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Brain injury victim returns to music

By Danielle LeBlanc, Staff Writer

While sitting on his porch with dog Lollie lying at his feet, Jason Crigler portrays a man in perfect health. One would never have thought that just 10 years ago Crigler had sustained a massive brain injury.

In 2004, while performing on stage, Crigler suffered an arterial venous malformation or AVM.

Crigler and his wife, Monica, are part of a band called Goats In Trees that they formed with friends back in 1997 while living in New York. However, until recently, Goats In Trees has been put on hold due to Jason Crigler’s injury.

“I had this brain injury,” Crigler said, “and it sort of derailed my life, and our lives, for a number of years.”

Before the injury, Goats In Trees met through mutual friends in Brooklyn in 1997 and quickly started playing music together. During that first year, they recorded their first record “When the Morning Comes”.

It wasn’t long until the band started playing at different shows in and around the area. After a while, Goats In Trees performed at various venues regularly.

“We played quite a bit in New York City,” Crigler said. “We did a small tour of Germany and we played sort of up and down the east coast.”

In 2004, however, that all changed. While he was performing on stage with other artists as a sideman at a club in New York City, his AVM burst.

“It’s like a stroke,” Jason Crigler said. “No warning sign, no anything. I was young and at the time I was very healthy with no family history. It was just this freak thing.”

From that moment on, the band and Jason Crigler’s previous life would be put on hold as he underwent an extremely difficult recovery.

“It was a really difficult recovery process,” Jason Crigler said. “There’s a year and a half I have no memory of.”

During his recovery, Jason Crigler had to relearn a lot of basic functioning such as walking, speaking, and eating. According to him, it was a very trying time and he had a difficult road ahead of him.

“It was really hard,” Jason Crigler said. “A year of being a solid inpatient and four different hospitals.”

As hard as it was for Jason Crigler, it was equally just as difficult for Monica Crigler. At the time of Jason Crigler’s brain injury, Monica Crigler was two months pregnant with their daughter.

“For me, it was a constant tug-of-war between pregnancy and the birth of our baby and trying to be with Jason as much as possible,” Monica Crigler said.

She tried to surround her husband with family while he was in and out of the hospital. She would try and rally everyone together in order to help him with the healing process.

Throughout Jason Crigler’s recovery, music and the hope to once play again filled the back of his mind. According to him, it wasn’t a question of returning, but instead a motivation.

“I didn’t even contemplate it,” Jason Crigler said. “To me, it was always something I was hugely determined to return to. It became this real motivation in recovery.”

Jason Crigler believes that when a person is suffering from an injury that is that severe, they need something to motivate themselves.

“I have an incredible family and support from my friends,” Jason Crigler said, “but that [music] was a motivator, to get back to playing music. I didn’t even think ‘will I or won’t I.’ I was just hell-bent to do it.”

Finally, after a long struggle, Jason Crigler was no longer an inpatient. However, many years after returning home, he would have to continue seeing specialists and undergo various surgeries. He claimed that in many ways his recovery still continues.

With the support of his family and friends, Jason Crigler did make a miraculous recovery. His determination was key, along with his musical motivation in the back of his mind.

“It’s been amazing in the sense that I’ve recovered beyond what a lot of medical people thought was possible,” Jason Crigler said.

Returning to music has been a huge feat for Jason Crigler, so much that fairly early on in his recovery he was able to get back into it. Over a little more than two years after the injury happened, Goats In Trees recorded the basic track for their current record in the fall of 2006.

“We’ve been working on it regularly and continuously since then, and we’re now releasing the record,” Jason Crigler said.

According to Jason Crigler and his wife, the band has truly formed into a family. Goats In Trees collaborates in all that they do, including their song writing process.

“I would stress that although it’s true that I have written most of the songs, it’s a collaborative process,” Monica Strigler said. ‘”We’re kind of a jam band.”

Monica Strigler claimed that the band tells a story together and that every story is like a little journey with the group.

“It’s not just a lead singer backed up by a group of guys,” Monica Crigler said. “It’s a real group.”

     Jason Crigler claimed that he believes that their sound is special and unique. To him, Goats In Trees is a melting of different genres and influences. It isn’t just a band; it’s a band made up of people that has come to really know each other over the past 17 years.

With the impending reunion of Goats In Trees this Wednesday, Oct. 8, and the soon-to-be release of their new record, Jason Crigler said he couldn’t be happier. According to him, there is a lot to be excited about on this third record, “The Golden Thread.”     Jason Crigler claimed that the “The Golden Thread” is the best representation of the band so far and really captures the essence of Goats In Trees.

“We’re at our best when we’re playing live together,” Jason Crigler said. “This record captures that feeling of just four people just loving the experience of playing music together.”

Goats In Trees will be celebrating the release of their new record Wednesday at The Press Room in Portsmouth from 7 to 9 p.m. Those who attend will be able to listen to the band live while they play songs off their new record and even some old favorites.

“Hopefully with this record we’ll get into it regularly,” Jason Crigler said. “I’d love to get together and play a few times a year here, New York City, or Boston. I think that would be great.”

Join in on the celebration of Goats In Trees’ new record and the reunion of these musical friends.

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