There's a lot of places to see and check out at the Warped Tour, including the Heartsupport tent, ran by August Burns Red vocalist Jake Luhrs. I took the time to chat with Luhrs a few days back to get a better understanding of Heartsupport's involvement on the tour.
First off, for those who don't know what Heartsupport is, can you give a brief introduction?
Jake Luhrs: Heartsupport is a online community, where people can online (anonymously if they want) to talk about their struggles, addictions, or spiritual issues.
You run this with your wife Kris and a few other close friends. Can you explain what roles they play?
Jake Luhrs: Well, actually my wife helps here and there and she writes some things, but she is actually moving on to new avenues and other things that she's wanting to work on. But my buddy Ben Sledge, he's basically my right-hand man, he works on a lot of the back end stuff and helps me organize events or projects that we're working on. I've got a girl named Amanda and a guy named Nate who write a lot of the blogs as well, alongside Ben and I; they also work on the question/answer section of the site where kids ask questions to Heartsupport, and they're there to give answers and encourage them, and help them with whatever struggles they're dealing with. We also have our buddy Jordan, he works on the brother/sister program, a small-knit community of kids who are active on Heartsupport who want accountability, and also who want to help fundraise - Heartsupport is a non-profit, so nobody gets any money, it all just goes right back into the site; they also have things like Bible studies, connecting once a week to talk about what's going on in their lives.
That's pretty much the team right now. We have Kayleen who runs a lot of the social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and we also have our buddy Jameson Ketchum who works at a parent company that helps us with all our PR stuff.
What inspired the decision to bring Heartsupport to Warped Tour?
Jake Luhrs: The way it all started was three years ago, it was just a thought that I felt God downloaded into my mind that I wanted to give back to the fans and I wanted to do more than just play on a stage and then that was it. So I feel like God led me into these ideas of Heartsupport. So the whole point was that I made this community for the kids that listen to this genre of music, so when I looked at Warped Tour, I thought to myself "This would be a great way to connect with these kids and show them that there are people out there who care, and who will love on them and encourage them, and be more involved with helping them with whatever it is that they struggle or need help with". None of us are professional counselors, this is honestly just from my heart to do this. I know that there's kids out there because I've talked to them, and I was one of them, that have dealt with really heavy things in life, and there were times where I felt like nobody cared or nobody was there for me, because I felt like I was going to be judged. That's why I created this community - we're not here to judge you, we're not here to turn our cheeks on you, we're here to lift you up. And that's important, because the youth need to come together as a family and be encouraged and being shown that they're worth something; because honestly this world that we live in is a very dog-eat-dog kind of world and everyone is out on their own and they're out for themselves. I'm trying to show that unity and love and encouragement can go real far, and again I've gotten those values and morals based off of my faith in Christianity.
I know that Matt Greiner will be helping out with you as well, I know he's giving drum lessons to help raise funds for this tour, because I know it's really expensive. Warped is busy enough as it is with one commitment (being in a band) - are you nervous that juggling both the band and Heartsupport may be too much?
Jake Luhrs: No. I've prepared myself mentally, physically, and spiritually for this, I know it's going to be a lot of work. I know that there's going to be days I'm going to break, and that's ok, because temporary pain for the change and the difference that Heartsupport can make on Warped Tour. So yeah I might be a little exhausted and tired, but I gotta take a time-out, restore myself and re-focus myself on the main purpose and what it is that I need to do, not what I want to do and get things done - It's time to work. I've come to realize that it's going to be a heavy load, and I believe in it. When you believe in something, you don't quit.
What does an ideal day look like for you, from beginning to end?
Jake Luhrs: Waking up early; I really want to get some time alone for prayer and get myself set for the day, grab my coffee, just kind of have a little quiet time. Then meet-up with Nate and my team members at the Heartsupport table, he's going to be helping run it this year. Communicating with my Tour Manager for August Burns Red and figuring out what ABR's doing so I can work my Heartsupport schedule around that. And then I'll just have a whole list: maybe some interviews with some bands that I'd like to talk to for Heartsupport, interviews that I need to do for August Burns Red or Heartsupport, playing the show, having breakfast/lunch/dinner, during a signing at the ABR tent, and then maybe doing a signing for Heartsupport, maybe having some other guys do some signings at the Heartsupport tent, and then just talking to the kids and selling some merchandise to help keep up afloat.
Sounds like such a huge, packed out day. Those off days are going to be so great, haha.
Jake Luhrs: Yeah, I'll probably sleep until 4pm, haha!
I know Beau Bokan from Blessthefall is out at the tent with you this summer. What led for you to ask him to be involved with Heartsupport this summer?
Jake Luhrs: We've toured with Blessthefall so many times, I love every member of that band so much, and they're all just amazing people and friends. I had asked Beau to do a video blog for me quite a while back, maybe 8 or 9 months back, and kids loved it, and he was adamant about coming back to these kids - he thought this was really cool, being able to connect with these kids through Heartsupport. So it went through a video blog to him writing a blog, and then him and Lights did a question/answer on their relationship about their relationship, etc. He's got this awesome clothing line, and he didn't get a tent this year and I said "Look, why don't you do some signings at the Heartsupport tent or hangout, and we can throw a couple of your t-shirts on our table the days that you do", so it was really a good thing for him, as well as give something back to him for all the time that he's spent on Heartsupport.
So he will NOT be at the table every day of the tour? Is that correct?
Jake Luhrs: No, not every single day. I kind of felt like that would be a little much to ask, so maybe 2-4 times a week. We're gonna tweet out when I'm going to be there, when he's going to be there, we have volunteers out there to help us spread awareness and we have posters/flyers that will have times on them as well.
I saw some posters that you have for the tour, that have the phrase "Hold Fast, We Believe In You". How did you come up with this line? Was there a specific moment that inspired it?
Jake Luhrs: Not really, I was just in the gym, thinking about Warped Tour and overall what we're doing, you know? Obviously people say "Oh, Jake's a Christian, and Heartsupport is based off of Christian values and morals", but that's not necessarily our prerogative, to preach or talk about Jesus. Instead of preaching, we'd rather act it out - what does it exactly look like to us? To me, having a relationship with God, he created me and he loves me, but he believes in me, and it's through my faith in him and him believing in me and loving, forgiving, and encouraging me when I needed it - that's what we want to do, we're not there to judge them, we're there to encourage them and lift them up. We want them to know that if they have something messed up in their life, that's OK; it's OK to be wrong, it's OK to struggle in life. We just want them to know that Heartsupport believes in them and want's them to hold fast.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention about Heartsupport?
Yeah, we're doing Warped Tour, and then we're the main sponsor for this years iMatter Festival, which is September 7th. We're going to be there, August Burns Red is headlining, For Today and The Color Morale will be there, as well as many others. If anyone in the New York area wanted to check it out, they could go to Heartsupport.com, but if they want personal interaction I would love that as well.
Overall, I'd like people to know that this is an online community for EVERYBODY and the only thing we don't do is negative stuff, like "trolls". This is strictly for people to be honest and vulnerable and to be encouraged and loved on.