Using Music to Heal
from Trauma and Abuse

Using Music to Heal from Trauma and Abuse with Carlos Morgan

Jenna Mayne: Welcome to she is your neighbour, a show where we discuss the realities and complexities of domestic violence. This podcast is brought to you by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, a charitable organization in Ontario, Canada. I’m your host, Jenna May. Join me as we talk to different people each week to learn how domestic violence impacts people from all walks of life. She is your neighbour, and we all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

This episode is called using music to heal from trauma and abuse with Carlos Morgan. Carlos is a Canadian rhythm and blues singer. He won a Juno Award in 1997 for his R&B soul album called Feelin All Right. He has new music coming out soon with references to past relationships and his experience with domestic violence. This episode is part of our six episode Survivor series, which focuses on the experiences of survivors of domestic violence. In this episode, Carlos talks about experiencing domestic violence as a child and the impact this had on his life and future relationships. He also explains how his music has been an outlet for him to heal from trauma.

It was great to get reconnected with Carlos for this episode. We actually met in 2018 when he performed at our annual fundraiser for Women Abuse Prevention Month, which was a concert fundraiser that year. So it was nice to get connected again, and I was so grateful to learn more about his experience.

Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence, abuse and self harm, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’d also like to thank Rogers for proudly sponsoring this survivor series.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Carlos. Thanks so much for being here today.

Carlos Morgan: Thank you, Jenna. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah. It’s great to see you. So today we’re going to talk a little bit about domestic violence again. Really excited to, have you here a part of this conversation. Can you maybe just start by sharing a little bit about yourself?

Carlos Morgan: Born and raised in Toronto to jamaican parents. Raised in a two parent home up until the age of twelve when my parents split up. I have an older brother and older sister, although my father had children outside of, the home with other women and the woman who raised me, which isn’t my mother. My birth mother, whom I only met once, when I was nine years old. And I had siblings with my birth mother, whom again, I have not met. All that to say is that was raised in a home where there was a lot of violence, physical, verbal, mental, sexual. There was abandonment, neglect. So the home I was raised in was volatile, hostile, violent. There were moments of, quote unquote, love. But as a child, my experience was filled with a, lot of pain and abuse. And even in my conception, based on what I was, what my father had told me there wasn’t, I wasn’t wanted. And so coming into this world and into the family that I came into and, being raised by my biological father, but again, his way of disciplining was beat first and maybe ask questions after, and then being raised with a woman who never showed or expressed any love to me formed and shaped my childhood, which, moving into my young adulthood up to where I am now, shaped a lot of my experiences in relationships. So to go back, yeah, I saw a lot of abuse, domestic abuse in my home, my father beating on my stepmother, and again, my brother, sister, and I being the victims of abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse. There was sexual abuse, and not just in the home, but even amongst the church community that I attended and the church community that, I was raised in, so many of these experiences, as I said before, shaped who I was. And seeing how my father treated my stepmother, quote unquote, and seeing how he treated other women and women that he had other children with outside of the home, you know, the one thing I learned was that I, ah, did not want to be like my father. However, and unfortunately, not having and seeing or being taught, I had to teach myself. I had to learn myself. I had to raise myself. And in teaching myself, raising myself, rearing myself, I had some, I went through some very painful experiences. And another thing, the one thing I ended up doing in my adult relationships was I would enter into relationships with women who were like my father. Because one of the things I learned through counseling was that I was attracting the same type of woman or the same energy. One therapist that I saw for a very long time, and she opened my eyes to many, many things through my years of therapy with her, was she would always say to me that I’m trying to heal my brokenness and my trauma and my childhood wounds through the relationships that I would have and what I would do. So I would stay in abusive relationships and on both sides, verbal abuse for the most part. At times, it got physical, and I’m the kind of person, I put myself on blast. I put myself on blast in a way, to say that I call myself out and hopefully that. And, I do it for two reasons. 1 may be selfish, but I do it for two reasons, because I’ve come to realize that when somebody speaks their truth, their own truth, when somebody else try to speak somebody else truth, they can manipulate it and make it any way they want it to be. So I say to myself, or I speak out that, yes, that I behaved in ways that I saw, what I was taught, what I learned, but I realized that that’s not who I am, and that’s new to, who I want to be. But unfortunately, in those experiences that there was where I was trying to resolve my pain and my brokenness in relationships and me staying in situations where I’m now being abused. And then I get to a point, and I’m the kind of person that. And I’ve worked hard at this, but there was for many years where I would engage in harsh, verbal, volatile, violent verbal confrontations. And I, and I, and I carry. I carry remorse and regret for that. So going back to my childhood, seeing how my father had hurt women, you know, my. Again, my stepmother and even my birth mother, I just realized. I just found out maybe two years ago, after I found out that my birth. I’ve been looking for my birth mother all my life, and I just found out a couple of years ago that she died. So I’ve not had the chance to ever meet her.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, wow.

