Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste on Burnout and His Second Act as a Therapist

“It’s nice to know that I’m doing something where my success isn’t linked to public perception.”

Edward Droste

Edward Droste.Photograph courtesy of Edward Droste; Collage: Gabe Conte

Back in August, former Grizzly Bear frontman Edward Droste announced on Instagram that he had made a career change. “Hello all! I’m thrilled to announce the next stage of my career and the commencement of my independent practice as an associate therapist,” Droste wrote. “I provide virtual and in-person counseling for adults and teenagers in Los Feliz. If you know anyone seeking a therapist in California, please don’t hesitate to share my contact details.”

It clearly reverberated with mid-aughts indie fans. Hundreds of comments and dozens of news articles about the switch later, Droste is officially settled into his first few months of private practice and seeing six to seven clients a day.

GQ caught up with Droste about making the jump from music to therapy, how his career as a musician helps him as a therapist, and—we had to—his thoughts on the indie-sleaze revival.

GQ: Tell me about the decision to leave Grizzly Bear and become a therapist. Did one precede the other?

Edward Droste: I’d always been intrigued. I’ve been in therapy since I was 21, and I always found it to be so fascinating and it looked so creative, too. There was a piece of me in the back of my mind that always thought, What would it be like to try that out? I guess the decision came when I realized I didn’t like the lifestyle in the band, which wasn’t sustainable for me. I wasn’t feeling healthy anymore, and so I just decided to try something new, which feels great.

What about it was feeling unhealthy?

Just living on a bus. Your work is at night, so you’re going to bed really late. It was just difficult at the end for me and a bit of it was losing its luster, I suppose. And never say never. There’s no official breakup or anything. I’m just doing this for now and who knows what’ll happen in the future.

When you announced that you were going into private practice, there were so many comments and so much press coverage. Were you surprised by the reaction at all?

I actually was, because I didn’t expect anyone to even turn it into a story at all. It was just a way for me to be like, “If anyone knows anyone in California, particularly LA, who’s looking [for a therapist], I’m now available to do this.” I have been working at a place called APLA, treating people for the previous year before, but it was a different setup—they gave me people as opposed to people coming and asking for your services.

That’s why I announced it. I was like, well, here I am. I also followed what my other friends were doing. Everyone, once they started off in this next chapter, they just made an announcement and I was like, I suppose I should do that just to let people know that I’m doing it.

What were you hearing from people, personally?

Just excitement mostly. There were definitely some comments that were like, “Oh, is the band over?” I didn’t respond, but never say never. It’s not a destroyed entity. It can easily come back and exist, the band, if the time is right and the mood is right.

You mentioned you’ve been in therapy since you were 21. How did your experiences in therapy inform the kind of therapist you wanted to become?

The whole thing they joke about when you’re in school and you’re starting out and there’s this whole imposter syndrome, and you’re saying like, “I’m not qualified. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Then they’re like, “Well, have you been in therapy?” You’re like, “Yes.” They’re like, “Well, you’ve been studying it to a certain degree.”

It’s true because, just in doing it for yourself, you’re experiencing what it’s like to be in the room, what it’s like to unpack issues. You’re doing the internal unpacking, but in doing that you discover so much about yourself. For instance, certain tools that I learned at a younger age to deal with my anxiety, I now implement in practice. It’s so cool because I have a direct relationship to that tool that it helped me.

This obviously doesn’t always work for everyone, but it’s nice to know that I have a lived experience that I can share with people. I’m not a therapist that closes off and doesn’t answer anything personal.

Beyond it appealing to you in a creative sense, why therapy? Were you the friend who everyone was always confiding to, saying “You should be a therapist”?

I don’t think a lot of my friends thought that I would do this. But, no, why therapy? I found the excitement I had to be infectious to the point where I wanted to learn more about it, and I wanted to go behind the scenes and understand modalities better. When I started out, my old therapist who encouraged me to start studying, said, “If you don’t like it, you’re not required to stay.” That was a really breakthrough moment for me where I was like, I can just go part-time. If I don’t like it, sure I will have lost some time and a little bit of money, but I can just say, Well, I tried it and it’s not for me. But I ended up loving it a lot.

What modalities do you work in?

I love taking pieces from a lot of different ones. I’m not really the type of person to dive into one specific modality. I respect people that do, but I find a lot of modalities to be a bit antiquated. They are often older and, in 2023, there’s elements of them that I just don’t feel are applicable for a lot of people now. The ones that are my favorites that I use the most are CBT [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy] and DBT [Dialectical Behavioral Therapy] and narrative and psychodynamic.

You focus on marriage and family therapy—what about that was calling to you?

AMFT, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, is really just a broad term. I’m actually not even working with any families right now. It’s all individual therapy or married couples, so it’s just this umbrella term for that.

I’m actually going to start working with a 14-year-old next week, which is really exciting because that is dipping into more of the family component. I haven’t worked with people under 18 yet. That’s going to be an exciting new part of this process in the field; it’s getting to learn how to work with younger clientele.

Do you ever get clients who know your work and recognize you?

Oh, yeah.

How do you navigate that?

It’s funny. I was nervous about that, and then when it comes down to it, it’s brought up once and then they’re there for a reason and that’s what they’re going to talk about, their stuff. Every once in a while someone might be like, “You know this band,” or something like that. I’m like, “Yeah.” But it hasn’t really interfered yet. If anything, a lot of people have reached out to me that work in entertainment or music and the reason that they were interested—and it’s not necessarily that they were a fan of the band even—it’s just that they liked the idea that I had experience in music so that I could understand what they’re going through in their own life.

