“Cancel the show. Take the rest. Avoid some of the paths I went down.” Folk-country sensation Brandi Carlile gets candid about her struggles with substance abuse on the road, saying she’ll “always think about that before I pass judgment on a person who’s had a drug overdose.”
“I had a problem,” admits the brilliant singer-songwriter to People for their Friday issue. These short words read simplistically – but take a world of strength to utter. Now, as Carlile (just short of her 40th birthday) makes the rounds for her ‘Broken Horses’ virtual book tour, she’s opening up on her own past struggles with substance abuse in an effort to help others understand how easy – and dangerous – it is to normalize such behavior.
“I had a problem… And the problem is that I thought that sedating myself was normal,” Carlile tells People in their Wednesday reveal.
“The way I traveled and the way I navigated this country was with the help of a lot of sleep aids. All my friends were doing that to sleep on tour buses and on planes so they could get up and go to the radio stations. No one told me that it wasn’t normal or that accidents can happen,” she continues.
2018 was a steadily evolving road to substance abuse for Carlile; one that culminated in a night she doesn’t know if she “would have ever woken up” from. As her phenomenal sixth studio album, ‘By The Way, I Forgive You,’ became a certified smash, the folk-singer-turned-country-megastar couldn’t cope with the demands and pressures of her new reality, she reveals.
“I don’t know if I would have ever woken up”
With equal parts vulnerability and regret, the singer-songwriter recounts the tipping point in her ‘Broken Horses’ memoir, which is out now. The life-altering scare came amidst another beyond-worn-out night for Carlile in a New York City hotel room, circa April 2018.
She thought she had grabbed her prescribed steroids. Instead, her eyes met a handful of Xanax seconds before swallowing them.
“I suddenly realized with a shot of adrenaline and shame that I was staring down at six Xanax that I was about to pop into my mouth and go back to sleep,” she details in ‘Broken Horses’. “I don’t know if I would have ever woken up.”
As part of her memoir, Carlile chalks her struggles up to a simple statement. She found herself “just a tired mom alone in a hotel room afraid to let anyone down and wanting the show to go on,” she pens.
As she – and any individual who’s ever struggled with substance abuse knows, however, it’s never that cut and dry. For anyone.
“I will always think about that before I pass judgment on a person who’s had a drug overdose,” Carlile notes.
In the musician’s eyes, “no amount of defense” from her wife, Catherine Shepherd, or her longtime bandmates, twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, “would have been enough to remove the stain left by a simple accident.”
Brandi Carlile’s Message to Fellow Musicians: “Cancel the show. Take the rest.”
After avoiding what could’ve been a deadly overdose, Brandi Carlile knew she needed – and then sought – professional help. Now, thankfully, the 39-year-old star says she’s in a far “better headspace”. And it’s all thanks to her wife and daughters, and her counselor determined to help keep Carlile on the right track.
In the end, Brandi Carlile hopes her own “familiar” tale will help other musicians – especially those who find themselves coping with the whirlwind of being an up-and-comer.
“These things are weird, complicated, hard to talk about, embarrassing and a really big part of being a musician and touring,” she details. “There are a lot of people that work around you who will tell you that the world stops turning if you take a rest… If you cancel the show because you’re sick.”
“I say no now… I will cancel things now,” Carlile concludes for People. “If I’m sick, I will not take steroids and play a show and hurt my voice that I depend on… That so many people depend on.”
“Cancel the show. Take the rest. Avoid some of the paths I went down.”