This interview is the first in a new series at ACR titled Mental Health Awareness and Music Love which I hope brings light to the stigma of mental health and struggle.
I chose I Prevail for this first interview because their music is what inspired me to take this journey head on. Their music, and lyric have touched me in a way music has never done before, and it deserved to be recognized. Getting to talk with Eric, of all people was like winning the lottery. His musical prowess is like a one-man therapy session when you hear and experience him, and getting to tell him about my own struggles, and how his music helped me is something I won’t soon forget.
I hope this interview inspires you. I hope it fills you with joy and helps you to see that yes – it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to suffer your pain in silence. Mental health struggles are no laughing matter, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to feel what you feel as they are different for everyone. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends, family, or those you, there are so many resources and people you can turn to anonymously to get the help you need – as long as you get it.
I cannot wait to continue down this path as this project has become a therapy for myself, as well. As you’ll find out, I open myself up to Eric and talk about my own struggles with mental health – both recently and over the years and how music helped me see the light and finally begin to seek help. I still have a long road ahead, and it certainly is not an easy one, but thanks to conversations like these – I’m working slowly, and day by day to return to the woman I once knew.
Before you read the interview, please have a look at these amazing resources for mental health guidance and support and use them if you, or someone you know is in need.
Peace, Love & Rock
Interview with I Prevail’s Eric Vanlerberghe
SM: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat! I am so excited about this interview!
EV: Of course!
SM: How is the tour going, so far?
EV: The shows are great! I’m just getting over some kind of nasty virus, or flu over these first couple of days. So I’m just hanging out at the hotel trying to get better, but the show’s have been great! We’re looking forward to making up all of these dates we’ve been waiting for three years on!
SM: I’m pretty sure every date on this tour is sold out, is it not?
EV: I think there’s maybe 3 or 4 shows with only one hundred tickets left, so it’s pretty crazy!
SM: Nice! You guys are killing it right now! It’s so great! Are you guys planning on any Canadian dates any time soon?
EV: Man, we’ve been trying! There is always something that comes up while we’re booking it. I know this year we’re planning. We missed a lot of the West Coast. We’re trying to get to play dates in Vancouver, and Calgary and Edmonton and all the way West. I know we’re in the middle of booking it and trying to work something out between some other offers we got. It’s been too long. You guys are so close and we’ve really only been able to hit places like Toronto and Montreal but we need to get to the rest of the country!
SM: Yeah! The East Coast really needs some Hard Rock and Metal dates. We primarily get traditional or more country acts, so we need some balls-out metal in the East Coast, for sure. We need some I Prevail in our lives!
EV: We can work out that!
SM: I hope so! So, thanks again for doing this. This is kind of the first of a series of interviews I’m doing to talk about music love, of course and then get into mental health awareness as well, and how music can really help with those problems. I Prevail is my first choice because (no joke) you are my favorite band right now. I’ll be totally honest here, too. It’s only been within the last year or so that I discovered your music, and it’s 100% because of Instagram, and because of the amazing music-centered influencers that are on there. One in particular, and someone with whom I’ll be interviewing as this series goes on is Chris. He has a page called “Rock Metal Fan Nation,” and his handle is @rockmetalfanstruggles. He posts a lot of really light and positive content and he really loves Metal, and he loves Rock. He does it in a way that is really fun!
EV: I think I know who you mean! I think I’ve seen his stuff. The handle you just said sounds so familiar. Does he have sort of shorter brown hair?
SM: Yes! That’s him!
EV: Yeah, his content is really funny!
SM: He’s a massive metal head – he just loves the stuff. It’s because of him that I discovered I Prevail!
EV: Oh, no way!
SM: I told him when I was set to interview I Prevail, that I would give him a shout out – so, HI CHRIS!!
EV: That’s awesome!
SM: When I got into listening to I Prevail (I’m a huge fan of heavy music, anyway) and I’m the kind of person has the headphones on a lot so I like to just lay down with my eyes closed and just take it all in. So, the first song that I was introduced to I Prevail with was “There’s Fear In Letting Go,” and that song is just incredibly epic song anyways! So, I’m just in my zone listening and the breakdowns you guys have in these songs are just bone crushing! So “True Power” is the first album of yours that I really got into. So, after that I started listening to “Trauma,” and by the end I was basically just a sobbing mess because of how relatable it is. I’ve never come across a band that I found has such relatable lyrics. When I talk about, I Prevail I describe it as “A best friend who is letting you read their journal, only you come to find that you feel the same way, and that you’re not alone.” So, I have to say thank you for that because in the last few years it’s been rough for a lot of people, and music is a really great way to – *At this point I was at a loss for words, and Eric came in with the perfect way to describe what I meant! *
EV: To separate yourself! It can be a release.
