OK, by your grace and extreme generosity, we are off to make this album. Love and endless thanks - jt, alli, ida and the whole BOC family
CURRENT STATUS: REACHING FOR OUR THIRD STRETCH GOAL OF 80K! OVER 1000 BACKERS! VERY EXCITED! FULL DETAILS BELOW...
We’re Birds of Chicago, and even though we don’t see home much these days, we like the fact that our name locates us in this place... it’s at the core of our music and our mission - but maybe not in the way you might think. Chicago’s got a many chambered heart, and a shape shifting spirit, capable of such sweetnesses and such terror and poison... Our music, from its start, has been about staking out and savouring moments of hope and joy and redemption in a turbulent - and often cruel - world. That’s our music in a line, but it’s also a pretty good description of everyday life in our town.
We (JT Nero and Allison Russell) started this project in early 2012 -- before we had a fully realized vision for it, before we even had our name. We just knew we had to sing together, to record together, and to take our music out into the world. With the help of generous Kickstarter backers in our first successful Kickstarter Campaign, we were able to self produce our debut Birds of Chicago album, and release it internationally at the end of 2012.
We took that initial boost our Kickstarter family gave us, not just as an aid in putting out the album, but as a summons to go to work - to take our music and poetry directly to as many people as possible. We hope we’ve done right by your faith in us. Over the last 2 1/2 years, we’ve played 400+ shows across the US, Canada, the UK, and Europe. The album you funded, and a subsequent live release, Live From Space, drew critical acclaim and made many Best Of Lists for 2013 and 2014. All the good press, all the songs sung so far from home - they’ve been preparing us for this moment. We are ready to make a transformative album- and we’re coming back to you to ask for your help... This project grew up and truly found itself out on the road. On all fronts, we feel we are ready to take a big leap forward with this new Birds of Chicago album, Real Midnight.
We believe in the old fashioned art of ALBUM-MAKING. Despite all the grim proclamations about the death of the music industry, we’re pretty sure there are a lot of people out there for whom actual albums are still a lifeline and anchor, an 11th hour resuscitator...For every single deep crisis we’ve ever faced - we can point you to an album that got us through it. The possibility of giving that sort of escape - or rescue - to other people, that’s the thing we are chasing, it’s the reason we do what we do...
We have a batch of new songs that we are incredibly proud of, and we are turning to our Kickstarter community to help us turn these songs into an album, and to let the world know what we’ve done.
THE DREAM PRODUCER
When it came time to choose a producer, there was always one name at the top of the dream lists we scratched out in various coffee houses and bars: Joe Henry… Joe’s a multiple Grammy winner, but it’s the Joe Henry sound that has always intrigued us. Listen to any of the records Joe’s produced, from Solomon Burke, to Bonnie Raitt, to Aaron Neville, to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, to Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, to Bettye LaVette, to Over The Rhine - and one thing is clear - this is a man who knows his light and his shadows, and the careful blending of the two. There is a sound he cultivates - in his studio in the basement of the venerable old Garfield House in South Pasadena - that is both lonesome and joyful at the same time… we knew Joe would be perfect for us… We are incredibly thrilled and honoured to be working with him and engineer extraordinaire, Ryan Freeland.
The first week of February, the Birds of Chicago family will be camped in South Pasadena recording our 2nd studio album, Real Midnight. Our band will consist of the BOC names you’ve come to know - Chris Merrill, Drew Lindsay, Dan Abu-Absi, Michelle McGrath, Joe Faulhaber, Nick Chambers... We are also very excited to be working with two of Joe Henry's musical family - the great Jay Bellerose on drums and percussion, and Patrick Warren on organ. There may also be a surprise guest or two...
This isn’t a cheap proposition for us. It’s more than a little terrifying, frankly, to be spending more than we ever have before to record an album… But we have a chance to work with, not just a multiple Grammy award winning producer, but one of our real musical heroes, in the studio where he has made so much magic. We don’t take this chance lightly...
You all gave us the resources to begin our Birds of Chicago journey; we’re asking you now to help us take a huge leap forward; to make an album that will truly capture the heart and spirit of this band, and break us through to a much wider audience. Since you folks are in effect our record label and board of trustees, here are the numbers you’ll need to see, our plan for getting the job done, where your money will go:
$40,000 - Recording Costs/Mixing/Mastering/Manufacturing
We have 30 days to raise 40,000. If we fail to meet this goal your cards won't be charged and we don't get anything. This is our first goal, this is the bare minimum we need to raise to get the album recorded and manufactured. We could have made this album at home, and produced it ourselves, for less. That’s how we made the first one, and the live album. We felt like we owed it to ourselves - and to you - to dream bigger. Kickstarter takes 5%, and Stripe takes another 3 to 5% in credit card processing fees. For every 10,000 raised, roughly 3,000 will go toward fulfilling the rewards. The rest goes to the costs of the project: paying for studio time, the musicians, the producer, the engineer, the mixing, the mastering, the graphic designers, the cd and vinyl manufacturing. 40,000 won’t cover hiring radio promoters, publicists, videographers, promoting the videos online, posters and other merch, or web designers. Which brings us to our hopefully optimistic STRETCH GOALS....
$60,000 - Publicity Campaign
There is an old saying -- “there are publicists you can afford, and there are publicists you can’t afford. Don’t hire the publicists you can afford". Ok, that’s not an old saying, but it should be. The most foolish thing we could do, after making the initial investment, would be to NOT go the extra distance in promoting it as well. We have managed to get very good press in this project’s young life without a major publicity push. However, there are plenty of tiers of media we haven’t yet cracked -- National magazines, NPR shows we all know and love, the elusive late night TV slots... There’s never a guarantee that these doors will open to us, but we are going to put ourselves in the optimum position to make those breakthroughs, by working with a top-tier publicity agency. It’s worth noting that 20,000 is just a fraction of what it will take to keep a press campaign going that doesn’t burn out after a brief release push… We’ll be doing our part too - that’s where the 200 shows a year come in. We don’t just take your investment, sit back and hope it blooms… we’ll be out working hard - and putting the dollars we earn out there right back to work alongside yours.
