THE PURSUIT OF MENTAL HEALTH, SELF LOVE AND SOBRIETY
A CONVERSATION WITH CALEB SHOMO OF BEARTOOTH
Caleb Shomo, founder and frontman of Beartooth, has a lot to feel blessed about. On the day we spoke, the weather was perfect in Los Angeles. The temperature was in the low 70’s, the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. He gets up to light a candle and brings it over to where he’s sitting and begins by saying that the weather was at the top of the list, but his love for working with other bands and producing in the LA music scene is what brought him to California from Ohio, and it’s just one of the many choices he’s happy with.
A new chapter in Shomo’s life that he’s been happy with is choosing sobriety. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to make the decision to get sober and follow through, and often it comes after hitting rock bottom. That wasn’t the case for him. He opened up about his turning point.
It was pretty much a middle of the night “it’s time” moment. He’s been a heavy drinker for a long time with some fun times and some not so fun times and says, ‘At the end of the day for me, with boozing it was just like, it just didn’t line up with what I was trying to do.’ With an upcoming tour in mind, he wanted to get in shape, get healthy and change a lot of stuff about his life. ‘I know for a lot of people it’s not that simple, and I completely get that, and not to say it hasn’t been a challenge.’ At first it was kind of bizarre, but the positives have far outweighed any negatives. “I have yet to see any negative of me stopping drinking, so yeah. I’m pretty cool with the choice.’ He didn’t waste any time, about a week later, he started writing again.
The first single from the album, “Riptide”, was the first song he wrote sober. He went to California to write, and “Sunshine” came next, then “The Surface” and then the others. Speaking fondly of the first single, he says ‘” Riptide” is definitely one of the most special songs on the record. Reason being, it was the first one and kind of like a declaration, I guess, of what I want to do moving forward with Beartooth.’ He loves all the songs on the album for different reasons, but his favorite is the closing track. ‘“I was Alive” is just very special. It’s a song that I never really thought I’d write in my lifetime and I’m very proud of it.’ Writing this album sober felt very different for him. It came in big waves. He tends to be super hyper-focused, and he was either all in or he could barely concentrate. Not drinking made it way more intense and says ‘when I would be working it was like lightning in a bottle for weeks on end, like I could just keep going. And then I’d go through droughts and kind of down periods and there was a lot of dealing with other things in my own life personally. It was about a year and a half process and a very intense one, but one that I’ll never forget. And I’m very happy with the outcome.’
The changes in Shomo can be heard and are obvious throughout the album. But he didn’t stop there. This album brought many firsts, including a first-time collaboration. Up until now, Beartooth has never had a feature on their albums. They’ve been asked over the years when and if it will happen and who might it be? ‘Beartooth is such a personal thing that I never felt that it was right or ready. And then, however many years in I realized I haven’t done one. And then it’s four records later and I’ve still not done one, so I’m like If I’m going to do it, it needs to be somebody special.’ The song would have to be something special, something that kind of pushes the record and it couldn’t be an obvious move. Then he met country music singer and songwriter HARDY. ‘And getting to know HARDY, I mean, he’s amazing. He’s an unbelievable songwriter, one of the best in Nashville. And that’s just factual. Like he has the awards to back it up.’ After spending time together and getting to know each other, Shomo finally had something for him, and he was down for it. The pair combined their talents and friendship and the album’s fifth release, “The Better Me”, came about, releasing just weeks ago.
With so many positives lately, I asked that he reflect on the very beginning of his career. He was very young when he joined the band Attack! Attack!, it’s been well over a decade since that time in his life. He was just 14 years old when he joined the band and continued through age 15. When asked what his thoughts were on how he’s grown not only as a person but a musician, he responds with ‘I like to think that I’ve grown quite a bit as a writer and more than anything Attack! Attack! was just a really good thing to show what I want to do and what I do not want to do with music and with my life.’ It was the ground floor for him and though it was a wild ride, he learned a lot from how to treat people, his band and crew and just learned about the whole music business. He laughs a little bit when he says ‘So yeah, I definitely attribute a lot to it, but I don’t know. I think I did alright. I came out the other side of it and still hanging on so we’ll see how it goes from here.’
Having just got home from a major co-headlining US tour with Trivium with their new album The Surface being released in just ten days, it’s time to relax. Shomo and Beartooth are planning to take a short break before going back to it. ‘We’ve been on the road for a very, very long time.’ He plans to take a breath, something he has not done for a while. They’re just going to hang out, then back at it again.
Wrapping our conversation up, we talked about what message he hopes listeners will take when hearing the album. ‘I think very simply, life is short, do whatever it takes for you to be happy in your own life and whatever happiness means to you.’ While happiness can mean different things to different people, to him happiness is just being in pursuit of his mental health for one and physical health and just in pursuit of things that bring him joy and happiness in this world. He continues, ‘Music and self-love, both of those things take a lot of work, but you know, I think that can relate to anybody in their life. I think we all kind of know certain things that we have either wanted to do for a long time or are curious about, whatever it may be, quitting something, starting something, and making a big change in your life, continuing on with whatever the path is.’ Life goes a lot of different ways, but he says do whatever it takes. ‘You know, when you have those moments where you look at yourself in the mirror and say you know exactly what you want to change in your life, it’s worth taking that shot. I would highly recommend it.’