BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
MB Padfield is a singer-songwriter from New Hampshire with a passion for rhinestones and every type of music imaginable. Her music is a mixture of grunge, R&B, hip-hop, pop, funk, and blues. MB Padfield is known for adding her own unique sparkle to covers of popular songs. She covers songs from an array of different artist such as Eminem, Fetty Wap, T.I., Nick Jonas, Beyonce, Rhianna, Drake, Queen, Amy Winehouse, Dr. Dre, Dropkick Murphys, Awolnation, Imagine Draons, Hall & Oates, Katy Perry, Led Zeppelin, Daft Punk, and Ingrid Michaelson, and creates one-of-a-kind medleys.
Her covers become much more than just a copy of a song, but a masterpiece of her own once she adds her magic touch. She often jokes about bedazzling everything, and this is true both in terms of her physical and musical endeavors.
Padfield’s got swag and soul, her voice has a slight twang, and her songs are edgy and funky. She’s got a gypsy heart — can’t stay in one genre for too long, even when it comes to her own songs. Along with her covers, Padfield also performs her exceptional, sassy, originals songs such as “Why Do I Love”. Due to the lyrics, she has to introduce the song with the disclaimer that she never harmed an animal. Why’s that? Check out the lyrics:
“I want to light your cat on fire
And I don’t care what your mom thinks about me either
’Cause I’m just a nut and
You know that you’re screwed and
You know that this relationship is completely doomed so
Why the hell do I love you?
You’re completely insane but I guess that I find that sexy
But I can’t complain because rehab is where you met me.”
Padfield is a one woman band. She doesn’t need help from anyone else; besides maybe her loop pedal so, like a magician, she can be in two places at once. She often uses a loop pedal to give her vocals and guitar a full band feeling, and to give herself the freedom to explore more complex guitar parts.
Even off stage, Padfield is independent and self-sufficient. She has basically no management, but has managed to make herself a full-time touring artist. Along with her stellar, unique vocals, Padfield is an excellent guitarist both when she is playing lead, or when she is playing the bass line over her own loop. Padfield is bad-ass and pure, all wrapped up into a true rockstar — with a matte black Harley 1200 Nightster and all.
Padfield is everything you would expect from a rock star. Yet unfortunately, even some of the negative stereotypes to the rock star life have come true for her too. Throughout Padfield’s entire life, she has dealt with emotional issues such as depression and anxiety due to childhood trauma such as bullying. At the age of 16, she picked up her first drink, and found alcohol to be the perfect bandage to cover up a troubled past. Only one year into drinking, she realized she had a problem far bigger than the alcohol consumption she saw from her peers.
“I knew I was an alcoholic by age 17. I identified the things that I felt with someone who told me they were an alcoholic,” she said. “The loneliness, self-destruction, self-medication, self-loathing. I was also a habitual drunk driver to the point it was a hobby but I was never caught or hurt anyone. I’ve never been arrested nor had any legal ramifications to my actions. That was a barrier to me identifying myself as an alcoholic.”
It took Padfield awhile to realize that she wasn’t drinking in a normal or healthy way. She thought everyone her age abused alcohol in the ways she did.
“I just thought I was young and that is how everyone drank,” she said. “The reality is that my personality drastically changed and I blacked out because I couldn’t stop once I started. Normal drinkers don’t black out.”
Padfield has a very addictive personality, which is why she finds herself lucky that she never got into any drugs besides alcohol. She said ironically, that she was always too drunk to go out looking for drugs.
“I’ve only smoked weed once and I didn’t even get high. I was extremely lucky,” she admitted. “My personality gets addicted to everything. I also drank in seclusion. I didn’t like people seeing me drunk because I knew what I became. I think that almost prevented me from networking for drug connections. I would actively drug seek but ironically I was too drunk to get out my door.”
Padfield has a positive way at looking at her situation. “Alcoholism isn’t a death sentence, I see it as a life sentence. As crazy as it sounds, I am so thankful and grateful that I have the disease of alcoholism because today I have a solution for the real problem– which is me.”
Padfield has grown stronger through her struggle with alcohol. She has successfully been sober since March 17, 2014. Although she has overcome her alcoholism, most importantly, she has also resolved her underlying issues.
“I had childhood trauma and I believe that I have a genetic competent as well,” she said. “My whole life I lived with anxiety, depression, nonverbal learning disorder, and complex PTSD.”
Once Padfield stripped away the bandage, alcohol, she still needed to fix the real problem.
“I was sober for an entire year by just not drinking and I was miserable. The anxiety, depression, and irritability came back ten-fold. Alcohol was my solution; the problems were still there and now sober without a solution. I felt trapped, I became suicidal. What I had was untreated alcoholism. It wasn’t until I found a twelve step program is when I finally found relief.”
Today, Padfield finds herself in a better place than she has ever been, but she still struggles. Diseases such as anxiety and depression don’t ever go away, but Padfield has found ways to cope without needing alcohol.
“I will always be an alcoholic. That is to say that I’ll never be able to drink safely. However, I don’t suffer from my disease,” said Padfield. “Some days are easier than others, especially when musicians face more rejection, scrutiny, and self-doubt than most. The fact that I don’t have to wake up and drink every day is a miracle, but I still dealt with the hard wired emotions long before I picked up my first drink. Today I have a solution for that too. The way I immediately experience the world probably won’t change but I don’t have to suffer because of it.”
