I had a lot of plans to play live music and record a couple new albums this year, but as we all very well know, around March the world completely changed. Businesses were shuttered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. People were asked to stay home and avoid large groups. The world kind of stopped, including many of the activities we love to do.
At the beginning of the year, I had written four songs and as February and March rolled around, I wrote five more. I had a collection of songs that I really felt reflected what is happening all over the world: A sense of isolation, even if we were all connected electronically. Even if we were sheltering in place with the people we care about the most. A greater sense of appreciation for the things that matter when everything seems like it’s abruptly taken away.
Quarantined in my house with a lot of time on my hands, I began recording a new album. I enlisted a few folks to help who were also able to record in their homes: longtime friends Charlie Tabing on lead guitars and Jake DeLeonardis on bass (Jackhead, May Day Orchestra, Stace England,) along with Dakota Holden (The People vs. Hugh DeNeal, Miss Jenny and the Howdy Boys, The Magnatones) on pedal steel and guitar, Tony Barbata (John Henry, The Sleepy Rubies, Steve Ewing and many more) on drums and Dave Grelle (Funky Butt Brass Band, The Mighty Pines, Playadors and many, many more) on organ and piano. My friend Mike Lescelius of Misunderstudio in my hometown of Murphysboro, Ill, the engineer with whom I’ve worked with on every album I’ve done, was enlisted to put all of this together. My friend Mike Bass (www.zip-dang.com) did the amazing artwork.
I put down rough tracks and sent them to the musicians, they worked out their parts and recorded at their houses. We collaborated via text, e-mail and phone. Six musicians working separately, but actually on the same page in complete collaboration the entire time: Together Apart.
Here’s one of the finished songs:
Track listing: Hard to High Five, Those Unspoken Things, What it Takes, Up With Anxiety, The Things You Can’t Change, Everything Upside Down, Together Apart, The Bitter Truth, Need Your Touch
I’m a musician, but first and foremost, I’m a fan. I have a ridiculous collection of albums. I love live music. Growing up in Southern Illinois, thought Carbondale always had a vibrant local scene, St. Louis was the closest city where I could see a lot of bands that didn’t come our way — at places like Off Broadway, Mississippi Nights, The Pageant, The Duck Room, Cicero’s and so on. Legendary venues. But it was more than just seeing touring bands, there were so many local musicians playing night in and night out, giving audiences the gift of great memories every time they stepped on the stage.
When all the local venues were closed in March, Ben Majchrzak of Native Sound Recording created the STL Arts and Music Fund. To date, they have raised $23,000 and have been able to give grants to countless musicians, but as of now, the fund is tapped out. With six months of lost revenue, and the ability to get out and play still hampered by the pandemic, St. Louis musicians are still hurting.
I’m a musician, but it’s my second job. My wife and I are blessed with stable careers. But, I love live music and I can’t wait to get out to play and and see shows like before. I donated to the fund, but I wanted to do more.
That is why I’m releasing my new album, Together Apart, in this IndieGoGo campaign. All proceeds — except for the cost of the rewards, which should be minimal — will go to benefit the STL Arts and Music Fund. To show appreciation for the musicians who get up on stage night after night and play their heart out. For us.