Country music star Gemma Kirby has been in the industry she was 15, touring with award winning artists including Adam Brand, Jimmy Barnes, Shannon Noll, Beccy Cole and Melinda Schneider. Here, she reveals to Lifestyle News how deeply ingrained alcohol is in her industry - and why she decided to give it up altogether.
To be honest, it took me quite a few years to truly grasp how deeply ingrained alcohol is in the entertainment industry.
The turning point for me was witnessing a young female country music artist being taken advantage of at a festival.
That incident made me vow never to allow myself to reach a point where I blurred the lines between having a good time with friends and compromising my integrity in my professional life.
It led me to step back and make a deliberate choice to lead a sober life, not just for my health but also for the sake of my career..
I've also worked in several male-dominated environments where alcohol is considered a social norm.
In the world of country music, in particular, alcohol plays a significant role. I can't exclude myself from this, as I've previously had alcohol brands as sponsors.
However, it was a wake-up call for me to carefully consider the associations I wanted to establish with my brand.
Currently, it seems like every other song in the industry is about whiskey, tequila, moonshine, or wine, which I get, is fun!
For instance, my 15-year-old daughter's favourite song is "Whiskey Glasses" by Morgan Wallen. Although she doesn't know what whiskey tastes like, it has sparked conversations about alcohol with our children.
In Australia, we've witnessed a significant shift in the demographics of country music over the past decade, which is an exciting development for all of us.
The genre has become more commercialised and widespread across our nation. This shift might be one reason why alcohol consumption appears to be more prevalent.
Additionally, the trend of alcohol consumption at festivals and events has become more noticeable, with practices like "Shoeys" being promoted by international artists during their visits and quickly going viral on social media platforms.
I've worked in various male-dominated industries, especially in central regional Queensland, where alcohol often plays a significant role in labour-intensive jobs.
When I made the decision to embrace sobriety, it became an intriguing social experiment for me.
I found it quite intimidating to inform people that I wasn't drinking anymore.
People would urge me to have a drink, using phrases like "stop being a wimp" or "just have one, you're spoiling the fun."
My husband, when he decided to abstain from drinking for a few months when I first started, faced similar comments.
In his case, people would insistently offer him a beer and he had to firmly decline.
To put an end to the persistent pressure to drink, I started telling people that I was doing a three-month challenge, which included avoiding alcohol.
Surprisingly, this approach was more readily accepted, and people wouldn't ask further questions. My challenge continued beyond three months, and now people hardly inquire about it.
Initially, it was quite challenging. I even had to come to terms with losing some close friendships because some friends excluded me from events or gatherings simply because I didn't drink.
However, as time went on, I resumed my normal life, and people didn't really notice or care.
When I go out, I order a mocktail, and people assume it's a regular cocktail.
I rarely mention that I don't drink, and most people don't know any different. I live by the motto that I'm wild enough without a drink, and how would anyone even know?
In regional areas of Australia, there's a widespread acceptance of alcohol as part of daily life.
It's common for people to come home and have a beer or pour a glass of wine every night.
Even after almost nine months of not drinking, I am still in the habit of automatically heading into the Liquorland at my local shopping centre while doing my grocery shopping at Coles!
Pour yourself a drink (non-alcoholic!) and add Gemma Kirby to your favourite playlists. Follow @gemmakirbymusic on Instagram for new music updates.