What are We? We Are Songwriters

Mark Cutler is well-known throughout the RI music community. His vast resume includes being a member of the RI Music Hall of Fame for his work with bands like The Schemers and The Raindogs. He has a reputation for supporting the community through his music, whether via fundraisers or by advocating for others. He started the Same Thing Project as a way to bring different styles of people together to create a song through teamwork and collaboration. 

“It’s very simple but it’s very complex,” Cutler says of the songwriting project. “The way it’s operated is simple, but the things that happen there are complex.” 

Cutler describes The Same Thing Project as community songwriting. The workshop is open to anyone, regardless of musical ability or profession. His aim is to break down barriers and create a tight-knit community by finding common ground within each other. He will start a session by revealing something about himself that leads to a group discussion and topic ideas. He says that individuals reveal and unload things about themselves throughout the songwriting process, which leads people to identify with each other. By the end of the session, people contributed ideas that created a new song. He appreciates the satisfaction felt throughout the room.


“People leave feeling better,” Cutler says. “People feeling low don’t feel as low. It’s a really rewarding experience for everybody. It’s therapeutic without being therapy.”

Everyone in the class (sizes range from 5-30 people) that takes part in the up-to-two-hour session leaves as an official songwriter, which Cutler describes as an incredibly therapeutic experience. He understands the mental health issues that musicians face. He says that there is a sensitivity to musicians, as finding inspiration and enlightenment for their craft can lead to hurt and let-down.

“A lot of creative people are open to getting in dark places sometimes,” Cutler explains. “When your mind is allowed to go into that dark place too many times, your mind and body get used to it and it’s hard to climb out of it.”

Cutler was working a software job and dealing with PTSD from a rough life stretch that included open heart surgery and a throat cancer diagnosis. Though thankful for his team of doctors and the support he received from local healthcare nonprofit Tune In & Tune Up, he became depressed. He started seeing a therapist, whom he credits for changing his life and inspiring him to become a life coach. The two came up with a list of short and long-term goals as well as core values, which included a rough sketch of The Same Thing Project. He ran the idea by friend and peer Ray Memery, who offered him a weekly workshop at Avatar Residential Inc, a program that provides day and residential services for adults with disabilities.

“They really let me get the ball rolling and have helped me a lot,” Cutler says of the positive support he’s received from the Avatar community. He has since conducted many successful workshops with numerous organizations. He is currently working with the National Museum of Mental Health Project to set up a college tour. 

“The mission is simple, right? Write a song,” Memery says while describing the program. “The alchemy of doing so, maybe not so much. Ideas — invisible as ghosts until they’re netted by a butterfly collector-wizard from thin air and placed properly in a row. I’d imagine that most people think of songs as things that other people write. No access. But here: ‘Hey, that’s MY ghost sprung to life up there on that pad! (So it must be important?) And it turns out I’ve got more of ‘em than you can count. They just need a place to become uninvisible. I will start here and then I will look at things differently from now on.’”

“I’m trying to make it an ongoing concern that happens more than once a week,” Cutler says of growing the program to reach more people. “I’m trying to branch it out. It’s uplifting. It works wonders for me. Everyone who attends loves it and changes their point of view.”

“The purity of what Mark is doing with The Same Thing Project is inspiring,” says National Museum of Mental Health Project co-developer Paul Piwko. “In many ways, the National Museum of Mental Health Project is likewise trying to keep our work pure, collaborative, and community-based – this is the principle of a ‘museum-without-walls’ (or distributed museum, as it is called in museum circles). Our connection with Mark and TSTP is one that is based upon a shared spirit that emphasizes creativity and community.”

Cutler knows first-hand the struggles that musicians face. While admittedly not a doctor, he does share his thoughts. There will always be financial worries and sacrifices. There are also issues of self-doubt, the highs, and lows that breed inspiration and the never-ending quest for your art to be valued.

“I consider myself a  songwriter and a musician,” he says. “When you identify that way, you hope to be respected by your peers and hope people are into what you’re doing.”  

He fears that not enough musicians are taking active care of their mental health. He feels that resources, someone to talk to, and a proactive approach (finding what works for you) are important. He worries that some feel they’re at a creative peak while suffering through low moments, which could prevent them from reaching out for help.

“If you think something is wrong, whether mentally or physically, you need to seek help and tell someone you’re not feeling right,” Cutler pleads. “I went through years of therapy. Some therapists weren’t a good fit and others were. I found one that changed my life and got me out of the dark world and back into my musical life.”

Cutler says that he has the same self-doubt and highs and lows that other musicians deal with. He says that he’s “more accepting of it now” and thanks his strong support system for being there for him. He adds that keeping expectations in check is beneficial, even if those expectations are high.

Cutler feels that The Same Thing Project is a rewarding experience for everybody with many benefits. He says that it’s really good for people to connect, release concerns and feel the joy of creating. He loves seeing people actively working together, giving them a better viewpoint of their neighbors. He appreciates the connection people make, which is a thing they are currently desiring. He hopes to secure donors and sponsors so he can host many free sessions for the public.

“Music is a wonderful thing and such a universal language,” Cutler concludes, adding that he plans to do this until he can’t anymore. “It’s such an equal opportunity thing. It’s pretty wonderful if it makes you feel good. There are a lot of things in this world that bum me out. It’s hard to find where the trust factor is, but when you’re with a group of people that you trust, it’s a wonderful and therapeutic thing.”
The Same Thing Project meets every Tuesday morning, 10am, at the Outsider Collective 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI 02860, and it’s free and open to everyone. Learn more at