Music Therapy with Jessica Risker

Music Therapy with Jessica Risker

Music Therapy is an existential podcast for musicians (and music fans!) Being a musician has never been easy, but in today’s over-saturated world, it feels more daunting than ever. With little money and murky paths to success, it’s no wonder musicians are struggling to find their place and value in the world. Musicians will find the Music Therapy podcast an indispensable and inspiring companion while navigating the ups and downs of creativity, the music industry, and mental health. Music fans will discover in-depth conversations with their favorite artists about their creative process and what it’s *really* like to be a musician these days. Featuring conversations with musicians, industry professionals, and licensed psychotherapists, the Music Therapy podcast is your pocket guide to navigating life as an artist while keeping a firm grip on your mental health. Charting all over the world, featured in Axios and NPR, the Music Therapy podcast is your #1 resource for creative and mental health support.


August 2, 2023 66 mins

benjamin fawkes is the self-described "custodian" of Rozz-Tox, a space which defines itself as "a listening bar, cafe, performance venue, gallery, culture cell, guesthouse, cinema, club; a virus whose ultimate goal is to constantly mutate to avoid becoming part of mainstream culture."

Located in Rock Island, IL, inspired by ben's time running a space in China, opened by he and his mom, named after Gary Panter's Rozz Tox Manifesto -...

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Jawson Dell is a Chicago musician by way of Colorado, influenced by RnB, jazz, funk, rock, and the blues. He's also a Certified Public Accountant. 

These facts lead us down some interesting paths, including the tension between music and business, how American Idol influenced Jawson's music career.  We also listen to a couple of tracks from Jawson.  

Songs included in episode: "Windows Apart" and "Flow" by Jawson Dell



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June 16, 2023 73 mins

Group Session!  Chicago's artsy post-punk Ovef Ow takes the couch as we dig into their minds, hearts, and souls about how they work together,  managing the band, success, being part of the indie scene, and more.  Ovef Ow gives a live performance. 

My esteemed colleague Leslie Tanner co-hosts! 

Many thanks to Joshua Wentz, Bret Koontz, Ralph Darski for capturing the sound, and of course Cafe Mustache for having us!

This episode was ...

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Salami Rose Joe Louis has a killer new album out called "Akousmatikous" (via Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder Records) and I am a massive fan.  She is fantastically creative, thoughtful, and incredibly nice.

We dig into the perils of obsessively working on music, how she approached the concept of the album, her creative and recording process, social media, AI, "authenticity", and a ton more. 

We also listen to two tracks off her new album...

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Humans are group-ish beings!  Whether it's your family, your friends, your band, your artist community, your country, etc., we all belong to groups.  Whether we realize it or not, groups have a powerful impact on our own thoughts and behaviors.

In this episode of Music Therapy, I talk with science writer and journalist Michael Bond, author of "The Power of Others: Peer Pressure, Groupthink, and How the People Around Us Shape Everyt...

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How do you honor your idols without being derivative?  How do you start over in a new (york) city? 

This week on Music Therapy I sit down with Dan Rico, a Chicago DIY scene fixture who moved to New York City right before the pandemic hit.  

We get into creativity, live band recordings vs virtual instruments, SXSW takeaways, quitting drinking, finding a new music community in NYC, impostor syndrome, and lots more.

We also listen to ...

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April 12, 2023 58 mins

Chicago's Joka No Joke is a self-proclaimed "rap therapist" with a brand-new mixtape called "Recess". 

In this episode of Music Therapy, we dig into the new-found freedom and playfulness Joka experienced while creating the album.   We touch on his creative process, tapping into his inner child, his "New Cool" philosophy, reflections and changes in his life through the pandemic,  how fatherhood has impacted Joka, and the importance ...

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March 22, 2023 44 mins

The van's full of gas, the drums fit, and there's hope in your eyes!


Arby's is getting old, you want a shower, and too much beer is taking a toll.

Touring can be amazing! But it's rarely the healthiest time of your life. 

So we got four experienced touring musicians to share how to make touring healthier. 

We cover:

  • Sleep
  • Diet 
  • Drugs/alcohol
  • Keeping up with relationships back home
  • How to keep band communication open
  • Finan...
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Does social media make you feel like crap?  Are you wondering why other artists are getting the press / shows / labels that you're not getting?

