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$3,453 pledged of $17,000 goal
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By Aaron J. Trumm
$3,453 pledged of $17,000 goal
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About this project

Hi there. I'm Aaron Trumm, I perform under the imaginative stage persona “Aaron J. Trumm”. “Strong Happy Healthy Free” will be my fourth rap/rock/fusion album.

Let's get right into it with another rough from the upcoming record.

 Open Oceans - the song that started the project.

Over the course of this campaign, I’ll send out some more of the candidate songs and tell you a little bit more about them (and may even seek feedback and ideas), so get in early and get involved in this before it’s done! :)

THE PROJECT

Combining elements of hip-hop/rap, rock, country and blues, the Strong Happy project centers around a simple set up:  drums, bass, piano and my fusion of sung, rapped and free verse vocals. From there we add and embelish.

There is some darkness and struggle in this record (see “more story” below).  I appreciate dark or angry art, I think it helps if you can raise your fist a little, fight the power, get yourself moving.  "Anger is a gift," says Zach de la Rocha.  But it's also a double edged sword.  You can't stay there.  You don't go to war to stay at war.  You fight so you can win.

So even though this record has darkness, we’re hoping to bring it to an exalted end.  The LAST song that’s been written is the title track, “Strong Happy Healthy Free”.  If we leave you with nothing else, we want to leave you with that.

I am strong I am happy I am healthy I am free!

THE PEOPLE

I collaborate with a lot of talented people and we’re all great as individuals, but what we come up with together is way beyond the sum of our parts (and way more fun!)

Quite a few have already been involved in this project, in fact.  Let me introduce some of them:

  • Aaron (aka Murph aka me) - Albuquerque, NM - Singer/Songwriter/Poet/Producer
  • Nathan (aka N8$ aka Dominathan) - Albuquerque, NM - Drums/Percussion
  • Mike (aka Dr. Thunda aka Da Silva Fox) - Albuquerque, NM - Bass
  • Paul - (Aka P-La) - Austin, TX - Guitar, bass, backing vocals
  • Nick - (Aka Kid Irritated) - Seattle, WA - Guitars
  • Jenny - (Aka JayMay) - Austin, TX - Backing vocals **
  • Lacey - (Aka DixieBaby) - Austin, TX - Backing Vocals
  • Jay - (Aka J/K) - Stanford, CA - Bass
  • Sebastian - (Aka Popeye) - Raleigh, NC - Beatbox, label consult
  • Steve - (Aka Monkey King) - Albuquerque, NM - Photography
  • And more to come!
  • Maybe you?!

** Jenny left this world in late 2013 and we miss her fiercely. God speed, JayMay - we’ll be leavin’ our light on for ya.

Aaron, Nathan, Paul, Mike
Aaron, Nathan, Paul, Mike

MORE STORY - IT’S NOT ALL FLUFFY

"They" will tell you a lot of things in your life.  Most of them are about what you can't do, and why.  I don't know who "they" are exactly, but I don't want you to believe them.

So I will tell you why the title of this upcoming album is "Strong, Happy, Healthy, Free" and I hope you'll want to take part as a backer and maybe more.

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis in 1975.  At that time life expectancy was about 20 years.  Kids were not encouraged to exercise.  I was a four sport athlete in high school and I played intercollegiate ice hockey at two schools.  Starting at about 14, I was also making recordings. At 19 I created NQuit Records and released my first CD by rebuilding a studio at the University of New Mexico and interning at my first mentor's studio, Ubik Sound.  At 21 I started doing slam poetry.  At 27 I was the world's 10th ranked slam poet.

I'm a black belt in Taekwondo and have studied 7 different martial arts.  I met some of my collaborators at Kung Fu school, where Nathan and I still perform on the Chinese drum squad, with Nathan as captain.

Nathan and Aaron at Chinese New Year 2014 - AFTER all the crazy stuff you're about to read about...
Nathan and Aaron at Chinese New Year 2014 - AFTER all the crazy stuff you're about to read about...

The point is, I'm hoping the fact that I didn't lay down and die inspires you.  That seems like my purpose.  So, "I am strong I am Happy I am Healthy I am free" seems like a really sharable mantra to me.

However I do admit, largely because of CF and its associated fears, most of my poetry and songs have that darkness I mentioned before.  Maybe they're not all out rage pieces, but they're dark.  People tell me they can hear in the lyrics my fears and how I fight with them.  They can hear that I was running from death.  I try to hide it but it's there.

"Say my people do you draw enough breath

say I'm travelling through the desert with death

and he is leading me home to you"

or

"i walk around this is getting old

i need somewhere to go

but there's nowhere you can be at 2 in the morning

nothing you can do

'cept to jack off or spin out or fall into the world wrong

can't remember anything for far too long

they say i'm drinkin too much

they say i'm gonna self destruct

well i don't know about that maybe i need a little luck

before i hit bottom again maybe there's nothin i can do

maybe i need to hit the bottom of the bottle before the journey can be through"

But like I said, you go to war so you can win…

Speaking of war, this album was almost called "Songs For Soldiers", because there's so much lyrical content about PTSD.  It's completely unmilitary, but war and the stress it induces is a larger issue than just guns and bombs.

