Singer Song Writers In Recovery Share Their Stories

A sober Langhorne Slim builds a beautiful ‘Mansion’ out of the ashes

November 1, 2021
Langhorne Slim

For the longest time, even during his first go-around with recovery, Sean Scolnick – the artist known as Langhorne Slim – felt a bit like a British explorer from the 1920s, hobbling his way across the Tibetan plateau toward the ultimate summit. Despite the majestic views of every peak scaled, little else mattered, he said, except for the one in the distance, the Everest by which all others seemed lacking. And as long as that cloud-shrouded crag remained the Holy Grail of his life’s work, there was precious little joy in the beauty that surrounded him along the way, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I was always looking for a mountaintop down the way and thinking, ‘When I get there, I can fix this relationship. I can fill this theater. I can write that song, and if I do that, I’ll be the man I always wanted…

Read More

Three chords & the truth: In recovery, Tim Easton gets more real than ever

October 4, 2021
Tim Easton

Courtesy of Michael Weintrob Like a hungry dog drawn to the assurances of warmth and sustenance, singer-songwriter Tim Easton circled the fires of sobriety for a while before he finally found the fortitude to emerge from the shadows. For roughly a decade, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, he was able to avoid his drug of choice, but his dalliances with other substances made forward progress difficult. “I’m a missionary style drinker – alcohol is my main squeeze, and whatever else I’m doing, whether it be the herbs or the dry goods, I’m really just working my way back to the sauce,” he said. “It’s pretty basic and pretty simple, but it led to me doing foolish, foolish things, like getting behind the wheel of a very dangerous and heavy piece of metal. To this day, I’m really grateful I didn’t hurt anybody else or myself behind the…

Read More

Sobriety gives producer, musician Stefan T a high no drug could ever touch

September 20, 2021
Stefan T

It all came to a head for Stefan Tisminezky, the artist known as Stefan T, in the parking lot of a job he was on the verge of losing, along with his sanity and possibly his life. The night before, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, he’d met up with former co-workers at a music studio job from which he’d been fired because his drinking was out of control. By that point, he added, he was up to two bottles of wine and a pint of vodka a night, and he didn’t give it a second thought when the guys called him to come hang. “They hit me up halfway through that pint of vodka to come hang at the studio, and I just said, ‘Alright, I’ll be right there,’” he said. “I remember blacking out and coming to doing 120mph on the 10 (Freeway), and once I…

Read More

Delivered by grace: In sobriety, Jon Foulk sings ‘A New Song’

September 13, 2021
Jon Foulk

Within the span of a week, singer-songwriter and sideman Jon Foulk went from the lowest of addiction’s lows to the highest of spiritual highs. It was early 2016 when, after numerous times through addiction treatment gave him a glimmer of hope only to have it dashed by an ensuing relapse, that he found himself at the end of his rope. Representatives of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services were making inquiries into allegations that he had driven drunk with his three children in the car. His wife, Brooke, felt as if she were losing her husband and the father of her children. And Foulk himself felt like he was losing his mind, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I knew I was finding death and was trying so hard to find healing,” he said. “I was working with a therapist and using my closest friends and family as…

Read More

Songwriter Eric Dwight: Addicts aren’t the only ones ‘Born Into Addiction’

July 26, 2021
Eric Dwight

A great many musicians touch on addiction and the ravages of it in esoteric or cryptic ways, but not Eric Dwight. The Boston-area singer-songwriter’s new record says it all in the title: “Born Into Addiction.” Writing it, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, began as a way to process the death of his older brother, who lost his battle with drugs a few years ago. And in the heartfelt angst with which he sings it, filled with a combination of the howling grief of loss and the raging sorrow of addiction’s cruelty, is something a great many family members of addicts and alcoholics are intimately familiar. In taking stock of his brother’s loss, and navigating the complexities of blame and anger and heartache that followed in his wake, Dwight came to the conclusion that it was he who was born into addiction. And as the watcher on the…

Read More

Light, life and music: Singer-songwriter Eric Stracener thrives in sobriety

July 12, 2021
Eric Stracener

The first thing Eric Stracener heard when he pulled open the door to his first 12 Step meeting wasn’t what he expected. For the singer-songwriter, who last fall released the stellar indie-folk record “Ocean Springs,” the trip up those stairs seemed like the shuffle of a condemned man to the chair. He remembers vividly, he told The Ties That Bind Us, steeling himself for what awaited on the other side of those nondescript walls, just a short drive from the Jackson, Mississippi, home that had become a place of turmoil because of his drinking. “I thought when I drove up to that meeting, ‘Now I’ve got to grow up. It’s not going to be a lot of fun, and I’m going to lose a lot, but it’ll be worth it, because I want to be a better person, and I want to be a better dad,’” Stracener recalled. “But the…

