I'm thrilled to let you know that my new record, "Are You Listening?" produced by Ani DiFranco, will be out on Righteous Babe Records on March 24. You can pre-order it through this campaign to help us give it some momentum in the world.
This record came to life in Big Blue, Ani's home studio in New Orleans. With Ani at the helm and Mike Napolitano at the console, we felt the songs out as they happened, trying to capture their elusive heart. For four days we dove as deep as we could, we listened as hard as we could, we played as true as we could. And Ani was there with us, the whole time, cross-legged on a chair, giant headphones on, creating the space where the music happened, by listening with her full attention.
The Other Morning Over Coffee:
I sent Ani perhaps twenty songs, a couple poems, and then left it in her hands. The songs come from a period of a couple years, and their core is, in a word, tenderness. I guess that's what has most been on my mind. Some of them are rockers, some of them are uptempo folksy numbers, some are meditative ballads, but all of them speak from some kind of stillness in the hurry, some kind of center.
It Can Get You By:
Ani's longtime rhythm section laid it down with me live: Todd Sickafoose on upright bass (plus keys) and Terence Higgins on drums. My friend Anna Tivel played violin and sang. And during the overdubs and mixing Ani played piano, glockenspiel, toy piano, and supplied a flurry of harmonies and vocal textures.
In the spirit of indie artists, Righteous Babe is releasing "Are You Listening?" through a licensing deal. In other words, the budget is all up to me. I will own the record, and I hire the publicists, radio PR people, artists. I'm responsible for manufacturing, posters. And that's what this Kickstarter is for. Righteous Babe and Ani bring, first, their name and reputation, to champion my work to her audience, and then even more fundamentally, Ani herself. This art would never have been made without her. She welcomed it, stood up for it, cajoled and coaxed it, and most of all she believed in it, encouraged it.
The Back Story
This all began when I opened a series of shows for Ani in 2015. I'd opened for her before, but on this tour we had some wide-ranging conversations and got to know each other a bit better. And then, on June 17 2015, after a gig in Beacon, NY, we saw the news of the mass shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC. Two days later, as Ani and her band and I were reeling from this news and talking it out, I went into the dressing room of the Calvin Theater and wrote "Take Down Your Flag". I sang it minutes later onstage, and when I came off, Ani said "I want to sing that song."
She and the band performed it two nights later, and then she and many others re-wrote their own middle verses. 200 people wound up making their own versions of the song, from Peter Yarrow to Keb' Mo to Paula Cole, and the viral videos led to an online concert that raised a few thousand dollars to send to the community down in Charleston. Ani recorded a single version of the song with nine verses. She stood up for me so solidly that it was a no-brainer to ask her to produce my latest record.
Ani and her crew of co-conspirators have made this record what it is. She made room for us in her home and made space for us when we were tracking by being in the room with us, listening intently. She's a soldier and a scholar, and I'm grateful to her.
I'm also grateful to you. This is my third Kickstarter, and I've discovered that I have a keenly interested and supportive audience base of hundreds of people. I truly appreciate you all: your support is what keeps me going in this turbulent world.
2016 was tough, people. And 2017 is turning out to be tougher. I have been launching little paper boats of whatever art, wit, beauty and tenderness I can muster onto the waters of this life for a long time, and I work to keep the faith that they make a difference. I'm doing my best and I thank you deeply for supporting my efforts.
The Julie Jilek watercolor/charcoal:
Risks and challenges
As ever, the challenge is to get this record heard. It's a big sprawling culture out there, and there are many voices, many of them beautiful and useful, some angry and hurtful, being raised. I've put heart and soul into the voice of this record, and Ani and the other musicians have too. What happens next is up to you: the more support this Kickstarter receives, the more I'll be able to hire the publicists and radio promoters that are necessary to get a voice out there. If it goes really well, I'll have a budget to make some videos to help promote the songs further.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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