American rock band Great White’s co-founder Mark Kendall has shared in his band’s successes and misfortunes in his 30 years as the group’s guitarist.
Kendall was not immune to the temptations of fame, and spent many years in and out of rehab, struggling with alcoholism. But when mishandled pyrotechnics at one of Great White's concerts took the life of 100 fans and a fellow musician, Kendall fell into a deep depression before finally taking control of his life and turning to God.
“I just made a commitment that I was going to get closer to God, turn myself over to Him and really work on myself and not drink,” Kendall told FOX411.
“What I’ve done is work on really being in touch with my faith,” he explained. “I belong to a church, have a pastor, I’ve been baptized and I started my own support group by reaching out and making myself available.”
Everything changed for Kendall when his former band mate Jack Russel asked him to perform at a concert in Rhode Island. Although the two were touring separately, Kendall agreed to help his friend out. He didn’t realize that that small favor would change his life forever.
“Jack was playing with his own band and the ticket sales weren’t doing so well,” explained Kendall. “They were using a sparkler thing in the beginning of the show, and for one thing, Great White, we don’t use that stuff.”
It was “odd,” said Kendall, who was embarrassed to use the pyrotechnics but agreed after he was assured they were safe. Soon after the start of the show, he felt heat on his back, noticed fire, and stepped outside to let security put it out.
What he thought was a small fire ended up a terrible tragedy.
“It was just a horrific nightmare, it was unreal,” Kendall told FOX411. “I prayed with my pastor and spoke with professionals and prayed every day.”
Kendall said the thing that has helped him heal the most has been getting involved with an organization that supports the victim’s families and the survivors from that February night in 2003.
“I started meeting with a lot of survivors and we support each other,” said Kendall. “That has been for me, the best part of the healing process is the fellowship with them. We pray together for all the people we lost that night.”
It took Kendall several years after the fire to get sober, but he eventually stood up and said, “Enough is enough. I’m going to change my life.” And he did.
He now uses his notoriety as a way to inspire people who face the same struggles he once suffered from.
“I never wanted to use my band to say, ‘I’m really cool,’” said Kendall who has a new single coming out soon called “Complicated.” “I really like it when music can help somebody who might die otherwise. I don’t care how bad you think you are, you can change it all.”
Faith & Fame is a regular column exploring how a strong belief system helps some performers navigate the pitfalls of the entertainment industry.
You can find Sasha Savitsky on Twitter @SashaFB.