The music industry is synonymous with alcohol and drug abuse. The parties, the pressure and the stress of touring cause many performers to develop addictions. While many people struggle, there are quite a few sober country stars who succeed without substances.
Tim McGraw’s alcohol addiction is well-known in the industry. The singer, who sings country hits including “Please Remember Me,” “Where The Green Grass Grows” and “Don’t Take the Girl,” has famously been sober since 2008. In a 2021 interview, he explained that he realized he had a serious problem when he started taking shots of alcohol first thing in the morning. His wife, fellow country star Faith Hill, was the first person he turned to for help.
Since getting sober, McGraw has gone on to expand his music and acting career. In 2021, he had his biggest role yet starring in the Yellowstone spin-off titled 1883.
Joe Nichols was introduced to alcohol at a young age — he’s stated that he was addicted to whiskey by age 13. Just 7 years later, he got his first music deal. As his career progressed, the singer’s relationship with alcohol deteriorated. He checked into rehab in 2007, only a month after getting married.
Nichols, who is best known for the song “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” has been sober ever since. He credits his sobriety as a big factor in the long-term success of his marriage and claims that he now lives freely.
Shania Twain is one of the most famous sober country singers in the world and she’s always been that way. After a challenging childhood, Twain started singing as a young child, often performing in clubs. This early exposure to alcohol may have steered her away from drinking. Regardless of the reason, Twain never had an interest in alcohol as she didn’t drink in her teens or early twenties. This chosen sobriety has continued throughout her long career.
In July 2022, Jake Owen announced his sobriety in an Instagram post, explaining that he stopped drinking 316 days earlier. The impetus for his sobriety was an embarrassing alcohol-fueled incident that woke him up to the reality of his drinking. According to the post, he realized that he needed to change for the benefit of the people in his life — and most notably, for his children.
Owen, a singer/songwriter known for the songs “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Made for You,” has mentioned in interviews that he didn’t struggle to quit. While he acknowledges that the process isn’t so easy for everyone, he regularly encourages fans and friends to stick with it if their alcohol consumption is causing problems.
Steve Earle has been in the business of country music for decades; he released his first album in 1986. Earle, who is still writing songs, has been open about his struggles with addiction. He had a serious heroin addiction that led to two arrests and jail time. After that, he checked into a rehab program, and he’s been sober ever since.
Sobriety has been a boon to Earle’s music career. He released a steady stream of new songs throughout the 2000s. In 2017, he started writing music for theater and appearing in stage productions.
Justin Townes Earle
Justin Townes Earle is Steve Earle’s son. Before he followed his father’s lead into the music business, Earle dealt with addiction. A friend forced him to get help when he started struggling to breathe after nearly 2 weeks without sleep.
Earle got sober before making his first record and stayed that way for almost 10 years. After relapsing twice, the singer is back on the road to recovery.
Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina, who’s responsible for hits such as “Heads Carolina, Tails California” and “My Give a Damn’s Busted,” is well-known for her sober lifestyle. Before that, however, she was one of the most famous alcoholic singers in the country industry.
After a failed engagement in 2004 and a drunken post-Super Bowl performance, Messina went to a rehab program in Utah. She lived in a cabin and attended outpatient therapy. There, she learned the strategies she uses to stay sober. She also developed a renewed focus on health, getting active by hiking and eating a healthy diet.
Walker Hayes speaks frequently about his trouble with alcohol; before he stopped drinking, he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to function normally. After drinking every day for 4 years, he stopped.
Hayes has been open about his coping mechanism: exercise. Instead of drinking, he hits the gym. After losing a child in 2018, he came close to a relapse — but he ended up at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting instead.
Keith Urban has been battling alcoholism for much of his life. After growing up in a home with family members who were addicted to alcohol, he began drinking. He first entered rehab in 1998. By the time he married actress Nicole Kidman, he was drinking again. Kidman held an intervention, and Urban went back to rehab in 2006. He has been sober since then.
While Urban doesn’t speak much about his struggles with fans, he has opened up about his addiction to the media. His music career has continued to thrive.
Like many people, Brantley Gilbert didn’t get help for addiction until he hit rock bottom. He struggled to control his consumption of both alcohol and opiates until he got into a serious car accident. This prompted him to check into a rehab program. Using the lessons from treatment, he’s managed to stay sober for more than 10 years.
Gilbert noted that Keith Urban was a positive influence during his journey to recovery. The older singer encouraged Gilbert to stay the course, even visiting him in rehab.
Chris Janson might write about alcohol — two of his songs are titled “Drunk Girl” and “Fix a Drink” — but he doesn’t drink it. That wasn’t always the case as Janson had plenty of experience with alcohol before stopping. The singer has noted that his past enables him to write party songs from a realistic perspective.
As these sober country stars can attest, getting sober on your own is difficult. There’s no shame in asking for help. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey, call our team at Sunlight Recovery.