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Dr. BLT, The Song Shrink: Johnny Cash meets John Prine in an ever expanding catalog

Remixing music with clinical psychology

Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT.
Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT.

Cake’s 2001 music video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” was up for a Breakthrough Video award at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards due to its creative use of taped reactions. The video’s producers let random people on the street listen to the song on headphones, and then included their assessments of the music in the finished video. One of the participants was Bruce L. Thiessen, a psychologist who could often be found busking, acoustic guitar in hand, on the streets of Sacramento.

“I just thought I happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Thiessen explains, “but my wife said that the members of Cake are drawn towards people that sort of dance to the beat of their own drum. They’re a Sacramento band, so she said they probably were aware of me and decided to come by when they knew I would be out there jamming.” As a result, Thiessen says people were coming up to him almost daily that summer, saying they had seen him on either MTV, VH1, or BET. But even though he was getting exposure on the music channels, it wasn’t for his own music. In the end, the moment didn’t provide much of a boost for his band Practically Poets, or to his busking endeavors. “It just didn’t translate into any big deal for me in terms of my music. I’m still an underdog.”

After bouncing around different California locales, Thiessen ended up in San Diego. He currently operates a psychology practice which specializes in music as a form of therapy. It’s a concept he has utilized for decades now, and he recently discovered a 1987 Casey Kasem’s American Top-40 radio show that included a long-distance dedication from a runaway whom he had helped in a shelter using the same techniques. “I got to hear it after, like, 35 years for the first time,” he says. “It was very gratifying. It really brought tears to my eyes.”

But Thiessen hasn’t been so preoccupied with his day job that it’s kept him from churning out his own music. If you check out his YouTube channel, you will find that he produces songs at a clip that would make many artists envious. He has penned massive catalog of tunes since his initial, youthful stabs at songwriting in the early ‘70s — even he isn’t sure of the exact number. “I tried to figure it out one time, and it got up into the thousands and then I stopped counting. The early ‘70s was when I started to write, and there’s probably hundreds that I wrote back then, when there wasn’t any social media. I probably just forgot about all those songs — except the ones I remembered. Even the stuff I put out now, I probably hold onto maybe ten percent of the songs I write, and the rest of them I forget that I even wrote. I’ll stumble across a video, and I feel like I’ve practically never heard the song before.” Thiessen’s songs come at such a furious pace that he uses his YouTube channel as a way to log everything he produces.

Many of his recent clips showcase him busking in front of Steph’s Donut Hole in Alpine. He randomly visited the shop one morning, hung out for a bit, and then started playing outside. The customers were receptive to his music and gave him some nice tips. It has since turned into a pretty regular Saturday and Sunday morning gig. “For some reason, people who love donuts also love my songs. I go in and have my donut and coffee. I’ll kick back for a little bit, and then I will go live on Facebook. It’s a performance for people that are coming into the shop, and it’s a performance for my Facebook friends.”

To create his musician alter-ego, Thiessen repurposed the initials from his full name into a title: Dr. BLT. His website describes it best. “I’m Dr. BLT, The Song Shrink. Think of a hybrid, combining a licensed clinical psychologist and a singer/songwriter.” His voice sounds a bit like Johnny Cash, but his lyrics have an off-kilter cleverness that seems more closely aligned to the musings of John Prine. In one of his recent numbers, “I Hereby Deny (Russian Access to My Music),” he sings about cutting off his songs from Russia, with the hope that it will catch Putin off-guard and encourage him to “turn the troops around” in Ukraine.

But that’s not to say he thinks all Putin needs is therapy. “Some people are just a little bit too far gone, and it requires a miracle. I’m not really much of a miracle worker, but I think it would take a miracle to introduce him to the world of sanity.”

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Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT.
Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT.

Cake’s 2001 music video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” was up for a Breakthrough Video award at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards due to its creative use of taped reactions. The video’s producers let random people on the street listen to the song on headphones, and then included their assessments of the music in the finished video. One of the participants was Bruce L. Thiessen, a psychologist who could often be found busking, acoustic guitar in hand, on the streets of Sacramento.

“I just thought I happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Thiessen explains, “but my wife said that the members of Cake are drawn towards people that sort of dance to the beat of their own drum. They’re a Sacramento band, so she said they probably were aware of me and decided to come by when they knew I would be out there jamming.” As a result, Thiessen says people were coming up to him almost daily that summer, saying they had seen him on either MTV, VH1, or BET. But even though he was getting exposure on the music channels, it wasn’t for his own music. In the end, the moment didn’t provide much of a boost for his band Practically Poets, or to his busking endeavors. “It just didn’t translate into any big deal for me in terms of my music. I’m still an underdog.”

After bouncing around different California locales, Thiessen ended up in San Diego. He currently operates a psychology practice which specializes in music as a form of therapy. It’s a concept he has utilized for decades now, and he recently discovered a 1987 Casey Kasem’s American Top-40 radio show that included a long-distance dedication from a runaway whom he had helped in a shelter using the same techniques. “I got to hear it after, like, 35 years for the first time,” he says. “It was very gratifying. It really brought tears to my eyes.”

But Thiessen hasn’t been so preoccupied with his day job that it’s kept him from churning out his own music. If you check out his YouTube channel, you will find that he produces songs at a clip that would make many artists envious. He has penned massive catalog of tunes since his initial, youthful stabs at songwriting in the early ‘70s — even he isn’t sure of the exact number. “I tried to figure it out one time, and it got up into the thousands and then I stopped counting. The early ‘70s was when I started to write, and there’s probably hundreds that I wrote back then, when there wasn’t any social media. I probably just forgot about all those songs — except the ones I remembered. Even the stuff I put out now, I probably hold onto maybe ten percent of the songs I write, and the rest of them I forget that I even wrote. I’ll stumble across a video, and I feel like I’ve practically never heard the song before.” Thiessen’s songs come at such a furious pace that he uses his YouTube channel as a way to log everything he produces.

Many of his recent clips showcase him busking in front of Steph’s Donut Hole in Alpine. He randomly visited the shop one morning, hung out for a bit, and then started playing outside. The customers were receptive to his music and gave him some nice tips. It has since turned into a pretty regular Saturday and Sunday morning gig. “For some reason, people who love donuts also love my songs. I go in and have my donut and coffee. I’ll kick back for a little bit, and then I will go live on Facebook. It’s a performance for people that are coming into the shop, and it’s a performance for my Facebook friends.”

To create his musician alter-ego, Thiessen repurposed the initials from his full name into a title: Dr. BLT. His website describes it best. “I’m Dr. BLT, The Song Shrink. Think of a hybrid, combining a licensed clinical psychologist and a singer/songwriter.” His voice sounds a bit like Johnny Cash, but his lyrics have an off-kilter cleverness that seems more closely aligned to the musings of John Prine. In one of his recent numbers, “I Hereby Deny (Russian Access to My Music),” he sings about cutting off his songs from Russia, with the hope that it will catch Putin off-guard and encourage him to “turn the troops around” in Ukraine.

But that’s not to say he thinks all Putin needs is therapy. “Some people are just a little bit too far gone, and it requires a miracle. I’m not really much of a miracle worker, but I think it would take a miracle to introduce him to the world of sanity.”

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