Play it Back

Giving Young Adult Cancer Survivors the Opportunity to Rock

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The Play It Back Music program gives adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors the opportunity to express themselves and heal through the power of making music. Play It Back connects AYA cancer survivors with industry professionals to create songs, meet artists, and explore music. We work with all skill levels, from professional to beginner.

  • PLAY IT BACK ARTISTS SINCE 2018

  • STUDIO HOURS LOGGED

  • SONGS HAVE BEEN RECORDED

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.

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    Kenli Mattus

    Kenli 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.
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    Benny Blanco

    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.

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    Jon Levine

    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.

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    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.

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    Apogee Electronics

    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.

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    Marcus Eriksson

    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.

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    Shaun Jacobs

    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.

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    Nicky Blitz

    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)

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    Mark Brown

    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.

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    Stevie Redstone

    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.

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    Andy Grammer

    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.

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    Matt Rollings

    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.

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    Bob Clearmountain

    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.

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    Gregory Smith

    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.

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    Lil Dicky

    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.

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    Mike Posner

    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.

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    Tori Kelly

    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!

Get Involved!

Want to be a Play It Back Artist?

If you or someone you know wants to become a Play It Back artist, please out the referral form. If you are under 18, you must have a guardian fill out an Authorization of Communication form.

Volunteer as a Producer

If you are in the industry and would like to make a difference reach out to Play it Back’s Music Producer, Kenli Mattus at kenli.music@teencanceramerica.org.

Donate

If you can’t volunteer or participate, no worries! Every dollar helps. Your donation goes straight to the organization and instantly helps.

Check us Out!

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.

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