The Changed Podcast #49 Transcript -Wade McCollum
6:43PM Sep 22, 2021
My guest today is an American film actor, stage actor, composer, and musician, who is best known for his roles as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And Ernest Shackleton in Ernest Shackleton loves me for which he won the Norton Award for Best Actor and was nominated for the Lortel Award in the same category. These days, he can be found buried in his neuroscience textbooks. As a student at U. Penn. My guest is Wade McCullum. I'm Aden Nepom. and this is the Changed Podcast.
Wade, thank you for joining me. I am so happy that you're here on the Changed Podcast,
Aden. Thank you for having me. It's so good to see you.
It's so good to see you. And so it's not unusual for me to speak to people that I already know on the podcast, but my listeners should probably know that we've known each other since we were kids.
Yeah. Little tiny Ashland kids,
little bitty kids in Ashland, Oregon. I don't think we met at school. I think we met in Lee Kitts acting classes. Is that right?
That sounds correct. Wow. haven't thought about that in a really long time. Yeah. Wow.
I'm pretty I'm pretty sure that's where we are. Which is where I learned to improv.
Yeah. Wow. And improv is such an incredible, incredible discipline. It's been such a useful tool for basically life, right?
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's woven into the fabric of everything that I do. But you went on the path of doing scripted, polished professional works, you know, like, my listeners can go if they don't already know who you are, I can go look you up on Broadway World or Wikipedia, which I discovered as I was prepping for the show, you have a Wikipedia page. So you've been on the path of like, really, memorizing a lot of stuff
That is so true. And memorization is it's like a muscle. I remember when actually we were doing speech and debate. And there was like, you know, times where I had to memorize large like, what, 10 minute long chunks of plays or whatever. And I would try to like, memorize it on the bus ride to the tournament. And I feel like that that moment, I like, started for myself figuring out like, the gym of memorization, and like, what was my regime? And how did I, you know, follow the steps. And luckily, I got pretty good at it. Because especially in TV and stuff, you know, I've gotten to set on the morning of the shoot, and they give you a brand new script, a brand new script to memorize in your dressing room, and hopefully, you know, you have a little bit of time. So it is sort of like one of those necessary super powers, you know, for the actor who decides to go down the route of scripted stuff. Yeah,
That's amazing. Gee, do you still remember things that you memorized a long, long time ago? Or does that... do that, do those files get rewritten like a computer,
I do feel like I have a good delete system that things have to go in order for more to get in. That said, there are certain things that like dig a rut, somehow, they're just like, like almost like a hook of a very popular song. But it happens to be a monologue or a line from something. And it just, kind of those things kind of rattle around for a longer period of time. But most of the time, I'm good at sort of like, you know, that's done, let it go.
I've done a little bit of scripted work here and there in my adult life, and I cannot remember a single line from any of it, but I can still remember songs that I've had to memorize in middle school.
right? That music is actually working. The audio cortex is so sophisticated that it it has a whole different wiring system for music than it does for language. I love that.
Yes. And you are you have now dug deeply into the science of how music works in our brains. But before we get there, there's something that I wanted also the listeners to know which is that you were one of my first five people that I booked to be on the podcast so you were originally supposed to come talk to me at the very beginning of season one and my plan was to launch episode one with with Broadway actor Wade McCollum and then and you had to cancel. Do you? Can we talk about that for a moment. I'm first of all I'm just psyched that you're now here and healthy and lovely and beautiful, as always, but that was a scary time.
It was terrifying. Yeah. Yeah, I was in New York City when Yeah, when everything got shut down. And I did. I got COVID like most people in New York City, I guess. And it was really rough. And when we when you contacted me, I had, technically, you know, I was feeling pretty good, relatively speaking. But there was this lasting effect where I, my voice wasn't operating in the way that it normally does. And it was because I make my you know, my primary source of income is like, my voice and my, I guess, my face or whatever, as an actor you are your product or whatever. It was so, it was so scary to not know if like my singing voice, my speaking voice would return to normal. And so yeah, I was exhausted. And my voice was wonk. And I just thought, I don't know if this is the best offering I can give you at this time. You know,
yeah. I always tell people to prioritize health. You know, we had, we had an appointment booked to talk and then you were like I am I have to postpone because I'm sick. And I'm a week out from being sick. And I'm recovering. But I don't feel great. Let's touch base later. So I touched base with you a couple of weeks later, and was like, how's it going? You were like? Like what you just said, technically, I'm recovered. But the words you used were and but my voice sounds a bit like a frog.
Yeah, it was like,
I'm not sure I'm ready for radio.
Yeah, I actually my voice was like this and wouldn't go further down. Like I couldn't get it to go down. And I, I was like, wait a minute, I don't want to sound like Kathleen Turner for the rest of my life. I mean, for a moment, it can be really fun to be Kathleen. Sure. I'm really happy my voice has returned. And it actually I think returned more like stronger and more flexible. And the other reason that it felt sort of like, not the moment to, to share with you in a in a setting where change is the subject is because I felt as though I was in that very moment of like a fulcrum, both collectively and personally. And I couldn't Yeah, because so much about you know, the the notion of this was a life changing moment where everything, turned it only in retrospect, do we really understand how it maybe fits into the scheme of things. And so I felt like I was in the middle of that sort of puro as it were. And so much was changing.
Right, I could see coming on and being like, tell me a story about a moment in your life. And everything changed in that would be super weird to be like, well, everything is different about me right now, but let me tell you about when I was seven, it can be kind of a weird, ask. Um, broadly speaking, when you think about change, just that the word itself for how you define it, what are some of the thoughts and feelings that show up for you around the broader concept of change?