Struggling with alcoholism and underlying emotional issues is hard enough without being a musician. Yet, surprisingly, Padfield says that performing at bars, or shows where alcohol is served, hasn’t been too much of a problem for her.
“Every once in a long while I might get a ‘bright idea’ that somehow this time drinking would work out better. That’s when I have to utilize my recovery network that I’ve built. I call my sponsor or another person who has gone through this experience. I have learned to be aware of myself,” she said.
Padfield has found ways around alcohol, without totally excluding herself from parties.
“I got sober at age 18, did 21 shots of Red Bull for my 21st birthday. There are LOTS of young people getting sober, they even have twelve steps specifically for us,” she said. “For me, sobriety is freedom from alcohol. Recovery is freedom from all the things that made my use in the first place. Sobriety means nothing to me without recovery.”
Padfield is now comfortable in her own skin, yet she is faced with many challenges due to her career. She explains her stage as “a double edged sword”. Padfield believes that many people expect musicians to use drugs to enhance their creativity. She expressed how grateful she is to have learned how untrue this really is.
“I think there were a lot of lies that I told myself I had to be as musician, in terms of my sobriety,” said Padfield. “The biggest being that I had to be some big irreparable tortured soul in order to write and produce the music I do. I justified my use as lots of musicians drank and used drugs to enhance their creativity. For me, it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I didn’t write or release anything for four years because of it.”
Padfield has also struggled with the social aspect of being a musician, such as trying to network and navigate herself through the complicated social world that is the music industry. She no longer feels the need to be Keith Richards or Lil’ Wayne, and sees that drugs lead to destruction not success.
“I also thought that being an experienced partier was a job requirement for networking in the music industry,” she said. “I’m not chained to church basements and staying home on the weekends for the rest of my life. I go out to venues and bars to see my friends play or to network and I do it sober. It’s much more effective when I’m not being a drunken asshole.”
Padfield recalls a moment when she first learned this lesson. “I remember one time I somehow managed to get backstage with one of my favorite guitar playing idols and his crew. They wanted me to drink with them and that stung immediately but then I played the situation though. I would much rather tell him I had a great time at the show and I respect what he does than getting shitfaced and trying to act cool. Trust me. It seemed like a big deal in my head to turn down alcohol at the time but the truth is the person who offered: A. doesn’t care, B. won’t think twice about you saying no, [and] C. would much rather prefer to remember you as that chill musician than the sloppy crazy chick.”
This story shows Padfield’s introspective intelligence, and also her strength as a woman. Many women feel the need to impress men by drinking with them, and by drinking more than them. If Padfield can turn down a drink from a rockstar, you can turn down a drink from anybody.
Padfield wants to show the world that both women and men can be great musicians without destroying themselves. Padfield highlights the many other sober musicians and actors who have achieved success, including “Eminem, Sia, Lana Del Rey, Clapton, SRV, Joe Walsh, Elton John, Trent Reznor (of NIN), Bradley Cooper, Robert Downey Jr, Leona Lewis, Bowie, Anthony Kiedis of RHCP, Christina Perri, Slash, Nikki Sixx, Macklemore, Calvin Harris, Ozzy, James Hetfield, [and] Keith Urban.”
Padfield has learned that drugs do not lead to creativity. There may be a connection between the two. This connection is a genetic component called DRD4. Padfield says that many, “Musicians and other artistic types are theorized to have a genetic component called DRD4. It supposedly links behavioral disorders, mental health issues, and addictions to creativity and artistry. [….] They estimate 1/10 have that genetic marker. That’s a lot of people.”
Padfield uses her unique position as an artist to both help understand addiction, and help people who are struggling with addiction. Padfield doesn’t see herself as a role model, and takes “absolutely no credit for helping others get sober”. With this being said, she has been part of many people’s journey to recovery, and they have in turn, been part of hers. Padfield doesn’t wish to praise herself or be praised. She views herself and her friends as a supportive community who is working together to feel better and live better lives.
“I’m just an alcoholic who was introduced to a solution by someone who did the same for them. I’m just grateful to be a part of their journey and to have them in mine. We’re all in the same boat,” she said.
Padfield is close with many fellow addicts such as the late Cody Sanborn, “I lost my original bass player, Cody Sanborn a little over eight months ago to heroin and suicide. His death put the ax to the grinder to get active and open in recovery for me. His mom actually has a foundation in his honor (The CHOOSE Foundation) that helps provide financial scholarships to those looking for treatment.”
Padfield speaks of her own, unique path to recovering, “I needed more than just twelve step meetings to get sober. I went to professional counseling, I take medication that helps balance the chemicals in my brain. I also have to work out and eat right, which I’ve recently been slacking on…I love pasta. Oh well.”
Padfield is still working to keep her life moving in a positive direction, but no matter what she says, she is a great role model for people who are in a similar situation. Recovery is a personal experience, but also a group struggle. Padfield has a message to those who are still struggling with addiction.
“First off, you’re not alone. Even though that’s what the disease of addiction tells you,” she said. “Second, find me on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or e-mail, whatever and let’s talk. I always have time to talk recovery. Ask me anything, I’m an open book.”
Padfield is a genuine person with a big heart. She isn’t perfect, but has grown in leaps and bounds since her 16 year old self picked up her first glass of alcohol. She may not have all the answers just yet, but even her story is bound to help others in similar situations.