Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonny Kosmo.
Jonny, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My journey with the intersectionality between mental health and musicianship began about seven years ago. I started writing songs when at the beginning of high school, drawn to the experiments of sound and words. When I decided to go back to school to become a therapist, I felt a sense of conflict. I bought into a discourse that by pursuing this path, I would be leaving my identity as an artist behind. American culture played a huge trick on me: thinking I had to choose one thing for my life as a “career” and that defined me. This idea is informed by individualism, essentialism, and capitalist gains that lurk the water of our swimming pool. It is something I have learned to reject time and time again.
In my experience, it has been the complexity of personhood and the diversity of experience that make for rich creation; the overlaps of various passions birth beautiful art. Over the years, I have found working in mental health and being an artist to both reciprocate and inform each other in my life. I have always been drawn to stories and story-telling. To bear witness to other’s telling is truly an honor and a privilege. Similarly, I feel this way about running my studio, where I produce and record projects. To hold the space of vulnerability and creation with others is magic. A huge theme that runs throughout both my work as a mental health practitioner and songwriting is community. I truly believe healing and empowerment to come from togetherness versus the individuality that tends to hijack our culture and path.
Has it been a smooth road?
There were many life struggles that lead me to becoming a therapist. My relationship with drug addiction started in high school. Years later finding heroin seemed to both alleviate my emotional and spiritual pain as well as helping me to adopt the role of “damaged artist” I so romanticized as a teen. I bought into a message that to be an artist meant to live in darkness. When I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma in which I spent a year undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant. This challenging year only exacerbated my quelling of pain through the use of drugs. It wasn’t until three years later that I ended up so ghostlike I knew I needed help. With the support of friends and family, I decided to check myself into a rehabilitation center in Los Angeles. My plan was never to stay more than two weeks. I have now been here over eight years and have been in recovery the whole time. This space has allowed to re-evaluate and reclaim my identity as an artist through continual work on myself. I fully embrace that it’s cool to care… about life, people, and our world. Through live performances I want people to leave full of hope and brightness. As a songwriter, I have learned to give myself permission to write “happy” songs. I have allowed connection with my corny side and authenticity.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Currently, I work as a therapist at a non-profit sliding scale community clinic that provides mental health services to low-income families, couples and individuals. In addition, I continue to write songs as voraciously as I always have under the moniker Jonny Kosmo. I am currently wrapping up on my new record. It is a funk album touching on the themes of community, healing, and the reclaiming of self from the discourses of American culture. I also run Slimehouse Studio, an analog recording space where I produce, engineer, and mix records.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
My dream is to start my own community center that blends artistry and mental health in Northeast Los Angeles. I want it to be a place where those who need therapeutic services can seek treatment at a sliding scale cost as well as a venue for hosting speakers and events. For me, it is important to take a look at how whiteness and Eurocentric ideology continue to play a part and hold power within mental health systems. As someone living in Highland Park, I am very aware that as a white individual, I am coming into a community of color and plan to make sure the community center honors this through de-centering in service of amplifying the needs of the community. I hope to likewise challenge and see changes within the therapeutic community at a macro level by continuing to bring a critical lens to mental health and educational systems.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jonnykosmo
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jonnykosmo/
Photographs by Joseph McMurray