Lifestyle Magazine

The Awesome Music Project – Rob Carli Interview

By Phjoshua @thereviewsarein


The Awesome Music Project was released on October 10th, World Mental Health Day, and by the next day, it had hit #1 on for Music, Top 20 for Happiness, and Top 100 for all books.

The book is a 200+ page, hardcover collection of stories from Canadians from all walks of life. The list includes world-renowned celebrities like Sarah McLachlan, Alan Doyle, Chris Hadfield, Dave Bidini, Madeleine Thien, Danny Michel, Nino Ricci, Fred Penner, and Theo Fleury. It also includes entries from Canadian's like you, teachers, cab drivers, bestselling authors, and many more. Each entry is a story about how music has changed their lives.

The goal of the book is to build a community that can accelerate solutions to mental health through music.

Music therapy isn't new, but there have been leaps and bounds made on the scientific side. There's a team of doctors led by Dr. Jeff Meyer, and what they're trying to do is fund some science, around the impacts of protocol-based music therapy, for those suffering from anxiety and depression. The way the science will work is they have a cohort of about 45 or 50 people, and they can measure the brain and figure out what's happening. They're able to recognize that certain types of proteins are heightened in those suffering from anxiety and depression. They've also looked at things like synaptic density. This is quantified as a measure, and they look at those characteristics and measure them through PET imaging. They create customized radioactive isotopes which are ingested and then they can trace them in the brain in real-time.

The idea is, you have a group of people who are not given music therapy, some who are, and then you look at the two groups and watch their responses for one month, two months, and then again at four months of clinical based music therapy. You can see the impact on the brain chemistry levels with the exposure to music therapy as opposed to pharmaceutical therapies.

Instead of prescribing medication, they'll be prescribing music.

Co-author Rob Carli personally dropped off a copy of the book for me. After getting a chance to look at the book, I was very excited to talk about the project with him.

The brainchild of Rob Carli and his neighbour Terry Stuart, the book brought together the talents of two very different skill sets. Rob is a musician and a Gemini Award-winning composer. Terry is the Chief Innovation Officer at Deloitte and a music lover. He initially approached Rob wondering if there was any merit in collecting people's happy songs with the goal to accumulate a playlist of music that makes you feel good and happy. Terry had been through his own experiences. One in two people will be impacted by mental health experiences. His family and friends had been through a number of suicides and episodes of depression, and he recognized that pharmaceuticals and antidepressants were the number one way of treating the condition in Canada. Terry knew that music had a healing power, and he wanted to see if his idea had any merit.

Rob responded that he thought no, because everyone had a different taste in music, that there was no way to find a magic playlist. In addition to the songs, Terry wanted to collect the stories. Rob could easily see the merit in the tales and the value of looking at the narrative behind why people liked what they liked. This led them to the Center for Addiction Mental Health, and to a team of doctors who had a program that was they were trying to fund. The pair thought that they could partner up and try to help CAMH to raise some money and spread the word. And while they were at it, they'd make a great book.

I wondered how they went about getting the tales for the book. Rob said "half of the people in the book are just people we know and friends, colleagues and then there are a lot of people from our publisher Page Two. They're this amazing sort of boutique publishing company that sort of sits between the traditional large publishing company and self-publishing. They're located in Vancouver, and they had an interest in the project. Not just publishing the book, but also, they just seem to get the message and the idea. They also dipped into their Rolodex , so there's a lot of authors in the book, and people that they knew in their world. At that point, different people would connect us to different people, so you know once you have a few "celebrities", the dominoes start to fall into place. You can approach other people and say hey, you want to be in our book. If they respond with an I don't think so, then you say, well here are the other people were in a book. Then they think, hmm, maybe I should get involved."

Shout out to Peter Cocking who designed the book cover, it's beautiful.

This book is for everyone. If you like music stories, it's for you. Young, old, and all ages in between, there are stories in this book for you. There are heart-wrenching stories and happy stories. Stories about loss, like the one from Eric Windeler who founded with his wife Sandra Hanington, after their son committed suicide. This one is tough to get through. Subjects we're used to shying away from, are out in the open. Remember one in two people are affected.

With so much content, I asked how they organized everything.

"Scott Steedman was the guy who helped us with this. He categorized the stories. Like these stories are about loss and recovery.. They can be grouped in a way, it's not completely cut and dried. It's not haphazard, it's somewhere in between. Because, you know, how do you organize 111 individual stories? You don't. I mean, the organization was partly just because at the end of every chapter, there's a little bit of science. And a little fact bubble about things like music therapy. We wanted to have those things in there and just to delineate the book up a bit". - Rob Carli

In fact, the book is grouped, like a double album set and it includes, Side 1 and Side 2, plus Side 3 and Side 4. Side 1 is Music & Voice. Side 2 is Music & Recovery, Side 3 is Music & Experience, and Side 4 is Music & Community.

Before I let Rob go, I asked if he had any favourite stories. I'm not going to give you the details, you'll have to look them up, but he listed Rick Mercer, Fred Penner, Doug Norman, and eight your old Rose Steedman.

How Can You Help?

You can buy tickets to the upcoming fundraiser in Kitchener.

Friday, November 1, 2019
7:00 PM - 9:30 PM

10 King Street West
Kitchener, ON
N2G 1A3


The evening will feature Dan Hill, Sarah Slean, Nino Ricci, Erica Ehm, Bob Egan, Gabe Nespoi, and Danny Michel, and will be hosted by Craig Norris. Proceeds from the event will go to Grand River Hospital Foundation.

You can buy a book! Check the links at the bottom, or visit and support your local bookstore.

You can join the cause. Partnerships come in many different sizes. Visit the website to find out more.

Spread the word! Share this post. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and more about the book. Give the book as a gift.

Proceeds from The Awesome Music Project will fund strategic research initiatives involving music and mental health. The initial research project is a collaboration between the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) of the University of Toronto.

The Awesome Music Project Links: Indigo / Amazon / Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / LinkedIn

"Music heals the mind, her voice heals the soul." - Pankaj Jain

The Awesome Music Project – Rob Carli Interview

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