Singer-Songwriter Alejandro Escovedo Helps Musicians Struggling With Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Texas singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo has been thrilling live audiences for decades with his music.
This past week Escovedo along with Lucinda Williams and the band Wilco were announced to be the 2021 inductees into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame.
Aside from being a performer, Escovedo is also the co-founder of the SIMS Foundation — a service that provides help to Austin area musicians with substance abuse and mental health issues. As many musicians transition back to being on the road after the pandemic, SIMS is launching the Founders Challenge to raise money to support health services nationwide.
“It provides mental health care for basically nothing to very, very small amounts of money,” Escovedo says. “By reaching out to providers that come, therapists that come and help us out, we’ve been able to help a lot of people.”
Musicians struggled during the pandemic with little to no live shows, tours and opportunities to sell merchandise — a vital source of income for many. The pandemic isolation and lack of livelihood can make more people — especially those dealing with mental health issues or substance abuse — susceptible to needing help.
“For some of us I think the pause was kind of necessary, we’ve been working so hard,” Escovedo says. “But for some of us also, I think that some of those old habits started to creep back and without a way of seeking support.”
When Escovedo’s tour was canceled in March 2020, he says it left a massive hole in his life and his music. Many times throughout the pandemic, he went through dark periods that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to overcome.
“There’s been days where I might connect with an old friend but it’s been very rare,” he says, “ I lost many dear friends.”
When country-folk singer-songwriter John Prine passed, Escovedo says the loss completely destroyed him. Processing Prine’s death was difficult for Escovedo to work through. The two had made plans to play together and then Prine was just gone, Escovedo says.
As Escovedo prepares to go head back on tour he is feeling a mix of emotions: eagerness, nerves, apprehension. He says performing for him is a sweaty contact sport and with all the safety health guidelines in place — wearing masks, being socially distanced, sanitizing venues — it is going to be different being back on stage.
“I won’t be able to come out and greet people. I don’t know who is a performer, who loves the audience. I really love playing with the audience,” Escovedo says. “Being distanced in the future, it’s very, very strange.”
Escovedo, who has performed at a vast array of venues with many musicians for more than 45 years, will leave a legacy behind. He says he hopes people will remember him as a songwriter who communicated with people and helped enrich their lives with his music.
“I love the music community. I love musicians,” he says. “I was born in a family of musicians, it’s been part of my life since the day I was born so it’s just what I do.”
Emiko Tamagawa produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Chris Bentley. Camila Beiner adapted this interview for the web.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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