Play it Back
Giving Adolescent And Young Adult Cancer Patients and Survivors the Opportunity to Rock
Play It Back Songs is a community created for AYA (adolescent and young adult) cancer patients and survivors who dive into the art of songwriting and producing as an opportunity for self expression. Steeped in the complete recording-artist experience, from song conception to world-class finished productions, AYAs experience the exhilarating, boundless and healing nature of music creation. They join a fellowship of young music creators who grow well beyond their shared cancer experience. Through their love of music, they reach heights that transcend expectations.
PLAY IT BACK ARTISTS
STUDIO HOURS LOGGED
SONGS HAVE BEEN RECORDED
Play It Back Music Program
Play It Back Homies
The Play It Back Homies are all those awesome people who have supported the program with their attention, love, and creativity. They are all creative and soulful people who happen to be awesome at what they do and want to spread the joy of healing through making music with Play It Back.
Co-Creator & Head Music ProducerKenli Mattus has been a professional multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer for over 25 years. Originally from New Jersey, Kenli moved to New York to pursue a career as a recording artist after graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Kenli has toured across the country several times, appeared on national TV performing his songs with his band and written, produced and performed with numerous major label and independent artists. For years, Kenli took his free time to volunteer in many New York City hospitals where he would go room to room and perform songs for people battling cancer and other ailments. Over the last 20 years, Kenli has performed room to room for over 30,000 people. In 2000, when a young adult patient asked Kenli to help him record a song, it became the seeds of the Play It Back music program. After moving to LA in 2009, Kenli met Hilary Gan Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and together they dreamed of making Play It Back available to patients worldwide. Since 2018, Hilary and Teen Cancer America have helped Kenli grow Play It Back Songs to help many young people dealing with cancer. The benefits have been extraordinarily positive and healing. As of the beginning of 2020, Play It Back Songs has logged over 500 hours with young cancer patients and survivors, written over 50 songs and performed live many times. Kenli believes, “The song always heals,” in any context and it’s an obvious all-around win to facilitate the song-making process for young people dealing with the struggles of their cancer experience. When Kenli is not creating music he is spending time with his family or playing ice hockey.
If you look at Benny’s resume (a crazy amount of huge hit songs by the ripe age of 30ish) you might think he’d be full of himself or at the very least, a diva. He is not either and we love him for that. Among the most real people on the planet, Benny gives his time to Play It Back artists again and again, hooking them up with inspiration and introducing them to amazing artists who also just happen to be his best buds. He has been a champion of the program for the last 8 years (even before it was an official thing). Short version: Everyone Loves Benny.
Most people know Sabrina as a triple threat, if not more…she acts and sings incredibly and also, she is super-cool. She took time out to zoom with one of our artists to talk about CLOUDS, a movie about a young songwriter and his battle with cancer. She’s incredibly gracious and fun to hang with on zoom. We also think she should play Madonna in an as yet unwritten biopic, and she agrees, so please Hollywood, make it happen.
Andrew is our buddy Benny Blanco’s manager and has been since Benny was just a wee lad. Andrew has worked with all the biggest names in the music business, but he prefers to stay out of the spotlight. He is generous enough to spread his industry wisdom to us and for that we are grateful. His incredible work ethic and vision are an inspiration to all of us here at Play it Back. We are honored to have him as a PiB homie!
Dan was the original drummer in OK Go, the indie rock band that went on to become viral video sensations (maybe amongst the first wave of music viral video sensations ever). Dan has gone on to become a music mixer and has mixed and played drums on PiB artists’ songs. He’s multi-talented, knows how to float in an airplane, dance on a treadmill and make music sound really really good! We’re so happy Dan is willing to dive right in with us and help our artists’ musical visions come true through his many talents.
Tasha is a great singer-songwriter who also happens to be a great music coordinator at Bad Sneakers Inc. She’s worked on many TV and Film productions choosing music, securing rights and doing all the things successful music supervisors do. Tasha gave Play It Back artists the lowdown on placing music in TV and Film. She also actually placed some of PiB artists’ songs in a current Apple TV+ production. Pretty great! She’s basically a super-relatable and cool person. It’s no wonder she has done so well in the production world…people like to work with who they like…we like her too.