It's just one of my favorite containers, like big, like, language, concept archetype. Like, whatever you want to call it, the notion of change and the experience of transformation and change. I feel like because I spent the early part of my childhood on the road in a rock and roll band, my dad being a drummer, and I was born in California, and two weeks later, we were in northern Alberta, Canada, and we never stayed in one place for more than two weeks change or most people's idea of change with so normal to me, I didn't know what regular non like, you know, non changing lifestyles looked like because we were truly sort of these American troubadours that, you know, didn't stay put. So for me, it's been a foundational aspect of my being that I've had to sort of relate to. And the outside I feel like the paradigm of the world generally speaking, I've had to learn a lot about how change affects other people in a way that maybe is not like me, because I was wired, my my biology and my my neuro pathways were formed with so much change
your nature and your nurture, it sounds like Exactly,
exactly. So I love change. I love it. And I think you know, that the The frame with which we look out at the world, it feels like the moments that I when I'm when the the sort of prompt that you give us on your show, it feels like when that frame quite literally dissolves, burns, shifts, angles breaks apart, and a new one arrives. Or you're in the middle of building that new frame that sort of the moment for me is where I looked in my life, whether the paradigm frame through which I was examining the world, quite literally, everything changed, because my lens of perception changed.
Yeah, I think that's what intrigues me the most about this idea of change is it is the changes that we experience. My theory is, and you'll know more about this, maybe, but my theory is that our experiences shape our views moving forward. Because how could they not? You know, if you've taken an evolutionary biology course, in college or wherever, like very, very fundamentally, a fundamental, the very fundamental understanding there is that our experiences what we survive, shape us, not necessarily what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, that actually sometimes things that don't kill, you can make you weaker, but that they certainly shift you and your view of the world. Inevitably, a lot of the stuff that does, that we do survive does, in fact, make us stronger in some way. Just I just want to acknowledge that, like, there are some experiences, they may make you stronger in some ways, while other parts of you are changed in a way that feels weaker. So to speak. Like, that's, that seems like reality.
Absolutely. Yeah. And that the the superpower maybe of the human is that adaptation, that really, really intelligent ability to adapt pretty quickly to radically different circumstances and environment. And that part of adaptation is sort of allowing for the parts of one skill set or brain pattern to diminish or weaken, while others sort of take over. Because out of necessity, that new system needs this set of tools rather than that set of tools. Like when somebody who's lost their hearing, their eyesight becomes hyper acute, or any other example of a deficit actually bringing a strength.
I, I saw a quote recently, I should have written it down. And that was, somebody was like, I get really upset when I see someone from my past. And they tell me that I look exactly the same or that I haven't changed. And, and I was like, Oh, I so I'm so relate to that I don't actually really resent much, or get upset about much. But I do relate to this idea that like, if somebody is looking at me, and they go, Oh, you haven't changed a bit. I'm mystified how they can perceive that to be true. Because I'm like, but clearly you're different. I mean, why would I be an exception? There are things about me that if that, of course will remain through lines. Um, but like, I just, I'm stunned when somebody can look, it's they're not looking at you. And they say that they're looking at they are literally looking at you and seeing the past.
Huh, hmm. Yeah, it seems like part of I mean, at least when I experienced that, a lot of people don't say that to me, because I think I do sort of I, I age, there are some people that I think on just on the surface level, like you have really good genes, you know what I mean? Whatever good, bad, whatever. It's like, you know,
because we prize youth in this culture. So if you're not aging, yeah,
exactly. I was headed with like a youth except, you know, a youth obsessed culture is like they're trying to give you a compliment be like, you look great, but like, the truth is, we are an entirely different cellular system than we were the last time we saw them if it's been seven years or whatever, right. So we've actually changed entirely.
Why would it be amazing if it was a compliment to look at somebody and go, my goodness, look how much you've changed? That'd be wonderful.
I love that.
Let's normalize that everybody. Hashtag you've changed something now right? With a hashtag.
Yes, that is that is the format of normalization.
Okay, good. Because as a middle aged woman, I just want to do the internet, right.
We're in such a weird one foot out one foot in time moment, like meeting our age. I feel like you know half my life was spent without and half my life was spent with. And so I'm sort of like this weird bridge moment where I'm like, I don't know, I still feel like sort of like a baby with all this stuff and the kids were it's just, you know, this is the paradigm talk about frames of perspective, right? Wow.
Oh, the papers. So that will be written about how this time period changed our children how this time period changed everything. That's I mean, yeah, this, this is going to be an interesting place in our history to look back on. Yeah, I think now would be an excellent time, if you are ready to share a story from your real life of a moment when everything changed. And we touched a little bit on on the moment where you contracted and recovered from COVID, we haven't really talked about how that changed you. So I don't know if that's in the mix as well. But something you told me before we hit record is that this was a hard task that trying to pick one story felt challenging. Can you just talk a little bit about the process of trying to pick a single moment? Before you even share a story? Just?
