By Eric Dehm
John Preston got his first taste of music stardom in kind of an odd way, in a really odd place. He was in Iraq, and a music video he and his fellow Marines made for a song he wrote went viral before “going viral” was really a thing. The video was covered by the L.A. Times and led to him getting a record contract as soon as he left the military.
So when he left the Corps after 4 years with combat deployments to Iraq as a Squad Leader under his belt, John Preston would seem to have been set for success. Of course, as is often the case, things went a little differently than he hoped.
“It was a rough transition,” Preston said. “Nobody told us what to do, nobody told us how to do it and nobody told us it wasn’t going to be easy… It was rough, man. I would drink and right before those points of blackout and think ‘it’d be great if I wasn’t here tomorrow.'”
Thankfully, Preston never acted on those thoughts; unfortunately, suicide would hit close to home nonetheless. His brother Michael, also a Marine Corps veteran, took his own life on Jan 13, 2016.
“I got a phone call an hour before I was supposed to go on stage telling me that my older brother had taken his own life,” Preston said. “I fell to pieces and I didn’t want to play music anymore. I had to dig into myself and change my perspective on what I was looking at. I had to stop blaming me and say, ‘I gotta stop this from happening to any other family on earth.'”
Preston is now showing that he means that as he has dedicated 100% of his share of proceeds from the re-release of the single “Before I Am Gone” (currently available for pre-order on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon) to the non-profit Stop Soldier Suicide. He also says both his record label Concore Entertainment and publisher Universal Music Group have been incredibly supportive of his mission and helping get the word out, which gives him confidence the song will make a difference.
Preston himself is doing what he can to make a difference by donating all of the money he could make from the song. While this likely sends a message on its own, Preston says he has a general message for vets considering suicide. It’s a message that is very direct and, he says, doesn’t come from John Preston the former Marine or John Preston the musician: it comes from John Preston, the little brother of a Marine who committed suicide.
“Life is not better without you,” Preston says. “It’s that simple.”