UTG INTERVIEW: Jake Luhrs of heartsupport / August Burns Red

August Burns Red

Last week we chatted with Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red, but instead of focusing our conversation on band stuff like their upcoming album, Rescue & Restore, we talked about Luhrs’ nonprofit, heartsupport. The frontman will be busy round the clock on every single day of this summer’s Warped Tour working as hard as he can, performing with ABR and representing heartsupport. Despite the ridiculous workload that’s waiting for him, he couldn’t be any more hopeful and excited for what’s to come.

UTG: For those who don’t know, what’s the story of heartsupport? How did it come together?

A few years ago, I was touring with a band called A Day To Remember, and I was standing outside our hotel room in Chicago (because we were playing a back-to-back show there) I was just kind of thinking about how much God’s [placed] this opportunity in my lap, being in this band, and [I thought], “what else could I do for God?” Or “what else could I do to give back to the kids?” You know?

I really feel that it was laid on my heart to start an online community for kids to discuss their struggles and victories in life, to encourage one another, and also for me to open my heart up to them more for me to just encourage and inspire them.

That night, I feel like God just downloaded a lot of that stuff into my mind, [so] I wrote everything down to see how this online community was going to work and what it was going to offer. Funny thing enough, one of my friends, one of my old buddies, he moved up to Chicago and he’s a graphic designer. So I gave him 1,500 or 2,000 dollars, and I gave him a list of things I wanted for this website. Within a couple of months, he built it for me and it was called “Your Life.” I kind of started that, and I did that for a year and a half, and then Craig Gross from XXXChurch who also founded heartsupport caught wind of what I was doing and thought that my vision, my idea, was really cool, and he wanted to team up with me. He didn’t really have anybody to run heartsupport, so he asked me: “Yo, I want you to take on the name heartsupport, but I want your vision implemented in it, and I just want you to leave this thing with me.” I thought it would be a great opportunity, a good message, you know like fighting against pornography, and he’s a really awesome, good friend. It’s definitely a blessing to be working with him. That’s pretty much how it started.

UTG: Did you ever have any experience leading in any way like that?

This was a first for me… It’s kind of a God thing, like I just stayed outside, asking “God, what do you want me to do to give back to the kids?” You know? And that’s what he gave me. I’ve never been a part of a ministry. To be honest, I’ve never been a big “church person,” I wasn’t raised in church, so I didn’t really know how a ministry was to be ran. So, I didn’t know how a ministry was to be ran, or even where to start. So when a year and a half comes by, and Craig picks me up, he became this mentor that helps lead me. That was really helpful.

UTG: That had to be really awesome. Oh! And your wife got involved too, wasn’t she also brought on from day 1?

She was involved since day 1. She definitely helped me out A LOT in the past [with] trying to help me organize things and was really, like, my “partner in crime.” But now she’s kind of moved on into other avenues in her life. It’s always been a kind of thing that she appreciates the heartsupport community and she definitely wants to stay involved in it, but to the degree that I had her at. She’s got plenty of other things that she wants to do, she needs to make some time for that. She loves it, she’s been a part of it since day one, and she’s been a great help.

UTG: What are your plans for your what heartsupport will be up to at Warped Tour? Imagine your typical day. What’s that going to involve?

It’s going to involve me sweating! It’s going to involve me running around, hanging out with kids, communicating with them, telling them about heartsupport, and what it’s really about. You know heartsupport; it’s for everybody, it’s not for Christians only or anything like that, it’s for everyone of any belief system, of any ethnicity or whatever. The whole premise of it is a community to have a community of people who encourage each other and lift each other up. The only person who can’t come in there is someone who’s negative, we’ll just kick you out.

I want to talk to the kids about the community, we’ve got contests, giveaways, merchandise, and we’ll have Bibles and other books. I’m bringing some books on sexual abuse victims, I’m bringing books on God’s Grace, we’ve got Beau Bokan [of Blessthefall] who’s going to be at the tent doing signings, we’re going to be doing interviews with bands like Oh, Sleeper… and who knows, maybe we’ve got Architects. We’re getting a bunch of cool items from a lot of those bands that we’re going to have signed and used as giveaways.

Man, we’ve got so much stuff. Honestly, it’s ridiculous. It’s going to be a good time. I think the bottom line is to tell people about this community where they could talk about whatever they want to talk about. They could talk about their parents’ divorce, their drug addiction, their pornography addiction, with other people who are struggling with the same thing. I think that’s really cool, because I remember being young, and especially in this music scene, everything is negative, dark, aggressive, or whatever… Sometimes you just need somebody to vent to, sometimes you just need somebody to listen, and that’s what heartsupport does.