Absolutely. Yeah, well, first of all, choosing superlatives of anything has always been a real deficit of mine, it's like, linear time, and I don't quite also get along very well, or I don't somehow have the mechanism to quite grok linear time in the way that other people do. Same with the notion of superlatives. But maybe it actually goes with my, my habit that I love, which is that I recognize the greatness or the merit in all, and that I don't understand what metric I'm using to choose the most or the best, or the, because they all have the most best in a different way. So I, I somehow need to, like, if I'm going to live in a world of superlatives, or top 10 lists, I have to curate a metric for myself, that makes sense to identify best better, whatever those kind of, you know, layers of hierarchy are. So that's just like a weird, you know, thing about the way my brain is built, or my personality has formed, or whatever you want to say. But it was it was a wild and fun examination, it was a really cool sort of like, rewinding through what's been a very adventurous life. And because it's been filled with a lot of adventure and sort of diving into unknown scenarios, there's just so many moments where everything changed. And the big picture takeaway for me was, I didn't know in the moment necessarily that it was happening. It was only in retrospect, that I was able to place it in a narrative, linear sense, that made sense that that actually was a huge paradigmatic shifting point for me these fulcrum moments. And so then from there, parsing through the the lifeline, or whatever the story of my life, I sort of identified those moments. And it was really fun. And I felt that it was a very constructive exercise. So thank you for the opportunity.
Yeah, I have to be honest, and confess that, if I were asked to be a guest, on my own show, it would be very challenging for me to pick a single story. Because like you There are many moments. That being said, there are a few moments that typically pop quickly to the surface before I like start traveling back in time through my own memory banks. So if you know if somebody were to ask me in the moment, I didn't prepare, I have a story or two that would just pop out. Yeah, yeah. And yeah, but are they the most impactful? But I don't I could not say,
yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's a it's a beautiful ask from the world Aden and I'm just so grateful that you're making this show for the world because it's such a necessary and useful conversation for humans to have, especially in a moment, the Black Swan event that we're in like, you know, punctuated equilibrium, whatever we want to call that, like, things are changing quite quite rapidly. And so to dig in together and explore the idea of change is just so useful. So thank you for the offering.
Yes, absolutely. I, I agree. I think it's helpful to look back and and notice how things have changed us and to notice that and in shared experiences, what's really interesting is when people have shared experiences for some people, those are life changing moments and for other people in that experience. It's just a thing that happened. So our own unique filter on the world that both comes from the experiences we have also shapes how we process the experiences that we have. So I think that that's also a very interesting dynamic in the change cycle and human beings cycle and how we write stories and all of the things
Yes, I think about that, every day or eight times a week, when I am doing a show on Broadway or around the country or whatever. And eight times a week, I'm up there, quite literally doing what is a wonderful job, but it's sort of that you know, after you've like on, like, on Broadway, did wicked for a year or so, you know, it becomes it becomes you know, very regular to just like go to Broadway and do a show, it's sort of like showing up at the office, you just happen to put on weird clothes and dance around on stage in front of people. And for you, there's this sort of like cadence of very mundane, it's a very mundane experience, though, it's beautiful. And I don't mean to sound ungrateful, and it's always special somewhat, but there's a grind to it, like any job and any pattern, you know, you kind of dig a rut and you're sort of in your job, you're doing your job. And then I, every single show, I'm up there thinking, you know what, there's 3000 people watching the show right now and with wicked, specifically, half of them are like 11 year old girls and their lives are totally changing. Because wicked is awesome. And it's about this girl who like stands up to the, you know, the authority figures, she questions what's going on, she makes radical choices, she follows her heart. And she rebels in this responsible way. And she cares for the animals. And it's just like, I can feel them changing their lives. They're, they're having that fulcrum experience where they may never be the same. And I'm literally at my office job. The juxtaposition of that is so incredible. And so to me, I think capsulate what you just said that one person can just be having a conversation, or you know, they're just doing something that didn't really alter them, they happened to say something that for the other person on the other end, their entire paradigm shifted, which brings me to my first change or paradigm anecdote.
Wonderful. Let's do it.
So for me, because I was born into rock and roll, the first five years of my life, I didn't stay anywhere more than two weeks. And because we know that, you know, when you're born into something, the assumption is, that's life. That's life, and there's no other, you know, there's no other way to do it, because that's the way it's done. And your parents do it. And the band does it. And people have different cars that they drive from place to place, and they sleep in different cars or different hotels, but, and they play different instruments. But everybody's moving around and playing gigs, because that's how it is to be a person. So that was sort of my inherited understanding of the world. And I had formed a very Oh, the other thing about me if for some reason I have an inordinate amount of early childhood memories, and because when we're young, our brains are so plastic, and we are in such a dynamic, somewhat tumultuous, changing, ever changing, sort of, you know, there's a lot of dynamism in those early years in terms of the brain and how it's evolving, that I have a ton of anecdotes from my early life that feel so fundamentally appropriate for this conversation. This one was by far the biggest. So I'm about three, I'm about three, and we are in Nebraska. And my father, and my mother go to a Yellow House in the sort of rural part of Nebraska. And, you know, they're rock and roller. So, you know, they probably went there for, you know, to buy some medical marijuana, medic medical marijuana was what they were looking for a problem. They were going there for whatever it was they were going there for. And we showed up, and I didn't I wasn't around a lot of kids because I was with a band of adults. Well, they were also kids, but they were older kids. You know, they acted like children, but they were actually adults. And so I didn't have a lot of experience with smaller people. And there was this kid named TC. And he was cool. He was friendly. And my parents were like, Oh, go play in the backyard mode button. Okay. And we went out to the backyard and TC was like, Oh, you know, what are you doing? And I was like, Hi, Ron. We just got here and Nebraska is hot and it's kind of humid and you know, it smells like corn. He was like Yeah, well, you want to eat some cat food. And I was like, I have never tried cat food and and you know, we're three whatever. And and I you know
