“When Life Rearranges… Everything”: An Essay by Arctic Wave’s C.L Turner for Mental Health Awareness Month

Arctic Wave's C.L Turner © 2024
Arctic Wave's C.L Turner © 2024
Throughout the year, Atwood Magazine invites members of the music industry to participate in a series of essays reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more.
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Today, C.L Turner of Austin, Texas-based Arctic Wave shares his essay, “When Life Rearranges… Everything,” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Mental Health Awareness Month series. Says Turner, “In the midst of life’s upheavals, from personal loss to career setbacks, my journey evolved through the unexpected catalyst of songwriting, spurred by my daughter’s drawing, leading me to sobriety, newfound purpose, and musical success with Arctic Wave, all while advocating for familial support systems through projects like CARES and KN2.”
Through an eclectic blend of sounds and musical influences, Arctic Wave delves deeper into the human experience, offering listeners a glimpse into the raw emotions and struggles that define us all. For Arctic Wave’s founder and songwriter, this track is more than just music – it’s a personal journey of resilience and renewal. After facing a series of life-altering challenges, including the loss of loved ones, divorce, and career setbacks, Arctic Wave’s journey began with a keyboard and a desire to express the complexity of human emotions through music.
“Two Houses,” the poignant first song penned by Arctic Wave’s founder, laid the foundation for a prolific songwriting career that has resulted in over 75 original compositions. With each song, teaming up with renowned producer Will Hensley and a talented group of musicians, Arctic Wave has crafted an album that is both commercially appealing and emotionally resonant.
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by C.L Turner, Arctic Wave

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It’s hard cope with all the changes. It’s hard to breathe when life rearranges… everything.

My musical/life journey is atypical in almost every way.

As a kid, we had a piano in the house. My sister took classical lessons, but I learned to play by ear. I remember “pecking” songs by Prince to Selena to No Doubt. Developed a good ear and, over time, became a proficient player. Very useful party trick… “name a tune” and I can play it, or learn it quickly. Played a little bit in the Caribbean (Marley covers) and also in a contemporary church service (where I was the only musician who didn’t get a mic… deservedly so!).

Then, life rearranged… everything.

Within 6 months…

  • My mother died
  • I lost a job
  • My wife filed for divorce and tried to eliminate my custody of our 4-year-old daughter.
  • Two of my five best friends, both twins, committed suicide within a month of each other.

I had never written a song to this point. Then, I saw my young daughter’s drawing – a stick man (dad) and a stick woman (mom) pulling at a stick girl (her) from opposite sides. My first song wrote itself.

“I saw what you drew; it’s your reality.
Two parents, two houses, two families.
I got on my knees and said a prayer.
Help me God, wanna get it right from here.
‘Cause you’re the most important thing in the world” 

Afterward, and partly as a result of the “spin cycle,” the songwriting font continued. Surprisingly, after my life stabilized, the songs kept coming. Over 10 years later, they’re still coming. While some are autobiographical, the songs touch on “real” subjects – love, divorce, substance abuse, aging, etc. For me, the song is successful if the listener says “I can relate” or “That makes sense” and feels the emotion of the subject. If the listener feels like moving to the beat, all the better!

In hindsight, I’m grateful for the “spin cycle,” otherwise I would not have changed my lifestyle which was decidedly self-centered and revolved around alcohol consumption.

Not only did my daughter inspire my first song, she also inspired me to quit drinking. Alcohol had been a staple of my life… forever. But shortly after I was separated, my young daughter and I were grocery shopping while I headed for the milk at the back of the store. My daughter said, “Daddy, you forgot the rum and the beer.”

Those words pierced.

My girl deserved a loving, active father and, based on my trajectory, she would not have had one for long. After a quarter century of drinking to extreme excess, I quit. Many years later, I’m still sober and have a great relationship with my young adult daughter. As parents, our job, ostensibly, is to “teach” our kids, but my girl “taught” me, and, in the process, prompted my songwriting and my sobriety.

Arctic Wave's C.L Turner © 2024
Arctic Wave’s C.L Turner © 2024

My life story can be bifurcated in “BS” (before sobriety”) and “AS” (after sobriety).

Surprisingly, “rock bottom” proved to be a launching pad. To switch metaphors, after the storm, sunshine! My daughter is now a college student, I am very happily married to a woman I wish I had known my whole life … and the music “project” has gained real traction.

“Thank God for the crash; got scared straight.
Changed my life before too late.
Put the bottle down, let love in
No more drinkin’, no more wonderin’
I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

After 10 years of songwriting (maybe ~100 tunes), I thought that the “raw emotion” in my songs might resonate with others, so I had a dozen recorded by world-renowned musicians. At the time, we just considered these efforts a one-off, single-album project.

The musicians have plenty of shared history, and include a Grammy-winning producer and multi-charting singer. Plus, we all get along well, and the musical output is rewarding personally and has seemingly hit a nerve with listeners, perhaps those with facing their own struggles.

Under the moniker Arctic Wave, the first album is being released, the second album is complete and will be released in late ’24 and early ’25, the third album will be recorded late ’24, and demos for album 4 are stacking up. We’ve augmented the music with 7 vids for Album 1, and plan to continue this approach, rinse and repeat.

I’m still learning… but if I were asked for words of advice, mine are “let love in” and “it’s NEVER too late.”

See you on the upbeat. – C.L Turner, Arctic Wave

P.S. Reflective of my journey, I’m quite active in two “passion projects” – a friend has launched a program “CARES” to address the problems of those who have alcoholic family members (not the alcoholic, but the rest of the family). I’m also supportive of divorcing parents, usually dads, that find it difficult to legally pursue their custody rights, usually due to time or money constraints. I plan to formalize this “KN2” effort… Kids Need 2… because they do.

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Stream: “Air to Breathe” – Arctic Wave

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Air to Wave - Arctic Wave

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