Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Musician battles addiction, inspires others

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Brenda Ahearn⁄The Gazette
Musician Adam Churchwell poses on the Savage Mill Trail bridge near downtown Savage on Jan. 24. His next public performance will be Feb. 7 at the Judge’s Bench Pub in Ellicott City.
Musician Adam Churchwell’s message to his fans is that ‘‘it’s OK.”

Life, he says, is about making mistakes. ‘‘You’re going to have regrets,” said the 24-year-old Savage resident, currently at work on his second, self-recorded album. ‘‘Are you going to use those mistakes to benefit you or are you going to let them ruin you?”

Churchwell speaks from personal experience.

He is the sole member of 2-year-old inspirational rock band As It Subsides, where he plays guitar and bass, sings and does percussion on a beat machine.

‘‘There is always another door to open or road to walk as long as you keep trying,” Churchwell wrote on his Web site. ‘‘The burden of mistakes and the pain of regret will fade with each new choice you make to better you and those around you. You will find your path to happiness a little more each time, As It Subsides.”

At 16, he left school to help his mother care for his baby sister.

‘‘When you’re working full-time to pay bills, you kind of lose what it’s like to be a child,” Churchwell said.

He began smoking marijuana, then experimenting with cocaine and later diet pills.

He made an emergency visit to the hospital when he was 19, after his heart began racing upwards of 180 beats per minute. He moved back in with his mother to recuperate.

‘‘I realized then everything I had thrown away,” he said. ‘‘I realized how much I [almost] gave up.”

He used his first album as a catharsis to write and sing about his addiction and getting clean.

‘‘I chose music as the path to say what I have to say,” Churchwell said. ‘‘Music has 100 percent led me to the life I have now.”

Churchwell recorded his first album, 2006’s ‘‘So It Begins,” in his mother’s living room using home studio equipment he bought with money earned as a loan officer, a job he quit to pursue music.

He has performed at area live-music venues such as the Brass Monkey Saloon in Baltimore and The Recher Theatre in Towson. On Feb. 7, he will perform at Judge’s Bench in Ellicott City.

‘‘I think it’s a great outlet,” said his fiancée, Lisa Impey. ‘‘Other people listen to the music and they get their own feelings from it. It’s really great.”

Churchwell regularly gets messages from fans on his Web site,, congratulating him on getting clean and praising his courage in writing about the experiences in his music.

‘‘First of all I must say you have such a testimony,” wrote one Web user last spring. ‘‘Tell it where ever you can. Someone needs to know that you made it out [of drug addiction] so they can too.”

Though Churchwell is not working a day job, he is looking for one as he works on the pre-production stages of the current album, ‘‘The Comfort of Home,” which he is recording at his own home.

Churchwell said he made enough money with the sale of ‘‘So It Begins” and merchandise such as T-shirts and stickers to sustain him financially until the next album is released in April.

Eric Lambert, a longtime friend of Churchwell’s, remarked on his perseverance in the industry.

‘‘He’s a very driven person,” Lambert said. ‘‘When he couldn’t find a band around Baltimore [that fits with his ideas], he just did it himself. He has a lot of drive.”

E-mail Anath Hartmann at