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Beyond the Lyrics: Cold | An Essay On Loss, Grief and Legacy

Updated: Apr 17

by Natasha Maxwell

Recently, I met with Scooter Ward of Cold on their tour bus before and after Cold's performance at the Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan, on April 12, 2024.

In our pre-show meeting, I briefly explained that exploring sensitive topics like death and grief can be challenging for some individuals. I didn’t want to seem intrusive, but the conversation was necessary to explore my documentary research on grief. However, as a fellow Cold staff member mentioned, "Don't feel bad getting dark; you're on the Cold Bus." Sharing this introduction to loss was a segue into the deeper topics of our conversation after the show, which is to assist others in understanding how to deal with death, grief, and the complex issues associated with such hardships. 

 Just before beginning our post-show discussion, it was almost midnight when Lindsay, the bassist of Cold, came to find me inside the venue. I had gone back inside after the performance when two drunken men approached me and offered money to slap one of their friends. Although I enjoy attending shows alone, I find such situations tiring. That's when Lindsay found me and escorted me to the bus, where band members and support staff relaxed after finishing loading equipment. It was a laid-back atmosphere while Lindsay chatted with other members about the night and next plans.

Scooter then walked me to a seating area and offered me a notebook to use as a writing surface. This small gesture of respect and kindness has been typical of Cold since we first met in 2021. Hearing similar positive stories from fans and other journalists is heartening, so I am not surprised by Scooter’s thoughtfulness. Humility seems necessary to Scooter, which he exercises effortlessly in his interactions.

Our discourse began with me asking Scooter how he hopes to be remembered for his contributions to the music industry. After taking a moment to think, he looked away before responding. Scooter explained that for him, Cold wasn't just a way of making a living; it has been a way to cope. Like many fans, Scooter has gone through difficult times and faced the darkness in his past. Although he hasn't found a perfect way to deal with the pain of losing loved ones, he mentions that writing music is the only practical and healthy coping strategy for him. In the past, drugs and alcohol were his medicine, but they only provided temporary relief. If one listens carefully, Cold's music mirrors this turmoil closely.

Over the years, Cold's music has evolved and transformed, and every album "encapsulates" the band's changing states of mind and life experiences. Through experimentation with sound and writing styles, each album has developed a unique mix. According to Scooter, the band's founder and vocalist, he was not intimidated by the music industry. Instead, he remained faithful to his desire to take risks, exploring new creative ideas within his artistry.

I asked if there were any significant moments that played a role in shaping the band's sound. Scooter, a gifted lyricist, mentioned a time when he suffered from writer's block lasting nearly three years. It was a frustrating and depressing time since music has always been a constant in Scooter's life. He wondered, "if I don't have music [as this outlet] then what the fuck do I have?" Scooter was growing more and more aware of his children's experiences with bullying and abuse at school, as well as a family friend's daughter's similar problem. Even though it was challenging, he overcame writer's block and wrote the song "Shine" in reference to the pain his daughter and others in school feel when targeted.

Other inspiring periods of creativity include more moments of great despair for Scooter and his family. During the creation of Different Kind of Pain, one family member suffered an unimaginable illness while they also reeled from the unexpected and traumatic loss of another member. We spoke about how these events impacted Scooter's children and how our youth are struggling to cope with negativity and turmoil in the world.

While pondering the challenges faced by today's youth, we discussed the impact of technology on empathy. People are more connected than ever, yet technology disconnects them in terms of compassion and caring which ultimately reduces creativity. Additionally, social media's intentional design to retain engagement kills boredom. However, this loss of quiet and stillness can result in a decline in creative problem-solving skills. Scooter and I agreed that creating art is a mindful choice that one must make. The question arose: How can we reach today's audience if fewer people care, and if people are emotionally disconnected, how can we cultivate empathy and help them reconnect?

As I stared at my notes, the solution suddenly became clear. I wrote, "Music is the catalyst for change." Music helps us connect with others by sharing stories and expressing parts of ourselves that are often difficult to put into words. Throughout history, music has been used to document significant events, celebrate victories, protest against oppression, and even provide solace during times of pain.