Carlos Morgan: And,

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m so sorry.

Carlos Morgan: Thank you. So, as I was finding, out information about her, I found out some very disturbing news as to one of the reasons why she didn’t want me. And a sister of mine went through the same experience. Her mother went through the same experience with our father. So all that to say is, through everything that I’ve seen, everything that I’ve been through, ways that I was abusive, ways that I was treated, in ways that I had mistreated and or abused women, I continued to work on change, and in hopes that speaking as openly, honestly, transparently, and truthfully, that my experience will, hopefully be an inspiration, especially for men, to change their behaviors and attitudes and realize that if there’s something that they’re doing, that they’re treating and or calling women out their name, that they need to say, okay, this isn’t right. Two things. I am writing a course, and I graduated with my master’s degree last year in community music from Wilfred Laurier University, Kitchener Waterloo. And part of my thesis was on, contemporary and commercial hip hop music. Hip hop and there are four elements on contemporary hip hop that I address, and two of those four deals with misogyny and sexism in contemporary commercial hip hop. How women are, treated or viewed, portrayed in hip hop, and looking specifically at black women and how black women have been treated in hip hop. And hip hop being a small example or a microcosm of a huge issue when it comes to abuse pertaining to black women, I totally. I completely recognize, know, and understand and realize that women of whatever racial background face this problem. So I want to put that out there, however. And on the other hand, when I see how black women are portrayed in the media, how, they’re portrayed in various aspects of life, but specifically in what I’m doing in hip hop. And so one of the things that I address is, for example, when I hear how a lot of these hip hop call women out their names and then they’re being objectified and in my opinion, disgustingly portrayed, I feel broken as a man, seeing that my sisters are being portrayed in this way and against from men, and I get offended. and I look at that and say, okay, well, I don’t want to. And I will not look at any women in that way or call women out their name in hip hop. And how, women are portrayed is one of the things that I address in my social justice hip hop program called Sound Perspectives. The second thing is I wrote a song called where I’ve been, where I’m going. That’s going to be on my new album that I’m m releasing in the fall. And in it, it’s more. It’s an autobiography of my life. And I address some of what I’ve been through, and I’ll share portions of the lyrics. Second verse goes, as I grew older, learning to become a man, I experienced pain that I couldn’t understand. I was afraid to tell the truth. And living responsible anger was the only way I knew to live my life. It was my survival. Now, Sarah, Sandy, Tracy, Karen, Charlotte, and Renee were some of the women that I hurt along the way. I thought valuing myself through sex that I thought was love. I believed that I loved them and that they loved me, too. But love is not based on lies. It’s based on truth. And so, to every woman that I’ve hurt, I’m sorry, that are, portions of the lyrics of the song. So the song is basically saying, this is the life that I came into. This is the world that I came into, the experiences that I’ve had, how it shaped me, naming some of the women that I mistreated and how I felt that even though they said they loved me, I was lied to.

Carlos Morgan: We were lying to each other. We were hurting each other. But I am taking and owning responsibility and accountability for m my partner by saying that I’m sorry and asking, for forgiveness and striving to do better and how I could be, an, agent for change in this issue of domestic abuse towards women.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate hearing your journey, and I know it can be difficult to talk about this, but it sounds like you’ve done so much growing and, learning on your own journey already. So I know you would probably know from that, that it’s empowering to talk about, and it takes away some of the shame and stigma that’s historically been associated with domestic violence. Like, I think the more we can actually talk about it and have these conversations, the more we can make change, like you’re saying. And there’s a lot of things you said there that stuck out to me, you know, starting with your childhood experience. that was. That sounded very painful, and I appreciate you elaborating on that. You know, you said that you had to. You had to teach yourself how different ways of being, which is a lot of responsibility for a kid and for a person, too. And then, you know, you made your way into music, and you’ve been so successful. And I know you described some of your relationships you went through there and how they weren’t perfect, but you kind of learned on your way and you went to therapy. There was lots you did, and I loved you explaining about the thesis that you wrote and then also about your new song. I think it’s really fascinating to see how you’ve brought this into your life and into your music and tied it all together. So I’m just wondering if you can kind of explain how you got to this place, especially with your music and in your journey. Like, how did this kind of self discovery come about?

