As frontman of metal band August Burns Red, Jake Luhrs was no stranger to getting amongst his fans, working the heaving crowds every night – but when they started opening their lives to him at the merch table, everything changed.
After years of hearing fans share their stories of addiction, hurt, abuse, depression and self-harm, Luhrs realised there was only so much a transient rock star could do beyond a quick prayer at side of stage or a fleeting word of encouragement.
As the tour bus rolled towards the next town, he began to dream. As a musician, he knew full well the power of music to carry people through the dark times of their lives, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was even more he could do with his influence.
That’s when HeartSupport was born; a community of artists dedicated to creating what he called “a home away from the venue.”
“We’ve been through hell and back, and we share our scars, setbacks, and successes”, Luhrs tells fans on Heartsupport’s website. “Sometimes the hardest part about life is feeling you have to go through it alone. But here, you don't have to because we’re all going through something similar.”
Luhrs works triple-time when he’s playing at festivals, fronting the show, praying with fans and rallying the musical counterparts he shares a bill with, encouraging them to tell their stories on film for the website.
Heartsupport serves the scene like a virtual road pastor; a rolling collective of musicians who offer stories of hope gleaned from their own lives. Bands from the metal community like Emery, Black Veil Brides, Anberlin, The Chariot and For Today share their struggles – as the website asserts, in these moments, they’re “not celebrities, just real people, with real stories just like yours.”
...and at the end of it all, Luhrs and his friends offer links to professional avenues for help, offering a credo for all the heartbreak they’ve seen behind their respective merch tables:
"No matter how guilty you are No matter how many felonies you have No matter how long you’ve struggled No matter how many times you’ve tried No matter how weak you feel No matter how dirty your past No matter how you see yourself
...we believe in you."
This article features in our latest Parachute Magazine - read it here.