To know Nando is to love Nando (I think you’re seeing a pattern here). It’s an amazing thing considering someone who is such a talented guitar player (and multi-instrumentalist) is able to be so well-liked. He must have spent an awful lot of time practicing alone in a locked room to get that good and yet, he’s great with people. Nando is one of the most sought after arrangers and producers in Brazil and is also one of the top 7-string Nylon players in the world. He also loves to meet and play for Play It Back artists. He can basically do anything and everything in music and does it well.
Rob is one of those guys who has been doing music since he could walk. By the time he was 15, he was already touring the world playing keyboards with his influential Canadian band Spoons. After that, he went on to join Honeymoon Suite. He eventually turned his focus to musical theater and became the first and only Assistant Musical-Director in the Broadway sensation Mamma Mia (for 14 years!) He’s worked on Once and he helped Rami Malek learn piano for his Oscar-winning performance in Bohemian Rhapsody. He is also one of the most genuine and nice people to grace the planet. He’s added tracks and productions to several PiB artists’ songs and is always willing to take time out to help spread musical wisdom to our community.
Kenny Beats is a world-renowned rap producer who has worked with tons of awesome artists such as Rico Nasty, Vince Staples, Freddie Gibbs, Key!, 03 Greedo, JPEGMAFIA, and Ski Mask the Slump God (our favorite name). He also hosts a recurring beat battle on Twitch where up-and-coming producers compete for amazing prizes contributed by some of the most desirable audio industry brands. Kenny also has a YouTube show called The Cave where artists come to freestyle over beats and then Kenny produces the heck out of it all in a matter of 10 minutes. All of this and his generosity with production tips, tricks and sounds has made Kenny beloved on the internets. We love him ‘cause he takes time to inspire our artists to create and take risks and work hard.
Billy is an incredibly successful classic hitmaker. He’s written many multi-generational hits including True Colors (Cindy Lauper), Like A Virgin (Madonna), So Emotional (Whitney Houston), I Touch Myself, I’ll Stand By You (The Pretenders) and even though he’s a legend, he gave us his time and wisdom to talk songwriting and music industry war stories. He’s a mensch to say the least. We are so happy to be able to call him a Homie!
Liam is one half of the incredibly prolific and successful scoring team Superhuman. He is an awesome dude…and he makes what he does look easy even though it’s one of the hardest things to do in music; create a vibe, mood and excitement all without stepping on the visual. Liam was incredibly generous with his time showing Play It Back the ins and outs of his most current project (we can’t say which future film release it is ‘cause it’s super secret). He’s created the music for the Joker trailer, many more huge movies you’ve probably seen and several feature length films. Even though he spends so much of his time holed up in his studio making huge sounding productions, he’s still one of the most personable musicians you’ll ever meet…we are thankful for him.
We consider Tom the Michael Jordan of radio. Or the Lebron James..well, basically just a genius at what he does, and he’s been doing it a while. Tom is the President of Programming at iHeart media, runs crazy-huge events at iHeart and he still took time to answer questions to our Play It Back crew. He’s been a friend and mentor to Kenli, our co-founder, for a long time. We have mad respect and love for Tom. We also love how he is a true music fan and, after all of these years, he still gets excited to hear great new-music and to help out those going through tough cancer-experiences.
Lauren has written some of your favorite songs, we’re sure of it. She’s considered to be among the best (maybe the best) top-liners in the world and she still takes time out to share wisdom and even write with our artists. She’s written with and for Avril, Dua, Bebe…the list goes on. She’s the coolest and also the most humble…and she’s a super-fun hang. We are grateful she loves contributing to the Play It Back mission! We love her!
Among the most gifted singers now living on Planet Earth, Tori Kelly is also one of the sweetest and most humble artists you’ll ever meet. She writes, produces, plays and is just one of those incredibly talented people you marvel at. She turned pro super-young and so, at a ripe young age, she’s already got a bunch of Grammys and is widely known for her insanely amazing performance of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” in the animated movie Sing. Basically, anyone under 15 knows and loves that performance of that classic Stevie Wonder song. We’re excited to bond more with Tori as she was so kind to give us her time to pick her brain and talk shop. Tori rocks so, so much!