Carlos Morgan: it came about because I was feeling such dire pain and sadness and sorrow. At one point in 2005, I had contemplated and I was seeking to commit suicide. I was. I didn’t want to live anymore. And if I didn’t find ways to change how I was feeling and what I was doing in 2005, I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to live anymore. And thank God I found support groups for addiction because my abuse that I had suffered and that was still plaguing me in 2005 and affecting me in 2005 had gotten so out of hand and I needed help. And then. So that was in 2005. Going back to 1994, I started going to support groups and one of the very first support groups I started attending was at a church in North York, and it was a support group, was called Survivors, of dysfunctional families. And then I went to another support group for, Survivors of incest. And then in the late nineties, I started going to survivors for codependency between support groups. Then I started seeing one on one counseling. I was going two times a week for about three years. I go see my therapist two times a week. And then I stopped for a little while and resumed more counseling, stopping. And then in 2005, I started going to support groups for sex addiction, sex and love addiction. And I, did that for two and a half years, six days a week, because the pain and my struggles with my self esteem, my self value, self love. Like, for example, as I said before, I would get into toxic, abusive relationships, and mentally, I’d be like, I don’t want to be here. I’m not good in this situation. We love each other, but we’re not good together. And I would always hear my therapist say to me, Carlos, what you’re doing is you’re getting into, you’re leaving one toxic relationship and entering into another toxic relationship, abusive relationship, because that’s what you know, that’s what you saw going up, and that’s how you were treated. And then what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to resolve your childhood in these relationships, and they’re just not working, because the women that you’re in relationships with, they’re also broken, and they’re coming from their own toxic, abusive childhood. And whether they’re aware of it or not or they know or not, the both of you are now in this relationship that you’re in, and you’re triggering each other, and now you’re here to do the work. And your partner, maybe she is, maybe she isn’t, but for you, Carlos. And so it’s taken years. And, again, I’m still in therapy. I still see a therapist twice a month because I still thank God I’m not where I used to be. And I’m a lot older, and I have a lot more wisdom and a lot more knowledge, and I’m, more mature. And I think for me, you know, I sometimes get to the point where it’s like, okay, I’ve done all the work, but until my last breath, I think for all of us, work doesn’t ever stop until we leave this world, until we leave this earth. And sometimes I get frustrated with myself, so. But however, my awareness is always, I want to be better. I want to do better. And if I start to feel myself going in that, wrong, toxic direction, I will just stop, and I’ll stop, and I’ll just sit. I won’t do anything. I’ll process what I’m feeling, process what I’m thinking about. you know, do whatever. Just. I’ll do my best to be cognizant and aware just to stop so I don’t go down that rabbit hole. So I use all these methods, if you will, to keep my awareness open and then look back at where I’ve been and no pun intended, and where I’m going and what I’ve done, what’s been done to me, the person I want to be, the person I don’t want to be anymore. I, hope that answered your question.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that did. Thank you. I really appreciate you talking kind of about the cycle of abuse, too, and how it impacted your relationships. Like you said, it was a great explanation there of how you would enter these toxic relationships, and it was the both of you in it, too. It wasn’t just you. It wasn’t just her. You both kind of had a role, and I’m sure that took a long time to kind of unpack and figure out, but I so appreciate you saying it, because I think it would give a lot of hope to anyone who’s listening, who’s been through something similar and is still figuring it out for themselves. It sure does provide a lot of hope to know that you’ve gone through this and you’ve been able to kind of find your way through it, and you still are. And I’m also just wondering, you know, it sounds like music has really been, a big part of your life and kind of a way for creative expression and working through some of this. I wondered if you could touch on that a little bit more.