Today we dig into some of the more negative feelings that can arise for artists - especially when we compare ourselves to other musicians. 

Jealousy / comparison / envy / resentment can feel bad, but it's telling you something!  And, we can listen to those feelings, and actually make them u...

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February 8, 2023 72 mins

Today, for a special Valentine's Day episode, we answer a question that has plagued musicians for thousands of years: Should you date your bandmate?

We talk to three musicians about their experience dating bandmates. 

Leslie Tanner also drops by with a few words of wisdom.  

If you have dated a bandmate or are considering dating a bandmate, this episode's for you!

Featuring Steve Malden (Sofas), Danielle Sines (Impulsive Hearts), a...

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In December of 2022, Pitchfork published an article, written by Jenn Pelly, called "Confronting Music's Mental Health Crisis".  This article was passed around widely on the internet; obviously, it resonated with many musicians.    Jenn and I dig deeper into her article, discussing her research and takeaways, bits that she left out of the article, and consider what role Pitchfork can serve regarding artists' mental health.   ...

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Jealousy is tough emotion, but can it be useful??

In this episode of Music Therapy, I chat with therapist/musician Ben Stover - who also co-hosts the Popcorn Psychology podcast -  all about Artistic Jealousy. 

We look a the ways it can manifest, how social media leads us to comparison and jealousy, and what you can do about it. 

If you've ever felt envious of someone else's success or talent, sit back and face the feeling with us -...

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January 4, 2023 70 mins

Así Así is a Mexican/American band from Chicago, IL.  In August 2022, the band released their debut album, “Mal de Otros”, where Así Así blends rock, dance, and Latin themes together to form oftentimes haunting, yet upbeat and catchy songs. 

On this episode of Music Therapy, taped live at Cafe Mustache, Jessica sits down with the full band to talk about work/art balance, how they create music together, mental health, and lots more!


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In this episode of Music Therapy I talk with Chicago artist Alana Schactel of Lipsticsm. Lipsticism’s sound is frequently described as cosmic, dreamy, and psychedelic, and there is something immediate and sensual in her punchy drums and emotional honesty. 

We cover a lot of ground in this episode!  Alana is currently studying to become a therapist, so we discuss our shared experience in the worlds of music and therapy.  We look at ...

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Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  In the spirit of holiday traveling, we have an episode all about touring.

In October 2022, Isabel Olive (Half Gringa) posted the following on Instagram:

"Hey folks. A photo of me smiling because this is a tough one - I’ve decided to cancel the last four dates of the HG October tour in Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. This was hard to make because I’m both the artist and the manager, but the...

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What's it like to walk away from the music industry?

Steff Reed is a New York-based  musician, educator, and activist. As a musician and producer, he has produced many tracks that have made it to Billboard Charts.  As an educator, he has taught thousands of youth over the past 15 years, and was nominated for the Grammy Music Educator Award.  As an activist, he is currently building a non-profit in Brooklyn called Power of Love.

We ...

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There comes a time in every musician's career when you ask yourself:  should you get a publicist?

In this episode of Music Therapy I talk with a real-life publicist, Colin Smith of Fresh Paint PR.  Colin breaks down exactly what a publicist does, how a publicist chooses to work with someone (or not), and what you can do to make a PR campaign successful.

We also discuss  the biggest question of all: what exactly does publicity accom...

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Group Session!  Chicago art-punkers Spread Joy define once and for all the grand purpose of art, ponder "derivative" music, explain the methods behind their songwriting and give a killer live performance on this episode of Music Therapy.  With special Exploration by the one and only Leslie Tanner!

This episode was taped live at Cafe Mustache on August 10, 2022.  

Visit for show notes, past episodes, and upco...

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In this episode of Music Therapy we talk with Duncan Sheik!  

You might remember Duncan Sheik's 1996 chart topping hit “Barely Breathing.” That song racked up 55 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned him a Grammy Award® nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

In the years since, Sheik has been celebrated for his work in musical theater, including the groundbreaking success of Spring Awakening, which won eigh...

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Annie Fish is a musician, cartoonist, and author based in Chicago, IL. In this episode of Music Therapy, I talk with Chicago musician Annie Fish about their new album “Weird Like Me”.  “Weird Like Me” is a full length 90’s inspired rock album accompanied by an oral illustrated history, found at 

Through the album’s concept, Annie explores her rock n roll dreams, considers what it would have been like to b...

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