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Hootie and the Blowfish Drummer Gets Second Chance at Life
Ginny McCabe : Jul 6, 2012 : ASSIST News Service
"I couldn't imagine a life without drugs and alcohol… You have to learn how to feel things all over again. That's really where God started working on me, and I understood He had some other purpose for me than just riding around in a tour bus." –Jim Sonefeld
(Nashville, TN)—Hootie and the Blowfish drummer, Jim Sonefeld is sharing his faith with a new EP titled Found. The project reflects on his new life and direction, as it shares that same hope in Christ with others.
"I was 40 before I realized something was off. I want to challenge people that if there's a void; if there's a little hole in your heart—or a big hole—it's for Jesus," said Jim Sonefeld. "I have lived trying to stuff it full of every other thing—money, material goods, sex, drugs, alcohol—I've tried everything, and believe me, it doesn't work. It keeps running out; it keeps leaking. The only thing that doesn't leak is Jesus."
His musical journey all started as a student at the University of South Carolina in the late '80s, when the budding songwriter befriended three other men who shared his passion for music, and together they called themselves Hootie and the Blowfish.
In 1994, Sonefeld and his bandmates struck gold with the release of Cracked Rear View (Atlantic), a landmark recording that sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, including 16 million in the U.S. alone. Cracked Rear View is the fourth biggest-selling debut and the 20th biggest-selling record of all time. The band went on to record four more studio albums and garnered numerous awards, including two Grammys, becoming one of the most successful pop acts of the '90s.
"We rode that wave from basically nothing to something; and in about five or six years, it all happened for us," Sonefeld said. "That changed our lives, and it affects everything you do when there's fame and fortune thrown into the picture."
However, Sonefeld soon discovered when you cast all your bets on one thing—the wrong thing—you can end up losing it all. Road-life involved an extreme partying lifestyle, and Sonefeld soon found himself relying heavily on alcohol and drugs. The gifted drummer and songwriter lived in denial of substance abuse for the better part of a decade.
"When you're an alcoholic, some of us can hide it; some of us come out and just say, 'Yeah, I'm an alcoholic, so what? My life's together enough; I'm functional.' And that was my attitude. I was functioning," Sonefeld said. "I was a drummer in a big rock band. I had what looked like a solid family life… I [thought] I was a good guy. [The band] gave a lot. We did charity work and were always involved, and continue to be, in our community. I always felt like I was doing my part; but I definitely was left with this very hollow feeling in my heart… You would never have known my life was in shambles, or at least my heart was. That's the trick—how do you admit it to yourself when everybody else doesn't even think you have a big issue?"
At the height of his career and the peak of his addiction, Sonefeld was struggling to hold his personal life together. It may have looked perfect from the outside, but on the inside, it was splintering.
"There's plenty of room for an alcoholic drummer in the rock 'n' roll industry, but there's not necessarily room for an alcoholic drummer who's a father and a husband," Sonefeld said. "And that's where the rub came; that's where I truly became aware that my foundation in Jesus was severely lacking."
Family and friends attempted numerous interventions, but it wasn't until 2004 that Sonefeld willingly entered a 12-step program as a last-ditch effort to find some peace of mind in his life.
"After entering the program, I looked back on my relationship with God because in Alcoholics Anonymous, it's a spiritual program," shared Sonefeld of the turning point. "I was unaware that's what I was entering. I just thought I'd go hang out with some people who could show me how to drink better, more controllably. I didn't know anything about AA."
AA proved to be the stimulus Sonefeld needed to change his priorities and his perspective. "That was the new beginning I was offered, and believe me, from my perspective, it wasn't my second chance; it was my 35th chance of living again," he said. "It wasn't a white light moment; it wasn't a flash that just hit me and, boom, I was saved. It was the beginning of a long, slow path of self-discovery and giving myself to something bigger."
Alcoholics Anonymous became the catalyst that ignited Sonefeld's relationship with Christ. Although he grew up Catholic, he strayed from his faith during college, and with the rocketing success of Hootie and the Blowfish, there wasn't much room left for God.
"I couldn't imagine a life without drugs and alcohol," Sonefeld said. "It was so scary to imagine that kind of life that I just kept going. I was afraid I would be boring, that I would be dull, that I would lose my sense of humor, that no one would want to hang around me. Those were very realistic fears coming from somebody who drank every day for probably 10 years straight."
As sobriety became a reality, the truth became clear. Alcohol wasn't his only problem. Sonefeld had a lot of self-professed "idols" he needed to get rid of. And, worse, his marriage was beyond repair.
"You can drink for a long time, and you always have the alcohol to blame. It helps numb the pain. When you take that away as an alcoholic, it's very painful because you now have only yourself to blame," said Sonefeld. "You have to learn how to feel things all over again… That's really where God started working on me, and I understood He had some other purpose for me than just riding around in a tour bus."
After remarrying, Sonefeld's wife—a strong Christian—encouraged him to sing about the faith that pulled him out of his darkest hour. Having always been in the background as a drummer, Sonefeld was hesitant to step up to the microphone. However, he sat down at his piano, opened his Bible, and began to write. The songs poured out for the better part of a year.
He took six of the songs and created an EP called Found, an appropriate title considering his life's new direction. The songs on Found are a vivid reflection of Sonefeld's story. Songs like "I Decree" are bold statements of faith, while others, like debut single "The Shadow of Your Wings," are taken directly from Scripture. CLICK HERE for more info on Found.
"I can't imagine living anywhere else but in the shelter of His wings," said Sonefeld in reference to the song. "I surrender to Him every [morning] that He would shelter me.
"Morning, in particular, has taken on a new meaning in sobriety," he continued. "It was something that was a painful scenario at best—waking up every morning either hung-over or just bleary-eyed. So morning has become something way more beautiful to me in my sober life… The sunrise [comes] up, and that's His offering every day if I choose it."
Although fully committed to using his gift of music to share Christ, it's still an adjustment from his former life. "After you're a drummer for 20 years, you don't picture yourself as a lead singer necessarily, and that has been a struggle for me. I'm trying to get more comfortable with that," he shared.
As to what the future holds on this new career path, Sonefeld is leaving it all up to the One who sketches the blueprints. "I hope I'm courageous enough to accept God's plan for me," he said. "I hope I have the wisdom to accept what He gives me."
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