I first met Jeff Austin when we were in 7th grade. Through the 80’s and 90’s, we somehow always wound up in the same places at the same times…Rolling Meadows, IL as kids, Decatur and Urbana, IL during our college years, and eventually Colorado as adults. And then, maybe predictably, as members of touring bands in the same scene.
“Songs You’ve Left Unsung” is a reflection on some of these times…the verses move chronologically, starting in Illinois and winding up in Colorado. The chorus is meant to be bittersweet but also hopeful for those of us that are still here writing songs, experiencing music, raising families and living life with all of its turbulent ups and downs.
I wanted to release the song with Backline because I think their mission is exceptionally important; providing mental health and wellness support to people in the music industry while also providing an opportunity for those of us who deal with issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse to share our stories. Hopefully, these stories will provide comfort, clarity, support, inspiration and a helping hand to anyone who is in need.
On a personal note, I have always struggled with a certain amount of social anxiety (not the easiest thing when you’re in a band like Leftover Salmon); the kind of anxiety that makes you feel like you’re always in the way, that folks don’t really want to hear what you have to say, play or sing, always looking for a way out of conversations because “this person doesn’t really want to be talking to me anyway…”. It makes being a musician, which involves a healthy amount of“putting yourself out there” a difficult task at times. Thankfully, when the music is happening and I’m playing the bass, I can close my eyes, quiet my mind and feel at home.
I discovered that I suffer from low-level depression (called dysthymia) during one of my most difficult periods as a human and as a musician. When I parted ways with Punch Brothers in 2008, a lot of things came crashing down. While my amazing third child (Ella) had just been born, I was also in the midst of a crumbling marriage, had no steady gig or income (Leftover Salmon was still just waking up from its hiatus), and the band that I had put so much time, effort, and soul into was moving in a different direction. Lots of stress…lots of anger…lots of confusion…lots of self-doubt…lots of hopelessness. I know many musicians can relate to this scenario, it’s certainly not a unique one in our industry.
Fortunately, through counseling, I was able to get my proverbial “shit together” to some extent, and I started taking medication (which I still take to this day). It’s hard to admit you need help. I’m glad that I did. I was lucky enough to have some honest people around me who recognized what I was going through and pushed me to make changes.
Like many, I certainly wish I would have understood the extent to which Jeff was hurting, and that I could have given him a helping hand when it was needed. I’m glad that an organization like Backline exists now, as having the support of others who have gone through or are going through a similar situation will allow the healing to start and leave far fewer songs left unsung.