Yes, he “Took A Pill In Ibiza.” Yes, he’s written hit songs for JB (you call him Justin Bieber), Maroon 5, Nick Jonas and many others. I mean, in 2019, YES, he WALKED ACROSS AMERICA!!! And now he’s preparing to scale Mt. Everest (no joke). And, before all of this, Mike Posner lent his talents to our first unofficial Play It Back artist when he tracked a lead vocal (and tweaked some lyrics) for a song 17-year-old Chris G. wrote while he was fighting Leukemia in UCLA. Without Mike, Play It Back might not exist. That’s not surprising, he’s a metaphorical and literal trailblazer. We love Mike so much. He’s so deep, smart and creative. He still gives us his time to talk music and spout wisdom to the Play It Back artists. He’s an OG Homie.
Lil Dicky is an incredibly talented, popular rapper and comedian. We are so close to him, he let’s us call him by his legal name…Dave. Dave is also the star of his own self-titled scripted comedy show on FX. It’s the most popular comedy the network has ever had. We are huge fans of Dave’s music, acting and storytelling. He spent some time with us on a Music Monday call. He told us all about his lengthy creative process and how he doesn’t really eat fruits and veggies (we think he should ‘cause we want him to live a long time). We are honored to include him as a Play It Back Homie as we like associating with greatness.
Greg is a lifelong music composer. He’s worked on a variety of Disney projects, television, movies, and original family/educational symphonic works. Anyone who can raise 3 kids on his music ability is a hero to us. He’s a self-described “blue-collar” musician who can do it all and he’s not only Brian “RiGHtSiDE” Smith’s dad, but he’s also a huge supporter of the program. He’s lent us his arranging and playing abilities. He also shared his wisdom on a Music Monday Zoom call with all the Play It Back artists. He was encouraging on so many levels. We treasure his humility and are honored that he’s one of our biggest cheerleaders on the planet.
Bob is a legendary American recording engineer, mixer and record producer. Bob has worked with many artists including Bruce Springsteen (He mixed “Born in the USA”), The Rolling Stones (Tattoo You, etc.), Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi and SO MANY more. We don’t use the word “Legend” lightly and Bob is one, for sure, we promise you. Ask anyone who knows audio. Bob is a legend to us because he welcomed us into his awesome Apogee Studio in 2019 to have our first annual Play It Back Songs Music Night where our Play It Back artists played their songs live on stage. Many others attended including Portugal. The Man, Charlie Puth, and Benny Blanco. Bob also recorded and mixed all the acts that night. Pretty awesome.
Matt is a Grammy Award winning producer, an incredible piano player/keyboardist, an all-around amazing dude and Dad. He’s an original member of Lyle Lovett’s Large band (it’s a pretty great story how that happened). He’s worked with many other artists such as Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss, Mark Knoffler and Billy Joel. Matt laid down piano tracks for Cody Garling’s country song “Off the Mat” and was a guest on our Music Monday Zoom chat. It was amazing, especially when he played us something on his piano. He was just back from traveling with his family, hadn’t touched a piano in weeks and his love and talent blew us away when he played. And then he told us what his greatest inspiration is…minds were blown. What a great person.
Andy Grammer is an internationally known singer, songwriter, performer and record producer. In 2014, his song “Honey I’m Good” reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is certified triple-platinum. He also wrote the certified gold single “Good to be Alive (Hallelujah)”. These are all impressive feats, but behind all of that success stands a deep deep man who led one of our amazing Music Monday nights by talking with us about music, life and pain. Grammar knows that pain will give you your super-powers (he lost his mom to breast cancer at 25). So it was basically like a meeting of the Justice League with all of our Play It Back artists sharing what gave them their super-powers. As Andy said, “Nobody wants to listen to happy songs sung by someone who has never had any pain.” This is a good time to take a minute, ask what your superpower is and how you got it.
Stevie Redstone is a great LA-based songwriter. In his career as a solo artist, Redstone has played gigs with The Who at the Staples Center, the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and basically all over. Stevie lent his talents to TCA’s “Giving Tuesday” 2019 where we raised about $100k for young people fighting cancer. He also wrote “Off The Mat” with Cody Garling and Kenli and brought some serious songwriting game. His smooth voice and multi-instrumentalist talents inspired the session and we plan on making a lot more music with Stevie. He recently took a break from touring to record his album Shot in the Dark. It is awesomely soulful like all of his songs.
