Colorado native, now based in San Diego, Veronica May is very passionate about human rights, equality, and mental illness and uses music as a tool to share this passion. In her single “Rise,” May says,“‘Rise’ is a song about taking action in our communities; to speak up and rise, to come together with compassion and understanding.”

Cover Photo by Chuck Lapinsky

With a strong voice that soars and guitar skills to match, San Diego-native Veronica May brings the noise and soothes the heart, and creates driving rock, gutsy blues, dance-y funk, R&B, and everything in between.

May fills us in on the background on the song, the filming of the video, her guitars, and opens up about mental illness.

Tell us about your single “Rise.”

It is a call to action. To rise in our communities and to be a voice for self and others. To see through the lens of compassion and understanding and bridge the gap that seems to be getting bigger.

For the music video, you featured the San Luis Obispo dance troupe. What was the inspiration behind that collaboration and the recording and filming processing for the video? 

The choreographer, Katie Scofield, was a fan of a band I was in years ago. It was a duo called “The Lovebirds.” Whenever we toured through San Luis Obispo, she would come to support us and was always kind enough to house us. Katie is a fantastic dancer and is working with Ballet Theater in San Luis Obispo. She recruited dancers from different companies and backgrounds. The dancers ranged from about 16-45. I chose dancing because I just saw a lot of movement in this song. It’s trancelike to start and really explodes at the end. It’s a song for the people, performed by the people.

I noticed on your Instagram feed you play several different guitars? Tell us about your guitar gear.

My longest relationship with a guitar is my 814CE Taylor. I’ve had it for 15 years. There are ding marks everywhere from hitting it with nails and rings. I love how beat up it is. My Dad bought it for me.

My next guitar is my Ibanez Artist. It’s cream colored. It was made June of 1982 – five months before I was born. I drop both the Taylor and Ibanez down a whole step. I initially did this because I like singing a bit lower. It’s a great, sturdy, gutsy electric. Very versatile. I’ve had it for 12 years.

The next guitar is one I inherited from a fine musician: Mr. Jeffrey Joe Morin. It’s a Gibson J-200 made in 1997. I’ve had it under two years. It’s a limited edition at 17 of 250 of its kind. This guitar is so full-bodied and warm. A great strumming guitar. So fun to solo on, too. During a Jam on Father’s Day, JJ requested I take the guitar when he died, and a month later he passed. It’s very special in that way.

My most recent guitar is by far the oldest. It’s a 1967 Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville. It’s a bright orange, and I love the whammy bar. I keep the Gibson and Gretsch in standard tuning so it’s easier to play with others. This guitar was my Dad’s in the ‘70s. My parents were in a band in Colorado called the Flatlanders and this is the axe he played.

Share with us a little about your musical background and the instruments you play.

In short, piano since I was three (33 years), percussion from 5th grade through college, guitar since I was 17. I studied Music Therapy in college and played in orchestras and percussion ensembles throughout. I also teach these three instruments. I love to teach. It allows me to push myself in ways I wouldn’t.

Besides music, you’re also passionate about other issues.  What would you like our readers to know and how they can get involved?

My podium on stage is all about Mental Illness. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 in 2008 and have had three big manic episodes since. I am currently in final edits with my book titled, “Open Book.” The book details the episodes through my eyes, the eyes of my caregivers, and the eyes of my mental health team. I have given my life a purpose, and that purpose is educating and smashing stigma around mental illness. My story has been turned into a play and done at Columbia University. It’s a musical. They used all the songs I have written about living with Bipolar. Songs about psychosis, tragedy, but overall, hope.

Get an exclusive first look at the music video, below.

A call to action. Featuring Katie Scofield and her hand-picked San Luis Obispo dance troupe. Videography by Jaymee Carvajal. Veronica May vocals and guitar, Jeff Berkley lead guitar/mixing/producing/recording, Jeff Johnson Bass, Josh Hermsmeier Drums. Mastered by Mark Robinson.

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