and so on, what potential could you bring out in terms of that becoming viable? If you take say the music business: 75% of all the revenues go to the superstars which is like in the hundreds, then 20% goes to like three quarters of a million bands that gig all the time and the last 5% goes to like 10 million [bands]. The inequity is huge. The original idea behind Youbloom was to try to figure out ways in which the cohesion between the little guys would become much better.
TD: Supporting the indie model.
PH: Supporting the indie model, the independent, yeah.
TD: Which has become huge. The industry has changed so much over time with the advent of things like Youtube, streaming sites…
PH: That’s right.
TD: So finding a way to help emerging artists to have their own business, if necessary you mean, outside of the old-fashioned record industry model?
PH: Yeah. The vision was more and more people being able to be creative and viable. Then the original mission idea was what if everyone was in a data cooperative where they shared all the data they had about themselves and their fans? What are all the opportunities you could find out of that?
When I started Youbloom this was before the crowd funding thing happened. I wrote out the names of all the people I knew who shared that vision. It was over a hundred people and I gave them all shares in the company. One of those people was Bob Geldof. In the business I had in Ireland I got introduced to Bob through a shred accountant. He was an investor in that business and we became friends through that. When I was on that journey of my own discovery he was supportive of that. He was very into the whole philosophy of Youbloom.
In Part 2 we talk about the start of Youbloom, where it is now and plans for the future. For more on Youbloom annual festivals and Youbloom Connect visit www.youbloom.com . Youbloom Dublin is currently accepting band submissions until February 19th, 2018 http://www.youbloom.com/youbloomdublin-2018/
-by Cassandra Vincent