May 6, 2020 Interview – Talinda Bennington
At various points in our lives we all bound to suffer with mental stress. Whether it be everyday life, feelings of inadequacy, dealing with lose, or a thousand other things, no one is immune to depression or anxiety. Tragically, some of us sink so deep into this black hole that we feel there is no way out…and the end results can be disastrous. Fortunately there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that comes in the form of mental health advocates like Talinda Bennington.
The widow of late Linkin Park Vocalist Chester Bennington, Talinda and her family have endured a great deal of pain as suicide loss survivors. A mental health struggle that began many years earlier during the living years of Chester, Talinda has turned her own our experience into hope for others, co-founding the mental health awareness campaign 320 Changes Direction. A project created to a shed light on mental health, Talinda and Warped Tour Founder Kevin Lyman now join forces with the creation of 320 Festival; a unique marriage between educational panels and musical performances. Set to take place Friday, May 8th through Sunday, May 10th, the event will stream for free via the internet with hopes of providing support for many. Offering insight to her personal journey, Talinda Bennington recently sat down to discuss 320 Festival, her own growth as a person, the power of music, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You and your family have been through a great deal of heartache over the years. As you have spoken of, Chester suffered with depression and addiction for a long time. Because of your experiences, you opted to try and help others suffering from similar issues with 320 Changes Direction. What has it been like developing this project?
Talinda Bennington – It’s been a labor of love, that’s for sure. Without a lot of pain, you don’t get a lot of growth. Being able to share my story and experience of when Chester was alive, and then my experience of being a suicide loss survivor, has been very cathartic for myself. It has also been cathartic for many others, including my family. It’s like a double-edged sword: it hurts to talk about it, but it’s healing to do so.
Cryptic Rock – That is very understandable. Many are not unfamiliar with mental health struggles; both those who suffer them and those living with those who suffer with them. Why do you think so many of us face so many mental health challenges?
Talinda Bennington – I think we’ve always experienced mental health challenges. I think the difference is now society seems to be ready to speak about it more. History has shown us how to take care of our bodies and the necessity of your physical healthy, but I think it’s just the evolution of man knowing that we need to speak about our mental health too. How healthy we are in respect to our mental health, that is for us to understand, take accountability for, and not be ashamed if you are not mentally well for any reason.
Cryptic Rock – Right. Many might feel like their issues might have a stigma attached to them and perhaps do not want to talk about it. Fortunately there are programs like 320 Changes Direction. Now you have 320 Festival which combines music into it all. Initially planned to be a live music festival, it will now turn virtual. How did this new project come about?
Talinda Bennington – This idea was a combination of my love for music, Chester’s love for music, and understanding the power of communities through music. 320 Changes Direction is a mental health initiative that I co-founded; 320 is Chester’s birthday, March 20th, so it’s in honor of him. Since I’ve started this, I’ve come across so many amazing organizations/charities that are all like-minded with wanting to spread mental health awareness and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health illness/suicide. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could come together and have a day with music and educational panels with different topics surrounding mental health?”
I had the joy of meeting Kevin Lyman, the founder of Warped Tour, the most successful summer tour series in our history, and he thought it was a great idea too. We approached L.A. Live and we were going to have it there, but, unfortunately, the world shut down. It just made us realize, now more than ever, we really need to take care of our mental health. We’re isolated, some of us don’t have jobs, can’t put food on the table, and some are worried about where their next meal is coming from for their children.
There are such hardships unlike our generation has ever seen. So we are taking it online to try and reach as many people as we possibly can in their homes. It is twenty-one hours of programming, which we’ve been told is ambitious, but we’re doing it. It’s over May 8th through 10th. You will be able to stream it quite easily through KNEKT.TV, AppleTV, Roku, etc. We will have different panels talking about a variety of mental health topics as well as smaller round-table discussions. If you go to 320festival.com you can see our speakers. We will also have musical performances from artists all over the world. We are just trying to inspire, help, bring a little joy, and something to pass the time. There is something in there for everybody.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like a great outlet for everyone. On the positive side, with hope on the horizon, could you see 320 Fest returning in 2021 as a live event where people can attend?
