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Singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist & producer draws on all his talents for a tribute to his late musical hero, Bill Morrissey.
Singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist & producer draws on all his talents for a tribute to his late musical hero, Bill Morrissey.
448 backers pledged $26,445 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$26,445

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UPDATE (June 18):  Thank you to everyone who's gotten me within $500 of my initial $20,000 goal! That goal, while certainly not spare change, was truly with a bare-bones release in mind (crazy, I know). Your support makes me want to keep on dreaming...like, what if we could raise MORE than $20K? 

For example, would you believe that they don't just, like, PLAY songs on the radio. I need somebody calling radio stations, working the record. With $1,500 more I could afford a more robust radio campaign. And since Bill's career peaked before the internet was a big factor, and certainly before YouTube, there's just not that many great videos of his songs out there. What if we raised another $5,000 to make a really cool, artful stop-motion animation video of one of Bill's great story songs like "Birches?"

We have a whole week to do this. I have over 2,000 people that like me on Facebook, and almost 5,000 on my personal email list. We've had about 300 backers thus far. Even if we assume total overlap between the two lists, that's less than 10% of my fans that have contributed. We've done great, but I think we can do even better. Let's keep it going til June 26th!

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"You were a legend when I met you - introduced by a mutual friend - I laughed when you called me "Grasshopper" - though I didn't know what it meant"

A LITTLE HISTORY

The Boston suburb where I grew up never felt like a credible setting for gritty, rootsy American music. Sure, the Northeast had plenty of literate, urbanely romantic singer/songwriters. But somehow it seemed like the hardcore troubadour was native to the open roads and vast horizons of places like Texas. It wasn't until I noticed the famed Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen wearing a Bill Morrissey t-shirt in the liner notes of one of his records that I realized this stuff came from the same source. That t-shirt showed me that New England was valid territory for Americana music--real songs about people living real lives--and perhaps no one embodied this more definitively than Bill Morrissey. 

From that point on, Bill became one of my biggest musical heroes. When I started out, just a kid and his beat-up Camry, I hit the back roads of New England playing gigs in small towns. Abandoned mills,dark pines, dive bars and church steeples--images from Bill's songs resonated with the velocity of truth.

I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to get to know Bill personally, and he ultimately became more of a mentor than a legend. By the end of the first night we met, he was calling me "Grasshopper." It's a reference I didn't get as a 25-year old, but I do now. He taught me much, but like in many of those old kung fu movies, there comes a time when the student has to carry on after the master is gone. Bill had his share of demons and they did a good job of undermining his legacy. But someone needs to step up and argue the case on his behalf, and it might as well be Grasshopper.

"Now I'm driving through these milltowns - down empty moonlit streets - where the vacant storefront windows look like missing teeth"

"MILLTOWNS," MY NEW RECORD

As a songwriter, I know that there is no higher praise than a fellow musician deciding to sing one your songs. Because his music played such an important role in my life, I felt compelled to make my ninth solo album MILLTOWNS a tribute to Bill Morrissey. Though it consists almost entirely of covers, this project could not be a more personalized distillation of where I am in life. I recorded one original and 12 Bill Morrissey songs in a marathon day-long recording session in my basement. Over the next six months, I layered on all the guitars, mandolin, harmonica, bass, drums and percussion myself. Then I brought in friends like Rose Cousins, Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault, Sam Kassirer, Anais Mitchell, Peter Mulvey, & Rose Polenzani & Charlie Rose to help me bring it home. For six months I threw myself into this project more thoroughly than any in my 15 year career, and I'm proud of the way it weaves together my work as a singer/songwriter, sideman and producer.

"On a split bill up in Portland - I was getting ready to go on - you said 'Grasshopper, you sing Birches - I've been singing it for too long"

A BIGGER CONVERSATION

These days, there are so many ways to find out about new music—a review on a cool blog, a feature in a national newspaper or simply just hearing a song on the radio—and it’s fair to say that promotion costs money and that’s why I need your help. But what I really hope to do with Milltowns is reignite a bigger conversation about Bill Morrissey—where long-time fans, and a new generation of converts, can celebrate his songs together. Funding this project, and letting friends and other music fans know about it, is just one way you can participate in this conversation and ensure that this story gets told.

After Milltowns is released this fall, my plan is to once again follow in Bill’s footsteps, performing in clubs and coffeehouses all throughout the Northeast. From Old Saybrook CT to Three Rivers Massachusetts, Pawtucket Rhode Island to Portsmouth NH, I’ll play a good deal of the Bill Morrissey songs from Milltowns, as well as material of my own that highlights my New England roots and the influence he had on my work.

"They disappear into my rear view - all along the rural route - and I pray for all that can't be rescued - after everything goes south"

IN CLOSING

I know don't sound much like Bill Morrissey, but he is part of my musical DNA. This is a record born of love, respect and gratitude. I intend to repay a debt and honor a musical legacy, but I can't do it alone.

I'm asking for your help...please join me.

Great Waters Folk Festival, Wolfeboro NH (2004)
Great Waters Folk Festival, Wolfeboro NH (2004)

Risks and challenges

Artists crave attention--love what we do or pan it, but indifference really stings. With all of the entertainment options available to you, the Average 21st Century Consumer of the Arts, it is easy to get lost in the deluge. I have released albums with the support of labels that get me written up in Billboard Magazine and played on NPR. I have released albums on my own that managed to nab a few humble (but very positive) blog reviews. It's frustrating to know there is an audience for your work somewhere 'out there' and not be able to reach it.

And yet, I've been doing this for 15 years now.

