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Lawrence nightingale: Godsmack singer writes about life and crime on the mean streets of his hometown
By Dave Wedge/ Books
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 - Updated: 05:03 AM EST

Sully Erna’s new memoir barely even mentions Godsmack. But his gritty tales of guns, drugs and backstabbing on the mean streets of Lawrence expose the strife behind much of the multiplatinum Massachusetts band’s dark brand of metal.

The singer now lives a rock star life worlds away from the poverty-strewn triple-deckers in the city on the Merrimack River. Yet clearly he hasn’t forgotten his roots, for better or worse.

"Now I look back and never regret one stitch of my past," Erna said from his home in Windham, N.H. "I wouldn’t change it for anything, as tough as it was, because I don’t believe I would have grown to be who I am today without that past."

It’s a past that includes pulling guns on knife-wielding thugs. Confronting midnight intruders. Witnessing shootouts as well as a gory plane crash. Stealing cars.

And that’s just his high school years.

Erna, who turns 39 on Feb. 7, recounts this and much more in his book, "The Paths We Choose: A Memoir" (Bartleby Press, $21.95), which officially arrives on Feb. 22. His inspirational story matter-of-factly details his life and crimes, as well as the painful struggles he faced before his meteoric rise to fame as Godsmack’s frontman.

"It’s weird because it wasn’t on my agenda in life to put out a published book," Erna said, noting that he penned the memoir on tour with Godsmack. "It’s just something that just fell into my life."

He’s quick to warn fans that the book "has nothing to do with Godsmack," although it does provide ample insight into how personal tragedy, rebelliousness and relentless drive turned his future from bleak to bright.

"This isn’t your typical rock ’n’roll book," Erna said. "This has nothing to do with the drugs we’ve done and the girls we’ve slept with. It’s almost a book of hope, as corny as that sounds. I’m hoping it’ll hit a nerve with people who are still struggling, to show them there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s just a son of a bitch getting there."

Erna’s struggle started at a young age. His father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to work two jobs just to maintain an apartment in Lawrence’s rough downtown. As a small Italian kid with long hair and an Irish-sounding first name, Sully spent his days working dead-end jobs, fighting and smoking weed, all while pursuing an elusive rock ’n’ roll dream.

His journey included stints as drummer for Boston bands Meliah Rage and Seka, both of which saw major-label deals fizzle. There was also an ill-fated move to North Carolina, where Erna got kicked out of school, played in bar bands and had his heart stomped by a drug-addicted groupie he almost married.

It’s a struggle that nearly broke him. But now with 10 million album sales under his belt, the hometown that once would have locked him up recently gave him a gold key to the city.

"I spent 30 years trying to get out of Lawrence and now they’re giving me a key to get back in," he said, then laughing. "But this place molded me to be the person I am. It was a tough place and it hardened me enough to not make me a killer or cold, but it prepared me for life. And that’s what I really respect the most."