I've always been sort of open to adventure. You know, I'm curious. I was like, sure I part of me knew that, like, I probably shouldn't eat cat food or a lot of it. So I was like, I'll taste it, you know, I'll give it a taste. But he's chompin' like, he's chompin' like, it's, you know, I don't know what those like packaged snacks are, you know, crunchy just crunching away. He obviously loves it. So I tried one. And I was salty. It was metallic, it was all the things that this kind of, you know, cat food is, I kind of pretended to be like, Oh, that's good. Because I could tell he loved it. So I didn't want to offend him. And we kind of had that experience. And I was like, Okay, cool. Well, and then for some reason we left. So we leave, and a year goes by, and we've been all over North America, all over North America, you know, a litany of different places, and people and environments and contexts. And, you know, all sorts of change. And we return a year later to that same town in Nebraska. And my dad, of course, goes to that same house, probably for the same purpose. And they go inside, and they're like, oh, and TC comes out of the house. And I was, I was like, blown away. And I remember freaking out. I was like, Oh, my God, you're here to? That's amazing. And I was like, jumping up and down. And I was like, because I was blown away that what were the chances that we would both be at that house. At the same time? Again, I just couldn't fathom how you know, because he's doing this, and I'm doing this. And then we came back at the same moment. And now we're at that same house, I couldn't believe the synchronicity. And I was so enthusiastic. And of course, we go into the backyard. And he was like, What? What do you mean, we're here at the same time, and I was like, Well, you know, we've gone all over and he picks up the cat food and, you know, he starts chowing down on the cat food. I was like, Oh, my gosh, he's doing this again. And so we kind of were doing a similar thing while conversing. And he's like, What do you mean, we're here at the same time? And I was like, you know, we've gone everywhere been all over the place, and what are the chances that we're back in this house at the same time together? And, and he said, he just didn't understand what I was talking about. And eventually, he said, I haven't left. And I, I didn't know what he meant. And I said, Well, what do you mean? And like, what, what do you mean, you haven't left? And he said, I live here. And I've never heard somebody say that. And I didn't know what he meant. And I said, What do you mean, you live here. And it took me a long time to figure it out that he's he kept having to explain that he had not left that house, other than to go to the grocery store with his mother for an entire year. And once I put it together, I thought something was terribly wrong. And I burst into tears, because I thought they were keeping him captive, like there was something really wrong with it. Like, because my worldview was so different. I thought they were like he was in jail, or something like I just couldn't comprehend how that could be okay, or ethically appropriate. And I ran back into the house and I was a mess. And my parents were like, what's going on? What's the matter? And I explained that TC had told me that he lives here. And I was really distraught about it. And they of course, had to dig down a little, you know, what, what about that is, is disturbing. And I was like, Well, why, you know, why did they keep him here all year, and I saw on their faces, they like went, and they kind of like, laughed, and then they were like, oh, Wade, oh, like they got it. And they said, We're the, we're the different ones. Most people live in a house. And they stay there. And most people don't move around like we do and go from town to town. And this, like that frame thing. Everything just went boom. And suddenly I was I was the anomaly. And everything else was everyone was staying. And it was so fundamental, I could feel my brain change. And I have to say, I felt the sense I'd never felt before of like, it was depression. I felt depressed for the world or like what I perceived the world to be, because how boring like I couldn't comprehend a world where people stayed put, and that it would it would be fun or exciting or good for them. And it really to this day,
is hard for me to grapple with and I've Of course, live my life in a way That is, you know, ubiquitously traveling. That's how I am, I'm always moving. So I obviously carried that with me too. And I think for me, that was like one of the big fundamental changes in my perception of reality so drastically in a moment, that, that it feels it feels like a peak, a peak experience of change for me.
I, I have had those experiences where the world felt like it tips up, upside down for a moment, and then sort of comes back into as you're out I like how you phrased that you could feel your brain change because it's like, yeah, the whole all of a sudden, that world tilts upside down and, and you realize you're the exception in the room. And that what you thought was true, is different. But I'm also struck by this image of this kid, this poor TC, I wonder how TC grew up, because, like his routine was to go hang in the backyard and eat cat food. And that remained true after your travels and reuniting, and this house where he lived. Like, I wonder how long that went on.
I think about him so often, it's so funny, you say that because I, I, he comes up a ton in, in my memory space and my sort of wandering space. And I often imagine how his life unfolded and, and I've encountered many TC's along the way as you can imagine that. And I've really learned to honor that. This sort of diversity of belonging, that belonging is such an important element to being a human. And, and because of that, and because of our incredible adaptation skills, as a as an organism, we have this diversity of belonging and I've really learned to honor everyone's sense of belonging, though not my own. I don't feel depressed anymore. Because I feel like I've gained empathy and true understanding for that. Some people really feel way more comfortable staying and doing a routine that and that's, that's way more a sense of belonging for them. And I really honor that. And so part of me imagines a very positive outcome where he, he's used those long roots in Nebraska to inherit the family farm and he maybe is in that same house and his kids, maybe you're in the backyard, you know, trying out some new cat food,
everybody's trying new cat food.
And they're happy, you know, it's like our, I want to think they're happy. And
I love that idea. I mean, who knows? Maybe his ability to really taste the differences in cat food has led him could have led him down to a cat food manufacturing path. Maybe my cats eat food that he developed.
You're right, he could have he could be like, a micro tuning for the allergens in cat food. And now he's like, built a cat food brand Empire the fall about the health and the microbiome of the feline population. That is possible. Anything is possible. Wow. Yeah.
