- Photography by Jada Flanagan
- Upstate, New York
Michael Schmidt is a US Army Veteran currently studying to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Battling opioid addiction, music became his lifeline. When his relationship with EDM (Electronic Dance Music) grew from admiration to creation, his own music was born. He dove headfirst into his passion crafting a dynamic mix of beats that is sure to make waves in the dance music scene. As a new father with a bright future ahead of him, he is an example of the importance of finding yourself in recovery. He is thriving creatively and making a difference, hoping to help others through working in the mental health field.
“We might not realize it, but no matter how dark things get, that little light inside of us will always shine. We just have to dig deep and remember who we are.”
Tell us about what led you to have an opioid addiction and how you were able to recover and save yourself from it?
Growing up I was a hockey player, but I always had a passion for music and arts. Although, my parents wouldn’t let me pursue my passions. In high school, I joined a heavy metal band as the lead vocalist. Shortly after high school our band broke up due to members going away for college. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted from life at that point. All I wanted to do was have the most fun I could have. I got into the party scene and experimented with just about every drug in the book. It was then I started to develop an opioid addiction. I was on and off opioids for two years before admitting myself to an inpatient rehab facility. I spent two months there with no contact with the outside world. Since then, I have remained sober. I am proud to say I am six years and two months clean. About a year after I got out of rehab, I decided to join the US Army. I served as a Behavioral Health Technician and deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. I worked at a Role III medical unit alongside the Navy. I finished my service in June 2020 and moved to New York with my girlfriend, who was pregnant with our daughter at the time. As of August 31st , I am a proud father to a beautiful little girl. Now, I am going to school full time, majoring in nursing.
How did you discover your passion for EDM?
It was weird how I discovered my passion for this music. Over the course of the past year, I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that I had to adjust to a “new normal.” I had so much free time after this past spring semester ended. I love to play video games but the older I get the more I notice my passion for these games starting to dim. I spent a long time searching for a new hobby. I love running; I run five miles every morning. I was on a jog one morning when it had hit me. I absolutely love electronic music! I realized that when I am playing video games, I am listening to EDM. During my exercise routines, I am listening to EDM. I would watch videos online of people playing their sets live in extraordinary places around the world, and it looked like immense fun. So, one day I decided to purchase software to create my own music. Ever since, I have been practicing and learning every day. Which led me to where I am now, releasing the music I have been working hard on.
Who are some of your favorite EDM artists?
Some of my favorite EDM artists include Porter Robinson, Dabin, Zhu, Acid Pauli and Boris Brejcha. He has some mad wicked techno tunes!
What can people expect from your music?
The listener can expect uplifting music with the kind of groove and funk that will make them want to dance around their kitchen in their underwear, forgetting about the outside world for a moment. Some tracks have a more futuristic house feel to them, while others infuse a relaxing trill vibe with some acoustic guitar to compliment the vocals. Over the course of producing my music, I started to develop an interest in techno so I added a bit of a dark techno vibes to the some tracks as well.
Music is a reflection of our soul. If someone is looking to get into EDM, where or how do you recommend they start?
Fortunately for us, Google and YouTube are your best friends when it comes to obtaining free information in our modern society. If you look at EDM in a study in of itself, and dedicate your energy towards it, you will grow like a flower. You can apply that to anything in life. I recommend developing a basic understanding of music theory and researching what you would like to do in the EDM field whether it be DJing, producing, engineering, etc. From there you should be able to get an idea of what equipment and software you may need to begin.
Do you have any words of motivation to share with other people trying to follow their own path?
It’s okay to fail and it’s okay to make mistakes, that is how we learn. We are our own biggest critic. I hold high standards for myself when creating and respect what music really is; a healer. During my short time of producing music, I learned it is better to take my time and enjoy the process than to seek the joyful rush of posting a new song or video.
What theme or message did you want your music to evoke?
I believe we all can relate to feeling stranded at some points in our lives. I hope that my music reminds the listener that they are never alone, and that there are more people that exist in this world that struggle with similar battles.
Speaking of struggles, you have overcome so much and have been able to turn your life around. Looking back, why do you think you got involved in drugs when you did? Do you think it was because at that time in your life you were unsure of what your path was?
I think that played a major part in it. I felt lost, I was still trying to find myself. I’ve battled depression and anxiety disorders my entire life. I think it was a combination of the uncertainty of which direction I wanted to take, and a maladaptive coping mechanism to the daily stressors that life offers.
What do you think about the heavy use of drugs in the EDM scene?
I think people take drugs so that they get a better experience from the music, and the performance itself. Not only that, but to connect with each other. I think people feel more in tune with their true self when they consume drugs. Like alcohol, they help break that barrier that we sometimes have set up so that we aren’t vulnerable.
Speaking from your personal experience, how do you think people can still enjoy EDM and experience it without mind altering substances?
Music in of itself can be mind altering. We have to remember that sometimes we listen to music to escape the real world for a moment. If we condition our brains to want to use drugs every time we hear music, then our brain simply won’t enjoy the music anymore if not accompanied by a mind altering substance. You can have fun without drugs; you can dance your socks off and meet many new people.
Can you talk a bit about how we become what we consume?
I could go on for ages about this topic. By making healthy decisions, we create healthy routines. Soon, those decisions become like muscle memory. We have to condition our brains to be happy. That’s what it means to pursue happiness. Happiness is a process, not a specific destination.
When did you know you wanted to give back by being in the mental health field studying to to pursue a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner?
Growing up, I was always the friend or family member that people would go to for advice. I thoroughly enjoyed helping them work through their problems. Originally, I wanted to become a teacher, but obviously couldn’t do that in the military. I wanted to use the tools I learned during my time in the army and what I had gone through during my own addiction to help others. Mental health and addiction often co-exist as well as overlap. I found that working in the behavioral health and medical field in general was my calling.
What advice do you have for people trying to overcome substance abuse?
My advice is you know when you are ready, and you have to want it. The road of substance abuse will lead you to either jail or death. Sometimes, we don’t recognize that it is the substances that is causing us our life stressors, and not the life stressors themselves. It is very hard for someone to be honest with themselves when confronting a substance abuse problem. Sometimes, we even have to hit rock bottom to climb back up. Life is all about learning lessons and applying that knowledge into daily life. The thing with substance abuse is, it helps us ignore those problems and keeps us from learning those lessons. Little do we know that over the course of time, the problem starts to become the substance itself. There is the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.” This phrase applies very well when referring to wanting to help someone who struggles with substance abuse, or to someone who wants to overcome it themselves. We might not realize it, but no matter how dark things get, that little light inside of us will always shine. We just have to dig deep and remember who we are.
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