Sam Wray: Love and Rhythm

written by Lisa Governa

Trigger warning: This article contains topics that may be distressing for some readers.
Topics include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and addiction. Please engage with this
written piece thoughtfully and practice self-care.

If you’ve been to a Goose show, chances are you’ve seen Sam. You know the chick with the big, beautiful smile, the cutest fits, dancing like nobody’s watching, hugging her friends at the rail, emitting the most insane positive energy you can feel from across the room? Yup, that’s her! She’s a beaming ray of love and light, an empathetic friend to all, and the love of Ben Atkind’s life. 

But humans are dualistic by nature; what we outwardly project to the world is exactly that — a projection. Sometimes, we show exactly how we feel. Our projection is a true reflection of our thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, they don’t align at all. Sometimes, we’re suffering silently, but it looks like we’re living the dream. Sound relatable? Sam gets it too, and she was so kind and brave and vulnerable to share her journey with us. Let’s dig in! Sam entered our Goose community orbit via her relationship with drummer Ben Atkind, but she was a fan before they got together. How did they meet?

 A good ol’ fashioned Tinder match. “It was right at the start of the pandemic March 2020 and everyone was on lockdown. I’d been to three Goose shows prior, and had absolutely fallen in love with the music. So of course, I couldn’t say no to a date with the drummer of my favorite band. Never would I have guessed that this would be the beginning of a wild adventure and a beautiful love story.”

Ben made his passion for starch clear from day one. “Our first date consisted of Ben making me potatoes (the Spuds nickname is no joke) and watching a live stream. I have no idea what the band was because we were so excited to talk and get to know each other. There was an instant connection and we fell in love so effortlessly. The pandemic allowed us the perfect opportunity to get to know each other because he wasn’t on the road.”

Sam is so grateful for the opportunities she’s had to support Ben and Goose on their road to success. The live stream from the top of Rockefeller Center is one of her favorite experiences. “I just remember this magical feeling of watching the person that I care for the most fulfilling his dream and playing in a space like this. It was definitely a pinch me moment. To be able to be there, standing on top of that building was surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was allowed to be a part of this moment. And you bet I was there dancing my butt off on that roof. It’s really wild to think about though because there’s at least a dozen moments that have that same magic for me as the Rockefeller Goosemas… Ben sitting in with Umphrey’s McGee at Suwannee, Radio City, Bingo Tour. So many magical moments to choose from!”

Our community has had the privilege of watching their love blossom over the last three years. There’s been countless photos and videos of piggy back rides, hand holding, back rubs… How can you not love their love?! Their soulmate status was sealed during the rescheduled Goosemas at Mohegan Sun on 2/26/22. Ben proposed to Sam on stage in front of thousands of fans.

“Thank goodness there are literally a thousand videos of this moment because I blacked out going up on stage. The second I heard the last drum hit on Empress, I knew something was up. I thought maybe Ben dropped a stick or something. The second he reached for that microphone, I knew exactly what was happening and I blurted out, ‘You son of a bitch.’ The other girls had to literally push me up on stage.” You can actually see Sam mouthing those words in a video of her gracing the huge stage. It was an epic show for many reasons, but it was so special for everyone in attendance to be included in their beautiful moment. 

Sam is blessed not only with an incredible partner, but also with a loving family in the Atkinds. “Let me tell you, I won the in-law lottery with this family. Ben’s mom and I have a special connection with so much love. There’s no one I would rather joke around with and harass than Ben’s dad. His sister Mikah was like an instant best friend for me. His sister Elise and her family are as wholesome as it gets. I’m actually wearing a bracelet right now that Mikah, Elise, and I all have that says ‘sisters’, and bracelets that say ‘we love you Aunt Sam’ from my soon to be nieces and nephew. And don’t let me forget the cousins. Ben has so many cousins and they are all just spectacular humans.”

