The Girls Choir-Susan Savia-Stray Local-The Jewell's-Laura McLean-John Fonvielle-Catesby Jones--and on and on. Dozens of musicians will perform songs by Mike Adams at Brooklyn Arts Center's Annex on Thursday, February 22.
Doors open at 7:00 pm and music begins at 7:30 pm. The concert is free, but if you make a donation, you'll get a CD of the collection of 27 songs (and 28 renditions) written by Mike Adams during the time he took care of his father, Samuel Adams. The title of the album is Belly Full of Songs, and 100% of the donated funds are split between Good Shepherd Center and Nourish NC.
Listen to our interview with Mike and his wife Stephanie above; see our extended conversation below.
Mike: In 1998 I started taking care of my dad and he had just gotten older than he'd ever been and so he needed someone there. I quit working and started taking care of him. During that time I had not played any music or anything since I was in my twenties because, you know, you give that up when the babies come and you go to work. So I started playing music again and then I started writing songs. Some of them are really meaningful about certain things and some of them are like just ditties. I just wrote songs. They don't all have this super deep dark meaning or anything like that. Some of them I just liked the sound of or liked the way the words were in succession or something. So I wrote the songs while I was taking care of my dad.
Then when my dad passed away...sometime after I had this dream about taking maybe 10 of the songs and getting some friends of mine that were really better than me to record them. I'm not a great musician. I don't actually have the prowess to play really well. I play OK, but I don't play like I've been playing since I was eight. So I went around and found people who were really good and asked them if they would do it. It was tough at the beginning. They were kind of questioning what is this, what's the idea behind this, you know? Finally they took it up and I'm very grateful. They learned the songs, arranged the songs to fit them, and recorded the songs and sent them back.
I jumped ahead- when I went to record the songs, the 10 songs, I went to Woody Dobson, who plays drums for the Port City. I went to Woody Dobson's house to record them and I got to the 10th song and I said, "OK, that's, it Woody." And he goes, "Well, what about the one about climbing the ladder? What about the one about being in the ocean?" I just kept singing and then I ended up with 27 songs and so then I foolishly thought, well, I'll just get 27 bands to record these songs. And it took four and a half years to get to here.
Gina: Do you sing them? Do they sing them?
Mike: I am not there.
Gina: You're not in there at all?
Mike: I don't utter a sound on that record.
Stephanie: He did make an album that was the 27 songs of playing the guitar so he could pass it all out to everyone. So they had a track.
Gina: Mike, what is your favorite song on here?
Mike: I don't know. That would be horrible to have to say. I like them all. I don't want to go there.
There's one that's book-ended. The very first one is the same as the very last one and The Jewels does the first one and Big Al Hall does the last one and it's the same song. Oh, that's a story.
When I went around and handed out me playing all 27 songs, I went to Kelly Jewel and I said, "Kelly Jewel, I have a problem." And he said, "What is it?" And I said, "I fear that there's only three songs that are worth anything and that everyone's going to want to pick the same song and I'm going to have an album with 27 different versions of the same song." And he said, "Well, you'll be surprised, every musician has different tastes." And I was very lucky and very blessed that no one ever picked the same song. It was almost kind of weird.
I actually asked Al Hall to do that song. And then The Jewels, Jesse Jewel wanted to do it. So we book ended it to make it an even number, which I usually like odd numbers, but so what. So that was the only song that was ever requested that someone had already picked. Everyone just put themselves into the song and I'm really pleased that some people have told me that you wouldn't know the same guy wrote them all because they're so varied. I'm really kind of proud of that statement. But I didn't mean for it to be that way because to me they all sound like me.
Gina: Which one reminds you of your dad the most?
Mike: Oh, that one's easy. "Desperate." That's the one by Stray Local and it was the original writing of it. The words are almost exactly some of the things my dad said to me when I was taking care of him. So that would be the one that reminds me the most of my father. Numerous other ones- it’s like you get up every morning and you write half a page about coffee and then the next day you write about peanut butter and the next day you write about salt and pepper shakers. So you do all of that and then you pick a paragraph out of that writing and a paragraph out of that writing and a paragraph out of that writing and mix them together and you change them.
Then the story kind of alters itself. So they're really just like a gumbo. There's bits and pieces of my father in every one of them. When I was taking care of my father there was this moment in time where my wife was mad at my brother and my brother was mad at my sister and my sister was mad at me and my dad was mad at my sister or something. The dynamics of everything that go on. It's just the product of the time spent.
Gina: Stephanie, which one is your favorite song?
