A little over a year ago I was on a business trip to central Oregon, staying in a cheesy economy motel because there was nothing else available. I had just settled in, clicking on the semi-small big screen TV with rin-tin-tin sound when my phone chirped. A good friend and fellow musician texted me a question… “Hey Pizza man! What do you know about playing reggae keyboards? Is that something you can do on a recording?
I flicked off the TV with the rin-tin-tin sound and took a sip of my beer.
My daughter Jessica is a lead singer for Slicker; a popular country cover band here in the Portland area. Dean Doeling is the drummer for that band. They’ve been together now for 5 years; as the musician flies. In that time I have become a loyal fan and I am proud to say, a friend to each and every member of the band. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in with them a time or two. They are a talented bunch and they are gracious and caring people.
So I could picture Dean sitting by his phone tapping (drummers will tap), waiting for my reply.
“I’d be willing to give it a try. What do you have in mind?”
Dean’s reply was… “Let me send you a song I wrote and see if you can thicken up [the] sparse keyboards that are already there (replace them). I’m going into the studio to record this, then sending the files down to St John to finish the vocals.”
He sent me a rough recording.
So I already knew that Dean was closely attached to St John. He had been organizing an annual “Just Play” event for the kids of St John for the past 9 years; except last year. Just Play is a gathering where kids 5-15 from St John could play, compete, win trophies and get shoes, shirts and other cool things; for free. Dean was gearing up, contacting sponsors and collecting donations of money and prizes. But hurricane Irma had other plans for the island. Let me tell you, Dean was devastated. And as he explained it just a few days ago, he couldn’t give enough money; not by himself. So he came up with a crazy idea (his words). He wrote a song with the idea (and audacity) that it could be good enough to make a CD that would sell and raise money for recovery efforts in St John.
It did sound crazy… so, of course, I would help if I could.
“I’m honored you would ask. Of course, I’ll do anything I can. I’ll give it a listen, maybe cut a few rough tracks to see what you think.”
It took Dean a year to complete this project. Most of the Slicker band members were involved. After several sessions, a few chord disputes, and a “last-minute” bridge, the song began to evolve. In fact, as each version crossed my desk it seemed to take on a life of its own. A spirit was developing as the tracks began piling up.
Dean may have something here.
As the Portland tracks were finally tempered into something workable Dean got to work organizing the St John talent he had in mind. As Dean explained it, “It quickly developed into an idea of featuring several of the island’s top vocalists, musicians and a couple of choirs.” Turns out, the crazier it got, the more wonderful it could be. So, fortunately, Dean just went with it.
Next thing you know Dean was packing up all the recording equipment he could borrow and heading to St John. A community center was offered as a recording studio and Dean made a makeshift recording booth out of floor mats and cloth lines; whatever he could scrounge up. He had 5 days to record everyone, take video interviews, and clean up the space at the end of each day so the community center could continue their activities.
Dean ended up with 40+ tracks to sort out and master when he got back. All the studio time was donated. All the musicians volunteered. Everyone involved just pitched in as needed. Once the tracks were sorted out Dean sent them off to Nashville for the final master.
The locals call the place “Love City.” It has something to do with the way neighbors help each other with, well, everything; big or small. When I look at Dean describe the place I can tell he gets it. His eyes well up when he tells us of the destruction slowly ebbing at the determination and resilience of the people there. They will overcome.
“Love City Rise Up” is truly a work of love and determination. The tracks from the Portland musicians are wonderful but the talent from St John gave it’s spirit life. I still have to pinch myself when I listen to it. I am so proud of Dean and so very proud of the people in St John. I am so grateful to have been a part of it.
Buy and download the single on iTunes or buy the CD with the beautiful cover, photos and the bio’s of the island talent. Listen to it and tell your friends about it. Share it, share it, share it. Because when you hear that children’s choir at the end you will know what hope is, and you will know that you have done a good thing.
Visit their website at www.lovecityriseup.bigcartel.com.