It was a long time ago when I first noticed that Alex Rossi and his funky band Root City seemed to play somewhere in the Twin Cities every night of the week. I, too, was a musician, except for me, playing a show in the city was a special occasion. For Rossi, it was just another night. He was far more talented, of course—a monster guitar player on top of being an accomplished singer and songwriter. That shone through on the great live album I owned: Root City Live. That's also why, a dozen years later, he's still playing several nights a week, and I'm bopping my head to the video for his new single, "R n' B," from the excellent album Echoes from the Arches. So prolific is Rossi as a live performer that after playing on the main stage at HazelFest 2017, he'll drive four hours to perform at another festival the same day. It's inspiring to see this stage warrior continue to entertain audiences night after night. It's also inspiring to know he and I are connected in another way. We're both in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder—a fact that made checking in with him ahead of HazelFest a special treat. Who is Alex Rossi? Introduce yourself and tell people what you do. I am a proud Minneapolis-born-and-raised singer and songwriter. I quit high school and started a band. For better or for worse, it has brought me around the world and back. In fact, I just returned from Doha, Qatar where I was honored to play a show for the troops. Being in a band also brought me to rehab. Are you excited to play HazelFest? Because we are excited to have you! I am!! I will admit that I was a little jealous when my good friend Nicholas David [HazelFest 2013] was on the bill! On the other side of the coin, I am happy to say that since I left Hazelden, I haven't had to come back. Will it be weird for you and your crew to play a show sober to an entirely sober audience? After I left Hazelden, I couldn't be at the venue for more than 10-15 minutes before a show. I just didn't know what to do or how to relax in the setting. Now, after so many years of a different routine, I would say that I probably won't notice the lack of alcoholic beverages around. Aside from being a benefit and raising money for Hazelden Betty Ford Financial Assistance (a fund dedicated to those who cannot afford treatment), HazelFest is about breaking down the social stigma around addiction and recovery. Tell people about some of the social stigma you have battled against in your life. I see two things about "stigma" that can be an issue for a person in recovery or considering the journey. 1) Often the negativity comes from people who have substance use problems themselves—the whole, "I can use without a problem, why can’t you?" There is a weird dynamic between people with problems, regarding whose problems are worse. 2) Once you spend all the time and effort to get well, a lot of people still see you as an "addict" first. It's frustrating to still be treated like someone with no control after six years of recovery. How has your life been affected by addiction or the process of recovery? My father struggled with alcohol and other drugs. He had been homeless for a number of years and in and out of programs. He lost his feet to frostbite in an especially cold weather snap one winter. When I left treatment, I gave my father an 18-month sobriety coin as he presented me with my 30-day coin. We were able to establish a relationship that had eluded us up to that point. But, after about 20 months of sobriety, my father slipped back into poor health and was quickly taken by the disease. He passed two years ago. HazelFest's tag line is "Celebrate Life." What do you do to "Celebrate Life?" I make music and bring it to the people. True: Almost every day of the week and sometimes twice in one day. For more information and tickets to HazelFest, go to www.hazelfest.org.