Joshua Hedley Talks About Being a Sober Country Singer

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins via New West Records)

Country music is steeped in alcohol. Countless country songs center on drinking to celebrate, relax, or mend a broken heart. On top of that, many up-and-coming country artists play in bars. So, you could imagine that staying away from the bottle wouldn’t be particularly easy for those musicians. Joshua Hedley will be two years sober today, March 18th. In a recent interview, I spoke to him about what the past two years have been like for him and how he stays booze-free while working in bars.

Joshua Hedley on Being Sober and Playing in Bars

Hedley is an open book. When I asked if he was okay with talking about his sobriety, he said, “I have no problem talking about it. It’s a big part of my life.”

First and foremost, I wanted to know if it was difficult to be sober as a country singer. Joshua Hedley said that he really hasn’t struggled with it this time around. However, that’s just his experience. “There’s no one answer for that. For me, no. It’s not hard. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this is not my first journey into sobriety. I’ve done it before. So, I had some experience this time around.”

Joshua Hedley said that he does a lot of “replacement therapy” to help him stay sober. “Instead of drinking fifteen Jack and Cokes, I drink five Red Bulls and freak out. I just replace Jack and Coke with energy drinks, I love energy drinks. I drink a lot of coffee throughout the day.”

As a country singer who works in bars, Joshua Hedley considers himself lucky to not have to struggle to stay sober. “It can be hard for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not like we can stay out of the bars. It’s just not an option for us, as musicians. That’s where we work. So, I know it can be a struggle for some folks. I consider myself lucky that I’ve thus far not really struggled with it.”

California Sobriety

The recovery community has its own language. For instance, “sober” just means abstaining from booze. “Clean” encompasses everything else. More recently, the term “California sober” started making the rounds. Basically, this means abstaining from booze and hard drugs but still partaking in psychedelics and cannabis. Joshua Hedley is California sober.

“I’m a big proponent of California sobriety,” he said. “I don’t do it all the time, but I do dabble when I start feeling squirrelly. Smoking weed doesn’t ruin my life like Jack Daniels and cocaine does.”

Recently, though, Hedley has found that a clear mind is where it’s at. “I haven’t been smoking as much weed lately. I struggle with paranoia and anxiety and sometimes that shit magnifies it times 100. So, I’ve been totally straight-laced lately. But, especially this time around, when I first got sober, the first few months I was blowing through an ounce every three weeks. Every time I wanted to drink, I just got stoned.”

A Good Support System Is Important

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in life, it helps to have people who are truly in your corner. Joshua Hedley said that his friends and his band make it easier for him to stay sober. “I just try not to think about [drinking]. Especially, playing here in town with the band that I have. I have such a good time playing with them that I don’t think about anything at all but playing with those dudes. Half of that band is in recovery, too.”

Hedley went on to say that his friends are in his corner as well. “All of my friends are supportive, too. I don’t have any friends who are like ‘Oh man, I miss drinkin’ with you.’ I don’t have those guys around me. They don’t exist. Everybody that I know has been very supportive. It makes it a lot easier when you have a good support system riding for you.”

Joshua Hedley’s sophomore album Neon Blue drops on April 22nd from New West Records. You can pre-save or pre-order your copy of the record here. Check out the official video for the title track below.