Read More

With the help of sobriety, Water Liars’ Andrew Bryant finds ‘A Meaningful Connection’

May 24, 2021
Andrew Bryant

“Pain shared is pain lessened.” That’s an old saw commonly spoken in meetings of various self-help groups designed to help addicts and alcoholics get sober and stay that way. The gist is this: By speaking of the things that weigh heavy on your heart … by allowing your recovering brothers and sisters to help you carry those emotional burdens … they no longer feel like battleship chains wrapped around the fragile tendrils of the soul. But … what if there’s no one to share to? What if you’re in the middle of a pandemic, and self-help meetings across the country have shuttered, not that there was a plethora in the part of rural Mississippi in which you live anyway? What if you’re not even six months sober, and your wife is out of town, and everything you own is packed up in boxes because you’re getting ready to move, and…

Read More

On heartrending new song, David Haerle ponders a life lost to addiction

April 19, 2021
David Haerle

When alcoholism darkened the doorways of his family home, it spared singer-songwriter David Haerle. It found his father, who got sober in 1967. It claimed his mother, who would find recovery later in her life. And it wrapped its thorny tendrils around his brother, Christian, a brilliant man who died suddenly in 2019. A Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter with a lifetime of experience in the music industry, what helped David Haerle cope was turning to his guitar and writing music. The result is the powerful, heartbreaking “No More We,” in which the pastoral childhood the two boys experienced spending summers in Middle Tennessee fades to the forlorn realization that with Christian’s death, David is the sole witness to the many memories the two shared together – and in that sense, there is “No More We.” “It’s very personal and was very fulfilling to write,” Haerle told The Ties That Bind Us…

Read More

One of the best ‘Choices’ singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan ever made: getting ‘Sober’

April 5, 2021
Lucy Spraggan

One minute in, you see it: her lip starts to quiver, and Lucy Spraggan fights to hold back a flood of tears. By minute 2, she struggles to get through the chorus – “I’ve had all the time I need to think it over, I’ve gotta be sober” – chest heaving, her face a rictus of sorrow for all she’s been through and all that she’s lost. By the time “Sober” comes to an end, however, she stares defiantly into the camera, eyes glistening, and the underlying message is clear: sobriety for Lucy Spraggan isn’t a fad or a lifestyle choice, because embracing it in the summer of 2019 meant she only had to change one thing: Everything. “I’d been on tour for 13 months,” she told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “My marriage was just collapsing, partly because of my recycled toxic behavior – whenever I got myself…

Read More

Sobriety gives singer-songwriter Travis Shallow ‘a pure sense of peace’

March 15, 2021
Travis Shallow

There may be other musicians who showed up to drug and alcohol rehab sporting their own name on a T-shirt, but singer-songwriter Travis Shallow still gets a chuckle when he recalls how unprepared he was for the beginning of his sobriety journey. Shallow, whose called the coast of North Carolina home for almost two decades now, hit rock bottom back in 2015, when he called Wilmington Treatment Center and asked for help. They had a single bed, the admissions counselors told him; how fast could he get there? “I was like, ‘Look, I’m in Wilmington, and I can be there in 10 minutes,’” Shallow told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “So I get up off the couch, and when I was thinking about packing a bag, I thought I was going away for the weekend. I had no idea how many of this worked, and I was always trying…

Read More

Mental health, sobriety make up the titular topics of Kat Hamilton’s ‘Recovery Songs’

January 25, 2021
Kat Hamilton

Courtesy of Nicolette Daskalakis In the hands of a capable and talented tunesmith, songwriting is elevated to high art. Words, phrases and stanzas are constructed in sumptuous layers of color and emotion, often delivered as a unique gift to the individual listener, their meanings dependent on each recipient’s life experiences. And then there are those songs like “Medicine Line,” the lead-off track to last year’s release by songwriter Kat Hamilton. It sets the tone for everything that follows, an intimate and deeply personal portrait of a shattered girl who finds relief and transformation on the other side of profound change. “I’m in treatment … for my problems,” she sings, and coupled with the title of the record – “Recovery Songs” – there’s little room for interpreting her story for anything other than what it is: redemption. That she’s bared her soul comes with a price – standing in the public…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Anjimile drapes sobriety in the gossamer sounds of wonder