Part of it is about feeling alone and disconnected.  That's a war most of us are fighting. We may be one being, but we don't know it.  So, for a long time I did most most of my musical work alone.  Collaboration was fun, but I usually didn't believe people wanted to participate.  But the more I live, the more I see how connected we are, and how everything cool is a team effort, and the more I see that I've never been working alone.  So this project, to me, is all about collaboration.  Maybe you'd still call it a "solo" act, but I don't.

So I started this project with a bunch of people, and before we could finish this recording, a beautiful wonderful amazing earth shattering miracle happened.  I almost died.

Yes.  That old grim reaper came to see me and we had a talk, and I sang him a song I'd written him back in '05:

Still, I became very very sick. My lungs were working at about 18%. I was stuck on an oxygen tank 24/7. My daily workout was to walk a half mile. It took me 45 grueling minutes. I started being in hospitals for the first time in my 38 years. My family was being told in quiet conversations that I was dying.

The quite sick Aaron
The quite sick Aaron

I HATE hospitals.  It's boring.  It's scary.  It's painful.  And, like the song says "I don't wanna come with you where you're going". I really wasn't ready for dying.  Luckily, a whole bunch of other people were not ready for me dying either.  In fact, it seems, there were hundreds of us deciding we had more to do, and people started banding together and working and praying.

Now I REALLY see what team means.  On July 4, 2013, I had a double lung transplant.  From day one of the drama (which started way back in January '13 when I started not being able to breathe), people started coming out of the woodwork to help.  I needed it and people gave it.  Not just my family, but friends of friends of friends and total strangers.  When they airlifted me to Stanford Hospital on my birthday week in June, somebody we'd never met before offered my mom a place to stay.  Another stranger offered another place to stay.  There were borrowed cars, airline miles, financial help, prayers from church groups who'd never heard of me, you name it.  Not to mention the medical team in Albuquerque and the transplant team at Stanford.  Nurses, doctors, coordinators, med techs - literally hundreds of professionals made my body unbroken again.

I did the work - to honor the team.
I did the work - to honor the team.

This is what convinced me to do something like Kickstarter.  I saw that people will come together, people know that you're there, and they want to help.  Everything you could possibly do matters to other people.  Even a simple music project matters.  Nothing is ever just you.

But I didn't fully believe this at first.  I still wondered why we'd try to fund another music project.  But it is what we do.  We hear this music in our heads and we don't know why, but we feel like it needs to be out in the world.  We need it to.  Maybe because we need to connect.  Maybe because somebody else needs to hear it.

Then I had this thought:  IF it's going to matter, it needs to be done well.  If it's going to be done well, that will cost money.  From there I realized there are people who mix, people who master, people who play music, people who manufacture CDs, people who take photographs, people who promote music, all of whom have passion and dreams and want to be able to do what they do and do it well, all of whom need to eat and pay rent, and all of whom want to be involved in something that grows beyond them.  There are also people who listen, who will want what you have in you to give, and who also want to be involved.  Then I realized that's the whole philosophy of Kickstarter!  People want to be involved in making things!

Then I realized I OWE it to my collaborators and mentors to do it right.  I owe it to the people who saved my life, I owe it to the person whose lungs I have to live with passion, to do things all the way, and if we’re going to make another record, to gather up resources and do it as well as we can!  All of us who have been involved so far want it to be great!  And anyone who has to deal with a transplant or cancer or a grave injury wants to see someone else who's gone through that thrive.  When I see someone thrive, I know I can thrive.

So now I think, do NOT be afraid, DO be grateful.  Do NOT hold back, DO give it your all.  Connect.  You CAN.  WE CAN.  Now THIS I can get behind!  THIS I believe in!

Because after all, didn't I say I didn't want us to believe "them" when "they" tell us what we can't do?

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First time back at piano - 2 weeks after surgery - left arm almost completely paralyzed from surgical injury, still on portable I.V....who cares right? Must play, must continue!

So what will we need money for?

  • Tracking (the actual initial recording): A lot of tracking is already done, some needs to get done, and some needs to get fixed.  Some can get done in our homes (ahh technology!) but some we want to take to studios in Albuquerque, NM.  We believe in supporting our scene if we can.
  • Musicians: We are firm believers in paying these extra collaborators for their work.
  • Mixing (mixdown of tracks into actual songs): After an initial pass or two, we'll hand the project to one of my mentors, Rock Romano, of Rock Romano's Red Shack in Houston, TX to create the pre-master mixes.
  • Mastering (the final step where a true expert makes it sound like a real record): We'll be working with an amazing mastering engineer named John Greenham who works out of a venerable L.A. mastering house called Infrasonic Sound.
  • Manufacture of product (CDs, vinyl, etc!)
  • Promotion: Minimal unless we exceed the goal, but we'll at least spend a little to get a new set of photos and a simple website up.
  • Mail (getting you your reward, Generous Backer): Of course we've built in the cost of things like bubble mailers and shipping so we can actually ship the prizes.

