Eric Melvin, a founding member of long-running punk band NOFX is known for his guitar work in the group, his lengthy dreadlocks, and perhaps most notably—the Mel Yell (his signature vocals). As we’re making forward movements past the Covid-19 pandemic, Melvin has a new trait for his resume: Transformative Life Coach. Having earned a certificate in these studies from Sofia University, the kindest member of NOFX is ready to aid clients in working through difficult times and decisions. It has been a challenging 14 months for everyone, and he wants to help. We chatted with Melvin recently to learn more about his new endeavor.
You’re now a life coach, how did this come about?
Well, let’s see. I’ve been interested and drawn to helping occupations. When I was a kid, I was in the Boy Scouts, there was a lot of community service and being positive. I was always drawn to that and thinking about what I would do for a career—if music hadn’t panned out. I really liked the outdoors, and I thought about maybe joining the forestry service. Helping [was] always my kind of thing. I thought about becoming a therapist, and I studied some in city college after high school … I kept my biological psychology book! I still have it somewhere because all that stuff was even more fascinating to me; neurons, chemicals, transmitters, and stuff. So I’ve always been drawn to it, but I didn’t quite know what to do with it. And this coaching thing was like, I’d heard about it for a long time and I know people who’ve already gone into it. And this past year I was like, “well, what is that?” I looked into online courses. And then I read the course description from Sofia University in California for certification in a course called Transformative Life Coaching. I read that and I was like, “wow, that’s something that I really like to do.” Once I started taking the course, it was this really deep and meaningful stuff. It was talking about change, you know? I mean, that’s huge and that’s like huge in punk rock where I came from. It’s an awful lot like a Minor Threat song.
In the course, was there anything in particular that initially made you realize that this was something that was really for you?
Making a positive change—how the coach is like an assistant on that person’s journey. [People might say] I’d like to be a musician. I’d like to start my own business, or just find time to be an artist, you know? We all want something and yet, sometimes people can’t always find it for themselves or go through the steps themselves to make those kinds of changes. So we’re looking into things like why people change, why they don’t change, and what makes goals meaningful to people—motivation and where that comes from. It is such a broad thing to think about anyway, right? There’s so many approaches to self-help or just encouragement. To think about what might work with one person versus the other is interesting.
And that’s been a huge challenge so far. I’ve had 15 clients already and 40 hours or so of coaching. And our classmates coach each other every week as well. It’s different every time. There’s no real routine, there’s no set formula. It’s really challenging and really rewarding because of those deep conversations. And it’s great having that kind of a conversation— it’s not every day that you can have one. Even with like a good friend, you know, I don’t always have those kinds of conversations.
Did you work with your family or friends for some practice sessions or did that feel too weird?
Yeah, it’s a little too close to home. Kind of like knowing the person too much wasn’t really as helpful. But it’s definitely scarier to be with somebody you don’t know. It was the same for a lot of my classmates. We talked about wanting to help and a lot of times people wanting to offer advice. Surprisingly that’s not really the way to do it with this particular coaching method. It’s more like inquiring. It’s asking questions—getting clarification.
Changing to empower change. Trying to tell somebody what they need to do to change isn’t as effective as the person discovering for themselves. What makes sense to change? So that’s what we try to do is we ask questions, asking for clarification. What’s stopping someone from getting around the obstacles? And then hopefully the client starts to see why it’s not an obstacle or how to get around that obstacle.
How would you define therapy versus life coaching?
Therapy is more like—well obviously the qualifications are very different to be a coach. And actually, you don’t have to have certification to just say, “I’m a life coach,” but there might be more regulation coming soon. Cause it seems that the coaching businesses is exploding. We all need connection, especially this past year. I mean, we need it anyway. And it’s hard to start reaching out sometimes [to talk] for some people. Therapy sort of assumes that there’s a problem or possibly a trauma in the past. And that puts the patient in a place of disease, syndromes, disorders, and needs professional medical help to become healthy. That’s kind of a generalized way of looking at psychotherapy. Coaching more assumes that the person is fairly healthy and can reason and is working towards something in the future, not exactly looking at past trauma or anything like that. We do look at some history for patterns, but more in hopes for future change. Is this boring? I feel so boring.
No, this is not boring! I am genuinely interested. I talked earlier this year to Miguel from Teenage Bottlerocket on how he was taking his yoga and meditation teachings online. There’s a lot of nihilism in punk rock, but we don’t have to stay in that mindset for the rest of their lives. It’s really cool that you’re this awesome musician, and that you’re finding other ways to give back. Everybody knows you’re the nicest, NOFXer.
Next time I see those guys, I’m going to remind them.
I mean, you’re on time. I’ve interviewed Mike on a few occasions and I don’t think he’s ever been on time.
