For Ian Morris and others, it’s the medicine they share through Listening to Smile.
Morris, 44, lived in Greenwood from his teens to his 30s.
The West Virginia native is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist who creates music for his unconventional footprint for music licensing. It’s done through his company, Listening to Smile, established in 2016.
Recently, he began reaching out to nonprofits such as hospices, veteran’s centers, domestic violence shelters and other places to donate music for use by others in need of emotional and physical healing, including the Lakelands.
To date, his company and music are helping people in 24 states and several countries.
“We want it to help people in jobs and situations that impact mental health,” Morris explains. “A number of years ago, I was facing health diagnoses such as multiple sclerosis and colon cancer and other chronic health issues, like diabetes, as well as not processing the grief associated with the loss of a former bandmate. ... I was 315 pounds at my heaviest. I was a musician with no health insurance and wanted to do something to get better.”
Books on topics such as sound healing and frequency music opened up a world of holistic approaches to health for Morris that helped him use his “music connection for releasing trauma.”
In the past two years, Morris said mental health has been under a magnifying glass.
“People are really seeing that it’s so important to not go through depression, isolation and fear without some kind of self-care,” Morris said. “Music is relatively inexpensive and the reward is so great. ... I wouldn’t be alive today ... without breath work, meditation and learning to unplug from stressful situations.”
Morris’ success with music and sound frequencies for better health prompted him to begin working with the likes of yoga studios and wellness coaches focused on mindfulness programs.
From folk music to hip-hop to new age, drumming and more, Listening to Smile seeks to offer a variety of new tunes monthly.
“All the music is frequency-focused,” Morris said. “For example, music at 110 and 111 hertz has been shown clinically, through different trials, to relieve anxiety. You then have to find the person’s taste in music — do they like more relaxing mediation music or more upbeat music? You can embed the frequency in the music.”
These days, his paying clients receive an album each month, with six to eight new songs on each they can use in their businesses and, in turn, sell the music to their customers should they choose. Music and CD projects can also be customized for clients’ needs.
A handful of staffers, based mostly in Charleston, make up Listening to Smile, offering technical support, new music monthly and music playlist development ideas.
Evan Lampkin works with Morris on the music, while Dana Kato works with affiliate clients and coordinates breath work, meditation and yoga for Listening to Smile events.
“We have a lawyer, Boyd Stough, who works with us and others do corporate stuff,” Morris said. “It’s a startup company, so people wear multiple hats.”
Stough, Morris said, is the one who planted the seed for donating sound healing frequency music to people in need.
Stough is a U.S. Air Force Special Operations veteran and attorney, from Charleston.
“Because we helped him with sleep and pain management, he wanted to utilize the music with veterans, to get more help for people dealing with anxiety, depression, mental health and pain management,” Morris said. “It just kind of started getting bigger and bigger, where we’re doing this in Scotland and Ireland and Australia. ... We wanted to give each town we work with the equivalent of $30,000 in new albums and have the support of the cities to distribute that music into the hands of people that could truly use it.
“Sound healing and music frequency are tools that can help people with self-care,” Morris said. “... Businesses have reached out to us because of what we are helping someone else out. Lots of people who have wanted to work with us during Covid haven’t had the money and we’ve worked to find scholarship opportunities to help people financially.”
Morris said he plays 25 different instruments. He taught music lessons in the Lakelands during the heyday of Homemade Genius. Morris said started Homemade Genius after working as a house manager for outdoor venues at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.
Morris describes Listening to Smile to others as “science and entertainment working together.”
“Most people don’t know this, but if you are playing streaming services like Spotify during your massage therapy sessions, you’re breaking copyright law if you don’t have permission to use the music, in your business or for your event,” Morris said. “With our products, our affiliates get licensing for our music, so they are covered. They have potential for revenue from selling music to their yoga students, or whatever.”
Tenille Bentley, a frequency musician and business leader from Perth, Western Australia, first met Morris when interviewing people in the sound frequency field. She met him when she was touring the United States and interviewing people for a television network.
Bentley shared her experiences with the Index-Journal via email, writing that in one of her early interviews with Morris that she experienced music that danced “through her lungs and down” through her feet.
From there, the two collaborated on creating guided meditation works through tailored frequencies and recorded tracks. Plus, she and Ian co-created an album together.
Bentley has gone on to conduct successful workshops and learned to play new musical instruments all while working with frequencies she has found to help people with everything from physical aches and pains to insomnia and anxiety, with the ability to customize mindfulness programming for children and adults.
Bentley is currently working on a documentary film project, exploring the link between mind, sound frequency, science and the human body. She has interviewed Morris for this film, which is in production and titled, “Does Sound Heal?”
Bentley says she encourages others to explore these topics.
“The worst that can happen is you just get to listen to beautiful music,” Bentley writes. “But, if in doubt, look to the science.”