So what’s the fairytale ceremony these two lerv birds have in mind for their nuptials? “We actually have zero wedding plans right now. I hate the idea of spending a ton of money on one day. And Ben played in wedding bands for years and he’s been to so many weddings that neither of us really just want to plan the wedding. I wouldn’t be surprised if we elope and have a party with friends and family to celebrate. For us, it’s all about the love.” Sounds perfect to me! 

Currently, Ben and Sam are focused on building their love nest as they recently purchased their first home together. “My creativity is flowing with all of the projects to make this home our sanctuary when off the road. I love hands-on projects. Growing up, my parents built the house that we grew up in and as a family we built a lake house in upstate New York, which has given me some experience and made me super handy.”

I love a good love story as much as the next chick, but what’s under the surface of Sam Wray? Who is this special lady? Let’s dig a little deeper…

Sam is fascinated with people and inspired by art and nature. The Goose community has allowed her to indulge in both of those passions. “I love connecting with humans and getting right into the ‘real’ stuff. I often find myself struck with curiosity about the world around me. Meditation, reading, painting, and documentaries are some of my favorite ways to spend my downtime. Music is my happy place. I go to concerts at our local venues any chance I get. I grew up playing violin, guitar, piano, harmonica, and singing, but now I leave it to the pros. I love hiking with my pup and sitting with nature; the sunshine fuels my soul. I started hoarding houseplants about two years ago and only kill about 20% of them at this point.”

She attended UMass Amherst for undergrad to pursue a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist, but her innate ability to connect with people was undeniable. She discovered a meaningful work that truly fulfilled her. 

“After working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I knew I had to pursue a specialty in autism. I did a graduate sequence at UConn to become a Developmental Specialist, and for the last eight years, I have been a Developmental Specialist for infants and toddlers with disabilities. I fell in love with supporting families through the process of acceptance that comes with having a child with autism. It was so easy for me to fall in love and connect with these neuro-diverse little ones. I found myself dedicating all of my time and energy to reading the latest autism research, learning from different specialties, watching webinars, and spending half of my paycheck on accessible supports for the kids I worked with.  I wanted to revolutionize how we support the Autism population. I’ve explored different positions in the field including performing evaluations, leading teams of therapists, training teachers and therapists, and providing direct therapy.”

Smart, successful, madly in love… the projection is as real as it seems. Here’s where the duality kicks in. Sam has a history of depression and anxiety along with co-occurring disorders. Despite living her dream, Dr. Darkness came creeping in and refused to be ignored. She made a necessary and profound self discovery. 

“I looked in the mirror one day and didn’t know who I was. The work-a-holic Developmental Specialist had lost her fire and along with it, her identity. I became the girl dating the drummer of Goose. And for a while, I loved it. But, just like my job title, I let this take over my perception of my identity. I slowly moved away from doing the things I loved. My hobbies, friendships, self care, creativity, and so much more withered away until I was unrecognizable. My depression and anxiety began to kick in at full force. I found myself looking towards substances to bring me up and down. And with that, 2022 became the most challenging mental health year that I have ever experienced. In the preceeding winter months, I had done a lot of quarantining while working from home to make sure we didn’t get COVID and the shows could continue. The isolation paired with my loss of identity sunk me to new lows. I decided to find my baseline and embrace sobriety. With this, new challenges arose. I didn’t know how to self regulate. I was always looking for external remedies to balance my internal storm. It took courage to face the co-dependencies I had developed. And so much pain. I cannot downplay the pain. It was so tremendous I wanted it all to stop. It was when I started looking for ways to end my life that we knew I needed more support than I had at home. With the help of my friends, family, therapist, psychiatrist, and Ben, I flew out to Sierra Tucson to get the support I needed. Sierra Tucson is a residential treatment center that provides support for a range of behavioral health problems. Just like any other treatment, it wasn’t magic. It didn’t ‘fix’ me. But with their support and my commitment to my mental health journey, it was everything I needed it to be. I still struggle. I still have depression and anxiety. But I also have tools, knowledge, support, and so much more. It has all been a beautifully painful journey and I will forever be grateful that I didn’t quit along the way.”

