Part 6: KickFinisher

🎻 CORA, VYVIENNE, MIRIAM, DAVE & NIALL 🎸

In 2015 my attention was drawn to the fact that a special time was approaching in the history of the Bahá’í community. 2017 would mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh and many friends were beginning to explore ways of utilizing the arts to contribute to the celebration of the Bicentennial.

By then, NASA was far in the rearview mirror of the big red firetruck. Kelly was now immersed full-time in music production and sound engineering and had set up a new branch of It’s Not Rocket Science Studios in a converted barn in the eclectic town of Lewes, not far from the south coast of England.

In the summer of 2015, she invited me to come visit the new studio where she was working on a variety of music projects and hosting ‘Tiny Planet’ – a monthly concert series that provided a space where artists of all sorts could present, share and discuss their work with the local community. While visiting the new studio, our conversation naturally gravitated towards our unfinished recordings and Kelly suggested that we could do some work on them there in the barn. With the Bicentennial on our minds, we decided to refocus our intentions on finishing the album and to offer it as a humble contribution to the celebrations. We would call it ‘Year of the Nightingale’.

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Kelly’s Firetruck parked outside It’s Not Rocket Science Studios, Lewes, UK

Our first task was to listen through everything we had recorded during those early sessions in America. There was a mountain of unfinished material but our newly-adopted timeframe – the Bicentennial – gave a sharp focus to our work. A calendar has a powerful influence. We chose our 10 favourite songs from the early sessions and placed our attention squarely on them.

I made periodic visits to ‘the Barn’ and the album gradually re-gained momentum but the work remained as big as it always had been; our vision for the music had not diminished. The foundations were laid but the tracking was far from complete and almost the entire editing, mixing and mastering stages lay ahead of us. We didn’t know how we were going to find the resources required to finish the album but we were determined that it would see the light of day in time for the Bicentennial. Even the album’s title had a deadline built into it. We began to think of ways that we could bring our project into alignment with the stars.

For several decades the Bahá’í community had been developing a system of grassroots activities that could be set up by people of any background, in any neighborhood, anywhere in the world, and the purpose of which was to enable people to build supportive and vibrant communities the world over. The activities included neighborhood classes designed to introduce virtues to children, devotional gatherings where people of different faiths could meet and pray together, junior youth groups to facilitate the spiritual empowerment of young teenagers and study groups for youth and adults based around two central principles of learning and service.

If Year of the Nightingale was to be aligned with this process of building communities, then it would need to be built by a community. And so, instead of pursuing loans and private investments, our thoughts turned to the innovative fundraising model known as crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is all about community. It’s about people coming together to bring to fruition an idea that no one person could bring about alone. It made sense to enable anyone who wanted to help us help us… and preparations began to crowd-fund Year of the Nightingale.

The relentless flood of support that came into the Kickstarter Campaign last September still boggles my mind. It was a key moment in my life. The community of ‘backers’ transcended borders with contributions coming in from New Zealand to Abu Dhabi. Within 24 hours, we had everything we needed to complete the album. And now, because of the special “Twin Album” goal (to make a second album in honour of the Bicentennial of the Birth of the Báb in 2019), it has given me and Kelly a musical roadmap for several years to come.

From the summer through the fall and winter we spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours – in the Barn and in a number of other studios in the UK and Ireland – tracking vocals and instruments, editing, mixing and mastering, always in pursuit of a certain ‘mystical feeling’ channelled through the music. It was the most intensive period of music production either of us had ever experienced. Some mornings I would arrive at the studio to find Kelly still at the computer, having worked all night on the album, unwilling to step out of the creative flow since the previous day’s session.

We booked Diane into a studio to record her vocals 5,000 miles away in Los Angeles and on this side of the pond we arranged recording sessions with some of the finest musicians we knew. Renowned Irish violinist & violist Cora Venus Lunny and cellists Vyvienne Long and Miriam Wakeling recorded layers upon layers of string sections, giving the album the tenderness I had always wanted for it.

Two of my childhood friends from Dublin – bassist Dave Mooney and drummer Niall Woods – provided the final elements of bass and percussion to the album and, by the end of the winter, all ten songs were fully tracked, edited, mixed and mastered.

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Clockwise from top left: Cora, Vyvienne, Dave, Niall, Miriam

As the work was coming to a close, circumstances dictated that it was time for Kelly to close down the barn and bring It’s Not Rocket Science Studios back to America.

This album has been a powerful presence in both my life and Kelly’s life for the last decade but we share a sense that everything we were learning along the way had been preparing us for the work required during the last year.

I still find it hard to believe it’s really done.

Only when I think of all of you – the friends who helped us out during those early days in America and the international community of supporters who sent the Kickstarter into the stratosphere last September – when I think of you, I am reminded of what can be accomplished by a community of people supporting each other…

….and then I can believe it.

Because of you, Year of the Nightingale is finally finished.

Because of you, we can begin work with confidence on the Twin Album to be released in 2019.

Because of you, the first song will be released this Wednesday March 1st as the sun rises over Tehran, Iran.

🌄 Facebook Event: Year of the Nightingale – Album Release 🌄

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