These days Good Charlotte are on top of the world, but there was a time when Benji Madden felt like taking his own life.
“I’ll be the first person to say I have the most amazing life of anyone I’ve ever met, but I did come to certain points of my life where I thought that [suicide] was an option,” Benji admitted recently, sitting next to his brother Joel inside the Sunset Marquis Hotel.
His voice trailing off, he quietly acknowledged the role that music played in ultimately steering him away from such a tragic and horrible act.
The Madden brothers and their bandmates have just completed work on a video for “Hold On,” the final single from last year’s The Young and the Hopeless. The song is a response of sorts to all of the Good Charlotte fans who have written the band letters saying that they’re contemplating suicide.
“It’s the most important song on the album to me because we wrote it for [that] one specific reason,” Benji said. “All of our lyrics are really personal, and we get a lot of personal letters… We want to give [those] fans hope, just to let them know it’s never worth taking your own life.”
“[It’s] probably the most important song we’ve ever done,” added his brother, who brought up the impending 10-year anniversary of the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and the recent death of singer/songwriter Elliott Smith as examples of the song’s continued relevance. “I think about [them and late Alice in Chains frontman] Layne Staley… and [other] people we have lost to kind of hopeless situations. And this song is totally about hope.”
And with Cobain in mind, Good Charlotte enlisted video director Sam Bayer, the man responsible for Nirvana’s groundbreaking “Smells Like Teen Spirit” clip.
“He is probably our favorite director of all time,” Joel said. “We never thought we’d get the chance to work with Sam Bayer because he stopped making videos… I think part of the reason why he doesn’t make videos anymore is because he loves music so much and I guess the industry kind of flips you. It can definitely scare you away.
“We called him anyway, because he was our dream director for this song,” he added. “We called him and were just like, ‘We want to work with you,’ and he said, ‘Yes’! ”
The “Hold On” video, appropriately serious and stark in tone, is not only a collaborative effort between Good Charlotte and Bayer but a team-up with the band and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“It’s almost like a public service announcement,” Joel said of the mostly performance-driven clip. “[It includes] real people who have lost sons, daughters and friends, and then kids who have tried to commit suicide, kids who didn’t [and] pictures of kids who have killed themselves.”
The Madden brothers added that they could have easily chosen a more radio-friendly and accessible song from Lifestyles…, like the bouncy and fun second single, “Boys and Girls,” before it, in place of “Hold On,” but they opted to choose message over money. They also saved the video for last in hopes that it would get more attention than the songs before it.
“We just hope that maybe one kid will see this video or hear this song and say, ‘OK, I’m gonna hold on,’ ” Benji said.