Talinda Bennington – Absolutely. I don’t think Kevin and I are quite ready to abandon our mission here. We’ve had so much support. I pray we’re able to see live music in 2021, if not 2021, it will be 2022. It will happen for sure.
Cryptic Rock – Let’s hope we can see live music again soon. Let’s talk about music in general for a minute. You and Chester were married for thirteen years. Through Chester’s struggles, did you find music to be a positive outlet for him?
Talinda Bennington – Yes, it 100% was. Chester was his music and his music was him; it was one in the same. I miss that. I miss waking up and hearing a different song that was in his head; it would constantly flow out of him. As soon he could pick up his guitar, or play at the piano, or got back in the studio with the guys, he loved it. He just loved it.
Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear. Speaking more about the music, few people know but Chester’s journey began with a band called Grey Daze. Interestingly, Grey Daze are set to release that music in 2020. How exciting is it for you and your family that this music is seeing the light of day?
Talinda Bennington – Oh my gosh, there are so many emotions to describe it. Cool is an understatement. It’s humbling to understand the power that Chester’s voice carried with him, and the message he had with him from such a young age. For Sean Dowdell to be brave enough to have this music see the light of day, and do so completely the way Chester wanted it to be done, that’s just a testament to what a beautiful friendship they had together.
The music itself, I personally can’t listen to it because I can’t hear Chester sing. For me, it’s not just hearing him sing a song, hearing him sing brings me back to moments; moments in the car, the living room, or whatever it might be. I can’t listen to it, but my older kids can. The songs so far that have been released are doing well on active Rock charts. I’m excited to be part of this and do my part to let this see the light of day.
Cryptic Rock – It is a wonderful way to honor his memory. Being the co-founder of 320 Changes Direction, what have you learned?
Talinda Bennington – It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me that we can all be mental health advocates. I’m not a mental health professional and never claimed to be one, but I am a mental health advocate. That means I will speak up and do my part to spread awareness about mental health, plus share my journey with suicide, suicide loss, and parenting children through the grief of suicide.
It has taught me that I’m stronger than I know. If you were to tell me five years ago that this is what I would be doing, I wouldn’t believe you. I actually really don’t like to be in the spotlight; I’m camera shy and really awkward. I’m not good at speaking, but I do it because it’s the right thing to do. I appreciate every single story I hear when someone else shares their’s with me. I know it’s helping my kids, especially my little ones, because my twins were only five when Chester passed away; they couldn’t understand the concept of suicide or what that meant. The work that I do, along with their amazing therapists, has helped them understand that it’s not shameful. For that I’m really proud.
Cryptic Rock – You have certainly traveled a journey like no other. 320 Changes Direction and 320 Festival is about showing us we are not alone and it comes at a more important time than ever.
Talinda Bennington – It really does. It was a tough pill to swallow when festivals all over were getting closed down. We have so much family by choice that work in the industry that I knew wouldn’t be working, I was really sad for them. For this festival to be shut down, it made me sad for the students involved. Kevin Lyman is a professor at USC and he started a class; these students were handpicked, and they have really been the force behind creating this amazing festival. To just let it go wouldn’t be doing right by them, they have so much invested in this. It’s a blessing in disguise, because now anybody sitting at home can pop online and see what panel is going on or see someone they may identify with. I’m proud of it.
Cryptic Rock – Great to hear. Let’s end on a positive note. What are some of your personal favorite artists?
Talinda Bennington – I’m such a loyal music fan, so my favorite bands since I’ve been a kid have been Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi. I also love My Chemical Romance, Coldplay, and Mike Shinoda’s new stuff. I love Grey Daze, of course! I am also a huge Lizzo and Cardi B fan.