When sitting down to interview a musician regarding sources of inspiration for their new record, there is usually an invisible line separating certain aspects of private life from public life in those conversations.
Not in the case of Matt Good's new record "Hospital Music." If the title wasn't a big-enough tip-off, the background bio sheet certainly brings everything out into the wide open. Written by Good, his letter brings to light a deeply personal story about mania, bipolarism and an ambulance ride with an out-of-it singer struggling through accidental overdose. "When it comes to all of it," admits Good at the top of the interview, "I'm an open book."
It was mid 2006 when Good was struggling through what he thought was depression; living at his parent's home after his marriage fell apart, his doctor - well aware of Good's emotionally fragile state - decided to increase his antidepressant medication in an attempt to help the struggling musician function through the day-to-day tasks. At the time, the singer had not yet been diagnosed as bipolar, which caused an even greater problem as he struggled to hang onto reality.
"The particular medication I was on actually brings out mania in bipolars," recalls Good. "What I did to counteract that on tour was take up to seven milligrams of Ativan [anti-anxiety medicine] a day; it became something I got addicted to." Good admits that some of the toughest times occurred during his extremely public days on the road, while touring to promote his greatest hits CD. "My marriage separation occurred several weeks before I had to go on a national acoustic tour; I was falling apart and the only way I could get through it was…well, I was onstage and for half of those shows, I don't honestly fucking remember playing them. They were good, I hear," he half chuckles. "I'd get back on the bus and I'd just take more Ativan and try and fall asleep."
Returning back home, Good's soon-to-be ex-wife was staying in their home while the singer moved in temporarily with his parents; the combination of depression, an incorrect prescription and an undiagnosed illness all culminated in a night that changed the path of Good's life.
"One night, one thing lead to another," he recalls solemnly. "I took four Ativan and thought 'maybe I'll go to sleep.' I had been drinking some beer and they said I had taken somewhere between 45 and 50 pills; I was out of it…I don't remember anything after that. I wound up in the hospital; because of the severe state that I was brought in, and given the context of it, I had to actually willfully commit myself. So I spent a week in the psych ward and that is actually where I for the first time actually saw a psychiatrist."
Finally, Good was able to get a proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder - an illness that is difficult to diagnose and often gets misdiagnosed and mistreated as depression. That lack of exposure and need for open dialogue, he admits, is exactly why he is going as public as he is now.
"I'm not going to bullshit anymore, I'm not going to worry about what people think. People have actually emailed me and told me it was a press stunt! I'm like 'dude, I would love for it not to be!'"
Armed with a diagnosis and the ability to research information, Good admits that all of the signs have been there for years. "It goes back to me being a homebody, to being by myself a lot; on the other side of it, it also has massive amounts to do with the aspects of my personality that are creative and to do with my imagination. When I was a kid, I was into all things imaginative, like reading Lord of the Rings five times. Then later, back in the late '90's, I started having the first symptoms of my anxiety disorder; I would pass out; my body would just shut down and hit the floor."
Without question, "Hospital Music" has been deeply affected by all the elements in his recent life; it is considerably more lyrically intimate, with more first-person accounts and far less parables than ever before. He admits that such forthrightness caused him pause, but he realized that he needed to share things honestly. "It was a difficult when I made the record, when at some point I'm writing a song about how I view the destruction of my marriage, I had to really sit back once it is recorded and go 'do I put this on the record?' I really struggled with that; ultimately I sat back and thought 'well, as an artist, that is my responsibility. It reflected at the time how I felt and I would be a liar if I didn't include it. In having discussions with my manager, he said 'you' have to do it; it's the truth of you.'”
As a result, "Hospital Music" is filled with a quiet power from start to finish. From the epic 9-minute opener "Champions of Nothing" to "She's In It For The Money" to the closing track -- a cover of another very public manic musician, Daniel Johnston's song "True Love Will Find You In The End" - the songs, from start to finish, are akin to reading Good's journals.
He states unequivocally that he has no regrets regarding his decision to go public about his disorder, his marriage and his difficult last year…and his conviction especially deepens when it comes to putting it all on record. "Why screw around? Why not just give 'em the truth of it. You wanna know what the record is about? You wanna know what all this led to? It was a tough year…here it is."