On May 4, the Hi, How Are You Project (HHAY) returned with their annual fundraising concert at ACL Live.

By Cy White, Photos by Roger Ho

Every one of us has had those moments where we want someone to just reach out. To simply say, “Hey, how are you?” Very often we allow the day-to-day minutiae to overtake our lives. Tunnel vision, unable to really check in and be sure we’re taking care of ourselves mentally and physically. The Hi, How Are You (HHAY) Project was created for that purpose exactly. To ensure there was a space for people to be able to check in with themselves and their loved ones. The 501(c)(3) organization’s mission is to “remove the stigma around mental health, one conversation at a time.”

HHAY took inspiration from a mural painted by the late Daniel Johnston. The artist battled mental wellness issues but created art that instilled positivity in the community. Sadly he succumbed to a suspected heart attack in 2019. “On January 22 (Johnston’s birthday), people everywhere are encouraged to check in on a neighbor, friend, co-worker, family member or loved one and ask, ‘Hi, How Are You?'”

On May 4, the HHAY Project returned with their annual fundraising concert. The event took place at ACL Live and included local and nationally acclaimed artists including Madame Gandhi, Katie Davis and Austin-based Ley Line. These three women answered questions following their participation in HHAY Day.

Emilie Basez, Ley Line (guitar, vocal)

austin-woman-hhay-acl-live-ley-line

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Ley Line is a collective of songwriters made up of four women in Austin. Four oceans, songstresses and visionaries flowing seamlessly through genres and languages to reveal the musical currents that connect us all. Rooted in rhythm and close harmony, Ley Line blends influences from North America, South America and West Africa, taking listeners on a musical journey.

How did you get involved with the Hi, How Are You Project?

We were invited by David Lobel to join the amazing lineup. Coincidentally, the last time we played ACL Live in 2019 for the Black Fret Ball, we were asked to cover “True Love Will Find You in the End” in honor of Daniel’s passing. 

What has been the most powerful aspect of taking part in HHAY Day?

To start, it’s an honor to be asked to play the ACL Live theater for any occasion. But we found the lineup to be incredibly special with so much diverse talent. What’s special about HHAY Day is that we stand in solidarity as a community in support of mental health awareness and shifting the paradigm of how we view this as a society. 

If you’re comfortable sharing, what is your history with mental wellness awareness and/or struggle?

We have all experienced ups, downs, conflicts, resolutions and beyond during this journey of life. One way we’ve grown closer together is actually being honest and giving each other space to share through the dark periods of depression, anxiety, self-doubt, or whatever is holding us back from embracing life. 

I feel I can speak for all four of us in that we believe authenticity changes the world. To be authentic involves taking continuous time to dive inward, to get to know ourselves and give space for our emotions to be. But that’s not an easy journey and can actually feel very isolating and scary. I’ve definitely felt at the end of my rope, totally confused about life and my purpose for being here. 

Big emotions and triggers are most often an opportunity for us to either individually or collectively pause, be honest and curious, seek forgiveness, and hopefully grow compassion and find healing. But it definitely takes commitment to see that out completely and for many years of my life I tried to run away from that process. 

What’s something you wish people knew and acknowledged about mental wellness?

I do wish that people shared more information about alternative therapies, especially somatic therapy. I think so many traumas and emotions are stored in the body and cloud up our thoughts and mentality if we don’t use tools to literally move that energy out in a safe space. Those kinds of therapies have definitely helped me the most but I feel that talk therapy is the most normalized style of processing. 

What’s the main thing you want people to take away from HHAY Day?

We know that music can unlock a lot of emotions. Over the years, we’ve experienced the exchange of empathy between us and the audience, leading us to have some really powerful connections with people and fans. I think in addition to sharing music as a tool for mental health and expression, HHAY Day brings together people who already know that mental health awareness should be a priority in health care. 

How are you continuing the conversation around mental wellness in your community? What are some ways others can do the same?

