A few months ago I got an email from Poston Butte Golf Club in Florence, Arizona promoting a Scott Helmer concert. I didn’t know the name, but Scott was attempting to break a world record. So I looked him up, liked what I saw, and heard, and reached out for an interview. Scott and his team are great, and it was fun learning more about him. Did he enjoy his show at Poston Butte? Did he break the record? You will have to read more to find out. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Scott Helmer!
Tell me more about the Road To Guinness.
My 2016 Guinness World Records attempt is actually part of a 2 year journey and goal to help raise more awareness for my story, mission and the causes I work to support. I attempted to break the record in 2015 but the leadership of the charity that the entire attempt was benefiting sabotaged it in real time, as it was happening and I was only able to tie the record. My goal and intention was to use my attempt to raise $1 million and a ton of awareness for a camp that serves children and adults with special needs and disabilities in Utah. Great cause and camp, horrible leadership.
I personally selected them to be the sole beneficiary and allowed them to fundraise around my attempt, as I had performed live in concert several times in the past for the camp and helped raise money and awareness for their cause as part of my previous tours… I never saw this coming.
Since the majority of my 2015 attempt took place in Utah, and for a Utah based cause, The University of Utah graciously donated one of their trauma helicopters, provided by AirMed, to shuttle me to my last 4 concerts. En route to Provo to perform concert No. 8 and be picked by the helicopter, my team and I learned that the CEO of the camp had called them hours before and cancelled the helicopter. No one ever told me or my crew and we had to find out on our own while waiting for the chopper. My team and I tried our best to hit all of the remaining stops via car but in the end, I was unsuccessful.
I never spoke about this publicly at the time because I didn’t want to be known as the guy who burned down a camp for special need kids and because they provide an incredible service to so many. However, that being said the leadership is terribly deficient and a change should be made – in my opinion. I think enough time has passed and people should know the truth. My 2015 attempt for them, even though it resulted in a tie helped raise over $500,000 for their cause and 100% of the proceeds went directly to them. I think his ego and need to be in control may have caused a lot of this but we press on!
I think if the donors, sponsors, venues and fans knew what really happened on that day they would want their money back. I feel like I let a lot of people down by not making it to the final shows and by not breaking the record, but in the end I decided to move forward and view it at as another blessing and example of how when things don’t go as planned, you must pick up the pieces and keep going. If you believe in what you’re doing you never give up, regardless of the obstacles. I definitely believe in what I’m doing.
How many different guitars do you own?
Not as many as you would think. I have a couple of acoustics and electrics. My friends at Godin Guitars and Seagull Guitars have been very supportive of my mission from the beginning, and have sent me some incredible instruments to use along my journey. To be honest, I wouldn’t think of playing other brands. Not only because they make incredible guitars but more so because they have supported me from day one, and to me that means everything.
Tell me more about #GivingTuesday?
A great concept, but to be honest, I was a really disappointed that they didn’t take advantage of my attempting to break a Guinness World Records title for charity on their day 2 years in a row. We worked them in to all of the branding and marketing but in the end they never chose to get involved or help spread the word.
Do you play any other instruments?
Yes, drums and piano. I started playing the drums as a result of having really bad asthma and not being able to go outside during the winter time in Illinois. My brother, Rich talked my mom into buying me a used drum set when I was 5 or 6 and I never left the basement for the next decade! When I tour and production allows, I get to play drums and piano on stage during my act. Its a real treat and adds an entirely new dimension to the show for the fans.
You are originally from Elgin. I’m from Indiana and went to Chicago a lot. There are some great music venues there. What are some of your favorite venues in the Windy City?
I love the Midwest and even though I have lived in Phoenix since junior high, I still have fond memories of the big city and the suburbs, especially around the holidays. The Chicago Theater is one of my favorites and I saw my first concert at the Rosemont Horizon in 1983; Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe, that was something! I’ve been fortunate enough to play House of Blues Chicago and Hard Rock Cafe in the city, and look forward to many more concerts in Chicago and the entire state of Illinois in the coming year.
I am sure it changes from song to song, but what is your songwriting process?
I have notebooks all around the house and one with me while on the road. Ideas, song titles, journal entires and more. My brother, Rich is my songwriting partner so most of the time he will send me a riff or piece of music, and then I will flesh out the melody and lyrics. Then we get together in a room and work on the best of the best. Inspiration comes from so many different places but for me it has to be something I have experienced or witnessed first hand.
Songwriting and recording is like a snap shot of where you are in your life at the time. You work for a couple of months to write the songs, then you head into the studio to get them on tape and then it’s done. Hopefully you’ve given it your best but you can’t go back. After that, you get to work on sharing it with the world; performing live, touring, etc. I love the process of writing and recording but performing live is where it’s at for me. Stepping on stage and giving everything you’ve got to a live audience night after night is my absolute favorite thing in the world to be doing.
