Being the younger sibling of Sublime frontman Brad Nowell can be hard sometimes for Kellie Nowell, who never grew up wanting the spotlight. On his birthday and the anniversary of his death from an overdose in 1996, generations of fans mourn the loss of Long Beach’s influential frontman, but Kellie says she would opt to stay inside and keep her pain and sorrow to herself.
“I think for about 15 years after he died, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t want to hear music I didn’t want to, you know, just, I just couldn’t handle it,” she tells SPIN.
As years went by, the love shown by fans allowed her to open up little by little as emails, Facebook messages and the desire for a tangible connection to Brad showed Kellie the importance of allowing herself to let people in for the sake of honoring her brother. In 2017, along with her father Jim “Papa” Nowell, Kellie started the Nowell Family Foundation and Bradley’s House, a proposed drug treatment facility focused on musicians in recovery. Currently in its fundraising stages, the foundation’s goal is to have a six-bedroom house in Laguna Beach that will supply an affordable 90-day program that pairs music-based social curriculum with help from certified drug treatment professionals along with on-site yoga and a gym.
As the foundation’s executive director, Kellie has worked to turn the project into a reality by hiring staff and developing new programs. Dozens of musicians including Pepper, O.A.R. and Jim Lindburg of Pennywise who were close to Brad or inspired by his music chipped in with benefit concerts and Sublime cover songs for the House That Bradley Built compilation to raise money for the recovery project. In September, the original compilation was put out by LAW Records whose co-founders, Paul Milbury and Pepper drummer Yesod Williams, came to Kellie with the idea.
“That was something we’d sort of tossed around for a while but I didn’t know the first thing about how to make that happen,” Nowell says. “In less than a year, they put out the first comp which was a double vinyl with 25 songs. And that’s gone incredibly well. We’ve sold out twice.”
This month, artists are dropping a new round of covers every week prior to the release of The House That Bradley Built Deluxe Edition on Jan.15, 2021. The expanded album includes more than 30 never-before-released acoustic covers added to the already impressive tracklist that contains over 50 covers from the Sublime catalog by artists like Common Kings, G.Love and the Expanders.
One of the more impactful jams was a cover of “By The Rivers of Babylon.” “Papa” Jim and Brad’s son Jakob, who recently conquered his own battle with addiction which was a major inspiration for the Bradley’s House” project. With help from his grandfather and close friend and recovering addict Todd “Z-Man” Zalkins, Jakob — now 25 — is looking forward to marking four years sober in January. For Kellie, watching Jakob beat the odds with the help of drug treatment and the power of music to keep him centered gives her faith in what The Nowell Family Foundation can accomplish with Bradley’s House.
“There’s so much need out there it’s overwhelming, but we have to start with what we know and that’s that’s musicians, and that’s opioid opioid addiction and so that’s really where we’re putting our focus to start,” She said. “And, honestly I hope it doesn’t end with that, I hope that this becomes so successful and is so well funded that we can open more houses and serve a greater population.”