However bad your life is, you can at least be thankful you don't deliver milk in Gary, Indiana, as Robert Rolfe Feddersen once did. And he's happy to tell you why.
The former frontman of major-label hard rockers Loudmouth, Feddersen had mothballed his dreams in favor of a steady paycheck and home life. Plus, driving a truck scratched a certain nomadic itch — until he was robbed at gunpoint.
"The guy next to him was screaming, 'Shoot the motherfucker, he's gonna go to the cops,' which was sensible since he could see the police station across the street," says Feddersen. He appealed to the two men's humanity. When that didn't work, he pulled out his ace. "I had to resort to telling them I was a musician."
It was at that point Feddersen's assailants felt bad enough to let him live. Informed by his near-death experience, Feddersen dove back into music with renewed passion.
"Getting robbed, almost losing my life, I just thought this could've been it, and I wouldn't have had another chance to do this," he says. "I'd always felt I had that in my back pocket."
After Loudmouth's dozen-plus-year run ended in the early aughts, he'd released three home-recorded albums and a pair of EPs, but didn't tour. This time he went all in, recording a terrific slab of homegrown angst, American Loser, with producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies).
Feddersen's gruff vocals recall Lucero's Ben Nichols, and the punchy folk anthems evoke Suburban Home artists Tim Barry and Austin Lucas. The 10-song set leavens the stark Springsteen-ian yearning with the more down-to-earth sentiments of "Self-Sabotage," "Waiting for Good Luck," and the title track, where he sings, "It doesn't matter what I try, I just can't win and I don't know why."
The album's indisputable standout, though, is "Dave's Lament," an ode to Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, who was kicked out of Metallica early on. Haunting strings conjure an elegiac air as the first-person character struggles to accept his diminished fate and "how farther they've gone."
Feddersen actually performed onstage with Metallica before 42,000 in St. Louis while being courted by Lars Ulrich's label in the mid-'90s. He also toured with Megadeth at their nadir on the Risk tour with better-loved platinum-selling opener Static-X.
"Megadeth would go on, and half the crowd that was there would be gone," recalls Feddersen, who played first. "It was pretty rough. I just remember there not being a lot of joy around."
Feddersen believes that the swagger many hard rockers wear like armor never came naturally to Mustaine. "Dave didn't really have that rough bravado. I think you're expected to carry yourself with a tougher exterior when you're in a hard rock or metal band."
By contrast, Feddersen was the child of a single mom and had grown up dealing with diminished expectations.
"I don't have to feel like I have to be tough in front of anybody," he says. "It's actually liberating to embrace your innate ability to fuck things up. I think people can relate."