Carlos Morgan: Yeah, well, you know, the one thing I give Jehovah thanks and praise for every day is the gift of music and for blessing me with the gift of music and the gift of voice, the gift of song, to write, the gift to express myself through music and through dance. And again, I’ve not always used music in positive ways. I. At one point, I used music as a means in a way to manipulate women, and I used it in a way to manipulate women because of my low self esteem, because I thought music was the only way I would gain any kind of attention. I didn’t think that on my own merit, as just a person, that somebody would look at me and say, you know, and then even when women did look at me, there were women who just said, I don’t care about Carlos Morgan, the singer songwriter dancer, and, you know, the famous. I just. And I didn’t get that because of my brokenness. I didn’t. I didn’t hear it, I didn’t understand it. But all that to say, music has been the one source of love and feeling safe, feel a sense of belonging, and it has helped me through music, through prayer, through reading the Bible, through scripture, which I’ve slacked off a lot from lately. But getting back to, has helped me immensely. again, not speaking to what anybody else believes or don’t believe, but I believe in God. I believe in the scripture. I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God. I believe in the word of God. I have a lot of questions, but that gift of music that God created and given to me and being able. And I could write songs about how I feel, and I find it very therapeutic. I write songs about. I’ve, written songs about relationships ending. I’ve written songs about the song I just shared with you. I’ve written songs about people coming together, about having faith, using faith or whatever you believe in as a source to overcome trials and tribulations that we all go through in life. I’ve, written songs about heartbreak, when I’m going through a breaking up of a relationship. And these songs, the songs I’ve written has helped me through. Like, I’ve listened to many songs that other songwriters and singers have performed and written that have helped me through. But being able to do it myself is very cathartic. So, I’m so eternally grateful to Jehovah God that I have that gift. And I hope that whatever songs that I write and I put out into the world, that whomever hear my voice and my lyrics and my words, they’ll feel like, man, thank you, carlos. Because they’re using my song as a source to get them through their difficult time or even if they’re dealing with something, with trauma. I wrote another song called Long Hard Road, and it’s actually. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, and that’s going to be on my next record. It’s the country soul song. You know, it’s got country elements in it. And chorus quickly goes, it’s a long hard road that we’re all traveling on a long, hard road but each day I can be strong to face whatever comes and never give up while I carry my life’s heavy load on this long, hard road. You know, one, of the lyrics say, I have regret for the pain I caused and done. I have no excuse. So to everyone that I’ve treated wrong, please forgive me for hurting you. And I just. And I listen back as an objective listener, and I’m like, on one hand, I’m like, I feel proud of myself, and on the other hand, I’m like, I’m listening to myself, and I’m feeling like, okay, I can keep going, you know? I have another song called have a little faith, and it’s like, you know, takes a little time to get back up, you know, to love yourself inside. And that’s what we all need to do. We got to start with loving ourselves inside, you know? And there are many artists that inspire me to write this way. You know, Donnie Hathaway and Stevie wonder and Marvin Gaye and, Barry White and Lionel Richie and Diane Carroll and Joni Mitchell. And there’s certain songwriters that I listen to that inspire me to want to write songs about. Bob Marley is another one about loving ourselves, loving each other. India another one. There’s just so many that inspire me to want to write songs outside of the everyday. I love you. You broke my heart. Leave me alone. Let’s be together. Let’s make love. I want to write songs that speaks to the heart and soul and spirit of humanity. and that’s what music is. I’m telling Jenna. I just. Man. Yeah. Music, for me is like, it’s everything, you know? and so. Yeah, yeah.

Jenna Mayne: Thanks so much for sharing that. I think so many people can relate to that. I think music is so powerful, and it’s something we use. We have our two emergency shelters, and we have a music therapy program.

Carlos Morgan: Wow.

Jenna Mayne: And it’s the most popular program we have for women and kids. Yeah, they love it. And I think it’s just a different way. You know, it’s another alternative to talk therapy. If that doesn’t work for someone, it’s just another way to express yourself and kind of explore what you’re going through. So true. I can really understand what you’re saying there. and I really appreciate you elaborating on that.

Carlos Morgan: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for letting me share that.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah, no, thank you. So, one more question before we go. I’m wondering if you can talk a bit about how you think we can all be better neighbors to women, kids, men, to anyone experiencing domestic violence.

Carlos Morgan: well, I think predominantly for women is that women, in so many ways, women are stronger than men. That’s what I believe, that so many ways women are stronger than men be. All that to say is that when women are sorry, when women are going through, domestic violence experiences, of course we need to, show support, rally around, rally around women who are suffering. So, for me, we need to rally around and take care of and support women who are facing domestic abuse. Whatever. If it’s programs or whatever’s, created, can be implemented and supported, that can, one, eradicate domestic abuse. Two, there are resources for women and children to turn to that can heal. They can find healing, they can get on their feet, and they can turn to people, and that, can support them and help them move in a positive trajectory in their life, for their life, for their children. And, again, love and support. I’m all for that. I’m very outspoken when it comes to these things. And again, I think these are things that we can do to help women who are like the shelters, definitely shelters. And the way shelters that help and support women are helping them get back on their feet and giving them resources so they could be safe and take care of their children.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much, Carlos. You’ve really been an inspiration to talk to today, and I know that everyone listening to this will get a lot of hope out of it, and we’ll just be inspired by you. So, thank you so, so much for being here.

Carlos Morgan: Thank, you. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag she is your neighbor on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter, and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

keep in the loop

subscribe to podcast updates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

get involved

what's next?

get involved

We encourage you to get involved! Read a blog story, tune into the podcast, start conversations, and use the hashtag #SheIsYourNeighbour. We can’t do this without you! We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

keep in the loop

subscribe to podcast

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.