Various Artists: be good to yourself | Released November 8
In 2019, after losing friends and fellow musicians to suicide and a drug overdose, Ed Baumgardner decided he was tired.
Winston-Salem-based guitarist reached out to old collaborators, guitarist Rob Slater (sneakers) and drummer/producer Chris Garges (Fred Wesley, Don Dixon), with the idea for the instrumental album.
To channel the helplessness they felt about their mental health crisis, the three veteran musicians and two North Carolina citizens assembled a group of like-minded artists who strongly believe in the healing power of music and the power of the state’s unique collaborative arts community.
On November 8th, a star-studded roster of local artists will give their best in the fight against the star-studded crisis. be good to yourself—A helpful album to help uninsured musicians in North Carolina facing mental health and substance abuse challenges.
After two years of preparation, the project started as a 10-track concept. The sweeping entry of the COVID-19 pandemic the following year brought to light deeper issues within the music industry, such as the mounting pressure of unemployment and financial fragility without access to affordable mental health care. Social distancing mandates further complicated the recording process, but with the help of an additional 29 studios across the state, the team of musicians were able to safely complete the album from a distance.
The final product, a 23-track compilation, is spread across two albums and features over 60 musicians, including many local Triangle musicians, such as Mipso’s Libby Rodenbough, Rod Abernethy of Arrogance, and Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary. Both artists—all but three are from North Carolina—bent talents to an expanding list of covers, hand-selected by Bumgardner to create a matching story. The concept itself also embodies the intertwined nature of the country’s musical community.
Among the main players in the upbringing scene: Peter Hulsable. The now Durham-based artist got his start at RJ Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, where he met Chris Stami, along with Mitch Easter and Bobby Locke; Together, they formed Rittenhouse Square.
“I think people have a view that if you’re a musician, life is full of fun and games,” Holsapple says. “That’s why they call playing music. But working on doing it the right way. It’s a conscious effort to come up with something from your soul that hopefully touches someone else. Otherwise, you’re working in a vacuum.”
Holsabel says the pandemic has been a “modified void” for many musicians. But he also has five decades in the profession and knows that a mental health crisis predates an epidemic.
“A lot of us suffer from mental problems caused by the music business,” he says. “I stand proudly as someone who was able to undo that with counseling. But there is nothing directly accessible to musicians who are between gigs and in fear and need someone to talk to, to help them sort things out.”
Here lies the necessity be good to yourself.
Holsapple is just as back with Bumgardner and Slater as he does with Stamey and refers to the trio as the “brain trust” behind the project.
“They have all carried themselves out as professional musicians,” he says. “It’s not a smooth ride. You can’t count on anything. You just take it and hope someone hears it and it resonates with them somehow.”
On the album, Holsapple gave his accordion flair to Bo Diddley’s 1961 song “Pills,” which the New York Dolls brought to greater fame on his 1973 LP. (“When you’re 16, a New York Dolls record comes out, and everyone in town wants to hear Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” you get sympathetic to the song,” he says.)
The objective importance is clear.
“Everyone meditates in some way or meditates,” Holsabley says. “So the hope is that you can get some help and, ideally, give up the need for medication. But if you need medication, you can have someone prescribe it for you. That’s what this record is about.”
Holsapple encourages people to buy several copies and give them as gifts to friends and neighbors during the holidays.
“For the cost of a little coffee, this project indicates not only the need for the mental health of North Carolina musicians, but also that our music scene, which has been around for so long, is a really healthy place to be musical,” he says. “If we can provide the mental health thing for more of us, it will be better on this front.
Raleigh rock vet Jack Cornell, formerly of The Fabulous Knobs, offers his view of the pervasive mental health crisis in a language now universal: the meme.
“You say you have like a $500 car with $8000 worth of gear to drive four hours to a party for only $25 and a free T-shirt,” he jokes. “And that’s it, right? We’ll do whatever we have to play.”
Cornell has been playing music with Terry Anderson since the 1970s, and the pair collaborated on countless recordings under several band names, including Terry Anderson and Olympic S Kickin. This connection made him enter the project to record vocals for the track “Betty Ford”. Benned by Anderson and their Ohio-based friend, Erica Blaine, “Betty Ford” fits perfectly in the therapeutic part of Baumgardner’s envisioned story.
The title of the song refers to a place where one goes to improve oneself in a time of crisis. Her motivating words–“You better get your ass for Betty Ford—It’s a humorous take on the taboo topic of asking for help.
“It’s kind of tricky, and in some ways quite literal,” Cornell says. “The song is so much fun. But there’s just something quite frank about ‘You need some help, we all want you to be good because you’re kind of an asshole now.'”
A critical component of the local arts community is that those from the deeper generational strata continue to pave the way for new artists whose contemporary contributions reinforce the deep roots of regional traditions.
Faith Jones joins this project as one of these newcomers shaped by the voices she grew up in in Durham and the storytellers who inspired her own stories.
“We came of age at a really crazy time,” says Jones, who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last year but walked in a few weeks ago at a belated party. Before the pandemic, postgraduate plans included moving to New York City to pursue theater. But in the stillness of her enforced hiatus, things changed.
“During the pandemic, a lot of my priorities have changed,” she says. “Honestly, I’ve had a bout of major depression for most of 2020. And I feel like as artists, we’re in a unique position where we can feel emotions so deeply, which makes our art really good, but it makes everyday life so wonderful. So cruel.”
Bumgardner contacted Jones via her UNC songwriting professor, Florence Dorr, after hearing Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth” on Coverage Fee, the Cat’s Cradle COVID-19 Relief Register produced by Stamey.
Stunningly expressive, Jones’ vocals on the album evoke a more moody look at Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.”
She looks at the circumstances of her personal mental health crisis with wisdom beyond 22 years. As a recent college graduate, she feels fortunate that empathetic parents have grown up in a generation that is considered more outspoken about struggles and solutions such as therapy. She describes her mother as an “extremist for her time,” allowing Jones and her siblings to take days off school on an as-needed basis.
But also, as a black woman, Jones realizes that her experience is not widely reflected across the black community.
“I can’t speak for the entire black community, of course, but there is a historical tendency not to talk about things like that and not put your work out there,” Jones says. “It was a way to protect us from white eyes and white rule and racism, this historical response to generational trauma. But fortunately, my mom was different. Growing up, I really felt this transformation inside my home. At school, I found that people of our generation are more open to talking about it.”
Among the younger generation defined by their entry into “adulthood” during a global health crisis, Jones’ vocal talent and unique perspective are invaluable to a project created to benefit and reflect a diverse community of struggling artists.
Proceeds from the album — record sales, as well as merchandise and any related performances — will go directly to the nonprofit Abundance NC, which will make payments to the MindPath Care Centers professional healthcare group, whose psychiatric professionals provide distributed services to artists. It’s a partnership that ensures North Carolina musicians have a number to call when they need help.
This is the willingness of contributors to introduce themselves to fellow artists be good to yourself About. Enabling these artists to take care of themselves ensures that mental health and substance abuse issues will not stop the music
“As always, North Carolina has a high caliber of musicians, all of whom have a vision and a voice,” Bumgardner says. “But the great thing about North Carolina musicians is that they don’t mind donating the most rewarding means of currency — their talent — to help someone else.”
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