News - The Clinic: GU Music Alumni Offer Hope To Exhausted “Roadies”
The Clinic: GU Music Alumni Offer Hope To Exhausted “Roadies”by Rachel Heston-Davis
Paul ’01 and Courtney (Somerville ’03) Klimson have lived the life many music industry studies majors dream of.
This determined power couple carved a niche for themselves in the music industry during the mid-2000s. Audio engineer Paul has worked for artists like Drake, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, and The Roots. Production manager Courtney has managed prestigious music events, built an installation division at pro-audio corporation Masque Sound, and, together with Paul, founded Theory One Productions offering production and technical services to musical artists.
Despite the apparent glamor of the music life, there is a dark side, say Paul and Courtney—a dark side that drove them to launch an innovative nonprofit doing a new kind of work in the industry.
Soon after starting their professional careers, Paul and Courtney realized that the industry’s relentless pace and the freelance nature of their work exhausted musicians, techs, and touring “roadies.” Often they succumbed to family tensions and financial instability. Roadies who tour constantly simply don’t have time to learn about or engage in things like finances, self-care, and marriage communication.
Paul recalls maturing while working nonstop on shows. “It’s hard to learn to be an adult when you’re on the road, where you don’t have to be an adult if you don’t want to,” he says. This often means pushing problems to the back burner until they explode.
The Klimsons weathered these challenges in their marriage, including mental health diagnoses and tour stretches that took a toll on home life. They eventually sought help and built boundaries to protect their family—but they watched friends and coworkers lose spouses, health, and mental well-being.
They determined to do something about it.
The Klimsons envisioned a retreat space dedicated to meeting the unique needs of roadies. If roadies faced exhaustion, the space would offer rest. If they faced isolation, they’d find community. If they faced mental illness, they could access therapy. Also, families in crisis might stay at the retreat center together and engage in marriage and family counseling.
The Klimsons bought a large downtown storefront building in Niles, Michigan—a peaceful location near many U.S. travel routes—and began renovating the space. “The Clinic” was born.
The Clinic’s mission statement says, “We exist to empower and heal roadies and their families by providing resources and services tailored to the struggles of the touring lifestyle.”
Triage For Roadies
The Clinic will be equipped to help those who show up in crisis.
It will offer quiet lodgings to catch up on sleep and cook healthy food for those facing exhaustion. It also will offer a community of people who understand the industry’s challenges, including trained therapists ready to listen. Families in crisis can access marriage counseling. Roadies can even invite their spouses and children to join them at The Clinic.
The Clinic will seek funding to provide one to three sessions of therapy cost-free to guests. All therapists on staff will understand the complexities of the music industry and the unique mental health challenges roadies face.
Therapists affiliated with The Clinic will specialize in:
- Clinical mental health issues
- Marriage and family
- Grief care
Therapists will provide care both on-site in Niles and in locations throughout the United States.
The Klimsons anticipate that family therapy and reconnection will be key to helping many of their guests enjoy a better quality of life.
When a roadie travels frequently, family problems often follow. Many music industry professionals describe the lifestyle as conducive to disconnect from loved ones.
“We had every excuse not to engage with what was going on at home. Bad [cell phone] service, ran out of time, too many fires to put out, etc.,” said one tour manager the Klimsons spoke to during their research for The Clinic.
One audio engineer described the pain of feeling cut off from home: “There’s a life rolling along without us. Embracing that can be too painful. Looking away and working is easier.”
The Klimsons know that struggle all too well. They believe that offering a physical space for families to come together will promote the healing process. They hope they can save marriages and parent/child relationships.
Give A Fish vs. Teach To Fish
To truly succeed, The Clinic must not only respond to roadies in crisis. It must give them the tools to stay healthy after they leave.
The old adage “knowledge is power” applies here, say the Klimsons. Access to informational resources may mean the difference between a roadie building a healthier life moving forward, or continuing to cycle in and out of crises.
The Clinic will therefore offer how-to resources on:
- Managing money, specifically as a freelance worker.
- Staying sober on the road.
- Caring for your own health and physical needs through nutrition and relaxation.
- Communicating with spouses and loved ones long-distance.
The Klimsons plan to assemble writings from successfully sober roadies, a possible roadie AA sponsorship program, tools to practice meditation and yoga on cramped buses between stressful shows, resources for accessing healthy food on the go, and more.
Paul and Courtney hope that the more people they work with, the more research they can accumulate on how best to support roadies—knowledge currently lacking within the industry. They hope those who utilize The Clinic will provide more ideas for resources.
In this way, The Clinic will be as much an advocacy group for change within the industry as it is a healing tool for roadies.
The Klimsons have board members in place in anticipation of securing nonprofit status, and are continuing renovations of the building. The Clinic will rely on government grants and on donors inside and outside of the music industry, as well as collecting potential revenue from renting the storefront portion of the building in downtown Niles.
At the end of the day, say the Klimsons, The Clinic “will always be fluid to accommodate the needs of the community with the resources available.”
Those interested in learning more can contact Courtney at [email protected].
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