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'It's not just me': Now homeless, Calgary musician says many in the industry are struggling

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A prominent, Juno-winning Calgary guitarist is living out of his vehicle after falling on tough times.

Oscar Lopez is known for releasing a dozen albums and for his energetic live shows.

But he tells CTV News the industry hasn't been providing like it used to.

"I'm struggling," Lopez said.

"And I was very afraid, myself, and very ashamed to reach out because I'm proud man.

"Even if I'm going through a tough time, I still carry my pride."

Lopez says the way the music industry has changed in recent years has taken away a once-steady paycheque.

He's now hoping to raise money online to help get him back on his feet.

The entire situation has "done a number" on his mental well-being.

"Right now, it's about many of us artists — we're going through this process," he said.

"A lot (of musicians) are suffering and they are afraid to talk about this. You carry a shame because why did I get to this point? What happened? I still need to find out, how did I get down this hill?"

Matt Masters, another musician well-known around Calgary, says a lot of the industry's pressures were compounded over the pandemic.

The extended live show pause hurt, and Masters says the crowds still haven't come back in the same way some four years later.

"So a lot of the mid-level and lower-level musicians — local working musicians — are finding things are a bit tighter right now," he said.

"I suspect there's an increase of stress across the community."

That stress has led to some bigger issues.

Lopez says his depression definitely isn't unique.

Masters, who is extremely open about his mental-health journey, agrees.

"When you don't have that stability, it increases all your struggles," he said.

"Like, it's on your mind when you're dealing with your kids or making dinner or doing whatever. And that can weigh on you, for sure."

'Just a human being'

Lopez says musicians — whether world-famous or lesser-known — are susceptible to the same struggles as everyone else.

"Nobody is safe," he said.

"I thought differently, but really, nobody knows what it is around the corner."

Similar tough stretches are being felt by many people in many industries, according to one expert.

"During COVID, there was a lot of job uncertainty in the market and that can certainly affect people," Marcus Cheung with the Calgary Counselling Centre said.

"That's being compounded by what we're experiencing right now in our society with inflation going on and things getting more expensive."

Cheung believes, however, there are ways around the pile-on.

"One of the recommendations I give to people is to become aware of what's really important in their lives," he told CTV News.

"Go back to the basics."

Masters recommends speaking to others about your struggles.

He thinks community — including the one found during a live performance — is one great way to heal.

"I'm trying to be responsible and responsive to that community," he said.

"That's something my dad taught me and it's something I'm trying to teach my kids.

"It's good for everyone."

Lopez says he's also on a journey of healing.

He says telling his story is a good first step.

His next will be offering to teach his guitar skills in local lessons.

He's already feeling more optimistic about his situation than he was just days ago.

"I'm just a human being who is right now going through a bump in my life," he said.

"But it'll pass."

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