Over the last twenty years, we’ve discussed Michelle Titian’s journey from the kid that grew up in the music store her dad owned on John Street to the powerful performer that captivates audiences with her vibrant voice. But while we saw her musical journey, Titian was on a very different journey out of the spotlight. Titian’s last official album was some thirteen years ago but what’s kept her busy is the transition she’s made from singer and songwriter to advocate and inspiration. Michelle Titian had a serious drinking problem and some years ago she was not only able to finally tackle that issue but also come out on the other side more invigorated in music and life in general. This weekend, Titian hosts a special showcase of music, art, film and recovery with an event at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
“I got to a place where I was completely desperate but I felt I needed to go there,” says Titian on the years of alcoholism. “I couldn’t continue living the way I was living and I was in a place where I did not like myself at all. It was a very scary place to be and thankfully I reached out for help and started a twelve step program. It saved my life. I had lost my will to live. I just celebrated five years of sobriety on March 10. In 2014 I surrendered to the truth and I seeked help. In that first year of sobriety, I wrote a song called “Drive” about my journey and it seemed to start things going for me in a different way.”
“Drive” was a heart wrenching ballad that touched many fans and industry people. It brought together a partnership between Titian, Michael Loveless and UK producer Steve Brown (Elton John, George Michael, The Cult). Together, they would form the Drive Foundation, a charitable organization named after Titian’s song that would help others. The Drive Foundation’s mission is to employ music, the arts, and technology to remove the stigma from mental illness and addiction and taking a holistic approach to the provision of care and prevention. With that in mind, Brown is coming to Canada to do a special session and live recording with Tiitan in Toronto next week. But this week, Titian heads up a special event that showcases her own journey with the goal to help others perhaps on a similar path. A documentary film on Titian also entitled Drive features an in–depth interview conducted by Stuart Cameron, who was helped by Titian during recovery and went on to become an intern at YesTV.
“The trauma and my experience doesn’t have power over me anymore and I’m in a place where I can show others how to recover,” adds Titian on the documentary themes. “I’m blessed that I’m in a place that I can do that. Stuart was someone I personally helped in recovery and it’s amazing the way the film worked out — YesTV called me about doing it and said they had this intern that wanted to interview me. It was so special to see how he’s come so far and it really makes me happy.”
The documentary is brutally honest but meant to be inspiring — the musical performance will assuredly be uplifting — the message will be happy and hopeful. With Brown taking on the role of manager for her, Titian is excited to finally get around to finishing an album by next year. In the interim, the event this weekend will also have a Michelle Titian multi–media USB card for sale that will feature a three song EP, the documentary, the music video as well as lyrics and credits. But the real reason for the entertainment — the premiere of the Drive: documentary, the screening of Ryan Furlong’s “Drive” video, and live music performance from Titian — it’s to bring people together and continue Titian’s grander mission.
“Things seem to be flourishing but we’re in development stages looking for funding — we’re grassroots but things are coming together,” says Titian. “We’re doing this event and featuring four or five artists in recovery and I’d hope that they could sell some of their work and maybe get some income from that. We’ll also be screening the documentary and then finish up with a live performance from me and my band.
“The AGH has a grand piano and a huge screen that I immediately thought we could use for the documentary,” adds Titian. “Les Cooper will join on guitar and piano, Andrew Marshall on bass and my husband Tone Valcic on drums. It’s a semi–casual event but I want everyone to come regardless of what you wear. It’s not a rock show but an adult contemporary type show with songs from my new EP as well. But this show is about doing an outreach and letting people know my journey and also letting them know that there is help. People should reach out for help because that literally saved my life. I hope people can hear my story and learn what I had to do to recover. If anyone is struggling, i strongly suggest you reach out and be honest with yourself. If I can help one person that would be worth it but there are a lot of people that need help.” V
Michelle Titian hosts the driveMEDIA Series Emerging Artist Exhibition this Friday November 15 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Doors open at 7:30 pm and $40 gets you in. Click on 12StarEntertainment.com or drivefoundation.org