October 26, 2020

Courtesy of Kannetha Brown The gossamer strains of “Giver Taker” take flight with the lead-off track “Your Tree,” a gorgeous, ambient song of reflection and gratitude that colors every song on the artist’s new album. There’s good reason for it, of course: The bulk of the record was written while Anjimile — born Anjimiile Chithambo — was emerging from the fog of addiction, coming into their own as a nonbinary trans folk artist who cut ties with expectations and preconceptions through music, and has emerged into the light of recovery having reclaimed their own voice. Influenced in equal measure by the shimmering beauty of like-minded artists Sufjan Stevens and sounds from Malawi, where their parents were born, “Giver Taker” is a song cycle of experience, strength and hope — little wonder, of course, given that they credit the good fortune that’s followed in the wake of the record’s release to…

Read More

Sea of love: Séan McCann finds renewal in recovery

October 12, 2020
Séan McCann

Even in a city where the storms roaring up the Eastern Seaboard of North America send residents scurrying to bars and taverns for respite and refuge, Séan McCann had a reputation. St. John’s, the capital and largest city of Newfoundland, is the easternmost city on the North American continent, on the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula, overlooking the cold blue of the North Atlantic. There, McCann told The Ties That Bind Us recently, alcohol provides a respite from long, cold, wet winters of gray skies and limited sunlight, and those who reside there celebrate their hardiness with a culture that rivals that of a city like New Orleans. “We’re big drinkers in our culture, and there really is no taboo against getting loaded or passing out,” said McCann, who would channel much of that vivacious energy into the folk ensemble Great Big Sea, which he co-founded in 1993. “It…

Read More

‘Joy’ from doing the ‘Deal’: William Russell Wallace finds sobriety fits him well

August 17, 2020
William Russell Wallace

There aren’t a lot of live performances going on in the time of COVID-19, and that grieves the soul of William Russell Wallace. Wallace — Billy to his friends and family, but who also might introduce himself as Will or Willie on an impish lark that’s a holdover from his desire to get a dopamine rush through any mean’s necessary — “I’ve been introducing myself around town with different forms of William wherever I go , because it’s this weird little thing where I need the dopamine rush of kind of lying to you, but not really,” he says with a laugh — lost 70 spring and summer tour dates when the pandemic shut down the music industry. These days, he’s making bank through teaching and spending his spare time crafting songs that put him in a league with like-minded troubadours such as Dave Hause and and Ike Reilly, and…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Graham Bramblett finds contentment in ‘The Great Inbetween’

August 10, 2020
Graham Bramblett

At the worst of it, singer-songwriter Graham Bramblett would sit at the bar, staring at the drink in front of him, unable to pick it up because his hands were shaking so bad, hating what he was about to do but knowing it was what his body required. The Texas native, who now lives in Nashville after an extended sojourn a decade ago to get sober and build a firm foundation in recovery, remembers it well, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently: Not the exact day, because by that point it could have been a Tuesday, but his eyes opened to a hammering hangover and tremors that made anything requiring fine dexterity impossible to accomplish. “Before, my hands would shake every now and then, but I was really becoming a shaky mess, and I would have pretty hard withdrawals in the morning,” he said. “I woke up one…

Read More

In sobriety, Armon Jay finds beauty in ‘The Dark Side of Happiness’

July 13, 2020
Armon Jay

Alcohol and drugs didn’t destroy Armon Jay’s life. Jay — born Armon Jay Cheek and a member of emo pioneers Dashboard Confessional, as well as a solo artist who will release his new record, “The Dark Side of Happiness,” later this year — didn’t end up homeless. He wasn’t arrested. He didn’t lose his standing as a respected session and touring guitarist who’s been on the road since he was a teenager. But addiction, he acknowledges, isn’t about the heights to which those who suffer soar, or the depths to which they fall. It isn’t even about a specific substance, although he leaned more toward painkillers before he got sober, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. In the end, it’s always about “more” — and even today, the need for “more” is still an integral part of his psyche. It doesn’t drive him to destructive habits like it…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Luke Brogden finds simplicity in sobriety

