June 2009 should have been a banner month for Daniel Casasanta. Then the bass player for a band called The Dirty Audibles, Casasanta was scheduled to take the stage with the group as part of the Reedy River Concert Series in downtown Greenville. Unfortunately, life, as it often does, got in the way. Or, more specifically, Spartanburg County deputies got in the way.
“I couldn’t play, because I was locked up in the Spartanburg County jail,” Casasanta says. “I’d gotten my third DUI at age 23. I used one of my phone calls to call the band and say, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make the show.’ I spent 64 days in the Spartanburg County jail.”
“And,” he adds, “it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It saved me.”
In fact, Casasanta, who now leads a band called Sly Sparrow, hasn’t had a drink since June 23, 2009. He essentially spent the next eight years rebuilding the life that alcohol had destroyed, and in 2017 even received a pardon from the Spartanburg County Department of Probation. That May, he was invited to speak about his experience in front of a group of high school juniors and seniors at the Piedmont Club. He stood next to Spartanburg Sheriff Chuck Wright as he recounted his arrest and recovery. It was a feeling that he didn’t want to let go of.
“Other than playing music, that’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve done, sharing my story in hopes of helping people,” he says. “I wanted to do more of that.”
And as it happens, he had just the spot to do it. In January 2018, Casasanta opened DC Music Rehearsal Studio in Inman, a spot for musicians to practice and teach instrument lessons without having to worry about making too much noise. The studio is in the same space that Casasanta’s grandfather’s convenience store used to be.
“About 50 years ago, there were three gas pumps out there,” he says. “It was before Walmart and Ingles and all that, and everyone did their shopping there. My mom asked me if I wanted to do something with that building, and all I could think of was music, band rehearsals, and lessons. It was perfect for what I wanted to do.”
The studio was far enough away from other homes and businesses that it was ideal for bands to practice in.
“My pitch to people was, ‘How many times have you gotten the cops called on your band while you were rehearsing?’ he says. ‘How many times has someone been nagging you to turn it down? How many times has it been freezing cold in the winter when you’re practicing, or it’s 110 degrees in the summer and you’re just dying out there? NONE of those things happen here. You can be down here at 5 in the morning practicing bass and drums.’”
About a year into running the studio, Casasanta realized that those rooms could provide another service.
“I was standing in line at a funeral for a childhood friend, the third one I’ve lost in a year,”
he says. “He got out of rehab and relapsed, and he killed himself. And I was talking to some friends of mine, saying there has to be something we can do to help.”
From his own experience, Casasanta felt that there might be a common denominator among those dealing with substance abuse.
“So many people, addicts, former addicts, recovering addicts, the biggest problem is that they feel alone,” he says. “It’s them against the world. They feel like nobody cares.”
Casasanta decided to create a safe space where recovering addicts and their friends and loved ones could speak about their struggles in a group setting. He called it “Recovery Night,” and the first one took place Feb. 4.
“Everybody in the room felt like they weren’t alone,” he says. “I wanted anyone and everyone to come, whether they were dealing with drugs or alcohol or struggling with depression. Come share your story and bring your family. If you have a friend struggling, come share your story. There’s no judgment here. People are human and they make mistakes. Admitting that is part of recovery.”
And as Casasanta speaks of one particular young man who came to the first Recovery Night, it’s hard not to think that maybe he saw a bit of himself.
“It’s not easy to walk in through a door to a bunch of complete strangers,” he says, “but this young man walked in this door with 13 days of sobriety because his mom saw my post on Facebook about Recovery Night and said, ‘I think you need to go do this.’ And I was so proud of that young man.”
Vincent Harris covers the local and regional music scenes for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @HarrisVince or write to [email protected].