In new memoir, drummer Freda Love Smith seeks high notes of quitting

Keywords Arts/Culture
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Freda Love Smith
Freda Love Smith played drums in the rock bands Blake Babies, Mysteries of Life and Sunshine Boys. (Alex Hazel photo)

Freda Love Smith, who grew up in rural Monroe County and made her mark on 1980s college rock as the drummer in Boston’s Blake Babies, writes about drastic measures in a new book titled “I Quit Everything.”

Deciding that pandemic lockdown facilitated the use of too much alcohol, Smith cut out a series of habits in 2021. The Illinois resident took a cold turkey approach to alcohol, sugar, cannabis, caffeine and social media across a series of months.

Spoiler alert: Smith didn’t ditch everything in the long run, but major life changes accompanied the experiment.

Also known for her work in Indiana bands Antenna, Gentleman Caller and the Mysteries of Life, Smith will read from “I Quit Everything: How One Woman’s Addiction to Quitting Helped Her Confront Bad Habits and Embrace Midlife” during a Sept. 14 event at the Melody Inn, 3826 N. Illinois St. “I Quit Everything” is scheduled to arrive in stores on Sept. 19.

The part in the book’s full title about embracing midlife became bigger and more important than she originally expected.

“As the pandemic was kind of winding down and we were re-entering public life, a thing that came up a lot was this sense of, ‘OK, do we want to just go back to the way everything was before, or is this an opportunity to do some self-examination and make some changes?’ ” Smith said.

The Indiana University alum includes a healthy amount of academic research when writing about her efforts to abstain from alcohol, sugar, cannabis, caffeine and social media.

I Quit Everything cover
Freda Love Smith will read from her new book, “I Quit Everything: How One Woman’s Addiction to Quitting Helped Her Confront Bad Habits and Embrace Midlife,” Sept. 14 at the Melody Inn. (Image provided by Agate Publishing Inc.)

There’s also an entertaining thread of pop culture references. The movies “The Bad News Bears,” “Arthur” and “Barfly,” for instance, presented alcohol as entertainment for Smith as a young viewer. It was impossible to miss the sugary themes of TV commercials airing amid Saturday morning cartoons. And, yes, that was iconic Indiana author Kurt Vonnegut being heralded as a “Coffee Achiever” in a 1980s ad campaign.

“We’re all at least in part created by the media we loved as kids,” Smith said.

Being married to Jake Smith, a media studies professor at Northwestern University (and co-founder of the Mysteries of Life), contributes to being attuned to pop culture, Smith said.

“I also think it’s a bit of a product of the pandemic,” she said. “All of us were reading so many books or watching so many movies or spending so much time on YouTube. The fact that there’s so many references partly arises from that period of time when I didn’t have nearly as much social contact. I had a lot of media in my life.”

“I Quit Everything” details memorable moments from Smith’s career as a drummer, from her first gig as a teenager in a Bloomington band known as Medium Cool to recent years being a member of Chicago’s Sunshine Boys.

She was 19 when she moved to Boston and formed Blake Babies with fellow Hoosier John Strohm and vocalist-guitarist Juliana Hatfield. Peer bands in the Boston community included the Pixies, Lemonheads and Throwing Muses.

“Meeting Juliana and forming the Blake Babies was a magical time in my life,” Smith said. “It was truly thrilling. If you have that magic in the beginning of a relationship, even when it wears off later there’s still residual sparkle from that.”

Hatfield eventually found MTV success as a solo artist, and she recorded two more albums with Smith in the trio Some Girls (rounded out by former Indianapolis-based musician Heidi Gluck).

At 56, Smith doesn’t look back at her “I Quit Everything” experiment and pronounce moderation as the best path to follow.

“I question that,” she said. “At one point, I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe that is the answer,’ but I’m not sure if it really is. I think awareness is more the thing, because sometimes going to extremes can be good. It depends on who you are and when it is in your life. For me, it’s about paying attention.”

‘I Quit Everything’ book event

  • When: 8 p.m. Sept. 14.
  • With: Music by the Vulgar Boatmen (acoustic set), John Sheets.
  • Where: Melody Inn, 3826 N. Illinois St.
  • Admission: $10.
  • Info: Visit melodyindy.com.

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