After a two and a half years hiatus, there’s a hell of a lot to be excited about if you’re a Turnpike fan.
The whole band recently sat down with Rolling Stone to talk about their comeback, what’s up next for the band, as well as detailing some of what they’ve been up to for the past couple years since they haven’t been making music or out on the road touring together.
But, to be so excited for their triumphant return, you have to understand what caused the hiatus in the first place.
Back in 2019, after videos of frontman Evan Felker drunkenly stumbling around on stage became more and more common, as well as several canceled appearances, they decided it was time to take a step back.
And, unfortunately, this problem is all too common in an industry that often celebrates alcohol and downplays some of the seriousness and struggles that many artists have with it.
But, Evan is now happily remarried to his wife, Staci, and they have a beautiful little girl, Evangelina Hartford Felker. And, he’s been able tour pour himself into things, like spending time with family, that he never really had much time for before with such a grueling touring schedule.
That alone has been a huge part of his recovery process:
“I have not been traveling. I stayed in one spot for about the past three years. I head back up to Oklahoma to visit my family, and then I go back.
I really did the opposite of the rest of these guys. I focused so much on my art and my creativity for so long that I let everything else slide.”
He’s been spending almost all of his time at a ranch in Texas, learning more about how to be cowboy and focusing on things other than music:
“There were a lot of things, when I was stuck in a room in a rehab facility, that I thought I really am going to put some time into. I wanted to be a decent carpenter, or just pie-in-the-sky things like training cattle horses and stuff.
Now, I’m really able to do all that! I’ve learned more than ever, this cowboying stuff has changed my life drastically.”
And, as a new parent who isn’t out on the road every week, he’s been able to soak up every single day with his little girl and really be present as a dad and husband. I’m sure that in and of itself has made every single bit of battling his inner demons and struggle for sobriety worth it:
“Being a parent so far for me, especially since I’m in one spot all the time in the past year… I’ve probably been away from my daughter maybe 10 or 12 nights of her entire life… is easy to do, if you’re around.
It would be trickier if I was gone a lot more. That said, Staci still has to take up all the slack. But most of what I do is around the house. I spend my time within a mile of home every day, so I always feel like I’m close.”
But, I think the most important part of all of this is the example that Evan is now able to set for countless other artists in the industry.
I mean, country music and alcohol pretty much go hand in hand, which is fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
Often times, though, it can make artists who truly struggle with alcohol feel like they have to drink on stage or be something that they aren’t. Or, in cases like Evan’s, they keep drinking to the point that they become a person they can’t continue to be anymore and have long term success in their career or personal life.
Thankfully, he realized that and was able to reach out for help, saying:
“I found sobriety and recovery, and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
I’m coming up on two years, completely sober and out of recovery. And a few days after that will be my daughter’s first birthday, so it’s all a big one.
I’ve learned so much about how my life was not well-rounded. I mean I knew that. I knew that it was just one thing. It started out just being music, and then eventually it was just drinking, and that was it for me.”
With Evan shining a bright spotlight on his own personal struggle, I think it’s going to be a very positive thing within the industry for artists and fans alike:
“For 10 years, I was in a bar every night. If you expose yourself to that long enough, you’re going to wind up needing some help. I know I did. I don’t miss it. I don’t miss that.
I miss playing music, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t miss being drunk and telling the same stories over and over again, not at all.”
I have a feeling this version of Evan Felker and the Turnpike Troubadours might just be the best one yet:
“Now, I feel like myself, and I’m proud of what I’m capable of doing. It’s a nice feeling, it truly is.”
The band is finally back together, happier and healthier, than ever.
As a fan of country music, I don’t think you can ask for anything more than that.