Will this thing change the world?  Well, who knows.  I think any time we pull together and make something, we upgrade the world a bit, so yes, I suppose it will.  Maybe we'll become huge rock stars and personally I do know what foundations and charities I'd start first. :)  But either way, I’d be proud to have started something a lot of people turned into something big and good.

SO - LET'S GO!! Let's make (finish) a record!!!

Oh..excuse me, I'm sorry. I didn't explain the title did I? ;)

I never thought affirmations would work. I figured if you didn't actually believe something, what's the point in repeating it? But around the time when I got very sick, several folk explained to me that the subconscious takes on what it repeatedly hears. They told me that the way affirmations work is exactly that - you blindly, faithfully, mechanically repeat something you WANT to believe, but don’t, over and over, and it's like lifting weights. It strengthens that notion in your deepest mind. So every night for months and months, whether I was home strapped to my oxygen concentrator and BiPap mask, or in a terribly uncomfortable hospital bed (which was about half the time), I would whisper to myself over and over until I fell asleep:

"I am strong, I am happy, I am healthy, I am free"

Eventually I started to believe it again and so did everyone else. Then somebody tore open my chest and physically MADE me strong, happy, healthy and free. It came true! And then, well, that affirmation started sounding like a song’s chorus to me, and what I would say is my first positive song was born! That's where I figure you need to end up when you tell a dark story. At the exalted ending. Redemption. Life. The HELL YEAH! place. And all anyone has to do to believe it and live it too is sing along baby!!

LET'S GO!!!!

Risks and challenges

The first thing to say is, I think we're about 75% done with this project already. Most of the tracks are recorded, with the exception of one or two drum takes and a few other instruments. So, there's not too much risk of this project not coming off! :)

The major risk in any musical collaboration is personnel. Even in a major label environment, band members may have to come and go due to life circumstances, most of which usually have to do with money. I remember a story about a key member of Pavement not being able to attend their reunion tour because he couldn't get out of work. He still had a fulltime job?? Yes. He did.

The other major challenge this project faces is MY productivity. It's been an amazing year in that I've been granted a new lease on life. I received a double lung transplant on July 4, 2013. The failing health leading up to that obviously completely stopped this project, but the amazing new amount of oxygen in my chest has given the project new life as well! But, it takes a long time and a goodly amount of dedication to fully come back from such a thing. So I'm not spending all night writing and recording vocals, editing the next day, and going from studio to studio tarring roofs for free studio time and mixing and mastering everything myself to avoid spending money.

How am I planning to get around that challenge? The same way I'm planning on making the project better. By hiring other professionals to help with the things I've always begrudgingly done myself, and not always that well. The fact is, you can produce a record almost without spending a dime, but sometimes doing everything yourself is really not the best way to maximize the quality of the art. For example, I'm an engineer and I know how to master a record, but I'm not world class at that (pretty good, but world class?). If we capture a world class drum performance, a world class bass performance, and a world class vocal performance (ha! am I capable of that? I doubt it but I guess I'll try!), it might be wisest to get a world class mastering engineer on the team! To me this would be a win-win.

Hence, here we are on Kickstarter, attempting to do things in a much more collaborative and fantastic way!

Meanwhile, I've produced and engineered about a billion projects over the past 20 years, and like I said, this project is about 3/4 recorded even before this campaign, so as long as we're smart about collaborating and compensating people fairly, I'm very confident that the project will come of swimmingly :)

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    A free spoken word download. Recordings of Aaron's "A list" poetry slam pieces and whatnot.

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    Free downloads of both the Strong Happy Healthy Free album and the spoken word extras.

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    A signed CD copy of Strong Happy Healthy Free!

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    Signed Strong Happy Healthy Free vinyl record!

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    Signed vinyl and CD copies of Strong Happy Healthy Free!

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    All free downloads: Spoken word, The Four Hard Edges Of War and Strong Happy Healthy Free, plus vinyl and CD copies of Strong Happy Healthy Free

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    Your name in the liner notes thanking you for your support and generosity!

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    I'll perform 2 pieces from the album for you over skype, yo! (no guarantee a band will be involved since I don't speak for them! :) )

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    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    I'll perform your event - solo performance within New Mexico (unless i can pull together some of the collaborators), or if you can pay travel expenses, elsewhere (it would be wise to talk to me before pledging if you're out of New Mexico so we can make sure we can work the details out).

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    Special credit in liner notes as a big time backer, and if you're so inclined, a little bit about you on the Strong Happy Healthy Free website.

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Funding period

- (30 days)