June 29, 2020
Luke Brogden

Singer-songwriter Luke Brogden recently celebrated six years sober, but he still remembers keenly what it was like trying to make it through life as a struggling alcoholic. Many of his memories are murky or cringe-worthy, and when he tries to recall them, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, a single metaphor comes to mind: tennis balls. Specifically, balls shot from a launcher that’s been turbo-charged to rapid fire while he’s 50 feet away, wearing ice skates and trying to hit them with a racket that’s been run over with a lawn mower. “They were just always whizzing by my head, all of these things that I couldn’t keep up with — my anniversary, my mom’s birthday, everything,” says Brogden, who’s found a side gig as a solo musician and in the Knoxville, Tennessee-based band Southern Cities when he’s not teaching. “One after another, they just kept hitting me…

Read More

Songwriter, guitarist Kyle LaLone finds serenity ‘Somewhere in Between’

April 27, 2020
Kyle LaLone

Middle of the night, sometime last year: Kyle LaLone awakens with a single lyric in his head: “I hate the way you look at me when you say that you still love me / I know it’s true, but I don’t want it to be / You’re a thousand miles away with no plans of coming back / And knowing that knocks the wind out of me …” The girl was gone, having moved to Chicago after a breakup. They tried the whole texting back-and-forth, but the lingering longing for what they once had only made the parting more painful. On top of that, LaLone was newly sober, and rebuilding himself through the midst of a painful separation from the girl who helped him get sober in the first place was challenging, to say the least. “It was a tough time, man,” LaLone told The Ties That Bind Us recently.…

Read More

On the other side of sobriety, Dave Hause builds a beautiful life

March 23, 2020
Dave Hause

They were standing on a bluff overlooking Southern California, singer-songwriter Dave Hause and his old man, taking in the view. The weather was undoubtedly ideal, as it usually is for those who seek respite from Philadelphia’s harsh winters. Hause (pronounced like “cause” or “pause”) had become a permanent Golden State resident in 2013, and but his career hasn’t varied from the formula that’s endeared him to audiences stateside and abroad — that of a blue-collar rocker whose Philly roots continue to inform his music and his worldview. Life in California, it seemed, agreed with Hause: a marriage, a renewed relationship with his younger brother, a burgeoning career as a solo artist all culminated in a decision to get sober in 2015, and in that moment, on that bluff, his father saw it all. “And my dad, he jokingly said, ‘How did a Philly rat like you wind up out here?’”…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Logan Bruce: Making music and staying sober, one day at a time

March 16, 2020
Logan Bruce

The cracks first appeared on the dark horizon that had become singer-songwriter Logan Bruce’s life while he was sitting outside a pawnshop, cradling his last earthly possession. He was at the end of a three-month heroin binge, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, and the future was a bleak one indeed. Getting high had become a guessing game, wondering if the next point of smack was going to be the one that killed him. And the worst part? He no longer cared. Except, somewhere deep down, something told him not to go inside that pawnshop and sell the guitar in his hands. Because as black as the night was that blanketed his soul, that guitar represented the only light that was left. “I knew that if I sold that guitar, it would be the last thing I would ever do, because I knew I had nothing else to…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Leeann Atherton on sobriety: ‘Everything about my life is better’

February 24, 2020
Leeann Atherton

Leeann Atherton started partying at 14 years old, but it took the Texas-based singer-songwriter another four decades to see the unmanageability that had followed her from the beginning. To be fair, it didn’t destroy her life in the manner of some of the more colorful horror stories heard in the rooms that host recovery meetings. Although she was arrested once for drinking and spent a number of nights couch-surfing, she told The Ties That Bind Us recently, the lack of grave consequences may have prolonged her drinking. Instead, her alcoholism became a part of her daily routine, settling into the grooves of a rocky existence that caused enough low-level discomfort, she added, that it eventually became a part of her. “I swear I didn’t notice it until my 50s, and I think that’s from the culture I came from,” Atherton said. “I thought everybody fought, argued, got (messed) up, apologized…

Read More

Let the ‘Good Times’ roll: Through sobriety, singer-songwriter Glenn Jones rediscovers his muse