Mark Brown is the founder and CEO of CR2 Records and has had a successful music career himself. He’s played stadium shows, the iconic Space Night Club in Ibiza and created the top 5 UK Hit “The Journey Continues” featuring Sarah Cracknell. We love Mark for being so generous with his awesome sample library services and for supporting Play It Back from the very beginning. He gave us tons of music and beats to write to. We are forever grateful and look forward to doing lots more cool stuff with him and his creative staff of producers.
If you want enthusiasm, Nicky is your man. If you check out his songs, you’ll see someone who is somehow able to capture incredible positivity in a recording and companies like Apple and people like Post Malone agree; he makes dope music that makes you pay attention. He also made a really amazing writing-studio complex in Silverlake that has an open door to our Play It Back artists to come and create. We love it there. We love having Nicky to bounce song ideas off of. He’s a dude for sure. (That’s a very good thing)
Shawn’s talent is scary. He produces, he writes, he sings (incredibly), he arranges, he plays, he mixes, he performs. You don’t get that good by accident. You don’t win album of the year as an independent artist in South Africa by accident. We haven’t figured out how he does it all, but it likely has something to do with the combination of love of music and discipline. Shawn got involved in Play It Back after Sierra, a Play It Back artist, heard his songs and said, “I wanna work with HIM!” He said “yes” and the rest is history. He produced and co-wrote Sierra’s song “Never Come Back” and has performed it with her on several occasions. Shawn is music and it has inspired us all at Play It Back.
Even our video editor is a rock star. He’s an amazing rock drummer (with tatted-up arms to prove it) but he’s even more widely known to be a video editor beyond compare (you know, he edits Super-Bowl commercials and cuts Queens of the Stone age videos…no big deal). He also produced and edited our Play It Back videos. He gets to the heart and soul of our program and helps get that message to sink in to people’s souls with his deft storytelling. He’s also Swedish, so that’s cool.
Apogee, like everyone else who believes in the Play It Back cause, happen to be amazing at what they do. A cutting-edge audio company based in Santa Monica led by Betty Bennett and Bob Clearmountain (the legendary mix engineer who works with Bruce and Mick (you know who) to name (drop) a few), Apogee opens up their amazing studio space to host our annual Play It Back concert event. They are all delightful and also have provided portable audio gear for our in-hospital room recording sessions. Everyone at Apogee helps us so much. We love to see them smile.
Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man is a group of amazingly passionate and talented people who happen to also be a great band. John and Zack reached out to our first official Play It Back artist Jian Mehta while Jian was fighting leukemia at UCLA Medical Center. They gave him loads of encouragement and had him as a special guest at The Shrine on their last tour. They changed Jian’s life with their honest praise and interest in his art. They also attended and performed their gigantic hit “Feel It Still” and Jian’s song “Dangerous Love” at the First Annual Play It Back Songs Night at Apogee Studio in 2019.
An incredible producer, songwriter and musician (monster of the piano), Jon produced the international hit “Fight Song” among many others. We love him for his self-deprecating humility and willingness to play piano with us, both on tracks (Letty Vasquez’s “Long Day”) and live (at the Play It Back Songs night in our house band). You basically don’t even need to teach him songs. Just start playing and he magically knows what to play. It’s fun to watch everyone’s jaws drop at his talent which he humbly lends to us.
The Real Me Podcast
The Real Me podcast tells the stories of amazing young adults in the The Play It Back music program. Play it Back gives adolescent young adult (AYA) patients and cancer survivors the opportunity to express themselves and heal through the power of making music. Kenli Mattus leads the charge connecting AYA patients and cancer survivors with industry professionals to create songs, meet artists, and explore music. The Real Me podcast achieves a balance that makes these authentic stories so powerful – they are full of joy and they are sometimes sad, but mostly it’s just a privilege to hear these kids find their wings and fly. You are invited to take this very special journey with them in ‘The Real Me’.
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About Teen Cancer America
Our mission is to improve the experience, outcomes and survival of teens and young adults with cancer by providing facilities and programs designed especially for them in hospitals throughout the USA.
Teen Cancer America helps hospitals and healthcare professionals bridge the gap between pediatric and adult oncologoy care and aims to educate and support hospitals and outpatient facilities in the development of specialized units for teens and young adults. The units are a place just for teens and young adults where the cancer experience is understood and the importance of living life through the cancer journey is nourished.