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
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."