I'm Beth Kinderman, a singer-songwriter from Minnesota. Since 2008, I've been making music and releasing records with my band, the Player Characters. Concept albums have fascinated me ever since I first heard the second side of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love as a teenager, and I've always dreamed of creating one of my own. All I needed was an idea big enough to support a full-length song cycle - and when I read Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I finally found the perfect subject. Campbell's theory of the monomyth inspired me to write and record my newest musical project, The Hero's Journey. It's a concept album that draws from my own life experiences to tell a story through song, about myth, transformation, and the circles and cycles of life that unite everything and everyone.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell argues that myths across many cultures often share a common structure (the "monomyth" or hero's journey). In the myths that follow this format, a hero leaves the everyday world for a magical one, overcomes various struggles in the magical world and wins a decisive victory there, then returns to the everyday world changed by their experiences and able to change the world around them. As I thought about all the variations I'd seen on the monomyth's ancient story, I started to wonder what new twists I could bring to its familiar patterns through music. The stereotypical hero of the monomyth is male - so, what if I retold the hero's journey with a woman as its protagonist, and used its structure to explore the ways in which my gender has shaped and influenced the stories my culture tells about me and the stories I tell to myself? In other words, what if I made a record about my own hero's journey? Years later, this project is the result.
Many artists before me have used the hero's journey as a storytelling framework in novels, films, TV shows, and games. For example, folks in the geek community may recognize George Lucas as one of its notable adherents. However, with very few exceptions, the monomyth hasn't been widely retold through music or as a concept album - until now!
The Hero's Journey consists of 17 original songs, one for each stage of the monomyth. My bandmates and I have spent the past four years mercilessly revising and refining each one, capturing the strongest takes possible and making this record the best it can be. Now we're finally ready to complete and release it - with your help.
This is the most personal piece of art I've ever made. Although my earliest outlines for this idea involved an archetypal woman's progression through the stages of the monomyth, I soon found myself writing about my own journey and the trials, triumphs, and transformations I've experienced. (Considering the themes of Joseph Campbell's work, I find this an extremely appropriate outcome.) My version of the hero's journey is about my struggles with faith, my experience of being a woman in a culture that labels and limits what women can do and be, and the joy I've found by embracing a new understanding of spirituality and grounding myself in a supportive community. These songs are complex, confessional, and stylistically diverse. And (if I say so myself) they rock.
You can already hear a rough cut of the first third of The Hero's Journey for yourself:
The Departure EP consists of the first five tracks of The Hero's Journey, covering the entire first "act" of the monomyth structure, followed by one track from near the end of the album to give you a sense of how the story ends. These versions of the songs are still in progress (they're unmastered, and the mixes are not yet finalized), so they'll sound even bigger, bolder, and cooler on the finished product. Everyone who backs our Kickstarter at the $10 level or above will get a download code for a digital copy of the Departure EP to sample while you await the full album.
My bandmates and I will use the funds raised through this campaign to cover three major expenses: art and graphic design, mastering and replication, and Kickstarter fees and reward fulfillment. In the event that we exceed our initial target, we have big dreams for a stretch goal that would allow us to release the album on vinyl as well! Regardless, any money raised in excess of the costs of production will be shared directly with the many talented musicians who are helping to bring The Hero's Journey to life in the studio.
Art and graphic design is our single largest expense. We want The Hero's Journey to be not only a beautiful piece of music, but also a beautiful physical object that will invite our listeners into the mythic world of the album. For each of the 17 songs, we will be commissioning a corresponding painting. These images will appear as cover art and in an included full color 12-page booklet for both the CD and digital versions of the record. The booklet will also contain the lyrics to all the songs. We've found an amazing artist, Wetdryvac, to bring the visual universe of the album to life:
This painting was inspired by the first stage in the monomyth and the first song on the album, "The Call to Adventure." Now imagine 16 more paintings like this one and you can see why we're so excited!
In addition to pre-ordering your copy of The Hero's Journey in digital and/or CD format, you can get plenty of other cool perks by backing our campaign:
- Art prints: Do you like Wetdryvac's art for The Hero's Journey so much that you want to put it on your wall? Backers at the $60 level and above can choose any one of the 17 paintings to receive as a 12" x 12" art print, suitable for framing. The art will be completed in the months after the campaign ends; you'll be able to see every image when it's finished and then choose the one you want through a backer survey. Can't decide between all the options? Support us at the $120 level and get three art prints of your choice. Or back this project at the $750 level and get prints of all 17 images, so you can adorn your entire living space with every stage of the monomyth.
- Unreleased music you can't get anywhere else: Contribute $80 or more and get our entire back catalog (three full-length albums and two EPs) digitally, as well as an exclusive bonus recording. In 2009, my band and I recorded Songs About Robots & Death, an EP inspired by Japanese animation. For reasons not worth getting into, this EP was never formally released, but we're including it here for our Kickstarter backers. It contains three covers of songs from Bleach, Cowboy Bebop, and Serial Experiments Lain; a never-before-released original called "Vash's Song"; an early acoustic mix of our bombastic Fullmetal Alchemist song "Heavy As Stone"; and a Japanese-language version of our infamous comedy song "Zombies." Additionally, all backers will receive a digital download of "Inferno," an epic original prog-rock saga inspired by Dante's Inferno and available only through this campaign!
- Handwritten lyrics: Support us at the $200 level and get a handwritten lyrics sheet of your choice of any one of my songs, accompanied by doodles and illustrations from my drummer Justin Hartley. (Justin's drawings can be seen on the covers of More Songs About Robots & Death and Return of the Son of More Songs About Robots & Death.) What will the doodles look like? We don't know, but the inside of Justin's mind is pretty wacky and we're sure he will draw something really cool!
- Custom songs: Contribute $350 and I'll record a cover song of your choice. Contribute $500 and I'll compose and record an original song just for you. For crowdfunding campaigns in the past, I've written and recorded songs about contributors' tattoos, the protagonists of their novels, their favorite books and TV shows, and more. I've even brought contributors' own filk and parody tunes to life in my home studio, and created backing tracks for other artists’ original songs! Some of these songs have been amazing, others...maybe not so much, but they'll always be 100% personalized and created with love and gratitude.
- And more...check out the sidebar for details!
Risks and challenges
As with all creative projects, the greatest risk is a delay in the planned release date. The good news is, we've been through this all before! Over the course of making and releasing five albums and countless other recordings, my bandmates and I have weathered technical nightmares, creative droughts, shipping shenanigans, health scares, tracking drums in an unheated garage on a 30-below day, a catastrophic hard drive crash the night before we were supposed to send a record off to be mastered (pro tip: always have a backup!), and more. We've emerged from these obstacles stronger, more knowledgeable, and ready to apply everything we've learned from our experiences to make this project the best it can be.
My collaborators and I have already completed more than 50% of the necessary recording sessions for the album, and I've selected delivery dates for our rewards that are conservative and achievable. However, it's still possible that an unforeseeable personal or professional crisis could delay the project. Elizabeth, our violin player, lives far away and plans to travel to Minnesota to record with us during a long weekend in February 2019. Her parts are key to the album, and if this session is postponed it could cause us to push back the release date. Slowdowns in the lengthy process of mixing, mastering, manufacturing, and squaring away art and graphic design aren't impossible either. Finally, I'll be the first to admit that I've sometimes been slower than I would have liked in delivering covers and custom songwriting rewards from other crowdfunding campaigns I've run; making these rewards is dependent on my having time and inspiration to complete them, and I would rather give you a good song slowly than a bad song quickly. If funded, however, The Hero's Journey will be completed no matter what, and I will do everything in my power to release it on schedule.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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