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A New Riff on Rehab and Record Labels

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by Jack Duszynski

Justin Daniels’ first stint in rehab was far from what he needed. He was isolated from his wife and children, limited to one visit per week, not allowed to see them privately, not allowed to show them his room. They felt unable to deal with issues as they came up; as opposed to addressing his problems, his time there seemed to compound them.

Eventually he found other, better-suited programs, and he was able to get sober. What’s more, some good came of his struggle: It was through these experiences, Daniels says, that he developed the idea for what is now Clarity Way, his own treatment center in south-central Pennsylvania.

A Fresh Start

With a maximum of 17 rehab, and six drug and alcohol detox clients at a time, Clarity Way’s patient to amenity ratio is huge. The facility is brimming with amenities and therapy options, from medical care, to equine therapy, to life coaching, to a state-of-the-art music studio designed by Daniels’ brother-in-law Christopher Thorn, founding member of the band Blind Melon.

“The music studio was there from day one,” says Daniels. “That came about because my brother-in-law knew someone who went through a program who had to use a closet to play his guitar.”

That someone was Blind Melon front man Travis T. Warren, and Daniels isn’t exaggerating.

When Warren brought his guitar to treatment he says the staff was nice enough to let him work on his music, but space was tight. “I had three roommates with me, and this was a very small room. The only place I had to work on music was actually in a closet.” He chuckles, “The neck of my guitar would hang out the door.”

It’s those conditions that Daniels seeks to abolish with Clarity Way and his philosophy is simple: As opposed to treating as many patients as possible, treat each patient as much as possible.

“We’re not interested in having 100 beds or 200 beds,” Daniels says. “We’re interested in quality care and being able to meet each person where they are, not where we are.”

Or, as Clarity Way communications director John Chuter puts it, “They feel like being better is better than being bigger.”

A New Riff on Rehab

In some ways, it seems odd that a drug and alcohol treatment facility—even one with a top-notch music studio—would get into the music business. However, Clarity Way has always had close ties to the record industry. Not only is Christopher Thorn a part of the family, but Chuter’s own experience before becoming communications director for Clarity Way includes a 20-year career in the music industry in the UK.

So when they decided to develop their own music label, Clarity Way Records, they already had a solid start and an idea for their first artist: Travis T. Warren.

When they originally pitched the idea to Warren, Chuter says, “He was thinking ‘Am I going to have to make this record about being in recovery?’” But they told him no, it was his record and his story to tell however he wanted. Warren signed on and his album, Beneath These Borrowed Skies, was officially released on September 25, 2012.

But Daniels isn’t looking for a career change by delving into music. Instead, he wants the label to carry on the mission that makes Clarity Way the facility he built it to be.

“[The label is for] people who are in recovery that need to be in a record label that is safe and secure and is not all about punching out albums and going out on tour,” he says.

There’s no need to go into how fraught with drugs and alcohol the music industry can be. One need only look to phrases like “sex, drugs, and rock & roll,” or “live fast, die young,” or the countless examples of those who took these words to heart, like Janis Joplin, Jimmi Hendrix—even original Blind Melon frontman, Shannon Hoon.

To Warren, who considers Hoon a musical influence, taking drugs just seemed like part of the rock and roll lifestyle. “I just thought that’s how you do it, if you’re a musician.”

In some ways, Warren was lucky to get hooked up with Blind Melon. Having lost Hoon to a drug overdose in 1995, the band was prepared to deal with those issues. “I’ve never been in a band like that,” Warren says. “Every band I’d been in before, we’d all use. I never was in a situation like Blind Melon, where we went out on the road and it was an alcohol-free tour.”

Still, though they had experience with drug abuse and its consequences, the band wasn’t trained to handle someone who was in the middle of recovery. Mistakes were made. “In retrospect, they apologized to me,” says Warren. “They wished that they would have given me a little more time.”

He’s talking about the first tour he went on with the band, which he left for immediately after his three-month treatment program. “Looking back I should have done sober living at least a month, because that’s the hardest part,” he says.

Clarity Way Records is well-versed in those pitfalls, and prepared to handle those artists, says Daniels. “I envision in the future other artists who are mainstream right now who could possibly have an issue and get dropped from their label. We could be a label for them with their best interest in mind.”

And beyond talent management, Clarity Way exists to promote the message that rock and roll does not need drugs. Musicians need to tell that story as part of their recovery, and that message needs to exist for those who are struggling, musician or not.

For now, says Daniels, their approach is to take things slowly, to let things happen, rather than make them happen.

Chuter agrees.  Furthermore, he says that way of operating is possible now with digital media. “You can really build slowly and surely now,” he says, contrasting that against what he calls the “bad old days” of the record industry.

There will be more artists. Travis T. Warren will go on tour. But, Daniels says, “This is a new process for us, and with anything that’s new, things grow.”

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