Tired and weary, lost and reaching out, only then will you find yourself… Sam has since embraced this part of her life, and rather than give in to it, it’s fueled her passion.  “As beautiful and meaningful as this experience has been, I’m feeling a change in the current and a shift in my career goals. Since going on my own mental health journey, I am finding that my passion is shifting towards the mental health field… I spend much of my time working with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) where I run a support group for young adults with mental illness, and Backline where I work with a team of inspirational humans who provide support to touring professionals in the music industry.”

Let’s highlight the importance of why Backline, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is an essential resource for the music industry. What a lot of music lovers don’t realize is the vast majority of professional musicians and their crews don’t have access to affordable health insurance. They are forced to turn to the extremely expensive private sector market or pay astronomical prices for out of pocket medical expenses. On top of that, musicians and their crews are in a considerable high risk line of work; tour life is tough. Long hours on the road, physical exertion loading in and out, performing for 3+ hours a night for thousands of people, all while fighting lack of sleep and operating on a diet based on convenience rather than nutrition — these are just the obvious opportunities for physical injury.

Car accidents, broken bones, Covid exposure, or food poisoning from a questionable truck stop glizzy could result in a crippling expense. The financial blow is worsened if the show can’t go on. What’s talked about even less, are the mental stresses plaguing the industry. Isolation from family and friends. Depression. Anxiety. Social media pressure. Stigmas glorifying life on the road gaslight the actual emotions and experience. Treatment isn’t easily accessible. Prescription drugs needed to regulate aren’t affordable. All of this compounds into a perfect storm. 

With drugs and alcohol abound, many industry folk fall victim to various addictions in an attempt to self medicate their untreated issues. The cycle continues. What do you do when your means becomes the means to your end? Rehab is time consuming, stigmatized, and out of the budget. New material needs to be written, recorded, and promoted, so tour life carries on. And on and on…

Benefit shows, GoFundMe campaigns, and other crowd sourced funding have been normalized as the go to method for generating revenue in times of crisis for artists. Though it’s beautiful to see music communities come together to support artists in need, it’s unreliable, inconsistent, and most dangerously, it’s reactionary. Help doesn’t always come in time. 

THIS is why the work Backline does is so important. They connect music industry professionals and their families to mental health and wellness resources that specialize in the challenges faced specifically in this line of work. They can help stop the cycle, or better yet, provide preventative care before untreated issues become life threatening problems.

It takes an immense amount of strength and courage to get help. Sam is a shining example that it can be done if you’re willing to be honest and do the work. “I’m so proud of the work that I have put into myself as I heal my personal and generational traumas… I’ve come out of a really dark place and it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I’m so proud of the energy, love, and care I have put into myself. It really is the most rewarding work you can do. There’s no better investment you can make than caring for your mind.”

We are so grateful for Sam’s bravery in sharing her story. Being vulnerable is uncomfortable, but even if just one person feels less alone, feels inspired to empathize with others no matter what their projection looks like, it was a sacrifice worth making. 

“I want to be a part of the solution to break the stigma on mental health. To model vulnerability, compassion, and acceptance. 

For others to know that they are not in this crazy world alone. The gratitude I have for the Goose community and the music community in general is immense. To have the opportunity to be a supportive part of this beautiful human collective and hear how others can relate and connect is so special. I aspire to continue growing and stay open to new paths that I come across.”

You don’t have to be a soldier all the time. Know that life comes better in love. Give love. Accept love. You are worthy! 

“Reach out to your friends when you need support. Offer support when you have space to give it. Asking for help is cool. Therapy is cool. Be cool.”

Be like Sam.

To learn more about Backline, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that connects music industry professionals and their families with mental health and wellness resources, please visit this link


Note: We are not affiliated, associated with or in any way officially connected to Goose.
We just love the band and community that much.

The el Goose Times LLC 2021-2023