We talk about SIMS a lot, an organization that supports the music community with accessible therapy options. We’ve chosen to speak up as a band about our choice to do therapy together throughout the pandemic. Individually and together we normalize the need to address mental health and well-being by doing therapy individually and talking about that choice with people. 

For each of you, what projects should fans and newcomers look forward to?

Each one of us is working on some really wonderful new things. Kate (Robberson) has a new chocolate company called Joaihú, and the product will be available soon in Austin stores!  Lydia (Froncek) is wrapping up her studies in audio and music production, so certainly she’ll be doing some awesome collaborations and producing her own music. Maddy (Froncek) has a solo album in the works. And Emilie (Basez) is helping Kate with the launch of the chocolate business and creating spaces for chocolate and music to be experienced together.

Kate Davis

austin-woman-hhay-acl-live-1

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m an artist based in Brooklyn named Kate Davis! Singer and songwriter and existential girl. 

How did you get involved with the Hi, How Are You Project?

I made a record with my friend Tim Bright, a full cover of Daniel Johnston’s masterpiece “Retired Boxer.” We called it “Strange Boy.” I reached out to HHAY once we finished the album, and with extreme generosity and support, they helped me to get it out to the world and hopefully to fans of Daniel’s. 

What has been the most powerful aspect of taking part in HHAY Day?

I felt two powerful aspects. The space to celebrate and honor Daniel Johnston’s spirit (which has a distinct and liberating energy), and the space for people to acknowledge mental health as something that we exist beside and something that may not always be easy. Just to be around other people and expressing, yeah some days are hard. Here are the struggles, and look at how relatable our experience can be. It’s not wallowing; it’s feeling/being in the connection that we all share to ups and downs. Hi, How Are You Day is removing the stigma and suggesting that we can build safer spaces to feel. So powerful. 

If you’re comfortable sharing, what is your history with mental wellness awareness and/or struggle?

I’m not alone in experiencing extremely low self-worth. Fear of not living up to others’ expectations has in many ways run my life. I struggled for years with substance abuse, and if it hadn’t been for the help I got from friends asking me if I was okay, I would have stayed in rough shape. Talking through things and writing about everything I feel every day has been my way of checking in with myself. It’s improved my abilities as a songwriter, so win-win. 

What’s something you wish people knew and acknowledged about mental wellness?

That everyone struggles in some way. If we normalized this,  talked about it and gave more support to others, I think the amount of human suffering would decrease. 

What’s the main thing you want people to take away from HHAY Day?

That check-ins help. Asking somebody truly how they are can make a difference if you really mean it. 

How are you continuing the conversation around mental wellness in your community? What are some ways others can do the same?

Just being vocal about it all. I try to make sure I’m in a good place before I run my mouth. I look out for my friends, I try to stay social and I try to connect really deeply with the people I love. Just connecting. Sometimes when someone randomly pops into my mind, I reach out. You never know. Make talking about feelings cool. 

What projects should fans and newcomers look forward to?

I’m going to be putting out an album soon. I’m so excited about that. It’s a weird little sci-fi tale of a girl searching for home.

Madame Gandhi on the most powerful aspect of being involved in HHAY Day.

austin-woman-hhay-acl-live-madame-gandhi

“The most powerful aspect of taking part in HHAY Day was being part of an evening that brought all of our awareness to our mental health. Centering a music night around mental health meant a lot to me personally because it gave me the chance to sit down and curate songs for my set that were birthed as a result of challenging emotional times, or with a desire to work on myself and my mental state. “See Me Thru,” “Gandhi Blues” and “Bad Habits” all address mental health head-on, so it felt good to share these lyrics with a group of people who prioritize their mental health as well.”


If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental wellness, know that you are not alone. Also know that there are people who are willing and able to help. You are important, you are loved and you matter in every aspect of you who are. Find out more about the Hi, How Are You Project and find resources on their official website. Commemorate mental health month by taking the Hi, How Are You pledge, which is free to complete and helps encourage people to check on one another. And if you happen to think about one of your friends, maybe ring them up and ask them, “Hi, how are you?”

Share.

Leave A Reply

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial
%d bloggers like this: