The star who cried with his fans

Musicians, artists, celebrities and anyone in a spotlight with a great number of followers will always appear to be stationed up in a pedestal to us non-famous individuals. These unreachable stars seem like they belong out of this world, far away in another planet, like we could not possibly relate to them no matter how hard we try. They have inhuman attributes in our mind, they occupy a higher status than we do, and the hype around them does not lessen our view of them as someone unreachable. 
 
 I’ve been a follower for a long time, simply remaining with my feet rooted to the ground, glancing up at all the people I admire and wishing I could be like them, but never acting upon those wishes. That’s where I kept my feet for years, simply living each day as just another statistic in the population of the world, and never standing out.

My life has been full of idols since I can remember, I don’t think I can recall a time when there was no one I admired present in my life. Music has, is and always will be my passion. To me it is art in one of its purest form. It can reach me in ways that words can’t, it can touch my soul, help me heal, make me feel every overwhelming emotion possible. Since this is the case, a lot of the people I’ve idolized throughout my life have been musicians.

Although there are many of these musicians who are still present in my life and will possibly remain as permanent influences, there are also a number of these who have left me heartbroken and disappointed, making me realise that admiring someone in a spotlight that bright is not always wise or easy.

I’ve found myself questioning their genuineness, and have sadly realised that a lot of the music industry in the current day is complete bullshit, that many of these so called idols are simply regurgitating the words that their bosses have shoved down their throats. Why? Because that’s what their audience wants to hear. Because that’ll sell records, tickets, merch, and anything else that can be capitalised.

It’s upsetting to know that this is happening, because people with good values, with good morals and good souls are being shoved into moulds and spat out to the world to be seen as something they’re not, all for something as materialistic as money.

I came to understand, after having my trust broken and realising that my dreams were being led by liars, that a genuine musician is very rare and hard to come across. I protected myself for a long time, and kept this belief firmly pinned in my brain where I could always see it, refusing to be naïve and refusing to hand my trust and admiration over to people who didn’t know how to lead hopeless dreamers.

And then I came across The Used.

Bert McCracken, frontman and vocalist of The Used. [Photo by: Anthony Duty]

I thought I’d hit the jackpot with their musical content alone, but when I decided to dive right in and get to know exactly who was behind it, I was even more surprised to see how legitimately genuine they all were. It was refreshing to see people who really gave a shit about the world speaking up, not because they were attempting to please an audience but because this is simply who they are. From that moment on, I knew that they’d become recurring figures in my life.

Leading the band, vocalist Bert McCracken became an inspiration to me for many reasons. For the first time in my life, this star figure did not appear to be from another galaxy. He was human, and I found myself drawn to him for that very reason. He has taught me many things and has opened my eyes to many others. He has used his platform to speak to his audience about things that matter. He gives to organisations and foundations like Living the Dream and Sea Shepherd, and has contributed to the Huffington Post with politically fueled pieces. He doesn’t give to please an audience, he gives because he wants to and because he knows he should. The list could go on forever, these are just some of the many things he’s done that I admire endlessly.

Bert for yourockfoundation.org

After struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction, Bert has grown to become a better person and leave his dark past behind. He is now over four years clean and has a wife and a young daughter. Throughout his whole career, he has never hidden anything from public view. He has always allowed us to see his vulnerabilities, and through that he has taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, because we are all human, and moving past them and learning from them is what matters.

Admiring Bert as a human idol, and not an unreachable celebrity, has allowed me to meet him a great number of times, and confirm that even in person his humanity remains intact. I thought I had seen and experienced everything that he had to offer, but I was far from right.

On the first Saturday of the month of October, just a little over a week ago, I experienced something that touched my heart and left me overwhelmed with emotions. The Used’s new album, The Canyon, is set to be released on October 27th, and as part of the promo for it, a listening party was held here in Melbourne at 24Hundred. The Canyon is an album that is undeniably very heavily emotionally weighted, as the main inspiration behind it was the recent suicide of one of Bert’s closest friends. During the listening party I found myself sitting on the floor, right in front of Bert, watching and listening as he spoke about the album and introduced each song with an explanation.

Bert, sitting in front of me as he introduced the album.

It was not just an explanation that I witnessed. The amount of emotional strain that clung to him as he spoke could be felt by everyone in the room, and I watched as the person I admired most in the world sat before me and proceeded to open up his heart to a group of strangers in front of him. He spoke to us about his friend’s suicide, he spoke to us about his past family life and how hard it had been to be raised in an overly-religious, Mormon household. He told us about his struggle with depression, and about his own contemplation of suicide after finding out that his friend had shot himself. More than once I witnessed his voice cracking, his hands shaking and his eyes watering. At one point he even glanced down, made eye contact with me as he held up his arms and mouthed the words “I’ve got goosebumps.”

There were a lot of tears shed that day, many coming from myself, but although the conversation had been a very emotional one, getting to listen to such an intense and intimate story being told by my idol is something that I will always treasure. Not only were we the first people in the world who had the privilege of listening to such a heavily cathartic and emotionally fueled album, but we had the chance to do so with Bert in the room.

It was such an intimate experience that rarely anyone will be able to have with their idol, and for that, I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. I may be a hopeless dreamer with aspirations too big for myself, but knowing that the person I admire most is not out of reach is something that continually gives me faith in myself, and makes me feel just a little more capable of achieving anything I set my mind to, even all my wildest ambitions.

Me and Bert.

Unreachable stars are the biggest dream killer, since fans cannot relate to their idol’s mundaneness, and therefore are stuck believing that they can and will never be like them. I am fortunate to admire someone who has, in more than one occasion, treated me like an equal. Someone who has taught me that everything that I praise him for, I can do and be too. I am fortunate to have found a man like Bert McCracken to idolize. I only wish that more people could find someone just like him who will allow them to believe that you can be your own idol.

The Canyon is out on October 27 via Hopeless Records.

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