Wow. You said that you had trouble choosing that you had like four stories. Do you want to share a second story? I give you space for a second story. But I will tell you that that story is a tasty
Is it salty and metallic?
it's a salty, a metallic example. And I feel I feel I feel satisfied with that.
But you know, I also I also want to honor that that you gave so much thought and think in like coming up with a story to bring. And the other thing I that I want to say though, that it occurs to me is like, Okay, so in thinking about what story to share, you're picking and choosing right. But as an audience member, I hear a story and I'm like, Thank you, that was a wonderful story. And there's no like, need or compelling like the the audience generally speaking, this is true in musicals. This is true in television, this is true and whatever the story they get is the story that they think about. And the only thing that you really see fans talk about of like, who are really nerding out about something is how to make the story they just heard a better story as opposed to, That's not a story that I wanted. I wanted a different story altogether! Unless it's a finale for a TV series, right? In which case then that's not how that story should go. Um, Yeah, for the most part, like we watch a movie, and we're not like, that's not the story they should have told were like, you know what I wish they would have made this one the villain or I wish they would have fed this thing just a little more. And that's something very interesting that as we share our stories with the world, the world's like, thank you, I heard a story. And now I know who you are, you know. And yet our experiences internally are so complex and filled with multiple stories and all of the things.
Oh, I love that. I love this. Yeah, that humans as a species, again, are like story eaters. And that we, that we, rather than, like, throw the story up, this is a gross analogy, but like, rather than throw it back up, we like digest food like that. Exactly, which is why he made hypoallergenic cat food. Instead of throwing it up, our tendency is to digest it. And in that process of digestion, there's that refinement, where we're like, what nutrients Am I going to take from that story that are useful to my particular lens and narrative, what I'm thinking about how I'm looking at the world right now and what I'm working on. And that's such a beautiful and incredible gift as a as a human species, what an amazing thing. And to not be like, I wish they would have told a different story, but to have the ability to parse it apart and digest separate nutrients, and then maybe thinking in our own terms, like, well, I would have, you know, I would have enjoyed it If the villain was more this way that were the other thing because for my particular, you know, the way I'm looking at the world right now, that would have been more useful, or it would have been a better story.
Totally. Totally. And I guarantee you, as someone listened to that story, they also heard their own stories pop up about kids they met when they were traveling about trying cat food, because I know you're not the only one and neither is TC. No, I haven't yet.
Oh, you haven't? It's never it's never to late
you know, and I have actually had that thought. Give me the cats their food. And they're like, I don't like this one. Or they're like, I really like this one. I have had the thought it's never too late to find out what the differences between these choices
for myself. Yeah, but then I but I can't they really like the stuff that really grosses me out. So I just think for me that trying the cat food chain is has probably left the station.
Well, maybe next time we'll find out
Never say never.
yeah, maybe in my next life. I use or maybe in my past life, I already know. And that's why I feel you know what, here's a funny story. I'll tell you, here's a true story. So when I was three and a half or four, I have a vivid memory of we lived here in Portland at that time. And I have a vivid memory of sitting on the steps with my parents. And looking at those they're like, they look like grapes, but their flowers, those little I'll have to look them up what they're called and they grow here in Portland through these like they look like little tiny bunches of grapes, yeah, flowers, and I'm staring at these flowers and I and I turn to my parents and I say I was a cat in my past life, just sort of like out of the blue. And, and my parents being hippies did not go No, you weren't or that's not a thing. They were like tell, you know, oh, how do you know? Yeah, you know, and I said, because I had excellent night vision and my vision during the day isn't as good. Also, I remember being a cat.
Oh my gosh, I love them.
They were like they were like okay, and I held on to that narrative about my self like for a good chunk of my childhood I was a cat my past life. I was a cat. And then in middle school, I started having dreams of being in the in the Holocaust, very vivid dreams. And I wasn't me in those dreams. I was another girl who had two sisters. And and then I was like maybe I'm a Holocaust survivor. And also then like was a cat I don't know how what's the order? How does this work? So and also maybe past lives are a farce and and the thing is the coolest thing of all, is I have no way in this world and existence of knowing I can only make a choice about whether or not I think it's true.
That is so true. I love that so much. And that's like the the surrendering to the mystery. and enjoying enjoying the mystery. And then understanding that we have agency in perspectives and, and also that time for me is so nonlinear. There's this nonlinear aspect and quantum entanglement piece that where there's this sort of simultaneity. So, in terms of like past or future lives, I get very jumbled up. Because it feels from a place of feeling that it's all just happening. And some memories are actually the event they've turned out to be future events. So I get very, I just get confused, it feels way more spherical, or, you know, tutori, like, the geometry of time does not feel like a line for me. So to put things on this, like, you know, timeline, I get very jumbled up.
Wow, that's so cool. Oh, that's so neat. I am a very linear thinker, but I do have snapshots of, of things that haven't happened or, or don't happen, or happened in ways that that I didn't expect.
I do have an anecdote that's quicker. And it feels like it's sort of in alignment with what we're sort of talking about. And in some ways, it feels like it feels like the inverse of the previous anecdote for me. experiential.
Well, I definitely, I definitely want to hear it. So share. I think it'd be fun to hear. hear a second story from you. So let's have that. Yes, please.
