Last spring, we introduced readers to Paul and Courtney Klimson, founders of The Clinic: A Roadie Advocacy Group. Their mission is simple: “We exist to empower and heal roadies and their families by providing resources and services tailored to the struggles of the touring lifestyle.”
A historic building in downtown Niles, Michigan serves as the base of operations for what is being built into a multifaceted organization providing much-needed assistance to production professionals in person, online, and via additional channels. While the venue is still set to open its doors in the summer of 2021 despite the ongoing difficulties presented by the pandemic, they’re already up and running in providing a range of services remotely.
On a personal note, I happen to be located in the same town as the Klimsons and have had the great good fortune of getting to know them a bit over the past few months. They’ve selected their base of operations based upon many positive experiences in the community over the years in visiting family who live in the area, as well as its central location in the U.S. and access to convenient transportation (just a few miles from Interstate 80, a major tour bus artery, along with two commercial airports in nearby Chicago as well as one in South Bend, Indiana that’s even closer).
Our publishing group is committing to supporting this effort as much as possible – as someone who’s worked in this industry for more than 30 years, I completely concur that it is absolutely essential. With that in mind, I recently caught up with Courtney and Paul to get additional context to present to our readership, along with an update on what’s currently happening and where things are going.
Keith Clark: What inspired the two of you to create The Clinic?
Paul & Courtney: After 17 years of marriage, 22 years of friendship, and shared experiences in this industry for the last two decades, we found ourselves exhausted by the weight of the hurt and pain we’d witnessed over the extent of our careers.
We’ve been a part of every type of tour, every type of production: van plus trailer with close to no pay, first tour bus gig (what a relief!), first theater tour (John Legend Evolver), a switch to broadcast for seven years with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, which then turned into full-time work Monday through Friday, followed by weekend warrior work all over the world and then right back into the show week.
It never got easier. There was never a season that wasn’t rough on our marriage. There was never a balance between gig life and home life. The themes were prevalent for years: exhaustion, isolation, substance abuse, mental health issues, broken marriages, broken families. And the longer we stayed in this environment, the more we saw there were very few services created to directly impact the roadies, and even less to help with their families back home. Honestly, we couldn’t find one that encompassed everything or even close.
We intentionally chose to not have children, a life where Paul went on tour and Courtney stayed home, coming to see him every two weeks or so to maintain our marriage. In all those trips to see each other, it wasn’t ever just a reunion of the two of us. We continued to expand our family with every camp he worked with. We made it a point to include as many people as we could in our adventures, in our conversations, even in our meals.
It was July of 2019, and we couldn’t look away any longer. Courtney started writing, the organization started to take shape, the word started to spread. And then we decided to buy a commercial building in Niles in October of 2019, which we knew would be the headquarters for The Clinic. The curiosity in the industry started to appear, and we started conversations that have continued to this day. How we got from there to here in such a short amount of time will always be astonishing to us. But it’s also a confirmation that The Clinic is needed. It’s wanted. And we’ll do our best to carry out of vision: Healthy road life. Healthy home life.
KC: What do you find as the most common issues/difficulties impacting production personnel?
P&C: We recently created a survey and polled a group of 400 roadies. Of those who responded, the most common issues/difficulties are:
Relationships: 62 percent
Finances: 58 percent
Isolation: 57 percent
Communication: 54 percent
Mental Health: 45 percent
Substance Abuse: 18 percent
KC: Please provide us with a “scope of services” – what’s available (counseling and so on) and what’s perhaps not available now but will be as you progress? (Go here to learn about key supporters of The Clinic.)
P&C: Ways that we have been able to help during Covid:
– $5,000 donated to roadies in need since March
– Legal counsel
– Therapy recommendations, both local to Niles and through Backline.care and their network of therapists around the country.
– Financial counsel, from unemployment paperwork to Medicaid and all the grant applications
– Resume review
– Peer support
– Sobriety counsel
We’re working on building the pillars for the services we’ll be offering once fully operational. These pillars include but won’t be limited to:
– Partner support groups for the adults left back home when our significant others go on the road.
– Kids support groups where the idea is to network families per tour so they can support each other.
– Service projects to support tours. Networking family members per tour.
– Emergency care. No, we aren’t medically trained. But have you ever been overseas and had your partner get in a car accident or end up in the hospital because of “X,” or the house floods, or…well, something. So we can be a backup.
– Communication tools, ways to maintain healthy relationships during long times of separation.
This pillar will be one that encompasses so much of our vision. It starts with our physical location at 205 East Main St in Niles. MI. The three-story commercial building will house five individual lofts with private bathrooms, a sober bar, two soundproof therapy suites that are technologically connected to make it possible for both in-person and virtual therapy, a pro audio and pro lighting mix/visual suite, offices, commercial kitchen, and family dining area.
There’s a 20-plus-mile bike/walking path along two rivers less than a block from the building. There’s a concert pavilion and a theater, a brand-new gym across the street, a Pilates studio a few doors down, our therapist across the street, a new distillery and a new brewery blocks apart, a multiplex cinema, restaurants that cater to vegans and people with gluten intolerances, and more.
Come to us. Share a family meal. Partake in our services. Or simply rest and recover.
We’re building a local therapy program here with our therapist who has offices across the street. She specializes in tools that aid in healing from PTSD, trauma, and drug/alcohol addiction. We can triage here with her.