I asked Scooter if his values have changed over time and if they impact how he prioritizes Cold's objectives and tasks. Scooter replied that he had met several fans over the past 25+ years who have shared their vulnerabilities, intimate moments, losses, grief, and survival stories with him. These moments have inspired Scooter to develop a "responsibility for the narrative" in his lyrics. He believes that opening his wounds can help others heal, and therefore, he strives to write music that guides people toward openness and hope. This community created by Cold's music has become a coping mechanism for Scooter. He i s dedicated to his fans and grateful that his music has helped many people survive critical times.

Scooter and I have both experienced the pain of death and loss. We have had to deal with the loss of close friends and loved ones from a young age. Coping with grief at these pivotal periods in youth without proper strategies or wisdom led to self-harming behaviors. We both admitted that we used alcohol in the past to numb the pain, which only prolonged it. Self-medicating doesn't heal grief; it only temporarily stores it away. One of the possible reasons the pain was so challenging to confront was survivor's guilt or the fear of losing our battles with depression, as there were times, we both felt in earlier stages that we couldn't go on. 

During our exchange, we discussed my struggle to come to terms with my husband's passing after his battle with cancer, as well as Scooter's sister's previous cancer diagnosis when he wasn't sure if she would survive. Many of Scooter’s experiences regarding his sister are reflected in the lyrics of the songs on the Year of the Spider album. We mused how our run-ins over the past three years correlate with Cold’s music. I first met Scooter and Lindsay following a Cold show in 2021, just one month after my husband’s passing. I had attended the event with a friend in honor of my husband, Robby, who was a Cold fan. Scooter signed my necklace charm of my husband’s fingerprint, and I purchased Lindsay’s book Unfuckwithable. The show was the embarkment of my more than 3-year’s work documenting the process of working through grief as a young widow. 

Something meaningful and helpful Scooter mentioned is how the band has watched my progress over the years and how they’re proud of the work I’m doing. I’ve debated giving up on the documentary experience many times but eventually pushed on. Having this insight that others are watching me work through the grief process in real time helped me realize that what I’m doing does matter. More people like me need to discover a way through grief - to accept it and carry it more healthily. 

Grief is a personal experience that affects each individual differently. However, our modern society tends to fear death and distance itself from it rather than accepting it as a natural part of the human experience. This detachment can make facing death a terrifying experience, often accompanied by anger and confusion that can cloud one's judgment. The first two years of my widowhood were chaotic and traumatic. So much of it was spent in survival mode and figuring out how to go on with each new day. I admitted to Scooter there were times I pleaded not to wake up. Scooter assured me that he faced similar moments in his past and that he understood that desperation. 

Scooter and I then jokingly but sincerely concluded the key to surviving grief is to accept that life can be "shit" at times. Once you have come to terms with the ups and downs of life, it becomes easier to find a balance and cope with difficult situations such as grief. Life is beautiful because it balances awe, wonder, terror, and boredom. Learning how to live happily again with grief requires an acceptance of the pain. Death is simply part of life's natural cycle, and the emotions we feel are human. However, this doesn't mean we can't do something about our afflictions. It's often through our discomfort that we create beautiful works of art and music. We take the aching inside and express it differently - on paper, canvas, or through song.

In conclusion, my recent conversation with Scooter has illuminated profound insights into loss, grief, and legacy. Through our candid reflections on Cold's evolution and confrontations with grief on different albums, we've uncovered the transformative power of music as a vessel for healing and connection. Cold's music resonates with fans who find solace and community in its raw honesty. Our dialogue underscored the importance of accepting life's inevitable hardships, embracing the full spectrum of human emotion, and channeling our pain into artistry and resilience. In facing grief head-on, we confront our vulnerabilities and emerge stronger, united by a shared understanding of life's complexities. Ultimately, our conversation reaffirmed that while grief may be an inescapable part of the human experience, we find meaning, purpose, and perhaps even a glimpse of beauty amidst the chaos through our courage to acknowledge, honor, and transcend it. As we navigate the twists and turns of life's journey, let us remember that there is also light in the darkness – and in grief, there is also transformation and renewal.

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