Echo Valley is a Scottsdale Living Q-and-A series with residents who have a message worth spreading from one side of the metro to the other. We kick off the series with Gilbert native and Valley resident Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park and the Stone Temple Pilots.
Bennington and new band mates Robert and Dean DeLeo stopped by the Cardon Children’s Medical Center last year for the Stars of the Season concert event and fundraiser, where they visited the neonatal care unit, talked to parents and patients — answering questions about their favorite baseball (the Boston Red Sox) and basketball (Phoenix Suns) teams and their favorite songs (“Rubber Ducky” from “Seasame Street” and the “Fruit Salad” song by The Wiggles). More importantly, though, the musicians were there to promote the Stars of the Season fundraiser, at which they performed to a crowd of 600. The event is a hallmark fundraiser for Banner Health’s only pediatric medical facility and raised $400,000 on Oct. 26. Last year’s event was particularly meaningful for Bennington, who has performed at three of the four Stars of the Season shows since they began in 2010.
“From our perspective, one of the things we enjoy the most is performing our music,” Bennington said at a press conference. “But, performing our music for other people who are doing something that’s really important to the community, it’s even more special because it brings meaning to what we’re doing,” Bennington says.
It goes a little deeper than that for the musician, who with his wife has been involved with Cardon since it opened. A couple years ago, he and his wife had twins born early. So the benefiting department of the medical center also had special meaning.
“Today we met babies born 13 weeks early. It makes me very proud to be a part of the fundraiser this year in particular because I have a personal connection to the department. We saw a baby that was a little over a pound all the way to another baby that was born the same way and is now a full eight pounds,” Bennington explained.
“I really appreciate the validity you give,” a father said at the press conference. “I’ve spent a lot of time in here with a sick child. There are a lot of really dark days. I really appreciate the validity you guys give.”
“Being a musician, you spend a lot of time being in your own world, and to be able to step outside of that really means a lot to us,” Bennington says. “It’s an honor to be here. Any time we can help or be there for people – it’s humbling. All we have to do is show up and play. When I first started playing with these guys, there were a lot of charitable things going on…I didn’t even ask them. I asked Dave Farrell, bassist from Linkin Park, and they asked if they could come.”
Thought it was one of the first performances they talked about doing together, this isn’t the band’s first tango in charitable concerts. In fact, STP and Bennington performed at the opening of Sophie’s Place in Utah. The three musicians sat in the marked-off area of a potential Sophie’s Place at the Cardon Children’s Medical Center to speak with Scottsdale Living.
Scottsdale Living: Out of all the possible hospitals and charities you could be working with, why Cardon?
Chester Bennington: My wife and I moved back to the Valley just under six years ago, and one of the things we enjoy is getting involved in our community. We have a couple therapy dogs in the house, so typically that means bringing the dog to the hospital and whoever wants to see a dog can see a dog and get to hand out. It’s amazing how much joy a dog that just sits there and farts and smells brings to people. We had just moved into town and she brought up the idea she wanted to get involved with our dogs at a local hospital. Lo and behold, one of our new neighbors came over to the house — this was the year they were going to open Cardon Children’s Hospital — and told us they were going to open the doors to the hospital and do the first fundraising event for Stars to the Season. In a day, [wife Talinda] became the chair of entertainment. I became co-chair and we got involved that way. […] It’s become very important to us, not only coming here with our dogs for therapy purposes but also helping raise funds for the hospital and really seeing it expand and grow. Each year it gets bigger and better.
SL: Since you’re all touring musicians, how important is it that you have that sense of community somewhere?
Dean DeLeo: Family is everything. Your family is your community.
Robert DeLeo: Not just our families, everyone’s families. You come to a place like this and it’s very humbling. People go through this that other people don’t go through. You have to realize it and respect it and try to help it.
DD: This is just a speck. This is just a fine example of how a hospital really should be operated. Most are not.
RD: If we could go on a complete tour just doing this, I’d think we’d all say, yeah, sign us up.
CB: Yeah, I would do it.
SL: Well, I have to ask about the therapy dogs now. You have six kids — and how many dogs?
CB: Three dogs, two cats and I don’t even know how many fish. We have a Boston terrier. His name is bruiser and he is a spazz. Until you bring him into a room with a sick child, then he turns into a meat sack and it’s amazing. He in particular only likes to work with kids. […] It’s pretty cool to see a 3-year-old going through chemotherapy looking miserable to seeing a dog come in and all that goes away and they’re standing up and cuddling.
DD: It’s just one of those things kids are tuned into. One of them’s animals, another is music.
CB: STP also got to meet and hang out with Steve and Barbara Young, but they actually have a room here called the Forever Young room. They have a foundation that helps raise money for children with disabilities for 20-plus years and they’ve created a program called Sophie’s Place and it’s a music therapy program and we’re hoping to bring that to Cardon…We did the grand opening for Salt Lake a couple months ago.
SL: A frontman of a band tends to be equated with a leader. What has Chester taught you guys — the legends — since he joined?
RD: I think it’s really opened up my view and Eric’s hearts of going about our business so to speak or our musicality. Chester brought in an element we haven’t experience before. Communication and respect and ally hess qualities he has and people should have when we’re together.
DDB It’s a bit more of a celebration now.
RD: This is something Dean and myself have wanted to do for a long time but haven’t had the chance to do it. Things in life happen for a reason.
SL: In that vein — do you believe in destiny, Chester?
CB: I do. I do to a certain degree.
SL: So was there ever a time when you heard an STP song — way before this happened — and you thought, one day…
Chester: It wasn’t necessarily a song. I had toured with these guys briefly in 2001. We went on the road together. It was a really interesting time and I knew that shortly thereafter these guys had come across hard times. In a very half-joking, half-serious way I told my wife, I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys give me a call one day, and that’s about as much thought that went into it…10 years later I get a call, “Hey, what’re you doing?” When things like that happen, you remember and can look back and say wow that’s a funny thing. I think there’s destiny to a certain degree, where things are out of your control — predestined — but I think what’s more real is destiny is people’s ability to imagine a life they want for themselves and then achieve it. I think that’s one of those things we take for granted in this country in particular. People really don’t realize they can do whatever they want if they want to and really work hard at it. You can manifest your destiny on your own.
Scottsdale Living: In what ways has your approach to performing evolved with STP?
Chester: I think I kind of approach anything I do musically the same way. I don’t think I need to be this certain way for this musical experience. When you hear different style of music, even within a similar genre, the music kind of makes you feel something in a different way. So, being in a band with Linkin Park where there’s a very strong direction we have as a band even though it’s all over the place stylistically, you can get in a groove and figure out how to work things. But, when you put yourself in a situation with different people, it’s interesting how that can change the way you feel the music. The way that STP’s music makes me feel is different than the way Linkin Park’s music makes me feel. That part of the experience is different. Outside of that, I just kind of look at whatever I’m doing the same way. It’s all kind of the same job.
Dean: I think a good attribute for any musician is to allow the song dictate what you’re going to do. We could listen to 10 songs and each one could make us feel differently.
Robert: The whole idea of a good song, from a writer’s standpoint, is trying to make the singer feel. That’s really what you try to do as a writer. You try to make other people involved feel and, ultimately, when that song comes together you hope that listeners feel.
Dean: We were in the Tokyo airport three days ago and Robert had this song he recorded. [To Chester] What happened when you listened to it?
Chester: I damn near cried. It’s one of those things where you hear it and you just go [sniffs]. [Robert, Dean laugh].
Dean: I was tearing up.
Scottsdale Living: Are these guys kind of sensitive already?
Robert: No. That’s how you know you’ve got a good song, when you make yourself cry.