Harder to Breathe
A Memoir of Making Maroon 5, Losing It All, and Finding Recovery
by Ryan Dusick
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Pub Date 15 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2022
In the nineties, Ryan Dusick and his friends Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael dreamed about making it big . . . and against all odds, they did. This inside story recounts Maroon 5’s founding and their road to becoming Grammy-winning megastars, told through the eyes of former drummer Ryan Dusick. He takes readers behind the scenes of the band’s meteoric rise to success—and the grueling demands that came with it—as well as his personal struggles with anxiety and addiction after his departure from the band.
For Maroon 5, fame came with a platinum debut record, jam sessions with Prince in his own living room, and encounters with celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, and Bono. For Dusick, stardom came to an abrupt halt with the devastating loss of his ability to play drums due to chronic nerve damage.
Alongside Maroon 5’s story of camaraderie and pressure, Dusick interweaves his own narrative: a decade lost to liquor and antianxiety medication, his ferocious commitment to recovery, and his current perspective as a professional counselor. With a candor that will speak to anyone who has struggled with mental health, Harder to Breathe moves beyond celebrity to examine the nature of human heartbreak and resilience, and to buoy anyone currently facing similar challenges.
Ultimately, Harder to Breathe is a roller-coaster memoir about how making it to the top sent Dusick to the bottom—and how he let go of the past and embraced a new future, one breath at a time.
Average rating from 4 members
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was hesitant to request this book because I'm not really into reading about how bands became famous. But something told me this would be worth reading. This book was actually very interesting and Ryan Dusick is such a good writer.
He tells his story with raw emotion and honesty. I admire him for putting his story out there.
I have a somewhat similar personality and could relate to how tough it is to adapt to change and not having "me time" as an introvert.
I'm so happy he found a career after he left the band.
I am a HUGE HUGE Maroon5 fan. Like if you asked my friends or family to tell you about me- every single one would mention my love for Maroon5.
Thank you so much for this arc. I couldn’t wait for the release and it was such a treat to read early!
I became infatuated with M5 when they were the sampler on VH1’s weekly top 20 countdown. Harder to Breathe became my all time favorite song. I remember proudly (driving myself as a new 16 year old) purchasing Songs About Jane at Target.
I saw Maroon5 for the first time at the TLA in Philly on Halloween in 2003. I still have the sweatshirt I purchased that night & will never forget getting to see them at such an intimate venue. This may be the only time I saw Ryan play live! But Songs About Jane changed my life. Reading this book made me realize what a huge part he had in my all time favorite CD. I’m 36 now and still obsessed. They’re the only band I must see live anytime they come near by.
What a book!! I felt like I was reliving my youth as Ryan told the stories of M5! I loved hearing about how the band started- they were so young! And to think they’d been working for 10+ years before they even broke a hit! Of course my obsession for M5 also correlates with a deep love for Adam Levine. Ryan made me see him in a different way. You have to be confident to be a rockstar but he seems so challenging to work with.
Ryan writes of his journey with starting Kara’s Flowers which evolved to M5. He tells of how much they had to work, wrote, record, travel & perform. No one thinks about how hard it is to get to the top. This lifestyle would wear on anyone!!
I loved reading about Ryan’s experiences with some of my favorite celebs- especially Sara Barielles, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake! He even references meeting John for the first time at Temple in Philly. I met M5 at that exact place!
Ryan was never formally trained to be a drummer and the years of working and touring ruined his ability to properly drum without pain. He tried everything to fix it. And he tried desperately to stay relevant in this band he created that was exploding in the pop world while his life was falling apart. Anyone in their right mind wouldn’t handle this well. He lost it all. His career, his ability, his purpose, his passion, his band. Your heart breaks for him as you realize what it must have been like for him. He eventually turns to medications, then lots of drinking. Honestly no one can blame him. But his life only got harder to live that way. Eventually he turns things around and commits to rehab. A classic tale of rock and roll life except his has a happy ending. He’s now a marriage and life coach/therapist! So amazing!
I’ll forever be indebted to him. He helped facilitate the music that got me through teen years and still instantly changes my mood. He should be so proud of what he created. And he should be even more proud of what he’s become- an inspiration!
*I highly recommend listening to the albums as you read! Made for an even more nostalgic experience (starting with Kara’s Flowers!).
Full disclosure - I worked with Maroon 5 at the beginning of their career. I was in the industry when Songs About Jane was released so I was really interested in reading this. I remember that first promo tour when the band came to our office to schmooze us and play. Ryan was our favorite. :)
I really enjoyed reading this and reliving Maroon 5's early years. The band worked really hard to achieve the success they have now. I appreciated Ryan's openness and honesty in writing about his mental health struggles and addiction. Yes, there's enough juicy backstage stuff in here to satisfy a Maroon 5 fan but there's also the hard stuff about addiction and recovery. Kudos to Ryan for coming through to the other side and still being cool.
Imagine that from the time you're a young teen, you work tirelessly towards one goal and just when that work not only begins to pay off but pay off in ways that far exceeds your wildest expectations, you are stricken down by physical pain and have to abandon your dream, then watch as continues to skyrocket on without you. This is the story of Ryan Dusick, the drummer who founded the band Maroon 5. Just when the band was breaking out with its funk-inspired, multiplatinum, Grammy Award-winning album Songs About Jane, Dusick was slowly sinking into physical disability caused by relentless touring and, apparently, his poor drumming technique.
Unable to drum due to shoulder damage, his bandmates, including frontman Adam Levine (whom Dusick essentially "discovered" when Levine was a pimply-faced 14-year-old with a high voice), give Dusick the bad news that he's out of the band. After all, they need a drummer who can play the drums.
Dusick then descends into years of emotional turmoil, drinking, benzoids, and self pity. You can't really blame him. I don't think too many people would be able to rise from the ashes of getting kicked out of the band he himself formed and then watch as it ascends into the kind of fame most bands can only fantasize about.
Dusick is an intelligent writer (he apparently wrote the book himself), and comes across as a good guy despite sometimes not acting as such. At his worst, he repeatedly cheats on his live-in girlfriend, Shantell. I would have liked to have heard more about her. She seems very much the reason he's even alive today but unfortunately she only comes across as the "woman who keeps staying with the cheater." (I'm sure there's more to her, we just don't really hear about it.)
Dusick goes to rehab and comes out a passionate acolyte of Alcoholic Anonymous and something called The Matrix in L.A. The last quarter of the book is filled with self-help jargon so it gets a bit flat at that point, but it is heartening to see that Dusick has moved on to find a fulfilling career that has nothing to do with the vagaries of rock stardom.
If you're a Maroon 5 fan, this is required reading. There is a lot about the founding of the band, its original incarnation as Kara's Flowers, its very slow, grinding journey to the top of the charts. (Adam Levine, despite Dusick's best efforts, still comes across as a bit of a d-bag.) If you're interested in the entertainment and music industries, also essential reading. Lots of really interesting stuff about both, as well as some fun anecdotes involving various celebs (Leo DiCaprio, John Mayer, Prince, etc).
Thank you so much to publisher, BenBella, NetGalley, and Ryan Dusick for this truly entertaining and insightful memoir. I just reviewed Harder to Breathe by Ryan Dusick. #HardertoBreathe #NetGalley
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