In addition, we’re building a network through organizations like Backline.care. They have 130-plus therapists around the country that have all been vetted, and all understand the difficulties of the touring community. We will also have life coaches, wellness partners, and nutritionists within an arm’s reach to help build healthy lifestyle plans.
There are several experts in finance guiding us. There will be educational materials created that cover the entire spectrum, including employment types (i.e., W2 versus 1099), taxes, credit scores, savings for retirement, insurance (life, disability and so on), investing, and more.
This pillar is underway, with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Zoom meetings that have begun this fall and these other facets being built, which will be available via a password-protected page on our website:
– Secure database of roadies who want to be networked with other roadies in recovery
– Platform to share stories of touring and recovery
– Individually tailored Relapse Prevention Plans
– Access to counsel from professional sobriety coaches
Again, this is very much in the building stage but will include services for women in touring, LGBTQ resources (we’re currently seeking leadership for this), legal counsel, safety training, and gig education.
KC: Please provide us with a “status report” of where things currently stand.
P&C: The Clinic has now officially attained 501(c)(3) status. This was a huge milestone that we reached about six weeks ago. We’re also finishing up an initial awareness campaign, which has been a big success. Not only were we the subject of a recent feature article in Rolling Stone, we also made an appearance on “Good Morning America” and have been honored as a member of the “Future 25” list for Rolling Stone for 2020.
In addition, we’re about to begin a capital campaign – at the stage of finalizing documentation, working on financial numbers for support in construction, programs, personnel, and so on. There’s an incredible team of volunteers helping with this as well.
Roughly $25,000 has been raised to date and there’s another $25,000 to go before plans can be finalized with our building’s architect. Once those plans are complete and approved by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (as we will be restoring our historic building, which will provide a tax credit for up to 20 percent of the entire cost of the project), we’ll be able to begin construction because the building demo is pretty much complete at this point. (Twelve tons of plaster and lathe were removed over just a five-day period earlier this year.) The overall fundraising goal, to get construction complete and move-in ready, and to get our programs started, is roughly $1 million.
The sobriety program, Roadies in Recovery, launched in early October with an invite-only Zoom meeting that will follow the AA traditions and will be led by a roadie with more than 33 years of sobriety under his belt. And we’re currently in the program-building phase. All the pillars mentioned earlier have been launched in one way or another. We’re growing the teams, brainstorming to create the actual curriculum and resources that will be associated with each pillar.
KC: What can production folks reading this do to most help your efforts?
P&C: The most helpful thing at this point is to tell us how you can help. What are your strengths? What kind of time can you commit? What area of service do you feel most comfortable working in? We’ll plug people into our system in whatever way possible. The more help, the further we can push the mission forward.
We believe that 80 percent of people coming to The Clinic to receive services will be through referrals. So spread awareness that we exist. Pay attention to your fellow touring colleagues. If they’re struggling and you know we can be of help, send them our way. That’s how every one of the people who have been helped to date have found us – they’ve been referred.
KC: With the ongoing limitations at present, are you offering online assistance? If so, can you detail it and let us know how folks needing help might be able to reach out to you?
P&C: Absolutely. That’s how we’re reaching all our people right now, currently providing assistance with:
Paperwork/Guidance – Covid federal relief funds and funds from organizations like MusiCares and Crew Nation; unemployment; Medicaid/health insurance
Professionals Willing To Assist – Rent/mortgage; savings/retirement; budgeting/debt; resume review
Referrals/Appointments – A variety of therapy; legal
There’s also financial assistance, a small fund set up to offer cash when able for assistance with bills, groceries, rent, and so on. The fund isn’t large, but we make it work when people are truly in need. People who need help should please email [email protected]. These messages go directly to our COO, and we will be able to connect you to the appropriate party from there.
KC: What’s coming up? Are there projects that folks should be aware of and/or that they can support?
P&C: We will be one of three beneficiaries for the LEVL Up Festival (also called the Live Events Lift Up Festival, online at liveeventsliftup.org), created by the industry for the industry. The organization is currently working on securing the line-up, and they’re set to announce the artists involved in the coming weeks. The official date has yet to be released, but it should happen before the end of 2020.
The event will be a combination of live performances (from the PRG soundstage in Nashville), pre-taped performances, shout-outs, and other information about our industry as a whole. It will be viewable online, and an effort is being made to bring it to network television as well.
All funds raised through this event will be split between The Clinic, MusiCares and a new non-profit called EVEN, which is all about raising up the next generation, currently in high school, by showing them career paths in touring.
We’ve also been named as the beneficiary for a newly formed organization called Executive Stream Solutions (executivestream.us). This company was created by roadies who took their skill sets from the road and figured out a way they could bring those skills to the masses. They’re “using their technical expertise to solve and enhance personal and company imaging and branding.” Part of the business model is donating 10 percent of their net profits, and they’ve chosen us at that organization.
The bottom line is that if you want your voice to be heard, if you want your experiences to be considered, speak up. Reach out. Get involved. The Clinic is an organization built by roadies for roadies, and everyone in this business is welcome to share their experiences so we can continue to encourage and empower each other as our careers progress. Go here or email [email protected] to contact The Clinic.
Click over to the next page to find out about key supporters working with The Clinic.