SM: Yes! Exactly! You guys are kind of a triple threat in that way, too. You have the powerful lyrics, and you have the amazing hooks and breakdowns and then when you go to the live shows it’s almost like a therapy session when you’re there because you can just scream the lyrics back! There’s a quote that Dave Grohl says (and I’m paraphrasing, of course) where he says, “You write this song, and you sing it to 85,000 people and those people sing it back to you for 85,000 different reasons.” I feel like I Prevail really embodies that because you guys are so wonderful with your fans in saying that it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to feel this way but you’re also very encouraging when you also say that you should get help for what you need. You should seek out help, you should seek out conversations and that’s really the basis of this today. It’s a way to explain to our readers and follower and tell them “You’re not alone.” There are still conversations that need to be had because despite the resources that are available, there is still such a stigma with wanting to go and find help. I’ll explain my own personal struggle because this is what I wanted to do – to start a conversation. When I was 29 years old in 2016, I lost both my dad and Stepfather to cancer. Going through that and seeing someone die – it’s really hard. Your mind and body just sort of goes through the motions when it’s happening. You don’t think you’re gonna handle it, but you just handle it. Then, the aftermath was when I got really bad. You settle down, so to speak but then your mind starts to wander and that’s when it gets pretty sad and scary, and you go into a dark place. I never really properly dealt with it. I’m still learning to deal with it now and finding the resources to deal with it now. Now, in recent months (right as I discovered I Prevail – because I believe that the universe provides you things when you need it the most) I’ve been having these moments where I felt like I was having these out-of-body experiences, I just didn’t feel like myself and I was having these terrible emotional breakdowns that were not like me at all. So, I started doing some research and talking to my doctor and I’m in the process now of getting assessed for adult ADHD. There is such a stigma with ADHD, where you think, “Oh, it’s just somebody who zones out all the time.” There is so much underlying with that. Discovering that was very exciting for me because it felt like I could finally start to figure my life out and find the help that I needed. This is right around the time that I started listening to “True Power.” It really does give you a sense of power. Also, during this time I was dependent a lot on certain substances to feel numb and avoid looking for help. I remember particularly listening to “Bad Things.” I was literally laying down while I listened it, and it made me sit right up. I thought to myself, “This is literally like I’m reading from a diary that I wrote.” It’s this song that inspired me to do this, and I can’t thank you enough!
EV: You said too many kind words! You are too kind! The fact that our music has related or touched in these ways is a lot of things. It’s incredible it’s something that when we started writing music – especially me. Like, I took something out of music that I wanted to put back out. To hear someone that takes it in any form, and has any kind of impact in their life, it’s an indescribable feeling. On one hand, I’m sad that it relates because it is a sad thing. But, on the other hand I’m happy that it’s making a positive momentum in your life, or anyone’s life, I can’t describe it – so, thank you! That’s very kind, and I’m sorry to hear about your fathers. I know how that goes and that’s rough. It’s really tough.
SM: Yeah, it is. But it’s comfort to know that when you need it, things are provided. I’m such a massive fan of I Prevail. When I’m a fan of something, I literally never shut up about it. So, I’m constantly telling people, “You have to listen to these guys. It sounds cliché, but it changed my life!” Completely! I Prevail is the reason I’m doing this, and the reason I want to get this conversation started and talk to people about how amazing music really is, and how it can completely uplift you in so many positive ways. Just letting people know that they’re not alone! That’s all that I want to do, and using I Prevail as my first interview in this new series of interviews is a therapy for myself. So, I can’t say enough nice things about you guys. I’m a fan for life.
EV: Thank you! Thank you VERY much!
SM: People never really forget the music that does that to your life, and I will never forget that either. It must be a therapy for you guys to be able to speak with your fans every day and have that really emotional connection when you’re on stage. Especially with you because you’re literally screaming these powerful lyrics at these people and you’re watching them scream them back to you. It must be just an indescribable feeling of joy.
EV: Well, aside from not doing it for two years because of COVID, and getting into the routine again (we just finished our US headliner in 11.5 weeks total, or something) and 20-26 shows in it starts to become step-and-repeat, so to speak, in terns of getting up and performing. By no means am I saying, like it’s not fun it just starts to become performative where you just go up, play the songs and have a good time – remembering those kids are jamming to the music and all good things. But, there are those days where it’s refreshed or it clicks in my head again. Like, I’ll rap or scream or sing a verse or phrase, or lyrics or something that we wrote a year and a half ago and it just hits me in the moment where I realize where I was when I wrote that lyric, and what it meant to me, and it just hits me and I’ll have that moment on stage where I’m like, “Ugh man, this is incredible!” So it’s not every night, but every now and then it hits me again, like, how these songs become bigger than just something we wrote, and having that moment with the whole crowd, ya know?
