Jonathan called me several months ago and said he “wanted to make another album in about 6 months”… I asked him about the songs and what was going on in his life. Jonathan said that he was “in the lowest point of his life”… “Everything was going wrong”… and on top of that… his “dad unexpectedly got sick… and died”. He was grieving and was lost in his life without direction and hope. I was also feeling the same, after recently losing two of my best friends in life. I said… “Let’s record it immediately… while you are raw with emotions”… and, “I’ll not only record your record, but also shoot a documentary about this point in your life!” Jonathan’s immediate response was… “You must be crazy!” So, with nothing more than just gas money and my rent paid… I headed out from Los Angeles to Kansas with 6 cameras and a portable recording studio on a 3,000 mile drive to record an album with someone that I had never even met “face to face”… and did this all “on a hunch” that it would bring some healing to both myself and Jonathan… and maybe others who would experience what we would create.
So, after 2 long days of driving, I finally met Jonathan in Wichita KS on stage in the middle of a performance. I gave him a hug and introduced myself and then got to work immediately shooting video. Without the budget for a recording studio, the next morning, we met a group of his musician friends in the middle of a field for a “hootenanny”, to begin recording his new album with equipment that I brought from Los Angeles. These talented musicians didn’t know each other and I didn’t know anyone, including Jonathan, yet we collectively worked together to record two of the songs that made the final album… all the while many friends and family ate food, drank beer and played with the kids in the background. Everything, including the final vocal, was recorded “live”, in one solid take, real, all at the same time, with the only additional recording being just the background vocals.
The following day, we drove to the college that Jonathan went to years before and “borrowed” the large talented choir to record the very last song on the album. Once again, everything was “live” and in one solid take, real, and all at the same time.
The third day we were together, I finally got to sit down with Jonathan for my first interview with him… I learned for the first time that his father was a minister and that he himself wanted to follow in his fathers’ footsteps many years earlier. I was blown away by his ability to speak genuinely and allow his emotions to be honest and open… I knew he was going to heal and grow… and I would also heal and grow.
During the week, we went to the local river and recorded a live version of the emotional song “River Water”… the cicada bugs sang along in the middle break of the song. And a couple days later we went out during a large rain and thunderstorm into the beautiful Kansas prairie to a lone 100 year old building to record and shoot the most important and emotional song about the loss of Jonathan’s father. Jonathan said that it would be great if we could do it on a cloudy day… and we got more than we asked for… right as he began the song, lightning strikes the ground and 6 seconds later, you hear the thunder right before the first verse of the song… and then it begins to rain… and if that wasn’t enough… as the song begins to climax, the sun peaks out from under the cloud bank as it begins to set off in the distance… all of this happened naturally in just 3 minutes… WOW… nature was on our side! Magic happened… except one thing… the rain destroyed 2 cameras, a laptop computer and part of my recording console… OOPS… but it was well worth it!
The next Sunday, we decided to record 5 songs together with the same group of talented musicians from a week before, and add a talented fiddle/ harmonica player who we had never even met. If this wasn’t enough, we also recorded these 5 songs in 5 different locations, outside, in the wind, in the middle of a field, in a barn, in the middle of the street and in chilly weather. I moved everything myself, shot the video cameras, set up and recorded all of the sound, and produced the songs… “crazy”… but we did it… the band performed beautifully and everything sounded and looked great. Once again, everything was “live” and in one solid real piece, all at the same time, with the background vocals being the only additional recording.
Now that we finally had all of the songs, it was time to add the background vocals, mix the record, shoot extra video shots, edit the videos, and tell the story. As it turns out, all of that was the easy part.
What we didn’t know when we started was that both Jonathan and myself would have to go through some healing and transformational growth in order to complete the film. Jonathan and I both went through “breakdowns” and “breakthroughs”. We changed and expanded our understanding about the meaning of life, our relationships, our patterns and our beliefs. We realized everyone dies, but not everyone lives.
We both evolved from our “road to nowhere”, to a “road to Now Here”.
I am forever changed!