When Sister Hazel’s Drew Copeland brought the band a powerful song he’d just written about addiction, lead vocalist Ken Block knew just what he had to do. “My job was not to screw it up,” he says with a laugh.
Instead, Block gave one of the most poignant vocal performances of his career, and with good reason. That song, “You Won’t See Me Again,” hit home for the singer, who has been clean and sober for 15 years.
He entered rehab after the band staged an intervention alongside his family and closest friends. “If you get intervened by a rock band, you’ve got some problems,” Block now jokes of that very difficult time in his life.
Copeland, who wrote the song with Nashville writer Neil Carpenter, was motivated by the alcohol-related death of a family member. The moving music video, which Billboard is premiering, tells the story of a once happy young couple driven apart by the man’s drinking. The band teamed up with the national nonprofit Shatterproof, which works to reduce the stigma and secrecy associated with addiction and help those struggling with the disease. The charity’s website is tagged at the end of the clip.
“Collectively we’ve certainly all dealt with people in our lives with addiction or alcoholism,” says Block. “Drew had just lost his brother-in-law to alcoholism. He just literally drank himself to death. It was horrible to watch, and when he sat down to write it, it came from a real, honest place, and spoke so loudly to me.” Coincidentally, Block had also lost his own brother-in-law to addiction last year, an experience that, he says, “just rips the air out of your lungs.”
Block understands “how much collateral damage there is when someone is in the throes of addiction.” But he also is familiar with the ways it is misunderstood. “A lot of times people react to alcoholism or addiction as [if addicts] are weak, or it’s just a matter of willpower,” he says. “But it’s a disease, a chronic, progressive disease. Unless you reach out and get help, it only ends in a couple of ways, and that’s institutions, jail or death.”
Describing his own addictions, Block says, “Drugs and alcohol have been a part of my life since I was a teenager. One of the things that has really gotten a lot of attention today is opioids, and that was a big part of my story through that time. I was an equal opportunity user. I delved into a lot of different things, but painkillers were a big part of that story. And let me tell you, they get their claws into you and it’s not an easy thing to step away from. But it certainly is possible.”
He recalls going to rehab “kicking and screaming,” but says having a two-year-old son at the time, and another child on the way, “There was also a big part of me that really wanted to get clean and sober, [so] I really dove into recovery. I strapped on my seatbelt and did what they told me. I let other people that had success with sobriety and recovery and trauma help me navigate. It’s the best thing I ever did.
“People look at recovery or giving up drugs or alcohol or going into treatment as a punishment,” adds Block. “It’s not. It’s really a gift. If you go in there looking it as an opportunity where you literally get plucked out of your life, and all you need to do is focus on yourself, your stuff and your sobriety, it’s like college for life.”
For the music video, Block says the band wanted to show “how things just fall apart as something like alcohol or drugs sneak into your lives and rip it apart.” The clip was directed by Ed Pryor of Hideout Pictures, with Sister Hazel bassist Jett Beres acting as creative consultant.
While both the song — which appears on the group’s recently released EP, Water — and the video tackle a sad, weighty topic, they still strike a hopeful tone at the end as the lyrics — and the storyline — take an encouraging twist. “It’s nice to be able to get through something heavy, but then dust it with a little bit of optimism,” says Block of that creative decision.
The video shows other men moving the lead character’s belongings out of a rehab facility, where his wife is waiting to take him back. Those characters reminded Block of real people in his life. “That’s one of the things about the recovery community,” he says. “These beat-up, ragged people that have been to hell and back come together and miracles happen. Your life can turn around, and people that love you will be there for you.”
The song’s takeaway message about addiction, Block adds, is that, “There’s a way to walk out of that with dignity, with hope and with a joyful future.”