February 3, 2020
Glenn Jones

Singer-songwriter Glenn Jones spent a good chunk of his young adulthood touring the country, playing rock ‘n’ roll and giving full-time music his best efforts, and while he may have overindulged on occasion, alcohol was never a problem. Even after he got married in his late 20s, embraced the corporate life and relegated music to the weekends, alcohol was social lubricant more than anything else. Sure, there were times when he drank heavily, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, but it wasn’t until he reached his 50s that he realized he’d crossed the Rubicon. “I think that’s where my story is a little different than most,” said Jones during a phone interview, conducted en route to the 30A Songwriters Festival in South Walton, Florida, where he performed solo and as part of the Peter Holsapple Combo. “I’m not a case of someone who learned to party like Axl…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Joe Nester builds a ‘Nation’ through music, recovery

January 13, 2020
Joe Nester

The benefits of a life in recovery still blow Joe Nester’s mind on occasion. There was once a time in his life when, addicted to crack and heroin, he was homeless, sleeping under bridges and using Boston Market cardboard boxes for a bed. He was one of the nameless, faceless afflicted that populate the streets of every city in America, and most “normal” people went out of their way to avoid him. Now, as the titular figurehead of “Nester Nation” whose recovery advocacy is matched only by dedication to his songcraft, he’s an object of adoration. It’s not something he seeks, and when it happens, he’s as humbled as he is awed. But he never lets it go to his head, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, because as much as he’s been given, he has a keen understanding of just how quickly it can all be taken…

Read More

The artist known as C4 on her recovery: ‘I like this road, so I’m staying on it’

December 16, 2019

As a girl, Cecilia Ebrahimi, the artist known as C4, traveled the world. Raised on a horse farm in Maryland, she spent part of her childhood in Iran, the country of her father’s birth. Thanks to his work and the family’s wealth, summers were spent in tropical locales — on a boat off the coast of Greece, where she and her siblings would sleep on deck beneath the stars, or to the blue waters of the Virgin Islands. Winters, she told The Ties That Bind Us recently, always included ski trips — to Vail, Colorado, or to Switzerland, where she remembers how horse-drawn carriages would ferry skiiers to the tops of the slopes. It’s serendipitous, then, that she found sobriety in a small recovery meeting a mile from the Maryland home in which she grew up. “I had traveled around the world and did all these drugs in various places,…

Read More

Through sobriety, singer-songwriter Griffin House finds his ‘Star’ is on the rise

October 7, 2019

When you’re a struggling singer-songwriter, balance in any area of life can be difficult to come by. Nashville’s Griffin House is no different. He’s striven for balance ever since he came to Music City, when a set of circumstances set him up with a Nettwerk Records deal and led to meeting three of his heroes — Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp — within a month of its release. “They’re still the three most famous people I’ve met to this day, 16 ½ years later!” House told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “At the time, I just thought, ‘This is crazy! What’s going on?’ Doors just seemed to open and dots seemed to connect in really wild ways.” Other times, he added, the chaos of the accompanying lifestyle was insidious. Alcohol, for example, was something that crept up on him: It never seemed to be a problem, and…

Read More

On the other side of addiction and depression, Jedd Hughes casts his eyes ‘West’

August 19, 2019
Jedd Hughes sober

Courtesy of Libby Danforth These days, with several years of sobriety under his belt, Jedd Hughes lives in the light. There’s plenty of it to go around: Playing as part of country superstar Vince Gill’s band, for example, or his own career as a singer-songwriter that gets a bump when he releases a new solo album, “West,” on Aug. 30. The Nashville circle in which he lives these days includes such luminaries as Rodney Crowell and Sarah Jarosz and Emmylou Harris, icons who have, at one time or another, tapped Hughes’ talent to beef up their own records. A wife, a son, a career … he’s a grateful man, and he holds fast to the reasons for that gratitude. Because he knows full well that the darkness he’s lived with all of his life is still out there, on the nebulous reaches of his universe, waiting for the light to…

Read More

Folk artist Steve Poltz finds sobriety is still ‘Ballin’,’ even after 14 years

July 1, 2019
Steve Poltz sober musician

Standing at an airport pay phone, his coke-fueled heart hammering like an out-of-control oil derrick slamming into Texas hardpan, singer-songwriter Steve Poltz found the scrap of paper he was looking for. “Michael the Drunk Lawyer,” it said. Technically, Michael was a sober attorney by then, back in November 2004, and one of the only clean and sober individuals that Poltz knew. With a successful practice in San Diego, Poltz’s adopted hometown, chances were slim that he would answer the phone, Poltz thought, but he was broken down and desperate, so he made the call anyway. “He never answered his phone, because he was so successful, but that day, he did,” Poltz told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I go, ‘Michael?’ He knew my voice right away, and he goes, ‘Steven? Is everything OK?’ And I just started bawling.” It was, as they say in recovery, the end of the…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Dane Ferguson on sobriety: ‘Every day was another step in the right direction’

