by Craig Grau
So when do you say when – or is the wind even blowing hard enough?
Does it even make sense to hop on the wagon when you live half the year out of an Econoline? Doesn’t sauce supposedly lubricate the machinery?
Music and sobriety aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. But it’s sometimes hard to fathom temperance as a musician when pub owners can scarcely afford to pay upstart outfits with plastic tubs of iced PBR tall boys.
Artists in all manners of the creative process have used entheogens, substances, toxins, etc. as a tool to nudge the door a little wider to attain that next level of communication with their source of inspiration. Would the ’60s have been the ’60s without pot and acid? Yet, how many of those surviving artists still indulge to their heyday’s degree?
The notion of riding sober begs a hard question for the artist, as it varies from liver to liver and brain to brain. One thing is true with respect to the body: Drugs work like credit. For every unit of happiness, energy, insight or relaxation one expects to receive from the substance, the user is taxed – with interest – in the opposite direction once the high wears off. And the flesh’s bank account is far from infinite.
Still, it’s no lie – butting your head against the wall to change the scenery and pen a mind-blowing lyric or cutting-edge riff is a bitch. It can truly drive the artist to madness, riding that leading edge of tomorrow’s genius.
But nothing reeks quite like the specter of bad showmanship. That particular robbery contributes to the ongoing fade of live show turnout, especially when fans with hundreds of monthly nightlife options start to smell onstage rot.
Clear heads prevail when paying the bills, too. Staying sober to continue one’s musical lifespan may ring key as the industry continues to offer less income to newer acts, necessitating a clear head to maintain the oft-needed day job.
And let’s admit it, hazy judgement tags along with a drug-addled musical lifestyle, fodder for both fond reminiscence and retaining attorneys. From lustful after-gig hookups to late-night automotive dashes across state lines, balancing this calamitous backdrop against the innocuous bourbon shot before that first chord – or the joy of calling out for a beer from onstage before reminding the crowd to tip their bar staff – requires a tightrope walk throughout a career’s timeline.
Perhaps at some point the possibility of taking time off to sober up arises. This respite might necessitate a placeholder at the end of the cable. What if one’s understudy becomes their permanent replacement? It’s a serious concern.
Easy answers evade grasp in this arena, like catching salmon bare-handed.
Obviously, moderation pops up as the obvious reply. Yet, if you’re reading this blog, the notion of middle ground might already be as roped off as sold-out seating. It’s the call-and-response section for which only you can answer both parts.