18 July 2011
It was well over two years ago when Portland based music producer Kevin Moyer contemplated working with an athlete on a track for his next album project, and one particular member of the Portland Trail Blazers came to mind.
It was like drafting a number one pick all over again.
Now Moyer- in connection with Greyday Records - is set to release “Live From Nowhere Near You: Volume Two”, a 3-disc benefit venture on Tuesday that combines street musicians with some common names in the music industry today. Profits from the album sales goes to support homeless and street youth programs in the Pacific Northwest with the compilation including performances by the likes of Eddie Vedder, members of The Strokes, Third Eye Blind, Dandy Warhols, Portland’s own Bosko, stic. man of Dead Prez and Greg Oden among many others.
Wait, Greg Oden?
Moyer recently spoke with Beyond the Beat to discuss the origins of the album, how Oden was actually his fall back plan, what it was like to work with the big fella on the track, and the full track release (see link below) of Oden’s vocal debut on “Live From Nowhere”.
16. Bar Tremolinos (O-No-You-Den)
Performed by Carlos Vamos and Lindsay Buckland with Greg Oden
Carlos Vamos: electric guitar, e-bow and tapping guitars, drums;
Lindsay Buckland: electro acoustic midi dulcimer;
Greg Oden: all vocals, oohs, ahhs, grunts, laughing, and talking;
Lisa Lengwenus : “I’m Scared”
I met Carlos and Lindsay busking on a busy street square in Amsterdam while backpacking. These are the two street musicians who also appear on the front cover of this album. A few years later I recorded Greg Oden adding vocals to the track when he was healthy and beginning to dominate on the basketball court again, just before another devastating knee injury. A lot of this effort is about believing in individuals and helping them get back up when they fall down, and I look forward to watching the strength of his legs catch up with that of his enormous heart.
Before I ask about how you came to produce a song with Greg Oden for the album, can you share with me about the overall concept of the project?
The “Live From Nowhere Near You” effort came from an idea that I had when I was outside of a concert waiting for friends. There was an amazing street musician, shoeless old and grizzled and playing the blues. He started talking to me and I sat down to listen. He was amazing. And what struck me as odd was that all of these people - “music fans” you would assume- were filing out of the venue and not paying this guy any attention and he was just as good if not even better than the band we just paid way too much to see, and he was playing for free at our feet. But no one cared.
I started to think about why that was. In this case it certainly didn’t have anything to do with talent (I later recorded the guy and learned he once shared a stage with Jimi Hendrix), so what was it? Was it the perception? Were people listening with their eyes or their ears? Were social stigmas and preconceived perceptions getting in the way and acting as a detrimental filter?
I thought to myself, what would happen if the band we just saw was performing in the parking lot and this guy was inside on stage under the lights with a whole counter of t- shirts with his face on them? What if the music were exactly the same? With that, the idea was born: to record street musicians with professionals an attempt to put them on an equal stage platform, where you wouldn’t know which was which by just listening to the music and only the music.
When did you start putting your plan into action…did the concept for the album take form right away?
I started recording friends and professionals in my attic studio, in my basement, in donated spaces, and live on the streets. Having grown up in Portland within a vibrant music scene and shared friends, it was easy to recruit some bigger names to join in. I think the artists appreciated that the concept tied into the benefit, that the album was telling a story of life on the streets and to and from there, while giving all of the profits to homeless and street youth programs. I think they also appreciated that it was a grass roots DIY effort being done by one guy without any label support, staff or corporate backing.
Volume One was released in 2003, and I just kept going. Eight years later, I am now releasing Volume Two (July 19th, Pre Sale available now) to finish off the story with a 210 minute 3-CD package. The whole thing is only $15, for enough music that would be six normal retail albums.
So how did you go about getting Greg Oden involved to sing on a track?
I got Greg involved just to do something different. It is always cool to get someone out of their comfort zone and see if you can come up with something cool. For the first album we got director Gus Van Sant to sing and play guitar and it ended up sounding a bit like Lou Reed. For Volume Two I was initially talking with Joey Harrington about doing something on piano but we couldn’t get schedules to align and I already had too much piano music contributed by Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini. I thought the sports angle was interesting and shortly after Greg was drafted and I saw him singing on the ESPYs, I gave his agent a call. I never spoke with Mike Conley Sr., but it was all through BDA, Bill Sanders and Jody Evans.
It took a long long time to actually put it together, with the season and the injuries, but we finally made it happen one week day in between game days when Greg was in town and healthy and beginning to dominate on the court. It was November 2009 and Greg came in after practice. This was also during the time after his first knee injury and before his last one, he was playing really well and I was happy for him. Since my attic studio is only about 6 feet tall, I decided to have him come to my day job at Wieden and Kennedy to record so that he would be able to actually stand up. We settled him in with some headphones and a mic and some tambourines and shakers. I had been working on an instrumental track with street musicians that I met while traveling through Europe and I thought it needed some vocals. So I just began playing the song over and over and asking Greg to add lib singing to it.
And he nailed the first take, right…
We did about 25 takes of different grunts and “ooohs and ahhs”, a few using the tambourine (that didn’t work out so well) and then called it a day. Considering how far out of his comfort zone he was through the whole thing, he did actually very well. We laughed a lot, let’s put it that way. After, I hunkered down going through all the takes to clean it up and ended up using bits and pieces here and there within the song. About a month later it was done.
Break down the session for me. Was it a pretty loose environment for putting a song together?
Greg and I spent about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. He was still in work out sweats and it was during the season so I didn’t want to waste too much time. He said one of his favorite places to eat was Buffalo Wild Wings and I emphatically told him that he needed to check out Fire On The Mountain instead (don’t know if he ever did). We talked about Rihanna a bit and laughed about how the track I wanted him to sing was sounding a bit like Carlos Santana meets “Take These Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister. There was a lot of me telling him that everything sounded really good and him looking at me and not believing a word of it. At one point he began spelling his name to the beat and I am half tempted to make a loop of it over a beat and give it to him as a ring tone. I don’t know what his response was to hearing the final version as I had to email it to him due to the basketball season schedule… but he messaged me saying it was “cool”.
You mentioned Carlos Santana, but after hearing the track – which is pretty smooth actually - I couldn’t help but think of Barry White.
I was making the comparison of Barry White with his vocals too - definitely.
I can only imagine how funny it sounded to hear all the grunts and “ooohs and ahhhs” coming from the room. I don’t think Greg knew there was an office just beyond the wall with about 5-6 people working. After we were done and he walked out and saw them, he looked surprised and shot me a look laughing at himself a bit.
And now that the album is done and you are preparing for the release on Tuesday, how do you feel working with Greg on the song when looking back on the experience?
It played out pretty much how I expected. He was very cool and laid back, which I expected. I could tell he was uncomfortable at first as it’s not something he normally doesn’t do and nobody likes to hear themselves on play back. So I kept the playback minimal, although there were times where I played back what he had just recorded so that he could lay another track over it
He was a good sport about the whole thing and very relaxed.
“Live From Nowhere Near You” can be ordered here to help support a very worthy cause. Album hit stores July, 19
photo courtesy of kevin moyer
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