U2’s Adam Clayton has long spoken openly of his struggles with substance abuse and has been a longtime supporter of recovery programs, particularly MusiCares and the MAP Fund. The organization is honoring Clayton Monday in New York with its Stevie Ray Vaughan Award in recognition of his support — MusiCares has distributed $48 million to musicians and music-related people since it was founded in 1989, and $10 million over the past 10 years to nearly 3,000 substance-abuse clients — and his longstanding commitment to helping others with the addiction recovery process.
The evening will include performances from Michael Franti, Jack Garratt, The Lumineers and Macy Gray; Hal Willner will be musical director; actress Cat Deeley will host; and, as Clayton says below, he and U2 will give a closing performance that, at the time of this conversation on Monday, seemed to be a work in progress. (Head here for more from the interview.)
Why is MusiCares so close to your heart?
I think the reason is, as someone who has been through rehab and recovery, I absolutely acknowledge that lots of people run into difficulty with addiction, and it is somewhat misunderstood. People can be judgmental and say that addicts are weak or they’re bad, but my experience is that people in rehab and recovery are actually very courageous. It’s great to know you can have a second chance. I was very lucky – it was a privilege for me in that I could afford [rehab] and I could put my life on hold to benefit from it. It’s not so easy for most other people, and I think that’s where Musicares really helps — they support people from all situations, but particularly artists and creative people. I’ve [been sober] for 19 years, the success of “The Joshua Tree” had really turned my head and I didn’t know how to cope with it. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but early on some musicians were there for me and they showed me that you could be in a band and not party to a self-destructive [extent], and one of those people was Eric Clapton. It was amazing to me to have him saying there is help and there is life after you stop drinking. So I’m very, very grateful to any organization that helps people get clean and sober.
Have you helped others in the way Clapton helped you?
Yeah, whenever I’m called upon or whenever I come across anyone who needs some guidance in the matter. In my experience every alcoholic or addict has become obsessed with the eternal question: Am I an addict? And I think if you’re in that cycle, you have to conclude that you are and you have to get help. It’s very frightening for anyone battling those demons. I like to mentor and be there and help someone get to the point where they can make those decisions for themselves.
Do you feel that the need for organizations like MusiCares has become more essential now that — I’ll say it — Trump and the Republicans have declared war on Obamacare?
The fact that there is very little finance for these issues is worrying, especially when every day in the American press I’m reading stories about the proliferation of opiates and the general willingness of the medical companies to encourage prescription meds, which is devastating communities in America. I am seeing there is some open mindedness and some willingness to help [with substance abuse issues], but generally I don’t think it’s enough. The accidental death of Prince was absolutely shocking to people of my generation, and I come across a lot of families that are damaged and suffer from addiction and alcoholism. It’s just tragic.
For the MAP Benefit on Monday night, did you have a hand in selecting the performers?
We have Hal Willner as our musical director and he’s pulled together a great roster of people. One my favorite new artists — I wanted to have some new artists on — is Jack Garratt, he’s a phenomenal force of nature, he’s going to be with us on the night and so will The Lumineers, who are [opening] some shows with us. There are a few other people who are unconfirmed at this stage but I think they’re gonna come in and make it an interesting, eclectic evening. I think an event like this has to have some newer, younger artists, some new blood; it can’t just be established people turning up.
And what will you be doing for your MAP benefit performance?
For our set I think U2 are going to honor me, I have to say, and we’re going to do something together. But until we get closer to the event and get into rehearsals and have a few more discussions with Hal, I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to set up any collaborations because our schedule is really tight at the moment, but we’re gonna do what we can.