June 24, 2019

Courtesy of Mikey Rodriguez When a teenage boy gets an on-stage shout-out from one of his musical mentors, the path forward seems like it’s got to be destiny. Such was the case for singer-songwriter Dane Ferguson, the Los Angeles-based artist who’s juggling a solo career and a gig with the band Built to Fade. His musical path might have taken him to similar heights, but Ferguson has no doubt that the words of Edwin McCain helped prime his creative pump, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “He was a major impact on me, because he was kind of the first guy I saw who was just a dude with a guitar, telling stories,” Ferguson said. “I remember seeing that at 11 or 12 and thinking, ‘Wow; I can do this.’ And then when I was 13 or 14, my parents took me to this festival, and I got…

Read More

Out of addiction’s flames, singer-songwriter Anders Osborne sets up a nationwide sober lifeline of ‘Friends’

June 17, 2019

Courtesy of J. Mimna Photography There’s a five-day period from his early 30s that singer-songwriter Anders Osborne will never get back. He’s been told what happened during that particular alcoholic blackout, but hearing the stories are like watching a cringe-worthy film of someone else’s misfortune. Despite the success he had before and has experienced since, that block of time, lost to the darkness of an alcoholic fog, is a reminder of his own powerlessness. “I remember that we went out (with friends), and I woke up five days later and didn’t remember a damn thing,” Osborne told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I realized that my two main guitars — the ones I played and made a career with, including one that was very valuable — were gone, and I didn’t know where they were. And I was wearing a pair of karate pants, but the whole mid-seam around…

Read More

Five-time overdose survivor Sonny Cruz turns his addiction recovery into a musical mission

March 4, 2019

Five-time overdose survivor Sonny Cruz turns his addiction recovery into a musical mission Sonny Cruz was 12 years old when he fell in love with both drugs and music, and it took a long time to unravel the two from one another. These days, with almost 17 years sober, he’s a walking, talking, singing, songwriting testament to the power of recovery. The ease and comfort he first discovered in drugs, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, was fleeting. The creative highs eventually turned into a neverending trip through the emotional bottomlands, and it wasn’t until he embraced recovery that he discovered he didn’t have to be high to create great art. That doesn’t mean his life is now a fairy tale. In fact, since he got clean, he’s suffered three heart attacks and has been diagnosed with an incurable heart condition, which had led to bouts of depression…

Read More

Singer-songwriter David Easterling: ‘We all support one another on this journey’

February 26, 2019

Singer-songwriter David Easterling: ‘We all support one another on this journey’ Growing up, singer-songwriter David Easterling was in charge of the household soundtrack. Or at least he thought he was. In the family home, an old intercom system, popular in the ’60s and ’70s, would broadcast to every room, and from the third grade on, Easterling told The Ties That Bind Us recently, he would set it to a favorite radio station every morning as he got ready for school. “I remember listening to all sorts of songs, but by 13, I was listening to more folk music,” he said. “My brother was eight years older, and my sister was 10 years older, so they introduced me to a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary; Bob Dylan; The Eagles; and even The Beatles — folks that were actually saying something in their music that was meaningful to me. “But I…

Read More

On the cusp of a new album, singer-songwriter Michael McDermott celebrates authenticity

February 4, 2019

On the cusp of a new album, singer-songwriter Michael McDermott celebrates the authenticity of a sober mind and a grateful heart Before the modest stardom and the MTV fame, and even before addiction took hold of his life and nearly wrecked it, singer-songwriter Michael McDermott used to stare up at the heavens over Michigan and feel insignificant. As a child, his parents used to drive McDermott and his older sister to a rural part of the Great Lake State and leave them for the summer. It was a bucolic childhood that still generates memories of pastoral warmth and small-town charm, but on nights when the stars painted the heavens in brilliant pinpoints, he felt adrift, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “We were only trying to feel like we belonged to something,” he said. “As a kid, I would look up there and think about how there were…

