Popular Seattle radio station KEXP has been producing segments under a series they call Music Heals. Live performances, interviews, and stories from listeners are compiled for each segment based around how music can be used to heal those who are suffering from the topic at hand. KEXP has covered topics such as cancer, mental health, and death/grieving in their Music Heals series. This week, an entire day was dedicated to the topic of addiction and recovery.
According to the KEXP website, “Music can provide comfort, validation, encouragement, consolation, perspective, catharsis, and community, and the Music Heals series explores how music can also heal our bodies and lift our spirits.” The Music Heals segment about addiction featured interviews from music artists and members of the KEXP Seattle community who have struggled with addiction. Their goal was to show those in their community that they are not alone and that there is always a way out.
World-famous rap artist and Grammy Award Winner Macklemore suffered from abuse of alcohol and addiction to the opiate painkiller OxyContin. In 2008, Macklemore had faced his addictions head-on in treatment and remained sober for years until a slip-up in 2014. He was very public about his relapse and is back in recovery, enjoying over three years of sobriety now. In his interview with KEXP, he was asked if he had any advice for those currently struggling with addiction and said, “For one, you’re not alone in your struggle.” Much of his music shares that same message as his discography is an open book about his addiction, recovery, and relapses. “Music has been huge. Without it, I don’t know if I would be here,” he told KEXP, “If I want to make music – the thing that I love most – if I want to do that, then I have to be sober.”
Peter Buck, lead guitarist of R.E.M., was featured in the series as well, explaining how he came to the realization of wanting to live without the use of drugs and alcohol, “I decided that I was in a place in my life where I needed to focus on the things that were really important . . . I kind of looked around and decided, ‘Well, what is important in my life?’ and alcohol and drugs or whatever wasn’t on the list. It’s family, friends, music. That’s it.” He raised a great point when asked if he had advice for anyone having issues with addiction, “Generally, if you’re thinking you have a problem, you probably have a problem.”
Alternative singer-songwriter Julien Baker is only 23 years old but realized she had a problem with substance abuse at a very young age. Now, she’s clean and sober and living her life to the fullest. In her KEXP interview, she explained what changed in her mind when she decided to get clean, “Why wouldn’t I give away every negative thing, everything holding me back, in order to be able to utilize this thing? This precious potential of my life?” Her most recent album Turn Out the Lights was endorsed by Pitchfork and features the song “Happy to Be Here” about her new life in recovery. “There’s something quite beautiful in being able to bury yourself and feel understood by others. And what I learned was recognizing that maybe instead of us thinking you know, ‘I’m broken and I need to be fixed.’ It’s more of a task of, ‘I need to find where I fit,” she later said when explaining that “Happy to Be Here” was about her experiences with group therapy.
KEXP’s very own DJ Kevin Cole not only conducted most of the main interviews for the Music Heals: Addiction and Recovery segment, but also provided a personal piece of his own. Cole painted a gruesome and very real painting of his life while in active addiction, exposing his darkness to us before spreading the light of hope he now possesses. His goal was to make listeners feel solidarity in their struggles, explaining that, “I’m sharing my story because I want you to know that you are not alone. That many people struggle with alcohol and drugs and that you can get through it.” Cole later lists many different local and national resources for anyone who believes they may need help and ends by commenting on the power of music, “I hope the music that you hear on KEXP heals, comforts, enriches and uplifts you. Everyone’s path is different, and there are a lot of different roads to recovery.”
“I strayed, she brought me back in. Trying to sneak a flask outside of that gym, she said, ‘You don’t need that, look within.’” -Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The End