Featuring insightful and eye-opening interviews with artists, managers, songwriters, executive producers, and more, “Quit the Chaos. Keep the Gig,” is a new series that takes a look at how substance use affects everyone in the music & entertainment industry.
As an award-winning producer/songwriter, best-selling author, TV host and actor, Aaron Ableman has worked with hundreds of artists from across the globe. Having produced the theme song for “Kid Warrior,” a short film produced by HBO for Al Gore’s “Climate Reality Project,” Aaron has a deep personal and professional commitment to protecting our planet through education and advocacy.
In conversation with Ron Roecker, Aaron discusses how he balances the demands of being an artist and the stresses of performing and touring without damaging his personal health.
What’s been your experience with people struggling with substance use in the entertainment business?
Aaron: There’s been many moments of seeing friends – famous artists or not – suffer due to addiction. I once was with someone who overdosed as a teenager due to the high pressures of performing and label demands. He actually went into a coma and emerged safely but never to return to the industry for fear of its undue demand on “being something like a product or brand rather than just being myself”, he told me.
Of course, I’m not saying the whole entertainment industry is like this but those pockets of high demand and low-sensitivity make mental or physical health a challenge, which is often what leads to substance abuse in the first place. This “party life” is great for a little while but only if it’s balanced with the intent focus on your art or craft, which brings us to this life in the first place.
How has that affected your own business as a producer/artist/label exec?
Aaron: As an artist/producer, it’s always been tough to navigate so many different circles of addiction in the world. It’s not just the entertainment world but it is very prevalent therein. Thankfully, I have always had good mentors and friends to keep me focused on what’s truly important: my creativity, my community and my health.
I also practice yoga and meditation and that helps keep me out of the heavy party or substance abuse environment as well. Though this has denied me access to certain opportunities, I’ve managed to retain my sanity, my integrity and my peace of mind which is worth a billion followers in my view.
Are there resources for you to use or reference? If not, what would help?
Aaron: I recommend reading Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” and any of Thich Naht Hanh or Pema Chodron’s books for some entertaining spiritual perspectives on how to deal with anxieties, fears, delusion or otherwise living in a world so full of ego. Also, spend time in nature or with someone you truly love/respect/will listen to. These simple resources or activities get to the heart of abuse rather than the more surface-level approaches.
What do you think touring musicians need?
Aaron: Perhaps more space and time between gigs for our physical and mental health: spas, healthy food, meditation/yoga and nature time. Also, giving back something positive to the communities we visit is also very powerful. How about a tree planting event or a school concert at every stop?
What’s the most important need/solution for you as a touring artist/producer when dealing with someone who is struggling with substance use?
Aaron: The ability to prioritize our health and well being as much as the gig or business operations that need to keep rolling as well.
Why do you do what you do?
Aaron: Because art saved my life when I was lost and down and didn’t have a direction or voice at all. Art is also the world’s most powerful motivator, educator and healer for people all over the world. Whether it’s music, dance, theatre, film or television, these are the ways we share our stories with future generations and allow ourselves to transcend the ridiculousness of being human. Art gives me a purpose in a purposeless world.
Learn more about Aaron Ableman.
Ron Roecker is an award-winning writer, as well as music/entertainment and brand marketing expert. His career includes Vice President of Communications & Artist Relations for the GRAMMY Awards, as well as a music/entertainment spokesperson for brands and media outlets including Nestle, Live Earth, Mattel, CNN, MTV, Entertainment Tonight, BBC, Today Show, Rolling Stone and more. Ron is a keynote speaker who talks about business lessons from Hollywood to Public Speaking and Crisis Management. For more information, visit www.bedifferently.com.
Evo Health and Wellness is an outpatient addiction treatment program that respects where you are and where you want to go. Clients set goals that work for them, whether they include complete abstinence or moderation. Evo sees success as lasting change in the client’s life, including physical health, movement towards personal goals, and their sense of connection and purpose. Evo’s program integrates psychotherapy, psychiatry, life coaching and somatic therapy. Learn more about why Evo works for Entertainment professionals.