Music Exec + Hitmaker Jenna Andrews Brings Artists And Therapists Together In Web Series Spotlighting Mental Health In The Music Industry

COVID-19 lockdowns throughout 2020 have come with a lot of challenges. One of the biggest issues that people across the globe have been speaking out about is the impact on our mental health. The topic of mental illness unfortunately still carries so much stigma, which is why it is so powerful to see people using their platform to speak out and break down stigma, especially if they are celebrities, artists, athletes, politicians, and other public figures.

One woman who understands this need all too well and decided to do something about it is Jenna Andrews – an artist herself and a songwriter/hitmaker who works with some of the most promising talent around the globe. Originally hailing from Canada, Jenna has collaborated with Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Little Mix, Tori Kelly, Jessie J and Benee, as well as taking pop singer-songwriter Noah Cyrus under her wing, A&Ring her single “July” and writing the remix featuring Leon Bridges, which has garnered more than 160 million streams to date. She co-wrote “Supaloney” with New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Benee, which has produced over 10 million TikTok videos and has ranked #10 on the Spotify Global chart.

Jenna’s speciality lies in mentoring and nurturing up-and-coming female artists, such as pop sensation Lennon Stella, whom she has developed since she was just 14 years old and helped her every step of the way from signing a record deal to superstardom.

Jenna Andrews and Lennon Stella

Which brings us to her latest project – a web series called The Green Room which was created during quarantine as a way to address mental health among artists and the music industry at large. The series is in partnership with Jed Foundation (suicide prevention for teens non-profit org) and She is The Music, a nonprofit organization increasing the number of women working in music – songwriters, engineers, producers, artists and industry professionals. Hosted by Jenna, each episode sees the hitmaker in conversation with a guest from the entertainment world and a mental health specialist, discussing topics surrounding this challenging time. From talking about social injustices to social distancing, to what it’s like being quarantined at home with your significant other, and what it’s like to create during a pandemic.

The series kicked off with conversations with artist Lennon Stella with Music Therapist Riley Knapp, Canadian singer Kiesza and Dr. Jac Andrews, singer-songwriter Polly A and Speaker, Social Worker, and Therapist Takeesha White, and actress Emily Kinney and licensed clinical social worker Erica Riba to discuss dealing with feelings of depression and anxiety during the highest points of personal success.

The series airs bi-weekly on Dash Radio’s Twitch channel and Jenna’s official YouTube channel. You can also get previews of new episodes on The Green Room Instagram account. Read below to hear what Jenna had to say about her new series, and working with the industry’s most sought-after female talent below. But first, check out the latest episode with Jenna, viral sensation Rebecca Black, and Lyn Rowbotham, ICPA discussing the deep mental impact of bullying and cyber bullying.

First, tell us how the concept for The Green Room came about?

The initial idea came about during a lunch meeting that I had with my manager back in 2019. I had been wanting to give a behind the scenes look into an artist or songwriter’s life with a focus on mental health and how it affects creatives throughout the entertainment industries. In addition, the color green is associated with mental health awareness and I felt that was very fitting when coming up with the title of my platform. 

 Some creatives are very closed off when it comes to speaking on such issues and I personally feel that being an open book and talking about these problems is not only important but extremely therapeutic. With that, I created The Green Room as a safe space for fellow creatives as well as any of our listeners who may be going through the same things to come in and talk about their mutual struggles as a community.

Fast forward to this year, when Covid hit I decided to kick the plan into action. With the additional stress and trauma that Covid has brought and the reality that everyone is quarantining at home, I realized that it was the perfect time to start holding these discussions.

Why are you so passionate about the issue of mental health, especially for youth?

I’m passionate about mental health because I’ve struggled with it my whole life. I’ve always had really bad anxiety, was bullied in high school, and in turn developed an eating disorder through those experiences. When you’re bullied in a very harsh manner it never really goes away, however; I’ve found that those experiences shape you into the adult that you eventually become. Those moments drove me to prove something, to work harder, to come out on top, and I want other young people to know that whatever they’re going through is not the end of the world, it will only make you stronger. It may seem like everything is crumbling, but it’s important to remember that there’s a whole life ahead of you, that everything happens for a reason, that you will defeat your adversities (whatever they may be) and become a better and stronger person once it’s said and done.

Jenna Andrews | Image by Shervin Lainez

As an A&R executive and songwriter, you have a lot of experiencing nurturing artists and helping them cultivate their creativity. Did you see a lot of need for more discussions and support for mental health among the artists you worked closely with?

Yes, 100%!  That’s partly why I wanted to do this because I feel a therapeutic connection between a lot of the artists I work with. Songwriting is an amazing thing, it makes us so close, it bonds creatives for life in a very cathartic way. Mental health represents how we feel and how we choose to express our energies and it’s so special when we are able to put our energy together in a creative setting. 

You are also passionate about the representation of women in music, especially behind the scenes like you. Why was it important to work with She Is The Music on The Green Room?

I am a very female forward thinker and I strongly believe that there are not enough female producers and executives in the music industry. As an individual that has succeeded as a songwriter, producer and executive, I want to show women all around the world that it’s possible to achieve great success within this industry and that we can change the norm together. SITM has created a global network that operates as a unifying organization for women from across the industry, creating strength and impact on a global scale and I believe that their mission aligns directly with The Green Room and all of the great female guests that we’ve had so far and plan to have on in the future.

