Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Big Bad Mike!

As a part of the Artist Initiative Grant-- I wrote a community aspect into the proposal (Thank you Minnesota State Arts Board!!). The idea was to share music with a Minnesota community. I chose to work with youth from the Urban Arts Academy. These youth are going to help record some songs on the upcoming album! Many thanks to local South Minneapolis photographer Bruce Silcox for the photos in this Blog Post!

What a treat it has been!! Working with kids on music can be alot of fun. You do have to be flexible and ready to go with the flow if the mood changes. Doubtlessly, youth in today's world are looking for cool trendy music. What better way to get them excited about music than through.. Big Bad John..right?!? Have a listen.

Big Bad John

Well maybe not. When I played it for a couple of the youth, i was worried.. One of the kids was like.. 'oh, it's kinda like country rap.' As soon as the word 'country' escaped the lips, I thought I was done for. Country music can get a pretty bad 'rap' (no pun intended) in some circles. I'm not denying Taylor Swift is popular.. But when you say, 'Taylor Swift', half the kids in the room will perk up..and the other half usually go "Lame!!" If you've never heard of her.. check it out. 50/50 chance you might love it? Regardless though, country music evokes alot of strong, often heart-felt emotion in young people today.

I wasn't totally downcast though. 'Rap' had come out in the same sentence as country, so I thought..well we might be on to something here. And who can deny that 'rap' is cool. Isn't rap the essence of cool? Kids like it right? ..I can't really rap, but I thought I could at least try to country rap.

Now alittle more backstory is necessary here. Big Bad John was composed by Dean and Roy Acuff and made famous by Jimmy Dean. My father-in-law, Phill Stoelb, wanted to re-write the song for a retiring co-worker by the name of Mike. He re-wrote the lyrics for the song, to fit the original Big Bad John arrangement. He wanted me to record the re-written song so it could be played as a surprise at Mike's retirement party.

I thought it sounded like a great idea. Here I could work with the kids on some rhythms, and some singing. It would work as a warm up for them. Get them accustomed and ready to record other songs on the album coming out in May. (One of those is currently in the works as we speak!!) We made tambourines from bottle caps and wood scraps. We learned about microphone safety and sensitivity. We also played to a metronome so we were on rhythm. And the youth joyfully chanted 'Big Bad Mike!!' for the microphone. The photo above is an earlier class we did on inspiration and instrument making (cigar box guitars) with the Re-Use Band Project.

Now if you are interested in hearing this conglomeration of sound, you should travel to this link.

Broken Ground - Neal Swanger's Song of the Soul

That will take you right there.. this is a 50 minute interview with Northern Spirit Radio and host Mark Helpsmeet. We discussed some of my recent projects, including the Folk 'n' Thieves, the Broken Ground EP and Big Bad Mike with the Re-Use Band. If you just want to hear from the Re-use Band, you'll have to fast forward the interview to just about the end. It's well worth it. you'll get a few more details about the song in the interview itself.

Our current song project with the youth involves a bully named Billy. He eats red hot cheese puffs and he has big original feet. His favorite target to pick on??? (at least currently)-->> Little Francis. Poor Little Francis.. :( Well, I don't want to give away much more. Besides the youth are helping to write this song and frankly, i don't think i have permission from them to speak about it on the record... They were very concerned about their rights to Big Bad Mike! It is a strong-hearted up and coming generation!!!