How did you get connected with KS Energy Services?
Dennis Klumb, Jr., President and CEO KS Energy Services, and I have been friends for many years. We go back to my days as an insurance broker. He has always been so supportive of me and my work, and I am truly grateful for that. And, both of us are huge Chicago Cubs fans and enjoyed seeing them claim victory this year!
You have opened for acts like Heart and 3 Doors Down. Do you get nervous when opening for big names like that, or does it just come naturally to you?
Sure, you always get a few butterflies before taking the stage, whether its in front of 10,000 people in an arena or a couple of dozen at a bar. In a lot of ways, you are doing exactly same thing as performer, regardless of the venue; giving it your all, doing your best and trying to make a connection with the audience. A big stage with lots of production (lights, sound, etc.) does make it a bit more exciting.
Annually, how many live shows do you do?
Since 2012 I’ve logged about 200 per year, both large and small and everything in between. I look forward to keeping up that kind of pace for many more years to come. I absolutely love what I am doing.
This might be difficult for you to talk about, but can you tell me a little bit more about what happened back in 2008? Sounds like you went through a rough patch back then.
I really screwed up my life and made some serious mistakes. I gave up music entirely in my early twenties to get a “real job,” and ended up becoming an insurance broker. I was very successful for some time and even opened my own firm in 2006. However, I tried to get too big too fast and when the market tanked in 2008, so did my business. To try and keep the doors open and stay afloat while I restructured my debt, I used monies in my trust account to pay the bills. BIG MISTAKE.
Not only was this illegal but it forever changed the course of my life. I couldn’t right the ship and everything collapsed. In the end I lost my family, all of my possessions, my career and most importantly my self respect. At my lowest point I sat on the side of the road with a gun in my mouth, ready to commit suicide. Read more in the opener here – Scott Helmer Announces “Never Lose Hope” Tour to Help Stop Suicide Across America
In the end and even though I would NOT recommend my path to anyone, it was a blessing in disguise, brought me to my intended path and what I am on this earth to be doing. It was a gift. Hopefully my story shows others that have had setbacks or challenges, or made mistakes (even committed a crime) that suicide is NEVER the answer and that you can make a comeback. You can even make your life better as a result of your mistakes and misfortunes. I am living proof of that fact.
You have several sponsors listed on your website. Do they come to you or are you looking at them for sponsorship dollars?
I am very fortunate to have the support of some great companies and individuals that really believe in what I’m doing. Some have come to us and some have answered the call. Either way, I’m grateful. As my story spreads and more people learn about what I am doing, I am hopeful that we will gain even more support as it will allow me to help others on a much larger scale.
You performed at Poston Butte Golf Club in Florence, Arizona. Did you get a chance to play the golf course, too?
Poston Butte rocks! Not only is a beautiful course but Cyndi Dinardo, Josh Clay and the entire crew over there are amazing. They produced an incredible fundraising stop for Folds of Honor during my Guinness World Records attempt and really made it something special. I have not played that course yet… I need to get out there.
Have you ever made a mistake while performing?
All the time… Hopeful nobody ever notices. Once in a while words for songs you have sung a million times just leave your mind and you have no idea where they go. Strings break, amps blow out, farm animals get loose on stage (when playing a state fair in Montana) and every other possible calamity can happen during a show. You just keep going and if necessary work the mishap into your act.
What are your thoughts on streaming solutions like Pandora and Spotify?
It doesn’t really effect me because most of my record sales happen by way of CD sales at my concerts. And, it’s tough to fight new technology and in the end, the consumer makes the decisions on how they want to be entertained, especially in today’s society. I hope what I’m doing inspires everyone to take what they love to do, create their own platform and use it to not only make a living but to also give back. I completely invented my platform and initiative from scratch with no resources. I just put my head down and keep doing the work.
You don’t have to be in “the machine” to do what you love and make it work. There were many times on tour when I had to sleep in my pickup truck at a rest stop because I couldn’t afford a motel room – and made many other sacrifices. But I just kept going because I believe in what I am doing and knew that things would get better.
What’s next for Scott Helmer?
My primary mission going forward is to continue using my music to help support good causes of all types and to help stop suicide by telling my story and becoming a leading advocate for that cause. I’m going to keep showing others that no matter how hopeless you feel and regardless of what mistakes you have made in the past, suicide is not the answer, giving up is not the answer and that you ‘can’ make a comeback. I am living proof of that fact. I also have a book coming out in second quarter 2017.
In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
I am grateful to you and want to extend my sincerest gratitude for your helping to spread the word about my story and mission. Someone, somewhere will read it and be inspired to keep fighting, to never give up, and perhaps even use my life as an example of how they too can do what they love while also giving back and making a difference in the lives of others.