Sex, sobriety and rock ‘n’ roll — St. Louis artists find success in recovery
For most people, showing up to work drunk or high could get you fired. Many industries require drug testing. But it’s long understood that rock stars work under a much different set of rules in a culture where showing up to work drunk or high has been normalized.
Rapper and writer Daemon Murray and John Covelli, trombonist and Hard Bop Messengers bandleader, succumbed to that industry norm for many years, and they enjoyed modest success along the way. But the two St. Louis musicians eventually faced a reckoning with substance abuse that led them to choose a different lifestyle. Covelli has been in recovery since 2013, Murray since 2020.
“I don’t do any of it,” Murray explained. “Nicotine, weed, alcohol … it all counts.”
After hitting rock bottom — or as he said, “living rock bottom” — Murray realized the control substances had on him and how it could eventually end his life. He credits his family for being the grounding force in his recovery and his therapist for professional support. Physical fitness also became a priority for him. And today, his music career is stronger than ever. The success of his 2022 song “Turn the World Around," the first song he wrote while sober, proved his creativity in music making could thrive without the use of substances.
You go from heathen to boss quick but slow upTo forever last like a heavy bagI be chilling while you killing for the feeling I already haveYa been a pretender ya image is dimmingSo listenYa glow up is the best weapon to blow upAnd my everything better than yoursLike a petty king ready for warpathBut so whatTurn The World Around, Daemon (2022)
The song is featured in the open world racing game Forza Horizons 5. Murray also just released his new single, “Make It Make Sense.”
It took a mid-set blackout in 2013 for Covelli to reconsider his substance abuse. The fallout that night rang his alarm bells loud and clear. “I never want to have that panic again,” he recalled.
Ten years later, he is happy to see that drugs and alcohol are not required ingredients of his creative output. “Drugs and alcohol did not help me play music any better — and surely did not inspire me to be creative as a composer at all,” he said.
Today, both Covelli and Murray talk openly about their sobriety with friends and family. To Murray, the subject isn’t draining at all. ”I kinda like it,” he said. Covelli feels the same way. “When I speak from the heart, it’s the only time in my life I know what I’m talking about,” he said. “And every time I do, I learn a little bit more about what’s in there.”
Covelli and Murray joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss their path to sobriety — and how it influences their creativity and process as musicians. Hear the full conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.
Daemon’s new single “Make It Make Sense” is streaming on all platforms. You can see him perform with Styles P on March 11 at Red Flag.
John Covelli and his band Hard Bop Messengers will play at https://bluestrawberrystl.com/show/detail/1067.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.