Oh yeah. That’s also a new thing for me. That’s been a little bit challenging in the coaching thing. Like I get on my meetings two minutes early and I haven’t been able to do that with my band ever. But you know, there it is. There’s something that I’ve been trying to change in my life. I mean, I can’t be late when I take my kids to school. But for some reason when it’s lobby call in the hotel with the band and we’re getting ready to leave for Vienna or whatever, I’m 10 minutes late.
Is there a timeline in coaching?
If there are goals, it’s probably going to have some sort of set timeframe. Yeah, I love to talk and I love to listen. And if you don’t focus on time and a goal, it becomes a really nice conversation that doesn’t necessarily lead to next steps or a goal. So I found pretty quickly to start almost every coaching session with a brief mission statement. Coaching is a conversation between two people, but it’s focused on the client. I will mostly take notes and ask some questions and we will be looking for something to focus on and a goal to head towards. So while I have a conversation, we will also be trying to find a direction. The sessions are 45 minutes, and then we kind of go over a little bit so there’s time to just kind of shoot the shit or whatever. It is pretty hard to get much in one session. So I book one at a time and then they [the client] decide if they want to continue.
We all have our hopes and dreams and things we’d like to change within ourselves and in our lives. We’re all emotional people. And sometimes these changes that we want to make when we’re looking into them—there’s a lot of emotion tied to it. That’s when it gets a little bit difficult to make a rational decision because we’re tied to it emotionally. Having another person can be really helpful because they’re not emotional about it. I mean, I care, but I can think about your issues in more of a rational way. So that makes it helpful to get somebody’s help from the outside like that.
That’s something the States could definitely get better at. There’s a certain stigma around therapy. Will post-Covid impact this thinking?
Yeah. I think the issue of mental health has been rising on everybody’s radar for at least a few years now.
Maybe about four?
Yeah, right? All that. I mean, definitely. I mean, it’s my opinion—no positive role-modeling came from that person, you know? I’ve thought for a long time in America we have to work more and more to survive. And you end up with both parents working instead of just one to support the family. And who has time for mental health? And there’s a bit of old school thinking of like, “well, if you have a problem, buck up and figure it out for yourself,” you know?
It’s such a hot point. What’s been going on with our police force in the US—should they be more trained in mental health work? Or train them more, or get another level of police officer that goes on those mental health calls. I know that in certain countries, there are cities where the police get a call, but there are two officers and then there’s one mental health person that’s there on the scene to kind of talk it all through and that’s great.
But again, I think for a long time now it seems the US [has been] having trouble with educating our population. Not just like reading, writing, and arithmetic, you know? Like mental health things and social interaction things. I mean, my kids are a really good public school and they talk about all kinds of social things, self-esteem, and anti-bullying.
In ninth grade biology, when we came to chapter seven my teacher said, ‘I don’t believe in chapter eight’s rationale, so we’re just going to skip it. If anyone has a problem with that, you can let me know.’ I didn’t mind at the time, but when I got to college and someone was talking about Darwinism, I had to ask, ‘who’s Darwin?’
Yeah. Then I listened to NOFX and I had to look it up.
Glad to help! See? Helping!
Do you feel like your coaching has changed any sort of dynamic with how you guys work together in the band?
Yeah, I mean, it’s helped me in a lot of ways. I mean, in all my interactions really, because sometimes I just think, “what’s the right question to be asking right now?” And that’s really what I do every coaching session. But me and the guys in the band, you know—I mean, even Hefé, we still call him the new guy, but we’ve been the same four guys since like 1990. There’s a lot of, “Oh, I know what he’s going to say next” kind of thinking. And we’re all a little grumpy with each other, but it’s fine because we’re brothers, we’re not going anywhere. We might all get upset, but nobody’s gonna really like go off the handle on something.
Have you guys ever seen a therapist as a band, like Metallica?
The three of us went to talk to a psychotherapist, a cognitive-behavioral therapist. We wanted to have an intervention with Mike. We found this guy in Long Beach that we really liked. So we had the intervention, and we read our letters that we wrote to him—it was pretty heavy. He was not in a good place, so he was not ready to hear it. It was all defensiveness and attacking back. It went very poorly, and for a couple of weeks, we didn’t know how we’d continue the band. And we’re not just friends, we’re like family. We’ve known each other forever and done everything together. But this drug addiction thing was something we weren’t really good at handling. It’s hard, the personality changes when all those chemicals are going around. But he’s been sober now for five months. He’s doing great, and doing a lot of other work on his mental health, and finding time for all these other things.
I’m glad you guys were there for him.
If people are looking to reach you as a life coach, do you have a website?
Right now on my Instagram (@eric_melvin), people can click on my Linktree and book there.
Book a life coaching session with Eric Melvin here.