Read More

REDEMPTION SONG: Artist, musician George Terry finds renewal in recovery

November 26, 2018

REDEMPTION SONG: Musician, artist George Terry finds renewal in recovery It’s been 11 years since George Terry McDonald — a.k.a. George Terry of the long-time rock band The Zealots, who often performs solo as George Trouble — got popped in the classroom. He’d been on the run from his addiction for most of his adult life, and when he landed in Charlotte, N.C., he thought he might have it licked. He got a public teaching job, lived with his parents and taught elementary school art classes to pay his child support bill. Normalcy doesn’t work well for rock musicians and artists, both of which apply to McDonald, and that screaming demon of the spirit howled until he gave in to temptation. He thought classes were canceled, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, and had just set up his works when the door to the classroom opened. “I had…

Read More

Singer-songwriter John Dennis: ‘Things got wildly better’

November 12, 2018

Singer-songwriter John Dennis: ‘Things got wildly better’ As long as he lives, singer-songwriter John Dennis will never forget his last day. June 4, 2015: He was 23 years old, having been through alcohol rehab once but falling back into his old ways after three days. At his worst, when the withdrawals got bad enough, he would even drink hand sanitizer mixed with water, he told The Ties That Bind Us, his body desperate for alcohol in any form. That morning, he woke up, and he knew. “What I distinctly remember is that it was my last day,” he said. “I said, ‘Today’s the day I’m going to kill myself.’ I spent the entire day drinking, taking a cold shower, drinking, taking a cold shower. I knew it was the end. And there was a guy I had gone to treatment with who had tried reaching out to me, and I…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Jason Erie: ‘Life on the other side is better’

November 5, 2018

Singer-songwriter Jason Erie: ‘Life on the other side is better’ When it comes to his recovery, singer-songwriter Jason Erie is grateful for many gifts. He has his career, which is at a turning point thanks to a strong new record. He has his family, which keeps him grounded in the knowledge of bestowed blessings. And he has his mom, the individual who probably gets the most credit for shining a light on the possibilities of a new way to live in the aftermath of addiction. It wasn’t always such. Erie remembers well the chaos of his family’s home when he was a child, and how he sought solace in music, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “My mother is a proud recovering addict, but when I was younger, she was full force into her addiction, and music was more of a coping mechanism for me,” he said. “My…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris: Still in love with ‘all those miracles’

October 15, 2018

Singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris: Still in love with ‘all those miracles’ Songwriters as powerful and poignant as Jaimee Harris often have a kitbag of tunes that tell their life stories. It’s difficult to point to one, exactly, that serves as the anchor. Harris, however, knows exactly which one in her catalog fits that bill: “Snow White Knuckles,” the ninth track on her 2018 release, “Red Rescue.” “I gave up the cocaine, gave up the gin, freed myself of the hell I was in, asked the Lord to keep me clean again,” she croons on the track, a visceral document of the recovery that’s catapulted her not just in recovery circles, but in a crowd of peers that includes artists like Mary Gauthier. “It’s really unreal, and it blows me away,” Harris told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “There’s not a night that I play it that I don’t have someone…

Read More

Celebrated songwriter Buddy Causey: ‘It’s not about me’

October 1, 2018

Celebrated songwriter Buddy Causey: ‘It’s not about me’ Buddy Causey is keeping good company these days on his trips around the Southeast, performing and speaking at Celebrate Recovery meetings — like a recent trip to East Tennessee, where he spoke at one not far from Cornerstone of Recovery. During his heyday, the Tennessee-born, Alabama-raised singer recorded with the greats in Muscle Shoals. He’d played with some of the top talent on the West Coast when he moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s. He even opened for Alan Jackson and Shania Twain in front of a crowd of 300,000 people. But when he was 61, he suffered a stroke that “snapped an artery in two places in the back of my neck,” he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, and his world fell apart. It’s been a long and winding road back to the stage, but these days, he’s…

Read More

Singer-songwriter John McAndrew: Almost 35 years later, the journey is still beautiful

September 24, 2018

Singer-songwriter John McAndrew: Almost 35 years later, the journey is still beautiful It was a lesson long in learning, but singer-songwriter John McAndrew eventually figured out to let the music lead him. In the depths of his disease, before he found recovery, it was there. Through the ruined shows and blackout drives and performances that were not an accurate reflection of his immeasurable talent, it remained by his side. And when he emerged from the fog, determined to remain on the straight and narrow, it was with him still. In fact, McAndrew said, every good thing about his music career followed in the wake of his decision to try a new way of life. “I was several years sober, and I played for an international event in Minneapolis in 2000, and there were 70,000 people at the Minneapolis Metrodome where I sang, and the following Sunday, I met a man…

