Country Musicians & Singers In Recovery Share Their Stories

Through sobriety, songwriter Brad Warren finds gratitude even in tragedy

October 25, 2021
Brad Warren

In April 2020, Brad Warren was on top of the world. That month, he celebrated 15 years of sobriety. As half of The Warren Brothers, he and his brother, Brett, had built a songwriting career that commanded enough Nashville respect that they could call up any number of hitmakers and pitch a song or a writing session. As performers, they set their own schedules, playing mostly corporate events 25 to 30 times each year and telling the stories behind the songs they’ve written, enough to feed the performance bug but not so much that touring demands pulled them away from their families. That same month, Warren shared his sobriety story with The Ties That Bind Us, detailing what life was like before he found a program and the beauty that he found in the everyday gifts it’s given him since. “It’s amazing, because the simplest things are what I get…

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Fourteen years into sobriety, ‘keep coming back’ pays off for Trey Lewis

October 18, 2021
Trey Lewis

For country star Trey Lewis, there’s a particular sobriety cliché that’s served him well throughout his career. “Keep coming back.” It’s a familiar saying to anyone who’s attended a 12 Step meeting trying to get a handle on a drug or alcohol problem, and it’s usually followed by the refrain, “It works if you work it.” For Lewis, who’s got 14 years sober now, that applies as well, because that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s kept coming back, and he’s kept putting in the work, and now both of those efforts are paying big dividends in his career … even if it’s through the use of an unorthodox song called “Dicked Down in Dallas,” which has turned country music on its head, because even though it’s made him TikTok famous, its colorful lyrics guarantee it’ll never get played on mainstream country radio. “I just kept showing up and kept showing…

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The unbroken circle: Country royalty Carlene Carter always finds her way back to the light

April 26, 2021
Carlene Carter

Courtesy of Marc Hauser Carlene Carter knows full well that the seeds of recovery get planted deep. A whole lot of addicts and alcoholics who find their way to treatment and self-help groups and programs may not stay clean and sober the first time, or the second, or the tenth, for that matter. But the spark that is a taste of a better life, one free of the shackles of addiction, is never extinguished. It may burn down to barely visible coals, buried under layers of bitter ash, but eventually something happens, and they catch fire once again. For Carter, she felt them ignite standing in front of a judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 20 years ago. She first got clean and sober in the 1980s, but after coming into her own as a chart-topping country traditionalist, she found both a romantic and a using partner in her producer, Howie…

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Through grace, faith and sobriety, Tayla Lynn perseveres

September 21, 2020
Tayla Lynn

Her last name has opened a lot of doors for Tayla Lynn over the years, but not all of them through which she’s stepped have led to opportunity. Some, she told The Ties That Bind Us recently, led to places of long shadows and sharp teeth. Her journey, like that of so many individuals in recovery from addiction, is a cautionary tale, but it’s also one filled with an abundance of hope and grace on the other side of that darkness. These days, she’s found the serenity she and her peers in recovery pray for regularly, and it’s a full-circle sort of life. She and her husband and children make their home on the famous ranch of her grandmother — Loretta Lynn — in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, where she makes time to tell her story between a vet visit for an ailing mare and the rambunctiousness of young boys who…

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Brad Warren of The Warren Brothers: ‘The simplest things are what I get the most pleasure out of’

April 20, 2020
Brad Warren

Brad Warren (left) and Brett Warren are the Warren Brothers. The 1997 record deal he signed with his sibling sent Brad Warren into overdrive. As The Warren Brothers, he and Brett hit the studio and went to work on their debut album, 1998’s “Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World,” which put three singles into the Top 40 on country music radio. As a live act, they hit the road with the likes of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, among others. And as previously sheltered Southern Baptist boys, they hit the bottle and more, Brad told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “What was alcoholic behaviors and personalities turned into a full-on party: whiskey, cocaine, the whole nine yards,” he said. “We had our own tour bus, and even though we were opening for big acts, we were ripping the ceiling off of every place we were in. For us,…

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Country’s Rachel Stacy: Sassy, soulful, grateful and recovering

