‘Be good to yourself.’ NC musicians confront substance abuse, mental health in industry

Ed Bumgardner was at a previous bandmate’s funeral service in September 2019 when he chose something had to modification.

He was tired. Tired of seeing his buddies in the music industry struggle with substance abuse In some cases, and in the case of his previous bandmate, addiction eventually led to their deaths.

” I have actually lost …” Bumgardner stopped briefly to count aloud: “One, 2, 3, 4 buddies to suicide, at least another half-dozen to overdoses, and came horrible close to the exact same fate myself. I’m 4 years sober.”

Bumgardner, a 66-year-old bass gamer who lives in Winston-Salem, fulfilled his late bandmate through music. Bumgardner began playing the bass when he was 13, and invested much of his 20s and 30s touring with bands– a time that Bumgardner called “wonderful.”

But the music world also came with its dangers. Bumgardner and the other young people he fulfilled on the road were making simply sufficient cash to make it through. Most of the locations they played in were bars, where compounds like alcohol and drugs– and abuse of these compounds– were common.

His previous bandmate passed away due to the fact that he “consumed himself to death,” Bumgardner stated.

“We have actually got to do something about this,” Bumgardner informed his buddy and bandmate Rob Slater at the funeral service. “This is simply incorrect.”

From that discussion came an effort to help other musicians dealing with substance abuse and mental illness through an effort called Be Good to Yourself Bumgardner and Slater chose to raise cash for the program by tape-recording an advantage album.

Over a year in the making, the album, likewise entitled “Be Good to Yourself – The Music,” is slated to come out Nov 8, with earnings going to mental healthcare and substance abuse counseling for musicians Two other albums, a vinyl LP and an EP, are in the works for later on this year.

The album, at first imagined as 10 tunes, became an album of 27 tunes with efficiencies from lots of partners, nearly all from North Carolina Bumgardner and Slater worked with Chris Garges of Charlotte, who played drums, and with Gino Grandinetti of Winston-Salem, who played guitar, to bring the music together.

The lineup of musicians consists of North Carolina musicians Peter Holsapple, Mitch Easter, The Chatham Rabbits, Sn üzz and Don Dixon, amongst lots of others.

In the music industry, musicians are typically the ones to help each other out when it seems like no one else will. With Be Good to Yourself, the partners state they hope to modification that– to not just raise sufficient cash to fund mental healthcare and counseling for some musicians, however to shed light on the manner ins which musicians have actually struggled throughout the pandemic and beyond.

During a time when a lot of musicians were struggling to make ends satisfy, and possibly struggling with addiction and mental illness themselves, Bumgardner stated it’s unbelievable that a lot of worked on the album for complimentary. But it’s not unexpected.

“You wan na understand how fantastic musicians are?” he stated. “There you go. These are people who are out of work, and they’re still doing it for absolutely nothing, to attempt to help fellow musicians.”


Before turning up with the concept for an advantage album, Bumgardner, Slater and other musicians had actually currently been talking about how they might help their fellowmusicians They understood anecdotally that overdoses and suicides were extensive in the industry.

“The music organization is a harmful organization,” Bumgardner stated. “As beers after a gig became cases of beer after a gig, became bourbon after a gig, became suicide, that was a little excessive to be able to relax and refrain from doing something about.”

The data backs that up. A 2018 study by the Music Industry Research Association discovered that 50% of 1,227 surveyed musicians skilled symptoms of depression, as compared to 25% of the basic population. Twelve percent of musicians reported having ideas of suicide, while that fact is around 3% for the basic population.

As gig entertainers, lots of musicians do not have health insurance. Many make so little that they struggle to make lease or pay for other requirements– and the concept of being able to manage medical help for addiction or mental illness is absurd to some.

Then, the pandemic started, when instances of mental illness like anxiety and depression increased throughout the nation. With lockdowns, independent musicians lost the capability to make a living off of touring and carrying out.

To help provide North Carolina musicians with mental healthcare, Be Good to Yourself is partnering with the SIMS Foundation, which provides mental health and substance abuse recovery services to people in the music industry. Through the collaboration, the SIMS structure– which presently runs in Austin, Texas–is expanding into the Triangle

Be Good to Yourself and the SIMS Foundation plan to work with a number of various North Carolina healthcare providers, consisting of MindPath Care Centers, to get musicians the help they need.

“You’re less most likely to prosper at pounding an addiction if you’re simply in Narcotics Anonymous, as opposed to getting clinical help,” stated Louise Newton, the clinical director of psychiatric therapy at MindPathCare Centers “But up until we have fair insurance for everybody, not everybody will have gain access to to that.”

