Osseo, WI (WEAU) - According to recent reports, since 2002 the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world. But the Poetic Justice Project, based in California, is helping former inmates. Although it s nearly 2,000 miles away from Wisconsin, a local artist is using the power of his music to help change their tune.
"I was kind of an awkward kid, you know really shy and it was one way to get the girls too, says Bethke.
Since high school, 34 year-old Brian Bethke has strummed his guitar. With every chord and note grew an artist and songwriter.
He says, "Three of us guys just started writing music and playing and every noon they let us play and come down and listen. That's where ah hah moment this would be really cool to do for a living."
But for this Wisconsin native, a career in music happened by accident.
"Probably in 2005 I was working as a satellite installer. I later found out that I had lyme disease undetected for about 5 years and so my health really took a bad turn and forced my wife to go back to work fulltime, he explains.
As he grew stronger, his wife gave him two years to find his sound.
Bethke says, "Within a year I was able to turn things back around with the first album. It was not what I expected. It's the power of the internet. It happened in a matter of months. It really gave me the drive that I can do this. If I really put my mind to this I can do it,
His drive lead him to selling albums, making records and writing music. Now, his talent is spreading to California, helping the Poetic Justice Project, thanks to his manager Helen Marrs.
"The Poetic Justice Project is founded by a friend of mine in Santa Maria, California and its non profit. She created it in 2009 and it s all about bold and original theatre, says Helen.
"I know some people who went to my high school that got incarcerated for different things. When they're incarcerated for a long period time and when they get out, its like throwing them into a strange new world. Without those people to back you and support of you, you re more likely to go back to those old ways, says Brian.
"When Debra my friend told me the name of the play, Whose Lying Down in Your Heart, there was just something so compelling about those words oh that's got to be a song. She's like see what you can do, says Marrs.
"I took on the challenge. I started writing and messing around on guitar, adds Brian.
Helen says, "The first time I heard it I had to hug my cat, it just sent chills up my spine it was so good."
In just a matter of days, a song was born called whose lying down in your heart. Proving that no matter where you live talent can be found.
He says, "Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do something. If someone tells you you can't prove them wrong."