After The End
Author: Jane Rocca
It took a breakdown spurred by the death of his father and leaning on good friend Jimmy Barnes for The Living End front-man, Chris Cheney, to hit the reset button.
His debut solo album The Storm Before The Calm is a testament to the hell of a ride it’s been.
“I went into a tailspin when my father died 10 years ago and it finally caught up with me,” says Cheney, who relocated to Melbourne from LA with his wife, property advisor Emma Cheney, and their two daughters just as the pandemic kicked off.
“Dad’s behaviour and state of mind affected me when I was growing up, but I didn’t know it at the time,” he says.
“I was always about trying to impress him… he suffered from some kind of mental illness and was hard work for mum, but he wasn’t diagnosed and his behaviour definitely played a role in how I felt.
“When someone like that disapears from your life, I found myself asking, what does it all mean?”
Cheney says it also took a stint in Nashville to shed those demons through songwriting and pondering life’s bigger questions.
His solo record has been almost a decade in the making, and the first single, California, is an ode to the place he and his family called home for nine years.
Still Got Friday On My Mind reflects on his father’s death and the consequences of that loss among a whirl of country pedal steel.
Best known for his rockabilly/punk band The Living End and writing and recording eight studio albums over a 25-year career, it would seem Cheney has been living the dream life – a high-profile music career and longevity in the biz others only wish for.
The Living End managed eight top 10 albums, two making it to No. 1 (their self-titled debut in 1998 and 2006’s State Of Emergency) and many hung in the top five.
It was a whirlwind of non-stop touring and, for Cheney, leaving his wife Emma at home to mostly raise the kids without him. He might have hit the rock-star jackpot, but it meant he missed out on milestone moments with his kids.
Cheney admits he descended into alcohol and substance abuse after the death of his father Noel in 2012. A trip to St. Vincent’s hospital in Sydney in 2017 with kidney issues was the straw that broke the proverbial. It was the wake-up call he needed, accompanied by a bedside kick up the butt by his mate Jimmy Barnes.
“It was scary; the booze had finally caught up with me,” says Cheney who now also has a rockabilly side project with Barnes called the Barn Shakers.
“I rebelled and became self-destructive because I got sick of being Mr Nice Guy and wanted to see what it was like to be more reckless and careless,” Cheney says. “I waited until I was 35 to do that.”
Those seismic shifts almost led to a marital breakdown and a purging that went from the existential to the cathartic.
“Emma stuck by me and having Jimmy to support me was amazing,” Cheney says. “He really reminded me [of] the importance of family, the need to come good for them. He really set me straight.”
CHRIS CHENEY \ Saturday, July 30 at The Corner Hotel, Melbourne.