After an ASU freshman lost both his cousin and brother to suicide in the summer of 2012, he was inspired to make a difference.
Exploratory freshman Jack McCarthy finds writing hip-hop music to be a “feel-good” therapy, and this December, he plans to release a song about his experience that builds suicide awareness.
“I want to show something that is more of my personal thoughts, as opposed to something that everyone can relate to,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, known as “Johnny Mac” to his hip-hop fans and close friends, found success when he released his first three songs on YouTube in July.
The first video McCarthy released in July, called “The Good,” now has more than 16,400 views on YouTube. “Fill It Up” and “Every Evening,” two of McCarthy’s other videos, have more than 6,200 and 4,200 views, respectively.
Later this month, McCarthy plans to independently write and record the song with which he aims to build suicide awareness.
McCarthy, who is laid-back in style and personality, is very ambitious when it comes to his music.
“When (my friends and I) were freshmen and sophomores in high school, we would freestyle (rap) as a joke at parties,” he said.
Now, McCarthy, who is from Northbrook, Ill., said he sees his songwriting as a way to share his personal thoughts.
“The deaths shook my hometown, because no one had ever really committed suicide there before,” McCarthy said, “Now I want to tell my side of the story rather than what people may think.
Although the song is not finished yet, McCarthy has already prepared most of it for its December release on iTunes.
“I’ve written most of it, but I want to be smart with my words,” McCarthy said. “It would eat me alive if I didn’t give (recording this song) a shot.”
Grant Rushing, who attends the University of Illinois, has been McCarthy’s good friend since preschool.
Rushing said he thinks the song will reflect feelings that are hard to share.
“I remember the day we found out the news of (McCarthy’s) brother,” Rushing said. “All of our (friends) went over to see him, and he was actually the one making us laugh. Reasons like that are what make him so special.”
Rushing is optimistic about McCarthy’s musical future.
“Jack is very passionate about his music,” Rushing said. “I’m confident that people will know the name Johnny Mac.”
McCarthy said people know him as a generally happy person. However, his song about building suicide awareness will vary from his typical music style, which is a blend of ‘90s hip-hop and summer feel-good music.
“I think the song will throw people off and catch them by surprise,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the events during the summer of 2012 helped him to become the person and musician he is today.
“It was a time of a lot of support and love,” McCarthy said. “Even though that summer did suck just because of what happened, it was also a great summer because it really showed how many people cared about me.”
Charlie McElvain, one of McCarthy’s longtime friends who studies at the University of Iowa, said he admires McCarthy for his attitude.
“It was very hard on (McCarthy) when his brother passed away, and I was close with his brother as well,” McElvain said. “We got through by focusing on the good times and taking (the) positives of the situation. He is one of the bravest kids I know.”
McCarthy said he hopes to receive a lot of iTunes sales when his song debuts in December.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen out of the song, but it’s cool to think that people will listen to what I have to say,” McCarthy said.
If a friend or family member is demonstrating signs of suicide, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests seeking immediate help from a doctor. The NIMH also suggests that anyone with suicidal intentions should not be left alone.
ASU Counseling Services offers a crisis line for students and is available by calling 480-921-1006. Additionally, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends that anyone in need of help call 1-800-273-8255.
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