This rising pop star explains her journey through the school of hard knocks, sobriety and songwriting
MB Padfield’s story is unorthodox, but it’s hers. She began her full-time career in music as a young 16 year old in Massachusetts and has been following her passion ever since. And we know that sounds like a classic, easy dream-come-true kind of story, but her journey is anything but predictable. Between attending college without ever receiving a high school degree to becoming a recovering alcoholic by the time she was 18, MB has been through some sh*t and she infuses those experiences into her music (a genre she calls “pop music for loners”), which is part of what makes her so rad.
She is raw and candid and lives life on her own terms, and she wants her fans to share in her story and experiences too. She is all about forming a “connection” between her music and people and we’re here to help facilitate. So ready or not, here’s MB Padfield.
who is MB Padfield?
"It depends on the day. Every day is different for me. I am always kind of doing a million things.
I like to think that I have always been a lifelong learner. I am always up for a new challenge, I need that in my life. I’ve always been the person that if I get pushed off a cliff, I will grow wings on the way down and figure it out, because that’s what I’ve always had to do.
A lot of my life has been a little untraditional. I technically never graduated high school -- I had a really difficult time in school. I just sort of made my own path. That really shaped the way that I throw myself into my work. I like to think that I have so much to learn with life in general, but I have been really fortunate to surround myself with people that know so much more than I do. I think that for me, that’s really important.
The smartest person I’ve ever met once told me: “stack the deck, so you can’t possibly lose.” Since I heard that, they have been my words to live by. I’m going to get the best people and do the best things and work at my optimum level. I want to really push myself and I tend to be very fierce -- I know what I want and I am gonna get it."
the journey to sobriety
"My relationship with alcohol was like this great, big love.
I never really felt like I fit in anywhere as a kid, I was a weird kid, so I always had a really hard time. I was one of those people that said to myself that if I can’t be surrounded by a lot of people, then I will be really good at what I do and then, they are all going to want me. This dialogue in my head wasn’t true, but I convinced myself it was. The way that I began to drink and the way that I thought about alcohol was a solution to this problem -- it was a way to fix the way that I was feeling.
I had my first drink at 16 and I got sober when I was 18. I was really young. I was a daily morning drinker, I was a habitual drunk driver. The minute I got home and all day after that, I would just drink and drink and drink. I was drunk by noon most days and I thought everyone in college did that. It turns out, you know you’re an alcoholic when even in music school, you are the the only person drunk. And it wasn’t anything I learned as a kid; I had two great parents.
I got to a point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wish I could tell you what it was that triggered me: I had never been arrested, I had put myself into some less-than-desirable circumstances but there was no tragically, grandiose thing that happened to me. I just felt that I couldn’t live the way I was living anymore. I began to feel suicidal. I just felt like I didn’t want to live this life anymore. Here I was, on scholarship at one of the best music schools in the world, playing and touring on the weekends and had what a lot of people wanted in life, but it wasn’t making me happy - it wasn’t fulfilling me."
it got worse before it got better
"Now the interesting part is when I quit drinking I thought, everything is going to be fine because drinking is “my problem,” right? Well that wasn’t true at all. If anything, me not drinking made things so much worse. When I stopped drinking it felt like all of these problems got even worse and I went into some really dark places. After a year of being sober, I woke up one day and thought, this can’t be my life, I can’t keep doing this -- i’m going to either hurt myself or hurt someone else. The thing that emotionally made me change was that I just hit my limit. Everyone has their limit. They say for women that the bottom is typically higher, we typically hit our bottom faster than men. Well, I hit my bottom and I knew I needed to change that. I kept feeling those feelings of suicide and I just didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling anymore. Then, I got involved in a 12-step program and that really radically changed my thinking and my way of life. It saved my life.