Thank you. So I was 19 or 20. And I had graduated. I graduated college at 19. I'd been working acting wise, pretty rigorously for the year out of college. I had played Danny Zuko in Greece in LA and then I went and I played Hamlet, right after that, and it was quite a gearshift, shall I say, like, my psyche was like, whoa. And I felt jarring to go from Danny Zuko to Hamlet. And it was also 1999. So we were at the turn of the century. And you know, me and my relationship to time. So the whole thing was like, bizarre and everybody was freaking about y2k. You know, that was in Portland. And we were like, the world is definitely ending. And I was like, yeah, that could be a possibility. And then a group of my friends were like, let's go to Hawaii for the turn of the century. I was like, that sounds like a perfect place to be fruit grows on trees. And I had 100 bucks, and a backpack, and I air hitched to Maui. Now that's not a thing anymore. It was a hitchhiking ticket for 90 bucks. And you could go on any airline that had a free seat, you just showed up to the airport. miss those days, I hitchhiked on an airplane to Maui. And when I got into Maui, I realized, you know, wow, there's I'm sort of a new, I was very outside of my context. Like, well, I couldn't really define myself. People there were changing their names. And I was teaching yoga and I was like, I should change my name. That's what I need to do. And I decided for the turn of the century, I was going to fly to Kauai and hike to the end of the Napali Coast for the turn of the century. So I got my backpack, and I flew to Kauai. And I thought to myself, I'm going to change my name today. I'm gonna change my name today. And as I was flying there, I was like, I'm, I'm changing my name to Neptune. My name is Neptune. And you know, I'm a Pisces, obviously grew up in Ashland and on the road. And so, you know, the notion of changing one's name to Neptune wasn't so strange. I thought, yeah, that feels right. Neptune McCollum. And so I was like, that's the decision. And I got off the plane and started my new life. Had my backpack on walked out outside the airport, and got to a little bend in the road, put my thumb out. And first car pulled over, pick me up. Hey, brother, where you goin? Like, oh, I'm gone to the Napali Coast, just on the North Shore. And they were like, Oh, cool. We can take you as far as Kapaa and I was like, sounds great. Thank you so much. Get in the backseat and then back back in. And they're like, Oh, so where you come from? Oh, Maui. And he said, What? What's your name, brother. And I was like, here's the big moment... this is when everything changes! And I was like, Neptune. I'm here and I was like, yeah, that's totally true. He like, adjusts his rear view mirror and he goes, Wade?
yeah, no joke. And I thought like, the one I was like, No, no, no Neptune. I thought I was changing everything. And he goes, Oh my gosh, Wade, I saw you play Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream at Ashland High School a few years ago in Shana Cooper's production and you were brilliant. I'll never forget that production and your performance Wade McCollum and I was like if that's not the guy was like, you will not change our name to Neptune child. Your name is Wade at the good enough. I don't know what else so it was like a moment where I was like, everything's going to change and then it didn't. It just stayed the same. And yet it was you know, December 31st, 1999. So also everything changed.
Wow, Wade! That's amazing! Kauai is, I have I have my own things changed and stayed the same in Hawaii stories. That magical place and then the Napali Coast specifically, I backpacked and camped in Napali Coast and I met strangers and had adventures and it's I don't know what it's like for a person in your 20s these days. But when I was in my 20s it was filled with magic and possibility. I am I am in love with that story. Because even though your name did not change to Neptune in that moment. I am very curious. Did your relationship to your name to Wade? Did it change? Because it sure as heck sounds like dead shirts
It sure as heck did Aden? It sure did yeah. I it was a moment of acceptance. Because I felt not I don't feel adverse to my name. But I don't I feel sort of indifferent to actually the idea of names in general. I kind of like time don't quite get it. It's like, I guess I'm called that. But I don't see why, like, I don't quite understand it. And it seems disconnected to me from who I am on some other fundamental level. And so for me in that moment, it was it was both a personal and professional realization that whether I'd liked it or not, I had like, Oh, it's so gross. But I had branded myself as Wade McCollum as an actor as my career choice. And that it was in a way too late, though I was still young to sort of reverse that choice. And then in doing and making that realization and the importance and the sort of central core of my life being my career and my, my artistic, you know, motivating movement through life or whatever, that I I accepted that and, and learned to not just feel indifferent to the name, Wade, but embrace the fact that it is a verb, and that it's water based, and it means to walk through a river, you know, to to forge through a river and, and then I was like, Oh, that is Nep like, you know, what I wanted from Neptune is already there, you know, in a way, I mean, it's not the God of the ocean, but it's less hyperbolic.
Wow, that's so lovely. Well, I want to thank you for sharing that story. I'm so glad that you did that. it's a wonderful story and such a vivid image. And just what are the odds that somebody who saw just amazing um, do you believe the universe sends you signals communicates to you feeds you pathways? Are you of that mind or... do you believe in coincidence,
Do you believe in fate?
I know synchronicity. I know, synchronicity. It's like, you know, if there's one thing I know, it's synchronicity, and I can't say it is true for everyone. I would never make such a statement. But for myself, I get clear signals. And whether that's me, you know, sort of goes with the past live conversation, whether that's me interpreting them and sort of appropriately putting them in my narrative to use them for my own sort of evolutionary purpose or intent? I don't know. But is it? Does it matter? In a way, it's like, that was a very clear sign. And I took the sign and I listened. And there have been a multitude of those throughout throughout this life. Yeah.
