Byron Metcalf – Making Music For Transpersonal Breathwork Experiences

In this episode, Joe speaks with award-winning musician, producer, transpersonal guide, shamanic practitioner, and certified graduate of Grof Transpersonal Training, Byron Metcalf. 

They discuss Metcalf’s path from being a Nashville-based studio musician (who played on Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”) to a “midlife correction” of taking a class with Stan Grof and Jacquelyn Small leading to him discovering holotropic breathwork: a whole new world he had never seen before that perfectly suited his musical mind. 

They discuss how Metcalf works with music- from recording and producing to making mixes for sessions, how different types of music work better for different types of sessions, and how important it is to think about the flow of a mix and the transitions and mixing between songs in how it relates to the journey of the people listening- when does up-tempo music work best in comparison to more heart-centered, emotional music? When is more shamanic, percussion-based music more appropriate?

He also talks about the effect of people’s projections in these sessions and a funny story of when he thought he heard Christmas music during a session, using Spotify for session music, streaming vs. downloading, 320kbps vs. 24-bit recordings, creating music sober vs. under the influence, the effectiveness of binaural beats, and co-creating retreats with clients to fit their custom personal and musical needs.  

Notable Quotes

“It just… changed my life. I mean, literally, just like, ‘what is this? How is this even possible to just do some deep breathing and listen to this incredible music?’ …What it reminded me of was a psychedelic experience. And so I immediately saw the potential in it… And of course… how that model uses music was kind of just a perfect fit for me.”

“You’re doing your own work. The best healers or the best facilitators, therapists, whatever- are the ones who really have done their own work, and in fact, I don’t trust anyone [who] hasn’t.”

“I was really fortunate that Stan would enlist me to do music sometimes at these bigger events- the Insight and Opening where Stan and Jack Kornfield would combine the holotropic breathwork with Vipassana meditation for a week. And it was groups of 200, and so you got 100 people breathing at one time and it’s [a] pretty fantastic energy field as you could imagine. And just seeing- observing what happens for people and to people and through people, still- when I think about it and start describing some of the things that I’ve witnessed and observed and experienced, it almost sounds like [I’m] making this stuff up… It’s like trying to explain a psychedelic experience to someone that’s never had it before… There’s no way you can really convey that. So it has to be experienced.” 

“There’s something higher, bigger- that’s at work here that we want to make contact with and surrender to. So that’s the goal. And sometimes if people are projecting on the music, not liking the music- sometimes changing it would be good. Other times, not. Because maybe it is bringing up a great piece for them. And [they say] “I don’t like this! I don’t like this!” Of course that’s projecting onto the music. What’s going on underneath that?”


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