$70,000 - Video Production/Artisanal Merch
We’ll fund extremely important things such as continuing video production, and developing a line of distinct Birds of Chicago art and merchandise that utilizes artists and craftspeople we have come to know and love. Videos are important -- lots of people seem to be watching them on the INTERNET these days…having not just one, but several cool videos in play, seems to be one of the very best ways to sustain an active awareness around the music, and to constantly introduce the songs to people who might not otherwise come across it. As for the art/crafts/merch side of things, one of the many lessons we learned from Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops in our time opening shows for them, is to never stop looking for ways to build a culture around your music in a community sustaining manner. Pay a little more to use local, sustainable products, and to work with other artists to make merchandise of real, distinct value. Artists have to hire artists, or we simply don’t get hired enough. Good ripples -- make em where and when you can. We’ve got a bunch of talented artist friends, whom we are going to tap to make many cool things for the merch table. ** Here's an image of an original painting, "Real Midnight", by Jenn Rawling (inspired by our song) to give you an idea - though this particular painting is part of a collaborative series Jenn has embarked on with us for this Kickstarter Campaign's Rewards for our Backers only and will never be available for sale**
$80,000 - Tour Support / Continuing Publicity
Any money that comes in beyond this last stretch goal will go towards continued publicity for the album and the tours and to the betterment and expansion of our traveling road show … it truly is a family circus, and we are always striving to make it a more functional family circus, and to put on the absolute best show we can. If you have already come across Birds of Chicago, you know that the bulk of our touring thus far has been done as a four piece. With supreme tetris abilities, we fit four musicians, our tour manager/merch goddess/baby whisperer-while-we’re-on-stage, Suzi, our baby daughter, Ida Maeve, and all of our gear/luggage/baby paraphernalia into a 9 person Ford Econoline van... It’s workable but not ideal. We’d like to be able to add our drummer to the mix more often, expanding to a quintet, which means moving into a slightly roomier vehicle. As resources allow, we’d also like to make a commitment to having our own sound engineer on the road with us as well. We’re lifers in this, and we want to build a lasting relationship with music fans … we’re not talking smoke machines and lasers (really, we’re not), but we want to make sure the show looks and sounds as good as it possibly can.
Love and Gratitude
We are very much aware that this band - Birds of Chicago - really does exist because of you backers. You gave us the seed money that sent us down this road… We are grateful beyond words for that. In coming to you again, we are hoping and trusting that you might want to hear Real Midnight as much as we want to make it and share it with you... We’ve worked hard. We can write a million thank yous - we probably will over the coming weeks - but the best way we know how to thank you will be with more music, more of the work we love. Here’s to that. And here's to you.
with hope, love, and gratitude,
jt and alli
and the whole Birds of Chicago Family
FEB 12- 2 Weeks to Go! 123% Funded! New Rewards added! Can we make it to 60K or 1000 backers?
We just got back from LA last night...What a magical week of recording it was - a truly transcendent experience to collaborate with Joe Henry, Ryan Freeland, Jay Bellerose, and Patrick Warren ...We are also incredibly lucky to have had the luminous and inimitable Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops, The New Basement Tapes) grace us with her soaring voice, banjo, and fiddle brilliance on three of our new songs-- where or how she found the time in her insane solo debut release schedule to come and join us for a day in the studio we'll never know but we are forever grateful (we hope you'll treat yourself to Rhiannon's stunning T Bone Burnett produced solo debut "Tomorrow is My Turn" if you haven't already, and watch her show stopping performance on Letterman). We are so very proud of this new record and can't wait to share it with you...we are galvanized to try and make it as far into our Stretch Goals as we can over these next two weeks because we really want this album to be HEARD! Due to popular demand we've added 5 more of both the previously sold out BACKSTAGE PASSES FOR TWO and the LULLABIES ALLI LEARNED FROM HER GRANDMA REWARDS... thank you all so very much for your sharing of our project and generous encouragement, much love alli, jt, ida and the whole Birds of Chicago Family
Risks and challenges
We’re committed to making this new album, "Real Midnight", with Joe Henry. It’s a dream we’ve worked hard for, and we aren’t going to defer it now that the opportunity has fallen in our lap. So there’s the risk: if we fall short of our goal, we’re still gonna make this album, no matter how much debt we have to rack up to do it... We are putting our faith in you, our backers, to help us get this album made without us having to sell off JT’s baseball card collection (at some point he will admit that it’s only worth about $17 anyway) and to help us rally toward the stretch goals that account for the true challenge this album faces: getting heard. That is to say, getting HEARD. Heard by a much broader swath of people on this continent and abroad. So many of you have told us we are ready to take things to a new level. We feel ready. There are very specific - and not cheap - methods of spreading the gospel these days… We have seen the good effects of the 400 shows we’ve played, and the 20,000 or so albums we’ve sold essentially off the back of the old truck. We are so incredibly grateful for you, our community and inspiration, our grass roots publicists- you've been helping us all along the way by sharing our music, bringing yourself and others to our shows, writing us notes of encouragement or appreciation, sharing our posts- telling us that our music has real value to you... We feel confident that with you helping to spread the word and with the right print, blog, video, and radio push behind us, the next 400 shows we play will turn the ripples into white caps, and we’ll get closer to that elusive tipping point…That's the challenge.
We can't ever thank you enough for coming along on this journey with us so far....but we'll try.
- (30 days)