If there were two words that I could have stricken from the English language growing up, it would have been those two. You would think that hearing them countless thousands of times you’d become desensitized, but you don’t, or at least I didn’t. People with ADD, which is very different from ADHD will know what I’m talking about. It has nothing to do with being smart or mental capacity, it’s just that your brain has its own set of commands and protocols that it intends to follow, and getting it to do something completely different and focusing just goes against the grain. In fact, it really wants to do something completely different most of the time, regardless of how much I want it to do what everyone else is doing. It’s not a question of desire; it’s a question of a biological constraint. The sooner you learn to work within that constraint, the easier things become.
There are a lot of very good people who I know I frustrated early on, my mother is one, and this woman has the patience of a saint. She was raising 3 boys on her own, and I’m sure I didn’t make the task any easier for her. My family, my teachers, all people who had the best intentions of trying to help me, sometimes made matters worse. I learn at my own pace. Sometimes that can be slower than normal, and sometimes faster. It depends on the protocol. Thankfully I was able to find a connection with music. Listening to it, understanding it on an intimate level, and being able to play it was somehow within my ADD brain wiring protocol. I must admit that in the beginning I was not very good, but I found out early that my condition seemed to exclude music while my brain usually bounced around from subject to subject, or topic to topic. I realized I was actually able to practice for very long periods of time and get things accomplished. Through music, I was able to be recognized as more normal, or should I say “more acceptable”. I dove into it with everything I had. I knew that in some way, it would be my salvation.
It wasn’t easy
As I became better at my music, I wanted to take it to the next level, which meant starting a band. I teamed up with a few talented friends, and starting playing around at the Jersey Shore, specifically around Asbury Park, but this turned into years of fruitless frustration. No fault of my band mates who I am still friends with, but we were really never the right combination. I’m going to explain it like this; if you had the ability to field a baseball team with 9 of the best pitchers in history, you’d have a pretty awful baseball team. Despite being the best at pitching, the other eight would be terrible at their positions. Let’s face it, there is a reason that pitchers don’t substitute for second basemen. It’s just not their thing. That was us; A ton of talent, but we just could not get it together, and I surely didn’t help.
A little before graduating from high school, about 4 years ago, I overheard a conversation at the music school I attended and now work for, regarding these guys losing their vocalists and lead guitarist to college. I stuck my head in the door and asked them if they would be interested in me joining. They were shocked because I was mush older, and they considered my faux career playing in Asbury as above them. While I agreed that I was the oldest person in the group, these guys were pretty talented, and I was searching for something to anchor me before the ADD demons came back out of their hole. A few days after this conversation, this girl Amanda walked into the school with her mother and claimed she needed vocal lessons and that she was never picked for anything other than a background singer. When our manager heard her sing, he literally grabbed her and brought her into the next room where were taking about the next steps for the band and who do we know that could handle lead vocals. We spent about 5 minutes trying to find out what we commonly knew how to play, and what she knew the words to. We settled on the rock classic, “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benetar. Our manager Mike Basile had us run the song on the spot and when the last note rang out we all sort of looked at each other and knew we had something special. It literally happened that fast. The band was born in a matter of 15 minutes, and we didn’t even know this girls last name or where she even lived. But we knew we were meant to be together. It was hanging in the air and you could taste and smell it. We were a band.
When we started talking, I mean really talking; we discovered that we all had some sort of issue or challenge. In fact, the song “What I deserve” from our debut CD is an ode to all of us; Amanda always being beat out for vocal roles at school, my inability to get things going in the music scene, the endless work that Rocky, Jenna, and Steve put in to get themselves to a very high level of musicianship. We all felt that “this is our time” and Amanda and Steve contributed a lot of the lyrics, I had the song in some instrumental song form from my other band, and we finally put it together and twisted the arrangement around a bit and it fit together nicely. We knew we were off to a good start. After that, all the songs came very quickly.
Somewhere in the process of learning more about my bandmates, and spending a lot of time in the van with them touring around the east coast, I began to realize that I had found acceptance. I am happiest when we are kicking ass on stage and writing good music. And I really love these guys. I can tell them anything and everything and I don’t worry about being judged. They know me, warts and all. I know sometimes I can be frustrating, but they never let me down. This is one of the reasons why I think the music is so good. We’ve all found the right path to Nirvana through not just the music, but through each other. No matter what happens or how far we take this, these are the people I will have at my wedding, the first calls I make if I ever become a father, they will be there with me as I become old. This is not just a band thing. This is a family thing. They are my brothers and sisters, and in the case of our manager, my second Dad. In the end, we will always be a family. We will always be Mildly Medicated. (and I wouldn’t want it any other way)
Ryan Chiarella is the lead Guitarist of the Modern Rock Band Mildly Medicated. What do you get when you combine a lead singer with Hemophilia, a guitarist with ADD, a guitarist with diabetes, a bassist with Tourette’s, and a drummer on HGH therapy? You get the modern rock band Mildly Medicated. Against all possible odds, these uniquely talented young musicians from Monmouth County NJ found each other in 2012, all unaware that each of them had medical issues. It was only until they were discussing possible band names that they all realized that they shared a commonality.
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