Have you heard from anyone else in the entertainment industry who is saying, “How did you do this? How can I also do something else?”

I heard from a couple people that are burned out, being “Can we talk on the phone for 20 minutes” kind of thing. I don’t know if anyone’s actually done anything about it yet. It’s all pretty recent, but I’ve definitely heard from some other musicians that were like, “I’m fried and I’ve always been really interested in this.”

There are memes now about how men will do literally anything besides going to therapy. What’s been your experience there and how do you think men can move past that?

I’m familiar with the memes, and it’s funny—this is very unusual, but half of my clientele are straight men. Which is totally different from the clinic I worked at last year where I was only working with gay men.

It is different because a lot of times men aren’t encouraged to express themselves emotionally, and so sometimes they’re coming in with a little bit of a deficit in terms of their emotional language or their ability to explore things because it was never encouraged as a child or it was looked at as weak. That’s something that we discuss, too, is the feeling of frustration about that, of not having had an outlet when they were younger and having to shoulder and keep a lot of pain or just feelings without having a place to talk about it. That’s a big generalization. Obviously, there are many, many straight men that are in touch with themselves, but you understand what I’m saying. It is still not celebrated in the way I wish it was for men to be more in touch with their emotions, but I think we’re making progress and hopefully it continues that way.

Just over 10 years ago now, Grizzly Bear was the subject of a New York Magazine story where you guys were all very honest about the harsh reality of being touring musicians, and the economics of it all. Did wanting to be settled down and have a reliable job factor into this decision at all?

There was a factor of that. I’m not going to go into the finances of it, but there was something about the stability that appealed to me and the schedule and not having to travel all the time and be away from friends and family and loved ones for such long periods of time. There’s a stability to it. It’s something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, but I always had a hard time imagining myself touring at age 55 or 60. People do it and it’s amazing. Congrats. I just always knew that I didn’t think it was possible for me to do that, just for a variety of reasons.

What was happening in the 2018-2019 period—the turning point where you really felt burned out on it?

Well, I wouldn’t say there’s one instance per se. It was something that was bubbling underneath for a while for me. It was just a couple long stints on the road where I had a look-in-the-mirror moment being like, “Do I still really want to be doing this in the next five years?” I slowly came to terms with the fact that I wanted to try something different. I don’t want to sound like I wasn’t having fun. I still enjoy making music and I enjoyed performing, but there were some negative aspects of it for me that started to outweigh the positive for my mental health and my physical health. I just decided to take control of my life, and this has honestly been so much healthier for me, and that’s just a me thing. That was just something I needed to do for myself.

For a lot of creative people, when your creative identity is also your job and those become so enmeshed with each other, it can be hard to accept you want to do something else or, when you do, feel as if you’re abandoning that self. Do you find any difficulty there, or wondering, “I’m a working musician, what happens if I stop doing it for my day job?”

No, I’m okay with that. I still feel like it’s a huge part of my life, and it always will be. It’s what I spent my entire adult life doing until a few years ago. I don’t feel like that piece of me is dead or I have to mourn it in some way, because I don’t really look at any of this as some sort of final definitive statement. I’m well aware that everything’s changing all the time, and I have no idea. I don’t foresee myself jumping back in the next two, three, four years, but again, I don’t know. I’m still getting started here, so everything’s really fun and exciting and rewarding, so I’m just really enjoying it a lot.

The flip side of that is, now that you’re not doing it for your job, do you find that you can enjoy music more?

No, I think I just enjoy music the same. It’s not like I wasn’t able to listen to music when I was in the band. I think there’s a relief, though, going back to the career side of it, of not having to worry about reviews. It’s nice to know that I’m doing something where my success isn’t linked to public perception, and that’s a relief for me because as much as I worked through all that through the years, it still didn’t make me feel good. I’m more of an anxious person, so I would read a lot of things, and I wouldn’t always have the restraint not to read the things, and the negative things would get to me. That’s not the main reason, but that’s one small thing where I was like, This isn’t the best world for me to exist in right now.

Do you know anyone else who went from being a musician to having a second act that you relied on for advice at all?

No one in the industry. Just friends and family and my own therapist. I thought I read that Sharon Van Etten was thinking of doing this, but I don’t know her and I didn’t reach out to her. I also haven’t heard anything about that for a while so maybe she’s not doing that anymore, or I don’t know, maybe she’s part-time.

Do you have any advice for people who want to try the second act?

So many people at my school were from entertainment. Not so much music, but a lot of former actors or writers, a lot of Hollywood second-act stuff. My advice is don’t be afraid to just dip your toes and that no one’s forcing you to do anything. Just because you try it doesn’t mean you’re committing to it, and you don’t have to end your old act unless you really want to.

So, right now there’s a lot of talk about the return of “indie sleaze.” Grizzly Bear is even the first band on Spotify’s official Indie Sleaze playlist. What are your thoughts on this whole revival?

Well, it makes me feel old, that’s for sure. It does feel like a long time ago, if I really think about it.

When I think of myself, when I was in seventh grade listening to Led Zeppelin, that was only 12, 14 years earlier. It felt like a generation away, even though it was only a little over a decade, and now it’s been over a decade, and I guess for a lot of people it does feel like this other time and world, even though to me it still feels semi-recent. But no, it’s cool. That means hopefully more people will listen to music from that era right now.

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