OREM, UT. (AP) — A chorus of honking, braking and speeding vehicles in Orem is often supplanted by the sound of a drum echoing through downtown.

The source of the noise is a 6-foot-9 man wearing a “Free Hugs” shirt, drumming on a single construction bucket while riding his bike.

Scott Schwarz, 35, has become a local celebrity known as “The Road Drummer” for his energetic street performances, the Daily Herald reports.

Before his rise to fame, Schwarz battled alcoholism and homelessness.

The turning point in his life came in his mid-20s when he lost his house and broke up with his girlfriend, he said.

“I continued to hit rock bottom. When you’re only familiar with digging, you just keep on digging. It’s incredibly, incredibly powerful,” Schwarz said of addiction. “It is all about short-term pleasure rather than long-term joy.”

Schwarz says he moved in with his sister in Washington state, where he tried to take his own life. The attempt, he said, was his wake-up call. He checked himself into a rehab facility in Orem soon after.

“A lot of people are forced in by the state, or they’re forced in by their families, or they’re forced in by all these other circumstances,” he said. “I think one of the only reasons I’m a success is because I checked myself in.”

He picked up his drumming hobby about two years ago while transitioning out of rehab.

The street performers in Portland, Oregon, where Schwarz grew up had always fascinated him, he said.

So, he went to a hardware store for a bucket, got a pair of drum sticks and began practicing.

“If you want something that you’ve never had, you’re going to have to do something that you’ve never done,” Schwarz said.

The experiment wasn’t a success at first.

“I would ride by and people were like, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you?’ Like, I look like a fool,” Schwarz said. “One of the beautiful things about it is it taught me to be OK with failing in public with great regularity.”

He didn’t quit, like he had in the past.

“That was just so huge for me, because I was such a perfectionist in my addiction. I would rather not complete a project, than have it not be perfect,” Schwarz said.

Now, Schwarz’s performances draw small crowds of people dancing and cheering him on.

“I get videotaped all the time on the streets, and people will scream and yell at me from their cars,” Schwarz said. “I’m a party. I bring so much joy to other people, and it was so worth that re-occurring public failure.”


Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com