SM: Yes! The reason you wrote “Trauma” is because you, yourselves experienced real periods of darkness. I know Brian (Burkheiser – vocalist of I Prevail) was really vocal about that as well. So having said that, what are some things that you guys do now to keep your mindsets on the right path? You guys seem to be getting bigger, and bigger every day, so what are something that you do to keep your mentality on a good path?
EV: It’s tough! “Trauma” was a lot about learning. With Brian having a vocal injury, I lost one of my best friends/roommates to suicide while I was on tour. So missing funerals and weddings and big life events at home – it’s something you don’t think of when you’re starting out the band. You go from touring a couple of months in the year to touring most of the year. Those are things that your human mind cannot think of. You can’t think about all the things you might miss out on. “Trauma” was a lot of us putting our hearts on our sleeves, and being open about these things that we experienced, and these lows. You’re riding these giant highs while trying to deal with these really low lows that we didn’t expect to happen. I think through the writing and the recording and the process of “Trauma,” and being stuck at home because of COVID, there’s a lot of learning curves and thought processes to go through. But, it’s a lot to do with acceptance and having a routine. For me having a certain group of people, like my girlfriend, my family and a few friends back home that have group chats. I’m a big nerd. When we’re touring I try to find a trading card store, a book store or a record store. I like to feel like I can have my own personality outside of the performing and being in I Prevail and have my own day and my time to myself. Those are all big things I think we all have in one way, or another. That’s kind of where “True Power” came from. It’s learning about how to process these difficulties and these lulls and these lows and how to let them. Break. Us. Down. But, also how to rebuild stronger and to learn from that, and to grow and to be able to sustain this and blossom from it and find your own strength through that and grow.
SM: Absolutely! In doing research for the interview, I followed you guys on YouTube. Your content is hilarious. There was a video that I came across last night where you go up to Gabe’s drum set and you’re yelling random facts at him. Those are just great things to keep things light and I absolutely love that you do that! Is that something that you just started doing on your own, just out of nowhere?
EV: It started in 2016, or 2017 I think. Gabe has this YouTube channel called “Drum Beats Online” where he teaches drums. He was filming himself during our sets, over multiple sets to film content for his channel, and so I knew his GoPro was set up. He can’t hear me whenever I’m yelling at him, so I would go up and yell at him – something ridiculous or some fact and he would just look at me and go, “…Okay!” while he’s playing. He didn’t know what I was saying until he took all the footage and made the video. He actually put the first video together, and we shared it years ago, and we thought “We should bring this back, it’s pretty funny!” So, the last tour I brushed up on my facts and every time I knew there was a camera set up, I decide, “Oh, I’m gonna hit him with a fact today!”
SM: That’s awesome! I follow him on YouTube as well. His video diaries are fantastic, and it gives a glimpse of his mental health during those times. In particular, the videos of you guys in Australia where you had the issue with you heart, am I right?
EV: They thought it was either my heart, or a brain bleed or brain hemorrhage.
SM: Jesus Murphy!
EV: I thought I was going to die in Perth! I was warning up for our first show, and all of a sudden, I blacked out and it felt like someone took a hammer to the back of my head. Apparently, I had a severely pinched nerve that when I went to go scream, certain muscles in my neck pulled on it and I must have had my head pinched the right way where it was the worst pain. I’ve been through some shit, but that was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I had a migraine for the whole two weeks we were there. I think I spent four hours in the hospital and made it back about 30 minutes before we played. The doctors gave me a CAT scan, an MRI, just everything. They were like, “Well, it’s not a brain bleed, it’s not a brain hemorrhage, it’s not a subarachnoid hemorrhage, it’s not a heart attack. We don’t know what it is. You can stay here, or we can clear you to go.” I was like, “Get me the HELL outta here!” So, it turned out to be a severely pinched nerve, which I’m still dealing with. Now, the first week of this Europe tour I have the worst flu. I was violently ill right before our first show. I just can’t leave North America. I can’t leave the continent without having a massive health issue.
SM: God love ya!! I just finished reading Dave Grohl’s book, “The Storyteller.” In that book he had just a rigmarole of issues when he was in Australia as well. So I don’t know if it’s just the continent, or being so far away but it’s great to see that you came back from that! So after Europe, what is the gameplan for you guys?
EV: Well, we come back and we have a few weeks off, then we’re doing a little run with Godsmack and we’re really excited about that. Then we have a few things that we’re working on and nailing down and some more exciting stuff for the rest of the next year and a half. I feel like we’re gonna be on the road forever but, nothing to announce just yet. But very soon the fall, and the winter, and the next spring it’s all gonna be packed full of touring and festivals and some exciting announcements.