UTG: I found out that ABR’s drummer, Matt [Griener] will be doing drum lessons as well, to help raise funds in order to keep things running. Do you have any other plans to get the band involved in any other way?

Yeah! The way I see it is, we do these videos with bands called “give back” videos — essentially what it is, is the musician opening up his heart on his thoughts, beliefs, or certain issues, or maybe unveiling to the community something that’s heartfelt by him/her, and that’s in a way, [them] trying to give back to fans that have made them successful, and support them throughout the years. So we’ve got those videos, which is, in my opinion, is a way for musicians to donate their time and effort. I’ve already talked to some of the bands, and even the dudes who aren’t Christian say, “hey man, we’re not Christian, but your community is really awesome and what you’re doing is great, so whatever I can do to support you…” So we’re going to have some band guys wearing the heartsupport t-shirts on stage and then we’re going to be doing some signings with some bands too. Beau Bokkan, for example, man that guy is all of the way in, he’s great, he’s going to be teaming up with me a lot on Warped.

UTG: After Warped Tour, do you have any plans to help with heartsupport’s involvement on future tours? Or even a heartsupport tour?

Yeah! I definitely would love to do a heartsupport tour. I’ve had that thought in my mind for the past 3 ½ years now. It’s just been hard to find the time for… My team, until right about now, has been an extremely small team. I bring heartsupport out on August Burns Red tours, which is cool because then Matt and I go out and talk to the kids, and they could find out about heartsupport that way.

We would love to do a heartsupport tour with bands, Christian or not, whatever, it doesn’t matter, and just love on the kids at the venues. We’re also going to be sponsoring iMatter Fest, which is in Elmira, New York — ABR is actually headlining, I think. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it or been there before, but it’s a pretty big festival. They do free tickets and it’s all about encouraging kids. heartsupport is going to set up shop there in a tent, and we’re going to be doing interviews with bands and stuff. We’re definitely going to have some cool things going on later after Warped Tour, and hopefully things keep going.

UTG: If you had to name one of your favorite things from the Warped Tour culture/community that you absolutely loved, what would it be?

It’s a family reunion. If you think about it, there are 40 bands on this tour and we’ve been touring for seven or eight years. A lot of the bands that are on this Warped Tour, we’ve toured with. It’s cool, because you’re on this tour with maybe ten bands that you know that you’re friends with. Just for example: We Came As Romans, those dudes are rad. Bring Me The Horizon, those dudes are rad. Blessthefall, those are like our best friends. That’s the cool thing, it really is like a family reunion.

UTG: If you had to name only one, what’s the one thing you’ve gotten from your experience with doing heartsupport?

Everybody’s hurting. It’s just a fact of life. Everybody’s hurting in some way, shape, or form of another. That’s what I think people don’t understand, it’s like this is a community that’s accepting to everyone, because we understand that everyone is hurting and that we want everybody to know that they’re not “wrong.” That’s what I’ve learned: it’s that everybody’s broken. That could be a distant relationship with their mother, that could be being molested by a family member, that could be struggling with alcohol, self-harm, or even depression, it’s all around us. We want to take them all in. We don’t care, we want to love on everyone.

UTG: Why do you do what you do?

I’m not going to sugar-coat this, I do what I do because God’s [put] me in this place to do it. He’s put me in this position. When I joined this band I was not really a strong Christian at all. I didn’t really know Jesus one bit, and I was excited to meet him. I was this little punk dude… I was this jerk, and I don’t deserve any of this. You know what I mean? I just worked hard and I kept my head down, but the online community thing, speaking to all of these kids on tour, growing to really truly have a passion to love other people who are hurting, all of that stuff, man, God’s used all of those things in my life and set a desire in my heart and kind of created this thing. So I don’t know why I do it — I guess I do it because God asked me to do it, or put the desire in my heart to do it, so it’s something natural that I want to do. So it’s not a bad thing, I’m not bummed that I’m doing this, but it came from a place deep down inside, that only God could provide. So it’s hard to explain that, you know?

UTG: Do you have anything else to say?

I’m excited to meet people at Warped Tour! I’m extremely excited to get onstage with August Burns Red and play some of our new stuff. I’m excited to get on the Warped Tour grounds and meet these kids and hopefully they come to Warped Tour, see all the bands that they wanted to see and have a blast, and I hope they come home just knowing that there’s a community online that cares about them. It’s going to be a good time.

Interview conducted by: Adrian Garza (Twitter)

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