About this project
We Did it ! On a High Hill is 100% FUNDED !
There’s still time to reach our STRETCH GOAL of $16,930 to make a music video for “Leave it in the Ground.”
I have the opportunity to work with Trip Jennings, the award winning National Geographic videographer, to make not just a music video, but an inspiring tool for building the climate movement! With access to hundreds of hours of direct action and protest footage, Trip can create a visual vehicle for this powerful song to spread far and wide!
On a High Hill
For the last two years, I've been doing a lot of touring in the American West and Midwest, playing completely solo in very intimate venues and inviting my audiences to sing with me as much as possible. This has started to shape the way I play and the songs I write. It has shown me clear evidence of how much we need to sing together. And how urgently we need songs that tell a different story than the one we are being asked to live.
We need songs that help us name the bottomless grief of living in a culture with a death wish.
We need songs that help us celebrate our connection to all life.
We need songs that hold us up as we rise to the courageous hard work of these times.
I give my life to be a conduit for these songs.
This album (my third solo recording) will hold ten songs, largely originals. Most all have been played for many ears and sung by many voices on the road. They've proven themselves mightily and I know many of you are waiting to receive them with open arms!
"On a High Hill" This song borrows the chorus and melody from the old Christian hymn "Will the Circle be Unbroken?", with some changes to the sentiment ("there's a better way of living on this earth, friends, if we try!"). The verses are rewritten completely to celebrate connection to all life and to the ancestors.
"By the River" I'm still unravelling the mystery of this song's story. I know that it is connected to a very specific piece of land in southern Oregon, where it found me, but I suspect it may also be connected to a story that I carry in my blood. It talks about the pain of having our connection to the land forcibly severed - an experience we can see most obviously in the Native Americans forced from this land so that white settlers could use it and abuse it. This song has been helping me understand that such experience is one that we all carry in our genetic memory, for at one time, all peoples had a connection to a landbase and a cradle-to-grave culture that honored that land. The loss of this is a wound I think most of us are carrying.
"Big Strong Legs" is a joyful song that names our own power - in our bodies, in our hearts, and in our communities. It lets us sing our basic goodness!
"Paradise" I grew up singing this John Prine song at a Quaker outdoors camp in Wisconsin. I didn't expect it to be a sing-along when I started performing it, but turns out a lot of people know and love it! A story about "progress" stealing away what is most precious to us.
"Leave it in the Ground" This song came to me after a big climate justice rally where I learned about the 26 fossil fuel export terminals that are being planned for the Pacific Northwest. I know that the people of Cascadia love this land and have the power to stop this insanity in its tracks! This song names that power, reclaims it, and demands an end to fossil fuel extraction. It has grown legs and is being used at rallies and actions across the country! (just think how much faster it could spread if it were RECORDED!) :-)
"I Hold You Up" A call and response song for holding each other up as we grieve and as we struggle to do the hard work that is asked of us. It's for singing acapella and has the feel of an old spiritual.
"Lay Down My Burden" A new song that grapples with the privilege and pain of being descended from white settlers, the knowledge that we all belong to this earth, and an acknowledgement of the great cycles of which we are a part.
"Balm in Gilead" An activist version of the old hymn.
"Ella's Song" This song, by Bernice Johnson Reagon, commemorates the life and legacy of Civil Rights leader, Ella Baker. With the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, it has felt important to me to sing this song, the chorus proclaiming "We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes!"
"Morning Prayer" This is a prayer song that I use privately and have never performed, but have felt moved to include it on this album in the hopes it will be useful to others.
I feel clear that this record needs to be made in the folk music tradition of a human voice and a wooden instrument in a room. These songs need to be captured in a way that lets their hearts shine through, unadorned. I approached Ji Tanzer because of my complete trust in his fine-tuned ears, his judge of song-character, and because he is a delight to be in a room with. He's helped in the making of countless records, including several by Blue Cranes.
With Ji producing, it was an obvious collaboration to work with John Askew at Scenic Burrows in Northeast Portland. John - in addition to already having an easy, synergistic working relationship with Ji - has a resume that includes work with Neko Case, Alela Diane, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, and many others. Plus: super good guy, turns out.
We've already done a few sessions together, since I have so much faith that this thing is gonna happen, and it's been wonderful! It took me what felt like a long time to find this perfect combination of humans and physical places and times, but I'm glad I waited for the way to open.
ALSO! An important part of releasing an album is having beautiful artwork that speaks visually about the songs. I'm blessed to be working with the incredible paper cut artist, Anna Garwood. She's already started working on the original pieces that will make up the album packaging and I'm excited to share some sneak peeks with you along the way. In the meantime, you should look at the beautiful stuff she does here:
Your support is so needed to make this happen! I thought this album was going to be a little cheaper than my last, since the concept is a stripped down and simple one. But it turns out it still takes a lot of work by highly skilled people to make this happen. And this time, I decided to press VINYL!!! That's right, this folk record is going to be a real LP! I'm pretty thrilled that we'll be able to play this one on a turntable, everybody. It's such a nutritious way to listen to music! Also, t-shirts! Here's how the numbers shake out:
S T R E T C H:
If a fantastic miracle occurs, and we exceed our goal, there's at least one stretch goal I'd love to make it to:
If we hit $16,930: We'll make a music video for "Leave it in the Ground" and make it available as an organizing tool for groups working to stop climate change!
Risks and challenges
After sixteen years of riding the roller coaster of the self-employed musician, I feel confident in my ability to record and release my third solo album (with the help and support of all you incredible people!). My last record was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and I managed to get all 354 backers their finished rewards and within a reasonable grace period of their promised delivery date.
The challenges that never go away are the unpredictability of collaborators' schedules, the fragility of human health, and the refusal of our culture to see making art as legitimate hard work. These things affect my life and work on a daily basis and will likely come to bear on this project. But these are familiar obstacles I face on the regular and I've got the experience, tenacity, and great support network to do it! If y'all can accept some potential flexibility to the timeline, should risks and challenges arise, I can promise you a beautiful piece of art at the end of it all.
Also: to be perfectly honest, I've never dealt with vinyl before. From what I hear, it can be an unpredictable and time-consuming undertaking to get your album pressed in this medium. But I've done a good deal of research and have great people advising me (and a vinyl plant IN MY TOWN!). I think it's gonna work out.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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