SM: That’s awesome! My dream, to be honest when I get to see you guys for the first time is to get to see you at a home show. I LOVE Detroit! I love the city, I loved spending time there! I used to live in Windsor, ON so we were there a lot!
EV: I see you’re a Wings fan! *He’s gesturing to the purple stuffed octopus – Al, the Red Wings mascot that I had sitting on the shelf behind me.*
SM: Yes! My husband is a massive Wings fan! We had season tickets when we lived there. The city is one of our favorite places in the world. So we’re just dying to get back. We actually moved home because of the pandemic. All of our family is here. We’re in Prince Edward Island so we’re right on the East Coast, right on the Atlantic so we just wanted to come home and be near family, but Detroit is always going to have our hearts. It’s our favorite city in the world. You know, I’ll never forget my first time walking into the downtown core and seeing these venues like the Fillmore and the Fox Theater just right there in your face. I got to experience some shows when I was there and it was really, really exciting. I just can’t wait to go back.
EV: That’s awesome! I love Detroit! Growing up when I was younger, it was always something that was like, you were proud to claim that you were from the area, that you were Metro-Detroit but it was somewhere that just had some grit to it. It wasn’t “lovely” to be down there. Now the area is being cleaned up, but you’re still able to have the history and go down there and see all these beautiful buildings and see where a lot of these things started, and a lot of these movements started – all the bands, and sports teams and cultures that started down there, and it’s incredible. I love what they’re doing with the city – putting modern stuff in, but also keeping what Detroit was, you know? That hard attitude, “nothing’s gonna stop us” feeling – I love it!
EV: It’s no joke when I say it’s my favorite city. I feel safer walking in downtown Detroit more than I would in say Windsor, or Toronto. I’ve been to shows by myself in the city. I live in a rural community where the province size is less than the population of Windsor, ON, so there’s this stigma when you go to big cities that Detroit’s scary, but it’s really not. I love Detroit so much. I could just walk around there all day!
EV: There is always something where you have to check yourself, but that’s everywhere you go now.
SM: Especially in this day and age, you just have to watch yourself.
EV: You can’t let that scare you from visiting Detroit anymore!
SM: We’re hoping to get there again this summer because we’re just jonesin’ to get back, and we just love it there so much! Hopefully we’ll be back soon btu yeah, it would be amazing to see you at a show on your home turf. It would be mind blowing But honestly, I’m just happy to get to see you guys any time!
EV: We’ll have to make that happen!
SM: Oh, I would love that as well! Just before you go, I just have to ask – how was Carrie Underwood?!
EV: Oh man, haha! This simulation that we’re all in just doesn’t make sense anymore. For her show, a bunch of us and our wives and girlfriends went to the show and she was fucking phenomenal. She is just a 10/10 act. The whole show was incredible. We saw her at the LCA, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. I think that was the first show that I seen at the new venue. She made very good use of the whole arena with performing throughout. It was just an incredible show! One of her managers hit up our manager and was like, “Hey, just hang in your seats for a bit.” So everyone had left and we were just sitting there, and someone comes up and says “Come on back, real quick!” and we’re like “Aww shit! Alright!” It was just the group of us, and her in the green room. We talked for a little bit, and she was like “I’m trying not to fangirl!” We’re all like, “Shit! YOU’RE trying to fan – STOP! WE’RE trying not to fangirl! Are you kidding me?!” It was insane! She was just the sweetest, sweetest human being, and such a wonderful person. An incredible opportunity for us to finally meet and have a picture and share some kind words. She said that she wants to come out to another show in the spring when we’re back out, so who knows?!
SM: Collaboration in the works?! Haha! That would be amazing!
EV: Hahaha! Who knows?! I’m always down to collab with any artist, and If it’s Carrie Underwood I don’t see a situation with us saying,”No!”
SM: That would be the coolest thing ever!
EV: Oh, you’re telling me!! That’s when my mom would go, “Wow, you finally made it! Haha!”
SM: Yeah, you’re touring all over the world, you’re going everywhere you could possibly go, but you know you finally made it when you collab with Carrie Underwood! Haha!
EV: Yes! Haha!
SM: Well Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to talk today. It means the world to me, and I really hope that this interview resonates with some people and kind of gets a conversation going. I just want to extend a sincere thank you to your tour team and public relations team because they’re the ones who made this happen for me, and I really appreciate it. I wish you the best of luck on the rest of this tour!
EV: Thank you, Sarah! It was great to be here, and I’m honoured to be a part of this series, and I can’t wait until we make it over to your neck of the woods, or you make it back over to Detroit!
SM: I will be the first in line, let me tell you! I can’t wait!
EV: Until then, thanks again – Cheers!
You can purchase “True Power” now at https://iprevailband.com/
Their latest single, “Deep End” is available on all music streaming platforms! Watch for the music video on March 16th!