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Read the ‘sobering’ and yet hilarious story of when a student musician decided to quit alcohol

When Ethan Rocca was challenged with quitting drinking for a month after the usually festive Christmas and New Year, he felt it could only be so hard. Famous last words.

It was only when he returned to Cardiff university from Gibraltar he realised how difficult it was going to be.

“For the first few weeks it was easy, but then I got back to university and suddenly I’m going on nights out drinking just lime and soda!” said Ethan. “It was then that I realised just how much we usually drink due to just how many lime and sodas I had to buy.

“Initially, the Dry January was planned by someone in my friendship group. Unfortunately, by the time I came back to university I was the only person who was still partaking of this idea. Nonetheless, I stuck by it as I made a commitment.

“In the end I raised money for Alcohol Concern, the largest charity for alcohol abuse and addiction in the UK, with the grand total coming down to £155. You can add to that tally here.”

Joining the dots

Why would a university student take on a challenge like this? Well, there is clearly a past to this story as well, and it was something at the back of his mind for a while.

“I never met my grandfather, but he was a heavy smoker and drinker,” recalled Ethan. “He said he would give up alcohol for me, but unfortunately the damage was done.”

Ah, nothing like a singer/songwriter…

It is quite acceptable for alcohol to form part of student life as it is an acceptable form of self-discovery in UK culture (even if it’s only to know how many you can take before you become intolerable and pass out). But was there any point at where not taking any alcohol made him feel any better?

“It definitely did,” he said. “A week into February I felt more sluggish and lethargic due to the reintroduction of alcohol into my lifestyle. Of course, it can be alright with moderation but it sometimes feels like there’s a binge culture in the UK.

“Alcohol is interwoven into student culture. When there’s nothing left to do, we go to the pub. There’s been a lot more research on the effects of alcoholism in the UK than in Gibraltar, as a quick Google search will show.”

Musical dilemma

As a musician he is acutely aware of how alcohol is connected to making sure the show goes on.

Performing at his Student Union

“Most of my performances have been in restaurants, pubs and festivals,” said man whose surname is very Gibraltarian. “I feel like alcohol and music are both recreational experiences, and they become somewhat connected during live performances. But I don’t feel that either is essential to the other.

“When I go to watch performances of my favourite artists, I don’t like to drink because I want to remember the moment. In contrast, some others drink because it makes them feel like they enjoy it more. The music scene is so massive, that I wouldn’t say that alcohol has a connection to the whole of it though.”

Too much, too quick?

Many will know Ethan Rocca from the musical videos he posts on YouTube like the one below with lyrics he composed himself. But he also gets involved with the organisation of live music at Cardiff University.

Covers are often more of a challenge

“I am a committee member for Cardiff University’s Live Music Society,” he said. “We run open mic nights on a weekly basis at a local pub along with other events. My music career sort of lost steam after I left Gibraltar.

“I went from having no gigs, to playing in the Gibraltar Music Festival within a year. After that I felt like I hit sort of a ceiling that I didn’t push through. I still perform regularly at a number of venues, but I don’t write as much.”

Losing face

I think we have all marvelled of the wonderful way artists’ minds work. Ethan Rocca is no different when it comes to finding inspiration.

“I’m hoping to be hit by a wave of inspiration,” he concluded, of his plateau. “I’ve done some busking in Cardiff and I definitely like the feeling, but it rains most of the time in Wales which makes it hard to judge when to play.

“I plan to release music online, but I’ve got no clue when. I’ve just bought a Macbook and a music production software, so I should be able to record some things to put on Spotify soon. I’m not quite sure what’s stopped me releasing anything yet, but I think it’s long overdue.

“I think at university it becomes more difficult to practice. The walls are thinner, so people can hear you louder. At home, I don’t really mind if my parents hear me make mistakes but I guess at university I’m more scared in case my housemates hear it.

Just before going to press we checked Ethan’s Facebook page to see how his quest against alcohol was faring. Oh, how far he had fallen, too. To our horror, his last post advertised a cider and ale festival.

When we challenged him about it, he was coy as ever. “It’s February my dude,” he instant messaged. “Dry January ended a while ago.” Oh well, at least he tried…

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