Read More

Edwin McCain’s moment of clarity: ‘I had the plan and the gun and the bullet’

August 6, 2018

Edwin McCain’s moment of clarity: ‘I had the plan and the gun and the bullet’ In the 21st episode of the classic comedy “WKRP in Cincinnati,” deejay Johnny Fever takes an on-air alcohol test alongside fellow personality Venus Flytrap and a police officer. Such stunts were classic radio bits in the ’70s and ’80s, aimed at giving listeners an audio demonstration of how quickly alcohol impairment can slow reflexes, slur speech and turn those who take part into inebriated lushes. Johnny Fever, however, went the opposite direction, and that’s exactly what it felt like for singer-songwriter Edwin McCain when he started his dance with booze as a teenager, he tells The Ties That Bind Us. “I was the guy who got better,” says McCain, who rose to fame as an alternative rock star in the mid-1990s with hits like “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask For More.” “At places…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Kasey Anderson: ‘I never expected to put out a record again’

July 16, 2018

Singer-songwriter Kasey Anderson: ‘I never expected to put out a record again’ When singer-songwriter Kasey Anderson was released from prison in 2015, he figured his music days were behind him. Overcoming addiction and doing penance for a mania-fueled scam that led to a four-year sentence for wire fraud charges were overwhelming enough, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. Trying to pick up the pieces of a once-successful folk-rock career just seemed out of reach. “I was like, ‘I think I’m done making records and performing,’ because it felt like, ‘Man, that’s really asking a lot of people,’” Anderson says. “It’s not like I was hugely famous to begin with, but asking people to listen to my songs after everything that happened, that just seemed to be too much.” Friends and supporters, however, wouldn’t let him give up so easily. Journalist and author Peter Ames Carlin was insistent: Anderson…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Sam Morrow: ‘I live by a certain set of principles now’

July 9, 2018

Singer-songwriter Sam Morrow: ‘I live by a certain set of principles now’ Like it is for a lot of musicians, the sad songs come easier for singer-songwriter Sam Morrow. Give him an acoustic guitar and a broken heart, and he can whip up something poignant and melancholy with the best of them — but he’s not beholden to the “sad bastard” persona of so many solo roots artists, nor does he want to be. It’s one reason why he pushed back against the darkness on his most recent record, the eclectic “Concrete and Mud,” which features the young guitar-slinger mixing some funky licks and Southern soul grooves into his particular brand of roots rock. Besides, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, his life isn’t filled with the darkness of addiction that it once was. “My life just got pretty miserable,” says Morrow, who recently marked seven years clean…

Read More

Singer-songwriter Tommy Womack: ‘I’m a cat on my ninth life’

June 18, 2018
Tommy Womack

Singer-songwriter Tommy Womack: ‘I’m a cat on my ninth life’ Like a lot of recovering addicts and alcoholics who have put a little distance between themselves and their last use, singer-songwriter Tommy Womack can appreciate that his partying days included plenty of fun and comfort. At first, anyway. But like those with whom he shares a bond of recovery, there came a time in his own life when addiction, sadistic fisherman that it is, jerked the line, set the hook and began to reel Womack toward the bitter ends: jails, institutions and death. “I think all alcoholics and addicts do a drug or take a drink that gets them higher than a non-addictive personality gets; I think we get higher than they get,” Womack tells The Ties That Bind Us. “It’s a more extraordinary experience, more life-changing, more a feeling of, ‘Ah, I found what works for me — and…

Read More

BUZZKILL: Recovering singer-songwriter Travis Meadows finds solace in the song

June 5, 2018
Travis Meadows

BUZZKILL: Recovering singer-songwriter Travis Meadows finds solace in the song Singer-songwriter Travis Meadows isn’t a big believer in guardian angels, but there’s really no other way to describe the guy hanging out by the back door the last time he left treatment. “I’d never seen him before, and I haven’t seen him since, but he said, ‘Where are you going?’ And I said, ‘I’m going home,’” Meadows told The Ties That Bind recently. “He said, ‘You should go to a meeting today,’ and I told him, ‘I’ve been in meetings for 30 days – I’m going home.’ And then he said, ‘Trust me: This will be the most important meeting of your life.’ “And something clicked that time. I thought, ‘I’m going to try a different way, so I went to a meeting, and I was sitting there minding my own business, and this lady said, ‘My name’s so-and-so, and…

Read More