January 20, 2020
Rachel Stacy

Rachel Stacy knew she was a drug addict, and when she admitted her problem to herself and another person in 2009, she thought she had put it behind her. Addiction doesn’t work that way, however, and even though she quit drugs, alcohol crashed through those flimsy walls like the Kool-Aid Man in those commercials of old, she told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “If it wasn’t meth, it was alcohol; if it wasn’t alcohol, it was the gym, it was Twinkies, it was tacos, it was Icees,” Stacy said. “It was every new addiction you could imagine, but I just thought it was phases. I had heard of the obsession being removed from people overnight, and I thought that’s what had happened, but within two years, my drinking was so bad that I was having blackouts and winding up in the wrong places at the wrong times. “But I…

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With a renewed commitment to recovery, Nashville’s Mitzi Dawn plans a return

September 23, 2019
Mitzi Dawn addiction recovery

It’s a Wednesday morning in Music City, and singer-songwriter Mitzi Dawn is feeling a bit hungover. She’s not, of course. After 10 years of sobriety, she’s on the verge of staking her claim in a music career she thought she’d put behind her, and the discomfort she feels is actually a result of the work she continues to put in to maintain both. The night before, she was up late, playing as part of a songwriters in the round event for a MusiCares sober jam, and she got home late and promptly collapsed, she tells The Ties That Bind Us. “I slept in my makeup, and when I woke up, my eyes were burning,” she says. “It was good, though, and I was laughing this morning. This was a recovery jam, and I really feel like I tied one on!” Some coffee and breakfast, however, and she was good as…

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With a new album on the way and almost a decade of sobriety, Terry McBride is enjoying the ride

September 16, 2019

There’s a saying around recovery circles: “Secrets keep us sick.” Country star Terry McBride knows that better than anybody. In April, he’ll mark 10 years sober, again, only this time around, he’s not ashamed of his past, but neither does he dwell on it. He’s working on a new record with songwriter and producer Luke Laird, a Nashville name that’s mentioned in the same circles as Dave Cobb, and he’s enjoying his career outside of the industry pressure cooker he once was a part of. Back then, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, excess came naturally — so much, in fact, that pulling himself out of the bottle was a more arduous challenge than most folks realize. “I spent almost 10 years, writing songs and getting (messed) up and having success, so why would I stop it?” he said with a laugh. “The only responsibility I had was…

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Johnny Cash’s oldest grandson, Thomas Gabriel, sings his way out of the darkness

August 12, 2019
Thomas Gabriel sober

After years of work on himself and his sobriety, Thomas Gabriel has finally found the peace that eluded him for the way things ended with his grandfather, the late Johnny Cash. As a solo artist, Gabriel’s voice is a dead ringer for the Man in Black, and he peppers his set of searing and haunting original songs with ones made famous by his granddad. It is, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, a way to show contrition to the father figure who never gave up on him while he lived. “There was never any judgment, he was never disrespectful and he never looked down on me,” Gabriel said. “He was stern, honest, and straight to the point, even when I did him wrong right before he died. I stole from him, and once again because I was trying to kill that guilt, I stayed clear and started drinking…

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Addiction took ‘Texas’ Joe Bailey to prison, but God and recovery gave him his freedom and renewed his career

March 25, 2019

Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say, and singer-songwriter “Texas” Joe Bailey is living proof. His songs are big, the sort of shack-shaking honky-tonk boot-stompers that send sawdust-devils across the dance floor. His past is big and includes a penitentiary stint resulting from three DUI arrests. And his recovery is big, grounded in a mighty faith and shared in those same smoky bars where he delivers a personal testimony before launching into “The Last Time,” the final track on “Redemption,” the EP he released in January and is promoting with a cross-state tour of radio stations and dance halls. “As a Christian and as a believer in Christ, I believe my first and foremost responsibility is to be an ambassador for my faith, and I use the platform I’m given when I’m performing in bars,” Bailey told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I enjoy seeing people have a good time…

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Country hit-maker T. Graham Brown and sobriety: ‘It was a miracle to me’

October 8, 2018

Country hit-maker T. Graham Brown and sobriety: ‘It was a miracle to me’ County star T. Graham Brown was coming off of a four-year stretch of hits in the late 1980s when he found himself sitting in a group therapy session with his old friend, the late Keith Whitley. Together, the two men had almost swapped places back and forth on the Billboard country singles chart; with Whitley’s background in bluegrass and Graham’s blue-eyed soul sound, they were part of a crop of new country artists that were changing the Nashville landscape for the better. They were also living large, Brown told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “We were hitting, man. He was having No. 1’s, I was having No. 1’s, we were touring together and having the time of our lives,” he said. “I remember they were giving me a No. 1 party at ASCAP (the American Society…

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