Wonderful. Thank you for sharing all of that. And I want to talk a little bit if you're willing, I want to spend just a little bit of time on that really cool stuff that you're currently into, would you? We've talked a little bit about it offline. And I'm wondering if you would share with the listeners some of what you are learning and doing. It's very cool stuff and I'll stop talking so you can start
Oh, I absolutely yeah Thank you, thank you for asking. I am I'm also curious and intrigued by what I'm up to right now. I've always felt like a scientist, even as an actor, and as an artist, I feel like I, I applied unawarely, I didn't know I was doing it. But I was applying the scientific method rigorously to my own acting work and my own directing work and my writing. It's a tool I've always used, but it's never been properly contextualized. And I've always had this note, the idea that had I grown up in a different financial setting or whatever, you know, different childhood, that I would have had access to education in a different way. And that I could have taken a very different route. I was like, really into math and physics. And I really always felt like I sort of the train left the station around third grade, when I was like, they gave us a math folder, I went to the algebra folder, because it was like a, you know, self, self timed learning thing, or whatever. And I just loved that I couldn't get enough of it. And I had to stop at algebra and wait for everybody else to catch up. And by that time, I'd sort of found storytelling as a place where I could explore at my own pace in a way that kept me engaged. And so I was on a different train. And I've always wondered, like, what would I have been as a scientist, and the, you know, this past year, and all of its incredible, you know, radical severance from the patterns that we were used to as a people. Specifically, my career is public, and it's crowds, and it's traveling. So it's like all the things that stopped. And so I had to make some pretty bold choices. And it was the excuse I've been looking for, to explore my science brain and to like, explore these other pathways that I had sort of tertiary aliy been examining and looking at. And a few years ago, I did meet my friend, Yasmin and co founder. And she was at the runway program at Cornell Tech, which is a really incredible program for people to do their postdoctoral research and commercialize it into a tech startup, essentially. And while she was beginning that process, we had had been having conversations about music and the power of how music affects the brain. And this is all of her PhD research, as well as musicology and how we've co evolved with music as a species. And it's a really, really powerful, powerful medicine. And I've always experienced that, obviously, from the time I was little that that's just, I just lived in the soup of music, so I didn't know anything else. And then being a musician and composer and all of that, I'd felt it but I've never analyzed it in the way that she had and looked at it from a brain and behavior and a computational neuroscience perspective. So we had all these very rigorous muscular conversations around neuroscience and music. And we, I felt like two sides of coin of a coin meeting where I was like, Oh, she did all the things I didn't get the chance to do, she went to all the amazing Ivy League institutions and did all the studying. And I did all the sort of like on boots on the ground, experiential stuff. And so we sort of CO ideated some really fun fundamental concepts around music and healing, which she spun into a company at Cornell Tech, this runway program. And right when the year hit, and everything changed, and shows got canceled, she was at a point in the company's evolution where she was sort of ready to take on, you know, the invitation for me to be a full time contributor and not just the co founder was there. So I, I started working for this neuroscience and music company tech startup. And it was just off to the races. And it's been this extraordinary year of learning at an exponential rate, I cannot tell you how much I've learned. I'm also studying neuroscience, like you said, at U. Penn, which is just like a dream come true. It's I just can't tell you how incredible it feels. It's like a brain massage.
And I get to apply my, my research and discoveries and experiences to technology that can help people and we're really looking at music as a as a very sort of precision medicine tool for mental health. And, and we're not alone. There's a huge tidal wave a surge of interest and resources that are being poured into looking at music as medicine from the National Institutes of Health and all sorts of, you know, large organizations. So we're sort of on the front edge of that wave. And I feel like we've built a really good surfboard and it feels really fun. We're like, we're on the we're on the ride and it's good. We just met with the FDA yesterday and it's just really exciting. So that's one and then the other is paradise. Pet Base is a company that uses the same recommendation engine and algorithms to match people to pets that would be appropriate for their lifestyle, their particular brain and behavior patterns. And people are often like, wait a minute, what medical music and pets don't understand how they fit together. But it's quite clear that the coevolutionary pattern of human beings evolving with music also happened with companion animals. And so we are actually neurobiologically wired to really be intimate with music as a, as a, as a place to, you know, modulate our brain and, and companion animals to serve a very similar function and the release of endogenous opioids. And so it's,
oh my gosh, that's amazing. I'm thinking about this past year in relationship to both music and pets. Because this past year has been fascinating. And that we've been, all of us got sent basically to spend inordinate amount of amounts of time with our companion animals. Yeah. And there were all these memes about like, you know, how cats and dogs got together and secretly put together a virus so that they can have more free time. which feels right. But also, also we were told not to sing. And not to sing together. Yes. Because of the example. Because of the I mean, in terms of sent being sent indoors, certainly singing in your house, my cats don't let me sing in my house, but like, I've been paid to sing cat! Keep your criticism to yourself. You know, but it's interesting, because of the you know, what happened with the choir in Washington state of pandemic. This like, healing act of singing in unison was squashed. Yeah. And I'm, I've been fascinated by that. And as you're talking about music and healing, I'm just like, what has what are the again, they're gonna write so many papers down the road? I don't I don't envy anybody in a decision making place. But who was like you should do this? And you should not do that, because they're just trying to make the best decisions they possibly can. There will be papers written about that, about what was the effect of squashing our voices for a year?
Wow, I had not really even thought about I mean, I'd thought about that, because I I sing in public for a living.
Right from an economic. standpoint,
yeah, like the more global or humanistic implications of not being able to sing in groups and quite literally harmonize that.
