At the beginning of July, Stacey Haber of the Music Firm UK reached out to me to find out if I’d be willing to write and record a song for a social awareness campaign launching in conjunction with the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The campaign is called “Walk a Mile,” and draws its name from the familiar notion of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. It’s an off-shoot of the State Department’s “Hours Against Hate” initiative, which encourages inter-faith and inter-cultural tolerance, and is sponsored by the International Olympic Truce Centre. Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) contributed the theme song for the whole thing. All of that sounded pretty good, and I was flattered to be invited, so I wrote a new song. You can listen right here, and read on below:
But the clock was ticking. It was July 1, I was in a hotel room in Florida, and my house had just been burglarized in Los Angeles, so I wasn’t sure if I even had any guitars apart from a battered old acoustic I had with me. The band and I only had two weeks to get them a finished track of a song that didn’t exist yet. Jaron Luksa, the inimitable force of nature who recorded our record The Ghost of John Henry, was on tour with Amanda Palmer, and would not be able to record us when I got back to town, so I had to find a studio, too.
I wrote the song in my hotel room that night, and recorded a demo of it on my phone (on my phone!), which I sent off to the band and the Music Firm, to make sure everybody was ok with it. I believe deeply in the importance of empathy, but not so much in pithy expressions — especially in lyrics — so I only wanted to move forward if I could come up with a song that got the idea across without actually saying “you should really walk a mile in somebody’s shoes before you judge them.”
When I put out the first Sci-Fi Romance album, for the first year that it was out, I donated every cent that came in from it to a group called Charity: Water (and if you haven’t read the story of 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith’s Charity: Water campaign, which raised over $1 million dollars after she was killed in a car accident, please do so). Charity: Water helps people in developing nations get access to clean drinking water by digging freshwater wells, so people no longer have to carry dirty water miles a day in old gasoline cans. That image was the first place my mind went when thinking about this new song, and from there, the other three lyrical vignettes came very easily.
The world does not want what’s best for us. We’re all struggling daily against entropy, and fighting to stay upright in the face of circumstances that would knock us down. The only thing we have, really, is each other. We’re all in the same boat, and it will stay afloat or sink based on our willingness to help each other out. In my mind, that’s done best by recognizing that though our paths diverge, the people walking them share much, much more in common than we may differ.
To me, that’s a joyful realization. So I wanted the song to feel full of life and joy and camaraderie. If you know many of my songs, you know I don’t do “joyful” very often, so I hope you enjoy this one. I don’t know when you’ll get another like it from me…
We wound up recording the day after Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday with Eric Rennaker in a fantastic studio called Bedrock in Echo Park, and the track was mixed and mastered by Tim Moore at Mas Music Productions in Highland Park (both in Los Angeles). They are good folks, and you should hit them up if you need studio time. And THANK YOU! to the wonderful people who gave up their Sunday afternoon to come sing in the Sci-Fi Romance Choir at the end of the song — Molly, Emma, Oscar, Rebecca, and of course, Kurt, Jody, and I joined in, too.
You can download the song for free right here:
Also, nothing much was taken in the burglary. We were lucky.