You don't last that long in this business if your work doesn't connect on some level with whoever hears it. I know I have something to offer music lovers, I've felt it, and you feel it too...or you wouldn't still be reading this. The money we raise isn't necessarily going to pay for the sexiest and most exciting of things (e.g. publicists and promotion), but these resources will be vital to the success of this record.

But even more important than your pledge to this project will be your enthusiasm, your passion, your vote of confidence. Every time you spread the word online or play the record for a friend, it improves the prospects for this project. There is always the chance that we'll do all this and still not have the kind of impact we had hoped for. But if we let the prospect of failure stop us before we acted, we'd never do anything.

I believe anything unique and soulful that speaks to our hearts finds a place in this world. I'm willing to work long hours, drive copious miles, and spend nights away from my family to give it a fair shake. That's the way I've done it for 15 years and if experience is any guide, I know that with your continued support I can find the audience this project deserves.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    THE BARSTOW: Get a digital download of MILLTOWNS, in mp3 or hi-resolution formats, before it's available to the general public.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    THE HANDSOME MOLLY: Get an autographed copy of MILLTOWNS on CD, shipped to you well before it's available to the general public. This and all higher reward levels includes digital download for immediate gratification.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    THE CASEY, ILLINOIS: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, plus a digital download of any previous ME title.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    THE GAMBLER'S BLUES: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, plus digital downloads of any three (3) previous ME titles.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    THE ROBERT JOHNSON: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, plus GUEST LIST spots for 2 to any future ME headlining performance of your choice. Come enjoy the show, say hi afterwards & let me say thanks in person. This may not apply to some shows outside of my control (some sideman gigs, festivals, etc.). Please note that tickets to shows ARE NOT included in other/higher rewards packages.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    THE TEXAS BLUES: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, plus a digital download of "Mark Erelli - Live In Hartfordtown," 18 never-before-heard cuts from a 2004 full-band show showcasing material from ME's western swing record "Hillbilly Pilgrim." This reward also includes digital downloads of any previous 2 ME records.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    THE SUMMER NIGHT: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, plus a DVD of the long-promised-but-never-officially-released documentary on the making of ME's "The Memorial Hall Recordings." This hour-long program aired on select PBS stations in 2002-2003, and features behind the scenes footage from the sessions, interviews and more. This reward also includes digital downloads of any previous 2 ME records.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    THE EDSON: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you & digital download of any previous ME title plus one copy of "Edson," Bill Morrissey's first book published by Knopf in 1996. It's a bittersweet story set in, you guessed it, a New England milltown!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    THE RITE OF SPRING: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, plus I'll CURATE THE SONG CHOICE for a playlist on a theme you provide. You purchase the music legally via iTunes, etc and I'll provide notes on each song choice, and hand letter the tracklisting--old school. This reward also includes digital downloads of any previous 2 ME records.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    THE IMAGINARY RUNNER: This includes all the rewards in THE GAMBLER'S BLUES plus a copy of "Imaginary Runner," Bill Morrissey's unpublished (and unedited) 2nd book. This book is not available anywhere else. As an added bonus, I'll throw in a laminated backstage pass from Bill's personal collection (donated by his former manager) that is just about the coolest bookmark I can possibly imagine.

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    Pledge $135 or more About $135

    THE GRIZZLY BEAR: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you, PLUS digital downloads of my ENTIRE solo recording catalog, that's 8 studio records (!), plus the Darwin Song Project compilation, Seven Curses (recorded with Jeffrey Foucault) & the official bootleg 4.2.10.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you PLUS I'll write out the lyrics to one of my songs for you, suitable for framing. If I can find the notebook with an original draft of the lyrics, I'll throw that in too. For what it's worth, everyone tells me I have beautiful penmanship.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    THE CLOSED DOWN MILL: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you PLUS...did you know I'm pretty good at pen & ink illustration? It's true. With this reward, you send me a photo of your house and I'll send you back an original pen and ink rendering of your beloved home, signed by me (no larger than 8"x10" frame).

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    THE DIFFERENT CURRENCY: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you PLUS I'll record a solo, acoustic cover of your choice of any Bill Morrissey song. Did I not include your favorite Bill tune on MILLTOWNS? Here's your chance to set me straight. (You can also substitute one of my songs that you'd like to hear recorded in a more stripped down fashion)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    THE TURN AND SPIN: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you PLUS...did you know I'm still a pretty good tennis player (who used to compete at the national level in high school/college)? You reserve the court and I'll come play an hour of singles/90 min of doubles with you in the Boston-area. I might be able to do this farther from home (e.g. while on tour in the US only) if I have enough advance notice and you let me borrow a racket. Also includes THE GRIZZLY BEAR package.

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    THE HILLS OF TUSCANY: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you PLUS...are you a singer/songwriter working on a recording of your own material? You send me a track you've been working on, we'll discuss what approach you're looking for, and I'll add appropriate instrumentation in my home studio. Could be anything from harmony vocals, acoustic/electric/baritone/tenor guitar, mandolin, bass, lap steel, harmonica or simple percussion. Might take a bit to get 'er done, but I'll do everything I can to work with any deadline you may be under. Also includes THE GRIZZLY BEAR package.

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    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    THE MOTELS AND PLANES: Get a signed CD of MILLTOWNS shipped to you PLUS I will show up on your doorstep (in the continental USA) at a mutually arranged time and play a show for your friends. You're free to charge them any admission you choose to help offset costs. Any associated airfare may need to be added on to cost if we can't work it into an existing tour. Also includes THE GRIZZLY BEAR package.

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Funding period

- (30 days)