There are a lot of females that I look up to admire in this business and I’ve been lucky enough to team up with a couple that are very close to me in order to create the vision for The Green Room.  The women that I’ve teamed up with include Irene Richter of Wide Eyed Entertainment (Artist/Producer/Songwriter Management & Publisher) and Hannah Babitt of BABZ. INC (Los Angeles Based Producer/Songwriter Management Company). Both Irene and Hannah work closely with SITM and have been instrumental in bringing the organization in as a partner to The Green Room.

Jenna Andrews and Noah Cyrus

What do you hope viewers and fans will take away most from watching the artist and therapist featured on each episode?

I hope that every episode can be relatable to someone out there in some way. We’ve covered topics such as body dysmorphia, anxiety, addiction, and the power behind meditation and music. Our latest episode discusses cyber bullying with Rebecca Black (a very touchy subject for myself) which was amazing. It provided a very relatable and safe environment for us to discuss a similar past trauma/issue. People are going through so much right now, especially in the midst of a pandemic so I’m really glad that I have this platform in which individuals can come together and connect through mutual topics. I’m also hoping that our viewers will understand what other people are experiencing even if they don’t personally deal with those issues. At the end of the day, expressing your vulnerabilities takes a lot of courage and we can all come together to either connect or respect each other and our struggles.

Is there still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health in the music industry? If so, why does it still linger? 

I genuinely think that people are becoming much more open to expressing themselves and understanding what mental health really is. Within the industry, MusiCares has been a really great support system in particular. As an example, in terms of drug and alcohol abuse, the stigma used to be “oh you’re a rockstar, and of course you have problems”. Nowadays, I think a lot of people are taking celebrity status out of the equation and realizing that these artists are people too and that we all go through our ups and downs. As I mentioned, music is a form of therapy and your creations are your method of letting your pain out.

People are now understanding that life is tough even for celebrities, not everything is as pretty as it seems and sometimes that leads to the abuse of substances and other consequences because these people are genuinely fighting through the stuff they write about. With a platform like The Green Room, it’s important for us to educate ourselves on these issues and understand where they come from and how they work through a safe and open discussion. From there we can fully understand that we are all human and all have our demons. It’s a slow battle to the top but we’re on our way there one discussion at a time.

Jenna Andrews and Pixie Lott

Musicians and artists have often used their platforms to address important issues and be vulnerable about their own experiences. How can music become a vehicle for change in this vein?

Similar to one of the earlier questions, music is a vessel for not only creatives but humans alike. The fact that you can put your problems into a song and change somebody’s life through that song and those mutual issues is so powerful. When you feel someone’s pain through music and share that emotion, it makes you feel better about what you’re going through and ultimately creates such a special connection.

Who have been some of your favorite artists to work with, and why? 

All of them! Lennon Stella is beyond a sister to me, I love her so much and feel like she is a part of my soul. I also deeply enjoyed working with BANKS, I feel like we have a very cathartic relationship and wrote some of our best work together. Lily Allen is another person I adore working with, we’re such close friends and I’ve become inspired by her genius. The list can go on for forever and ever but some other beautiful souls that I’d like to mention are Noah Cyrus and BENEE. Ugh, this is such a hard question!

Jenna Andrews and BENEE

Getting back to your work in A&R, can you share with readers why it is significant to see more women in this role especially, and how it has a huge impact on female artists coming up?

Again, as I said before, when I first got signed it was all males in powerful roles within the industry. Nowadays, having females in powerful roles is so inspiring and will pave the way for younger generations of females that want to work within this industry. Sometimes I think that young female artists / professionals believe they need to be a pop star by 21 or else they’ll have to retire and start lying about their age, or that if they work behind the scenes they won’t be respected, or constantly worry about their looks. To that, I say why? If you do a good job you should be able to prove yourself through the work that you do regardless of your gender. For me, it’s important to be a support system and a role model for all of the females that I work with to show them that it can be done.

How do you hope The Green Room will become a source of support for people dealing with mental health issues especially while isolated during COVID?

I really hope that The Green Room will help people feel less alone by either connecting them to a community of like minded and supportive people or even to an artist that they look up to who shares their struggles with mental health. Ultimately, we’re all dealing with Covid and being able to see one of your favorite artists in the same situation as you can be very surreal, humbling, and comforting. It shows us that we’re all going through the same experiences as humans, regardless of fame, status, etc.  I hope that  our viewers leave our discussions feeling stronger, more empowered and as confident as ever.

Jenna Andrews and Sophia Messa

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?

Well, I’d like to think what makes me a powerful woman is the fact that I don’t give up. For anyone that knows me, I don’t sleep, I stay up through the late hours of the night constantly working. In addition, as much as it may hurt inside, you need to have a thick skin and keep going. As mentioned before, you need to use adversity as a tool to push yourself harder and motivate yourself to do better. You will inevitably hurt whether you show it or not, that’s why I have The Green Room. I’m able to share my pain with others as well as understand and develop a new respect for what others are going through. 

I’m also a Taurus. Recently I got some bulls painted on my nails and gave myself a new motto by saying : “No Bull***t”! By that, I’m not going to let anyone stand in my way and I’m going to live my dreams out. If anything , 2020 has shown us that you only live once and you don’t know how long that is going to be so you need to fight and make the best of every moment. 

Catch up on past episodes of The Green Room by clicking here, and be on the lookout for new episodes on Twitch’s Dash Radio channel.

Jenna Andrews | Image by Shervin Lainez