For all intents and purposes, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis became music's ubiquitous duo whose 2012 single “Thrift Shop” pushed them head first into the fame vortex. In the thick of it, Macklemore found himself “burnt out” and risking years of sobriety. “I was super-stressed,” he says. “We weren’t sleeping — doing a show every day, zigzagging all over the country.
“In terms of the media I was getting put into a box that I never saw for myself. The pressure and the fame — everything. All the clichés, man — like not being able to walk around, having no privacy, and from this TV appearance to this TV appearance, and the criticism, and the lack of connection, and the lack of meetings — all of that put into one pie was just… I just wanted to escape.”
Music took a backseat to Macklemore's new priority: weed and pills. Naturally, people around him, Lewis included, noticed something was off. “Everyone knew but they didn’t necessarily know.”
Regardless of what appeared to be a badly kept secret, Macklemore continued to try to hide the relapse. “I’m in meetings with management with sunglasses on and I’m rolling around like a 15-year-old trying not to get caught smoking weed in my car," he recalls. "Straight up, driving all around here, like I was 15 years ago. Same s**t. I felt so dumb. I felt like I’m just wasting time. What am I escaping here?”
He made the decision last year to get clean after learning that his fiancée was pregnant with their first child. The 32-year-old, born Ben Haggerty, returned to 12-step meetings, and is determined to stay on a sober path. "I've gotten back to what makes me happy. Not in the immediate moment, [but] what's going to make me happy in the long run," says the Grammy winner. "None of the money, the fame, the attention, the touring, the endorsement … literally none of it, comes close to the fulfillment and gratitude that I feel showing up to a meeting and being sober today."
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(Photo: Noel Vasquez/Getty Images for Hennessy)