Jay DeMarcus Writes of Tragedy, Hope in ‘Shotgun Angels:’ ‘It Was Like Therapy’
Jay DeMarcus isn’t afraid to confront the pain in his story. In his new memoir, Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope, the Rascal Flatts star opens up about a series of defining life events, including the agony of giving a daughter up for adoption.
For years, DeMarcus has maintained a notebook filled with stories in anticipation of one day writing a book. When the opportunity arose, he admits he felt trepidation of whether his life story was interesting enough to turn into a published work — but the idea of being able to inspire someone with his story that motivated him.
"It was like therapy," he tells Taste of Country, speaking of writing the book. "Reliving the painful moments is really tough to revisit, and being an emotionally driven person anyway, having to bring that stuff back up to the surface was not always easy.”
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DeMarcus reflectively explores several of these somber moments as he candidly describes the controlling nature of his father, a gifted musician who was raised in an abusive household, and the heartbreaking death of his Pappaw. But the story that tested his vulnerability is in chapter nine, where he details how a broken condom led to the conception of a baby girl with his then-girlfriend, Maggie.
DeMarcus writes how he immediately knew Maggie was pregnant and the internal struggle that followed when it was confirmed. He’s honest about the anguish he felt when they ultimately decided to give the baby up for adoption — a decision that sent him into a battle with depression where he turned to drinking and pills to cope with the guilt.
"It was the catalyst for a lot of different things that started to unfold in my life that I'm not particularly proud of and some darkest times that I had here in Nashville and what led me to a place of really questioning everything about my faith,” he says. “I felt like I had to tell that story or I wasn't presenting the full picture of my life and how it ended up where it is.”
While DeMarcus is truthful in sharing his pain, hope is also a major element of his story. “Hope doesn’t always look like sunshine and moonbeams. I’ve found hope to look more like bruised knuckles, calloused fingers from playing bass guitar for hours on end, raccoon eyes from driving all night to the next gig,” he says in the book.
DeMarcus admits he feels “resolute” looking back on the adoption, knowing the decision awarded a child to a couple who was having trouble conceiving while reminding him of the people who faithfully stood by his side in the midst of inner turmoil and moments that served as beacons of hope, whether a sign on a billboard or a text from a friend.
“There's not a human being on the planet that hasn't been hurting at some point or another or dealt with some pain or some shame or some guilt. I thought it was very important to be as real as I could about that and to hopefully paint a picture of somebody who can have enough self reflection to admit that they're a flawed human being and needs help,” he explains. “I believe that you find hope in the most unlikely of places sometimes if you're open to find it. There were times that I remembered as I started writing that things would happen without me even realizing it to get me through the next day. Those things don't happen by accident and to me, that’s the biggest lesson that I took away from writing the book.”
Shotgun Angels is available now.
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