With March being the global Brain Injury Awareness Month, rising musician Jay Chavez has decided to open up with his struggles and share with the world all that he went through. He’s also using the opportunity to share his recovery journey and how he has stayed hopeful.
Jay Chavez’ experience over the last two years was unexpected. He had worked for over 30 years as a hired gun and session player and formed the Jay Chavez Band. In 2018, he started preparing to release his first solo album titled Plain Brown Wrapper, which he recorded at Hilltop Recording Studios in Nashville. His plan was to embark on a forty-city record release tour for spring 2020 after which he would get married to his fiance, Cassidy at their ranch in the mountains of Northern California.
It seemed like the perfect plan until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and they had to strategize. They decided to release the first single, postpone their in-person wedding plans and get married via zoom in late April. The event that turned their lives around occurred a week after the wedding when Jay was working on the ranch and had an accident. Over 2,500 lbs of lumber fell on him, and the force of the fall made his brain suffer a coup-contra-coup Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). His brain was bleeding in the front and back, the equivalent of having two strokes simultaneously.
That single event turned their “Quarantine Honeymoon” into a nightmare that saw Jay struggling to stay alive. Cassidy spent every day watching over him and keeping the ranch functioning. She also kept working on promoting the first single till it began to enjoy some level of success while keeping Jay’s injury away from the public.
Despite Jay’s absence from promotional activities, the first single, “All By Ourselves,“ was making the charts with the second single, “Change,” ready to hit the airwaves. Jay was unaware of all that was happening, but Cassidy ensured his world and life stayed intact. He suffered from severe vertigo so that he could not stand or speak. Cassidy began to place a guitar in his lap, and he would play, and she notes that the first notable difference in his health happened during that time.
In her words, “It was as if the brain injury had, at the same time that it ripped many of his faculties away, unlocked something buried inside him I hadn’t seen before. After a few minutes of playing, he could speak again and understand speech. It was, without a doubt, music that brought him back from the edge of oblivion when nothing else worked.”
Jay described his experience, “I don’t know how to describe it. English sounded like a foreign language. I couldn’t understand the simplest things my wife would say. But music. It was like grabbing onto flashes of color while living in a black and white world. It was the only way I could find my way back to understanding speech.”
Since his gradual recovery, Jay has been working on more music and now that he’s back to the recording studio, he feels like he’s fully back to doing the things he enjoys the most.
“I may have lost some parts of myself in all of this, but I’ve found that other things (musically) have become linked in a way that’s amazing, but hard to explain. The way that I think about my relationship to playing instruments has fundamentally changed. I see so many more possibilities and range in anything I pick up, it’s exciting. I’ve never considered myself a conservative player, but now I can say with certainty I’m taking more chances in my playing,” he said.
He has played full shows and appeared as a guest on some shows in the past year but all his plans for a tour have been suspended at the moment. He hopes to recover fully, spend more time with his family, and create new material. He’s also gearing to release Plain Brown Wrapper after numerous obstacles. The album is slated to drop in May 2022 on all music streaming platforms.