I started attending meetings more regularly and became more active in my program. I got really into it. This wasn’t a problem that I could fake my way out of and it wasn't a problem that I could manipulate to change the circumstances. I really changed my mindset and really changed my principles and how I lived my life. The sobriety wasn’t really the changing point for me, it was the recovery that changed my perspective."
when it all changed
"I wish I could tell you the exact moment. I wish there was some heartfelt note that my mother wrote me. But, this disease is so selfish. You could have put my grandmother in front of me and had her cry and beg me to stop drinking and I would still have gotten drunk the next day. Even if I truly believed I could stop, I physically couldn't stop. I have what they call an allergy: An allergy is what they call an abnormal reaction, so when I put a drink into my body, I just can’t stop until I run out, pass out or black out. For whatever reason -- that is how I was programmed, whether it’s genetics, whether it’s nature v. nurture, who cares, who knows, I don’t. All i know is that I am in these circumstances now where I had to do something about it. I had no other choice but to deal with it, so that’s what I did. I wish there was something I could tell you that hit home for me, but at the end of the day, it just had to be for me."
how experiences mold you
"My experiences have changed my life radically, especially the 12-step program. I really have shifted the way I think. I wouldn't have the things I have today without it.
Some days i'm stronger than others because I am still human and recovery was not a finish line for me. I thought if I got to one year sober, everything would be fine, but it wasn't. Recovery for me, it’s infinite. But me managing this disease is so much easier than me managing the damage surrounding this disease. So that’s why I do it. I’ve learned to work with people, to listen, to communicate what I want. I didn't know how to ask for help for anything before and everything always just felt like a ball of emotions. Somedays I still feel like that. But things are easier to manage when you know what to call them."
advice to someone struggling with a similar illness
"There is hope. There is help and nothing changes if nothing changes. Sometimes you have to move your feet when you really don't want to, but there is help. It’s one thing to want help and it’s another thing to take suggestions. That is what changed for me. I saw that this thing was working for other people, so maybe it could work for me. I did a lot of things I didn't necessarily want to do but they changed and they shaped me into who I am today.
There are lots of people that struggle with this thing. There are so, so many. Since I have been so open about my recovery and what not, there are so many people that have reached out from all walks of life. Nothing makes me feel better than when I have an old timer come up to me and say that they have been in recovery for 25 years and that they are excited to see my journey. It wasn’t until I really truly listened to what people had to say, instead of thinking that the world was the way I thought it was, that i became open to the possibility that the world could be different than the way I convinced myself it was."
music and its importance
"Music is what emotion sounds like. I think I always felt so distant to others and music gave me this opportunity to be honest and share my story and helped me to not feel so alone. When you help someone else, you really help yourself. Sometimes I create music for other people, sometimes I create music for myself. The truth of the matter is that I am connecting these emotions and these things that we all feel and go through, and everyone has been through some shit. At the end of the day, we don't want to feel so alone.
If we want to take this back to caveman times, if you were alone, you were dead, because you didn't have your tribe. You couldn’t farm and hunt and keep the fire going and tend to the kids, etc. People who get stage fright are afraid that they are not going to be accepted -- we haven’t evolved that much. I know that sounds really extreme, but we need community. And music is this sense of community and this sense of belonging.
My contribution to the world we live in, and ultimately what I want to be known for, is being able to emotionally connect people to experiences and that way they don’t feel so alone because I know what that feels like to be so isolated and disconnected.
I remember distinctly, I was playing this song one time, and this girl just started bawling her eyes out. I was a little confused and thought there was no possibility that it had to do with me. She came up to me after and said: “That was exactly what I needed to hear.” It just sort of stopped me in my tracks. That was the first time I really understood the impact of music and what I was contributing to the world around me."
The message behind mb's music
"Connection. That’s what inspires my music. All of the stuff I write about is all real-life situations. They say for songwriters, the best thing to do is live an interesting life, but I am just here trying to find normalcy in all the chaos.
The first song I wrote was a song called “unforgettable.” My friend committed suicide and my singing teacher told me to write a song. She told me to listen to other songs and see what I liked about them. I started analyzing pop music and it was the first time I was able to create these connections between the things that I thought and the things that I felt. I finally had words. I finally felt like I found my place, I found the thing I was good at.
At the end of the day, I do this because I can’t imagine doing anything else. I got offered this full-time job recently and it’s funny because I’ve never held a job in my life. I once worked at a music store that I quit after about 30 minutes, so I don't think that really counts. I’ve always been self-employed. I’ve been really lucky to be that way and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. You could throw money at me, but if it doesn’t make me happy, I am not going to do it. I know in my heart of hearts, I have to do what I am doing, making this lasting impression on pop music history and humanity.
I want to write the song that everyone really hates hearing after a while."