That powerful entrainment, the powerful, the powerful, neurochemical release that happens when we sing in groups, I had not really put that together. And that if I bet it, absolutely, I mean, the sense of isolation and atomization, and the, you know, this despair, I think, if anything, if any positive takeaway, it's that we realize the extreme import of cohabitating, of collaborating of harmonizing of making music and making things in real time together with other animal humans in the same space, you know, that it, it's become very clear that it's a necessary thing for us. Or for me anyway, I should say, Yes.
Me too. Me too. Well, um, I feel like we could probably spend another hour just talking about the neuroscience of music and healing. I'm very curious, but I am aware of our time. So I'll just ask you, is there a place where people can learn more, I know that you're in the very early stages of all of this stuff.
The Petbase is an app and we're, we're releasing the app imminently. I would say, within a week, I literally just sent off the graphic. I'm like learning like basic graphic design for app design. And we sent off the apps for people to click on the pet and I'm just doing the basic design structure for this first iteration of the app. It looks great. I think it's gonna
be by the time Okay, so by the time this episode is out right now, people there will be links. And if people want to download the app, they can get that app right now. What about the neuroscience and healing music? Brain Candy stuff? candies, the wrong word brain avocado
Oh, no, that's a thing now #brainavocado. It feels nourishing as a rhetorical phrase brain avocado. It feels
Oh delicious. Quick.
Copyright brainavocado.com Aden Nepom 2021? Is it 2021? I think so
I believe so I am not I would have to look it up. Yeah.
flabbergasted by the notion of yours going and sequence. The neuroscience and music company is a little bit more in stealth mode. But the thing to know is by the time we release this, there may be information that's publicly accessible. And we are, we are at a really cool point in the process of getting ready for commercialization of a wellness version of what we designed to be a medical product. So the wellness or consumer facing product of the medical music is going to be similar in nature, but the way it deals with patient privacy and data. And all of that is very different. And so it's working, it's leveraging the same concept, and essentially doing a very same, the very same thing, but wellness context. And consumer products are very different from the medical context. So we're sort of in the moment where we're going into phase two clinical trials for the medical version of the music product.
And we're in this very cool and amazing conversation with our CFO and the guy who is leading our commercial, rolling out process in terms of like, how do we build a consumer facing product that's more wellness oriented?
Interesting. And so just quickly, the medical music itself addresses what in the body? What are you able to address in the body using medical music.
So we, for our first phase clinical trial chose anxiety to address specifically, mostly because of its ubiquity. And, and it is a really crippling, it's a really crippling pattern that goes on in the brain, anxiety. And the populations that that we chose to engage with are, their anticipatory anxiety specifically, is quite extreme. They're interstitial lung disease patients at Weill Cornell. And so their pulmonary function tests are extraordinarily painful. And you can imagine that before engaging in a very necessary but extremely painful process. The you know, it's like, if you don't like getting a shot, you know, you, you know, the body starts to start to sweat and like adrenaline kicks in and you have all these sort of anticipatory responses to the future event that are actually those anticipatory responses, in many ways are often worse than the event itself. Yeah, the event the shot isn't that bad, but it's actually the lead at this the anticipatory anxiety, that's actually the suffering. And so we were like, how do we address that? And so we designed and Yasmin is just, you know, she's like, a hyper, she's a hyper genius. And she's, she's a, she's a really incredible unicorn, and her work on that study was incredible. And the results from the study were overwhelmingly positive and and so that's, that was the first sort of brain and behavior pathway we chose to address was anxiety, but it it music because of our coevolution with it, and the complexity of our audio cortex. music can be used with precision to really address almost all all, you know, we can really modulate the brain in very specific ways with music.
Well, that's exciting. When you are ready to enroll people for a study on pain relief related to arthritis. You give me a call, and I will find out right up.
Yes, we just had that conversation yesterday. That's so funny.
you're on it.
Awesome. And what let's bring we're gonna bring our conversation now to a lovely and gentle close, even though I just want to keep talking to you forever and ever. And that as people are listening to this conversation, what do you think it would be nice for them to take out of or what are you taking out of our conversation today? What's your like, takeaway or what would you like people to take with them?
I I have no agenda for others takeaway, other than perhaps my intent that people use any story really to, to augment one's curiosity, then that curiosity and this sense of possibility feels like you know that change and curiosity and adventure, and courageousness those are those are generally wishes I have for all people to have fun with.
Thank you Wade. This has been absolutely wonderful.
My question to you following this conversation is what stories popped up those moments in your own experience when you could almost feel your brain changing live in that moment, as your understanding of the world shifted. I call these gray hair moments. And that may not be a great name for them. But they are those moments that mature you when you realize that something you assumed to be true, isn't necessarily true. Like Wade's story of coming to the shocking for him realization that some people just live in one place for their whole life. A lot of us have had experiences that changed how we view the rules and the truths of the world in which we live. One such moment for me came in my late 20s when I realized that though my parents are wise and knowledgeable. They are not in fact experts at all things and like the rest of us that they are just you know, shockingly human and doing the best that they can. What about you? What were your moments that change the way you perceive the world around you? Come share your thoughts, stories, sarcastic remarks and reactions to this episode in our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/changehub, and be sure to check out the show notes for links and resources on our website: TheChangedPodcast.com Thank you for listening to the Changed Podcast. Special thanks to my family for their love, support and patience to all of the amazing Changed Podcast Patreon page members who I couldn't do this without Art of Change Skills for Life. And Patreon member producer Dr. Rick Kirschner. I'm Aden Nepom. And I wish you the kind of experiences in life you're excited to tell stories about