If it’s not the Kickstarter campaign to end all Kickstarter campaigns, it definitely gives the rest of them a go for their money.
But let Peter Himmelman set it up.
“There's a new record bubbling up in my head,” he wrote in May, reprinting it and succeeding entries on his “Peter Himmelman's new record--The Boat That Carries Us" Kickstarter page.
“I've already written about 30 songs, several of which I love and consider true contenders. What I usually do is write way more then I'll need. I'll probably get to about 30 of 'em before my mind and body says, 'No more!' Then I'll go back, and with the help of friends--and sometimes just a dartboard, pick the ones that feel right together. No science, just a sense.”
Except if his accompanying video funding plea is to be believed, the new songs, if not all the ones preceding, were ghostwritten by, well, a turtle.
"God only knows what people would think if they knew you got everyone of your so-called good ideas from a leopard tortoise!” mutters the leopard tortoise in question. “It’s sad. It really is just so damn sad!”
In this specific instance, the creature claims credit for “12 powerful new songs” recorded for The Boat That Carries Us by Himmelman with drumming great Jim Keltner, star bassist Lee Sklar and guitar whiz David Steele.
“Help us float it into the world,” writes Himmelman.
He notes that it won’t be “another one of my ‘dark’ works.” Rather, “I've been exploring themes of unease and the portent of chaos for a while now and I've had it. My forcing frame, the structure I've put on myself this go-round, is to do something that reflects the way I typically feel, which is quite hopeful. I'm not saying this is going to be a Disney record, but instead of the songs being focused on life's struggles, I'm going to try and depict a sense of wonder about life's joys and possibilities.”
Himmelman notes that when Keltner and Sklar (who between the two have played with the likes of Lightning Hopkins, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Jackson Brown, Keith Richards, Carol King, George Harrison and John Lennon) get into a room, “it's always pure magic.”
“What makes them great isn't just their chops,” he writes. “Technical facility like they have is somewhat ubiquitous in L.A. What makes them special is their abundant and generous humanity. For them playing music is like prayer. It's the way they express their incredulity and delight about being a spirit in a physical world--the irony of that, the pain of that.”
With Sheldon Gomberg producing at his studio, Himmelman and his accompanists cut the 12 songs in two-and-a-half days.
“We tracked live, old school. A few days later, the wonderful keyboardist Will Gramling came in and bathed several of the tunes in a sweep of honey-dripped Hammond organ. What you'll hear on The Boat That Carries Us is what went down in that short, potent period.”
Himmelman, whose prolific body of work includes childrens music and film/TV scores as well as rock albums, insists that there’s never been a better time to create, record and disseminate it. “The miracle of pressing a button and sending master quality recordings to almost anyone on earth is overwhelming,” he declares.
Yet “the present moment is a mixed blessing for music-makers,” he adds, noting the obvious: “No one's buying recorded music because nobody has to anymore, it's literally streaming everywhere.”
Hence, “after some deliberating,” he’s gone the Kickstarter route in trying to raise, by Nov. 20, $36,000 to cover manufacturing, marketing and distribution costs.
“I want to continue making records--and I hope you want to continue listening to them--but I simply can't keep doing it when no one's paying for them,” he writes. Noting that The Boat That Carries Us was created “for the sheer love of doing so,” he’s seeking the needed financial support as well as “your support of the songs themselves,” which he feels to be “abounding in hope” and with “some soul, some low-down funkiness and some things that sound like they'd fit right in a Baptist church or a Saturday night juke joint.”
Himmelman is offering a slew of premium items to Kickstarter contributors, starting with high resolution digital files of the album titletrack and JPEG artwork for $2 donations and ending with a solo home concert for $10,000.
In between are Lee Sklar signed postcards, signed finished CDs and demo discs of Himmelman's early Minneapolis band Sussman-Lawrence, copies of his Himmelman Family Cookbook for iPad (including such favorites as Spicy Moroccan Fish, Trinidadian Curried Chicken, traditional Israeli spiced egg Shakshouka and of course, traditional chicken soup), various t-shirts featuring his original artwork and a signed hardbound copy of his handwritten song lyrics.
Additionally, donors can spend a couple hours in Himmelman’s studio, where they can watch his famous turtle eat kale—“terrifically entertaining,” he says, “for two minutes, tops.” He’ll also perform a “Skype mini-concert,” “customize” donor instruments with his artwork, conduct a 90-minute songwriting seminar, compose an original song for a person or organization and provide a two-hour consultation using his Big Muse method of employing songwriting to increase innovative thinking, team building and leadership ability in organizations.
Himmelman has made himself available for feedback at an email address supplied on the page.
“Making a record is like building a house,” he concludes. “You have a plan and you follow it. Never have I made a record that went exactly according to plan and never have I made one that veered totally off course. It's a process of knowing where you're headed and being open to navigational nudges along the way. Sometimes the process takes longer--or shorter--then planned. Just letting you know.”
[The Examiner has written liner notes on Peter Himmelman CDs.]
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