Mike: I know there's one that's kind of about me and it's, I could say it's a favorite because there's a whole group of people that do it and it's done by the Girls’ Choir. She's an angel.
Stephanie: Guardian. They're going to be first on the program because the girls have to go to school the next day. So they are all coming. Thirty five of them are coming.
Mike: The Wilmington Girls' Choir. I just walked up to Sandy and asked her. Then they did it at their Christmas concert and it was just gorgeous.
Stephanie: We were tearing up.
Mike: That was pretty cool. See, that goes right back to what I was saying. The coolest thing about this is not that I wrote a bunch of songs. The coolest thing about this is that all of these really good musicians bent over backwards and learned it and arranged it for themselves and fit it all into their time schedules and recorded them and handed them to me and they did it all for free. That's the best part about it. All the money goes to my father's favorite charity, which was the Good Shepherd, and Nourish NC which is my favorite charity. I picked those two because they do so much work immediately right here in this county. Right next door to me.
Gina: So Stephanie, would you like to tell me anything about the process or about having to be married to this whole project”
Stephanie: I've been totally supportive, but there have been times when I'd heard enough of it as anyone would.
Mike: She went running from the house as if her hair were on fire numerous times just because she couldn't hear it again.
Stephanie: Luckily, I had a job that took me out of town quite often so I could get away from it in the last three and a half years. It's been ongoing, but all the positive feedback from all the different bands and all the different people. I have several groups of women that I used to take dance with and so forth and they've just been so supportive. They've just been buying albums. I just sold two right before I came here.
Mike: Well, you got money donated for the cause.
Stephanie: I got contributions, yeah. There's no sales. They made a contribution and in return they got albums. You think about the financial output because it's his money and my money, but it wasn't huge. Besides the work and the time and everything, there was some expense that we agreed on to have.
Mike: When I think about the overall expense, I've already gotten more than that much back from my first batch of records.
Gina: But you didn't actually get it back.
Mike: You're right, I did not. But I've already surpassed what I would have gotten had I sold the records and donated a portion of the money. To have already recouped and hopefully double that recoup on Thursday, to already have come that far on the amassing of money, which I hate to put it that way, but I'm asking of money for a good cause. I've put out very little.
Gina: Tell me about the event. What's going to happen on Thursday night?
Mike: OK, what's going to happen on Thursday night is the doors are going to open at 7:00 and at 7:30, 35 young ladies with the direction of Sandy Arante are going to get up and sing and then it's just going to be one right after the other for about two hours. People singing the songs that are on this album. I'm sure that they won't sound exactly like the album because the album was recorded with lots of extra stuff. So this is just a pop, pop, pop, live show one right after the other. It's to let everybody enjoy getting on stage and playing. All the work they did on the songs and everything like that and having people stand in front of them and go, “Wow, that was great.” That's why it's happening. Then of course the subliminal messages, “Put money in this box for the good cause. Take this record with you so I don't have to hold on to any of them.”
The show is on February the 22nd-- and on February the 23rd my life begins again and I've got some new songs and I'm going to play them myself and sing them, I'm not going to do this method again. So it kind of comes to a grinding halt.
Gina: It comes to a great fruition.
Mike: Yes. I love that better than “grinding halt.” Yeah.
Stephanie: I think too, it's going to be fun for all those musicians to be in the same place.
Mike: That's what it's about. They’re all there together and they're all going to be looking at each other and standing on stage together and jamming and adding different stuff and hanging out in the room over there for the musicians and it's just going to be fun. It's just a big fun thing.
Gina: Are all of the acts are going to be there?
Mike: 20 of the acts. There's 28 songs and I think 20. I haven't heard from a few. A couple of guys have moved out of town, like Randy McCray. He's in Memphis winning trophies for blues music, so I doubt he'll make it, but I haven't heard back from him. He might actually call and say, "Oh yeah, I'm coming." So I don't know. There's lots of great people going to be there.
Gina: I'm surprised you got that many, actually. That's kind of amazing.
Mike: Four and a half years of chasing cats around and you kind of finally get the box small enough to be able to herd them.
Gina: Is there anything else you want to tell me?
Mike: I'm just still almost in tears at times over how much this is has all come and how everyone who has joined in to do it. When I got it printed and I went around and gave out 53 CDs- one to each person that was on the CD- and within hours they were calling me going, “Holy cow, this thing is great.” So that's really what makes it so cool. Plus the fact that it's all for charity. That makes you feel like you did something right, you know. Yeah, that's about it.