In the middle of a pandemic, the advantage album felt a lot more urgent, however, with limitations on event, the logistics were challenging. The 4 musicians tape-recorded mainly at Old House Studio in Charlotte, with most of the other partners sending out in recordings of their parts.


Ashley Virginia keeps in mind when she believed that live programs would be cancelled for a couple of weeks, at most. In March 2020, Virginia was beginning to go far for herself in the music scene of Greensboro. She had actually simply gotten a routine gig at a regional brewery and had actually programs arranged through June.

For Virginia, this was an advancement. She seemed like the music profession she had actually dreamed of for so long was lastly on its method. Then, locations revealed that they were cancelling programs due to the fact that of the coronavirus. Shows were cancelled for 2 weeks, at initially. Then another 2 weeks. Then another.

When all of Virginia’s programs through June were cancelled, she understood there was no end in sight.

“It seemed like I was gazing into a black pit,” she stated. “It was simply soul-crushing. I fell under an actually deep depression.”

Virginia suffers from identified generalized anxiety disorder, major-depressive disorder, and complex-post terrible stress disorder. Her symptoms intensified throughout the pandemic, she stated, in part due to the fact that she might no longer carry out and share her music.

Libby Rodenbaugh, an artist based in Durham who worked together on the “Be Good to Yourself” task, likewise keeps in mind the sensations of despondence that came at the start of the pandemic, when gigs were cancelled for the indefinite future. Rodenbaugh carries out as a solo artist and with the band Mipso.

Mario Arnez, who plays in the Chapel Hill- based band Blue Cactus, remembered sensation “an difficult level of depression” when he recognized the pandemic implied he might no longer support himself with his music.

The people behind Be Good to Yourself desire to provide assistance to those struggling in the industry, even when they’re not in the middle of a pandemic.

For lots of, that assistance can be life-saving. Virginia, for example, credits the treatment she gets for her mental health problems for assisting her cope with the pandemic’s results.

She understands how simple it is to fall under substance abuse and addiction as an artist– she plays most of her gigs at bars and breweries. And if she wasn’t getting treatment for her mental health problems, she believes she ‘d be most likely to abuse the compounds she’s regularly around.

But not all musicians have gain access to to that level of care. Because she’s more youthful than 26, Virginia is still able to receive health insurance through her moms and dads, which covers therapy and medication. She likewise keeps a day task so she’ll be qualified for coverage when she ages out of her moms and dads’ insurance.

Musicians who do not have insurance and can’t manage mental health care are left to grapple with their mental health on their own.

” I believe I would find other unhealthy methods to cope and self-medicate if I didn’t have gain access to to treatment,” Virginia stated. “If not for my treatment, my story would absolutely be much various and more awful.”


Because companies are the most common source of health insurance, independent professionals are left to purchase their own plans or go without. And for those without insurance, coping and self-medicating can consist of using compounds like drugs and alcohol.

When Bumgardner was on trip, he stated it was harder not to take part in drinking and cigarette smoking than to simply get involved.

“When you’re working 4 to 5 sets a night, that’s what you do– you have a couple of beers,” Bumgardner stated. “And after you’re done, you’re all ended up, you keep up all night, you mess around in drugs, you consume, and that ends up being a method of life for a very long time.”

John Howie Jr, an artist based in Chapel Hill who likewise worked together on “Be Good to Yourself,” stated he had a comparable experience.

“When you’re on the road, you consume and smoke and do drugs, and it’s a blast, due to the fact that you arrange of seem like it’s your commitment to do that, like– on the road!” he stated. “If you do not do those things, you have to go to the bar hours prior to you begin the program, so what do you do?”

For lots of musicians, by doing this of life appears sustainable when they’re young. But as Bumgardner aged, he stated it started to take a toll on his health, both physically and psychologically.

“As you age, people start paying the rate– the suicides where they simply could not see an escape,” Bumgardner stated. “And despite the fact that, in some cases, they may have had insurance, they would not seek help due to the fact that of the preconception associated with addiction and mental illness.”

Howie stated he recognized he required help a couple of years back, when physicians informed him he had a growth in his lung and an bigger liver, both linked to his drinking and cigarette smoking. Howie, then 46, understood he had to get sober, though it took him years to do so.

Quitting an addiction is infamously tough. And while there are complimentary resources like Alcoholics Anonymous, getting professional help beyond that can be excessively costly for people without insurance.

