Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NKY Music Scene: John Aulabaugh...a man on a mission


Drugs and Rock-n-Roll have gone hand in hand over the years but John Aulabaugh has found a different approach to combining the two.

Philanthropist, father, musician. John Aulabaugh is a man on a mission. Combining his passion for music with his work with substance abuse and recovery, John is about to embark on a tour in support of his debut album. Of Sins Present and Past will bring his message to the masses. The tour kicks off on April 18th at the Madison Theater in Covington. The CD release and concert, sponsored by NKY Hates Heroin, will help raise funds for Transitions Inc., which provides treatment for those with substance abuse.

"I was introduced to Transitions by a friend who had done some design work for them," said Aulabaugh.  "He was telling me about the widespread problem with heroin in Cincy and I had no idea.  I have had many friends in my life battle with addiction, so subjects for songs weren't in short supply.  I wrote 'Road Less Traveled' as a message of hope for a friend in recovery and that song got Jessy Greene and Rami Jaffee (from Foo Fighters) involved in the project.  Writing a themed album like this, I wanted to send a message of hope and at the same time raise awareness (and funds) to help in a little way."

For his debut album, Aulabaugh drew inspiration from his experiences and created a wonderful collection of songs. He did not go at this alone. The album was produced by Jaffee, who has also worked with Everclear and Pete Yorn. Jaffee, currently on tour with the Foo Fighters, is also the keyboardist for The Wallflowers.

Aulabaugh's life has been filled with music. His mother is a former opera singer and his father taught music and literature at Eastern Illinois University. With a guitar handed down by his brothers, he learned to play the songs that he grew up listening to.

"I'm a child of the 60's, yeah, I know," he said. I grew up on Jimmy Hendrix, Credence Clearwater, Humble Pie and the Doors.  I played a lot of Zeppelin and Stones in college and usually played five nights a week, putting myself through school playing punk and new-wave music."

Alabaugh felt the desire to contribute to life and recovery with his gift and love for music.

"I've been a responsible corporate type since the late 80's and concentrated on building a great living for my family and raising my twin boys who are both off to college now.  Losing both of my brothers to cancer when I was young kinda messed with me and I think the void it created never really started to get filled until I started playing music again."

Aulabaugh became an advisory board member of a non-profit organization, called Musicians On Call, which helps bring music to patients.

"When I started playing guitar again, I looked for every opportunity to play for people who would connect," he said.  "I volunteered regularly with Musicians On Call. I would go to Walter Reed Medical Center and Children's Hospital and play for really sick patients a couple times a month.  I mostly played for people who were getting chemotherapy.  I could tell that when I played for a patient, the music helped take their mind off the fact that they had little control over their situation.  Working with and playing for people with cancer helped me revisit feelings I had suppressed and helped me heal as well.  Now, I play for families of loved ones in recovery and many times, for surviving parents of kids who have died of their addiction.  It tears me up and sometimes leaves me nearly catatonic after hearing all of the stories and feeling all of the pain, but that all gives me strength to continue the fight to kick heroin's ass."

As for Aulabaugh's advise to addicts...

"My advice is to narrow focus, put one foot in front of the other and don't fall," he said.  "Recovery is the hardest thing anyone can do in life.  There's really no measure of recovery except the success of elapsed time.  Milestones of a day, week, month, year or decade sober are all incredible accomplishments but when you're in the thick of things, it's tough to keep that goal of a clean life in mind.  Know that nobody wants to see you fail at recovery.  Everyone...even complete strangers like me, want to see you succeed and I'll be the first one to pat you on the back and say 'great job! I'm glad you're alive.'"


Aulabaugh's special guest at the Madison Theater will be The Cold Stares whose singer, Chris Tapp, has come back from a year long battle with cancer. There will be informational booths sponsored by Transitions Inc. and NKY Hates Heroin at the event. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Visit the Madison Theaters website for details or to purchase tickets.

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