Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours Finds Sobriety

Evan Felker—the frontman of the Turnpike Troubadours—is sober, recovered, and thinking about music again. These are the revelations that came from an excerpt of the book Red Dirt: Roots Music, Born in Oklahoma, Raised in Texas, at Home Anywhere by Josh Crutchmer scheduled for release on September 19, 2020.

Portions of the book were published Thursday morning (8-13), detailing how the author had been approached by Evan Felker’s former wife, Staci Felker (who is now back with Evan), right before the book went to final press. Staci Felker suggested the author speak to Evan, and a final portion was added to the chapter of the book focusing on the Turnpike Troubadours.

“The past year has been some of the best moments and best parts of my life,” Evan Felker says. “First and foremost, I found sobriety and recovery. And I stepped away from the road and got a clearer view of the world. I got back to just being me. I could not have ever done that while we were touring like we were. I had initially blamed everything on being on the road. But it’s only when you take the road out of the equation that you see you’ve still got problems. I was able to start fixing those.”

This is the first time Evan Felker, or anyone involved with the Turnpike Troubadours has publicly acknowledged that many of the issues surrounding the band’s numerous show cancellations were tied to Evan Felker’s drinking. Though this was pretty obvious and well-rumored among the Turnpike Troubadours and Red Dirt fan base, many of the band’s cancellations ahead of their eventual announcement of an indefinite hiatus on May 31st, 2019 were cited simply as being personal issues not attributed to any specific member.

On January 8th, 2020—some eight months after the indefinite hiatus of the Turnpike Troubadours was announced—Evan Felker was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Harris County, Texas, near the Port of Houston. A $100 bond was paid for the misdemeanor charge, and Felker was released. Felker has a court date scheduled in the matter on September 2nd.

Though the arrest is not cited in the new interview as the reason for Evan Felker’s newfound sobriety, it corroborates that it took some time for Felker to find his footing after Turnpike’s hiatus, and that perhaps he reached a low point that now he has overcome, and moved on from. Saving Country Music was not notified about the arrest until late July.

In mid May of 2020, photographer Calvin Shofner posted numerous photos of Evan Felker working on the Canada Ranch in Oak Island, TX, which is across Trinity Bay from Houston. This was the first fans had seen of Felker since the band played their final show in the spring of 2019. In another positive sign, Evan Felker helped pick the set list that close friend, writing partner, and sometimes tour partner Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s performed on a live stream event in late July.

The new revelations from Evan Felker set at ease the worry of many Turnpike Troubadours fans about the condition and status of the Oklahoma-born singer and songwriter. Considered by many to be a generational voice and writer, Evan Felker is well-beloved, with the Turnpike Troubadours being arguably the most successful independent band ever launched out of the Texas/Red Dirt scene.

What remains an open question is if we will see a reunification of the Turnpike Troubadours in the future. The solo record from Turnpike fiddle player Kyle Nix called Lightning on the Mountain released on June 26th included all the other members of the band except for Evan, and a tour was rumored to be in the works before COVID-19. Guitar player Ryan Engleman has also been playing and touring with Reckless Kelly.

No matter what happens in the future, whether you’re a fan of the Turnpike Troubadours, or Evan Felker specifically, you can’t help but be heartened by the news that he appears to be sober, balanced, and pointing himself towards the task of writing and performing music once again.

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