The pandemic, Howie stated, has actually made it both more difficult and much easier to stay sober. During the pandemic, lots of have actually turned to alcohol and compounds to offerwith stress A study  released in 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health discovered that almost two-thirds of individuals were drinking more throughout the pandemic than previously.

” I would not have actually desired to attempt to get sober right when the pandemic hit,” Howie stated. “I had some buddies call me and inform me they were struggling with it.”

But staying at home likewise implied being away from locations focused around alcohol. As live reveals resume, Howie anticipates that it’ll be tough to return to those areas.

” A lot of my coming programs are in locations where they’ll be serving alcohol, so we’ll see,” he stated. “I make sure that will not be simple, however I’m used to it not being simple.”


Without insurance, musicians struggle to get any kind of healthcare and can overlook their health issues. That’s what took place with Garges, who for a very long time would do whatever it took to not go to the medical professional when he believed something may be incorrect. He would search for symptoms on the web, ask buddies and family for suggestions, or simply overlook pain.

” I didn’t have insurance, and I used to be avoidant when it came to health things, due to the fact that it was– ‘I hesitate to go, I hesitate to have to pay for a medical professional’s see due to the fact that I have actually got this pain in my knee that might lead to another medical professional’s see that’s gonna cost more cash,'” he stated.

For lots of uninsured musicians, experiences like Garges’ are common. The trouble of getting insurance as an artist is a systemic issue that lots of musicians talked to for this story connected to bigger issues with the insurance industry in the United States.

The Affordable Care Act, some musicians stated, was an enhancement when it was passed in 2010, however still far from best.

Garges was able to get health insurance through the ACA after being uninsured for several years. It’s been a relief, he stated, however it’s still “a stretch economically” to pay for his own plan, Garges stated.

Before the ACA, Howie stated he worked chores to make certain he constantly had insurance. He then registered in ACA, which he stated was “fantastic for a couple of years there.” Still, Howie remembered he when had a copay that was over $1,000 for a CT scan when physicians discovered a growth in his lung, even with insurance.

Because independent musicians typically make so little cash– a typical band can anticipate to make the exact same quantity of cash playing at a bar in 2021 as they did in the 1970s, according to Slater– insurance and healthcare are merely typically “out of the concern,” he stated.

Be Good to Yourself hopes to reduce that cost for some musicians throughout the state.

The rate of sponsoring one counseling session a week for a year for one artist is over $3,000, according to the Be Good to Yourself website Organizers hope to raise over $100,000 to help fund the counseling effort, according to a press release.

The company anticipates to begin little with a handful of people, ultimately growing the task so more people can be sponsored, stated Mike Allen, a Be Good to Yourself board member.

“We ‘d like to sponsor as lots of musicians as we can,” Allen stated.

With the growth of the SIMS structure into North Carolina, the people behind Be Good to Yourself hope to lay the structures for a mental health service facilities that will last for years to come.

“But I believe when this thing strikes, we’re going to have more applications than we understand what to do with,” Allen continued.

Crowdfunding efforts to pay for healthcare or other requirements are common in the music industry. Musicians help each other out, as Bumgardner stated.

Allen remembered seeing numerous social media posts from regional musicians who were struggling both economically and psychologically at the start of the pandemic.

Virginia stated she’s likewise seen crowdfunding efforts for musicians struggling with problems like financial resources or illness.

“But it’s a Band-Aid for a bullet injury,” she stated. “If some people are able to raise a specific quantity of cash to help a handful of people, that’s fantastic, of course. But I’m still on my recovery journey, and I have actually been getting treatment for 6 years– that’s 6 years of insurance, 6 years of therapy, 6 years of medication.”

Slater kept in mind that insurance is unattainable to a lot of due to the fact that of the system used in the United States.

“One of the fantastic faults of insurance in this nation is that it’s such a monetized customer entity,” he stated. “It’s so costly, and most independent musicians will not be able to manage it.”

Virginia stated she hopes there comes a time when people have gain access to to health insurance that enables them to seek treatment for health problems, physical or mental, without fretting about whether they can manage to do so.

But up until the health insurance industry modifications, musicians will continue to help each other out. And as the prolonged track list of “Be Good to Yourself” reveals, there’s no scarcity of musicians who will exist for each other.

“If there’s an opportunity that one individual benefits from this, we’re good,” Slater stated. “If there’s one individual out there who benefits from this, it’s all worth it.”


For information on Be Good to Yourself and how to purchase the advantage album, go to begoodtoyourselfmusic.com or facebook.com/Bgoodtoyourselfnow

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