Published June 26, 2020

The premier entry in our series called The Day the Music Died, featuring tales from people across the music industry sharing how the pandemic has affected them, their art and their life’s work.

Renaissance Rising

by Ray Cardwell

Photos courtesy of Ray Cardwell and Digital Underground.

     And then the shows stopped; the venues, clubs, theaters, amphitheaters, they all shut down. No one saw it coming; no one dreamed anything like this would ever happen.
     I mean, musicians are wandering troubadours. It’s what we are born to do. We travel from town to town and sing our songs. Things just can’t shut down.
     And yet they did.
     We all were home. I mean, all of the time! Being Dad and Grandpa (Paw Paw if you don’t mind) —  I cherish, love and support my kids — but all … of … the … time? Wow. Life suddenly presented a new set of problems: How do I support them? What about the deadlines for my upcoming CD? …

     The shows and festivals were canceled for five to six months ahead; frantic agents were saying we probably would have to write off 2020. “Let’s focus on ’21.”

Ray Cardwell

Ray Cardwell

Staying Alive
     People suddenly start streaming their shows on a weekly basis. Everyone’s trying to adapt. Uncertainty is in the air. These are changing times, and we must adapt and survive.
     Suddenly, writers start reaching out, and a wonderful thing begins to take shape. Never before did we have time to sit and write with each other. Life on the road is demanding, but now there is time to not only mark things off our to-do lists, we are able to write with people we have never written with before.

Scott Vestal: Recording engineer and artist at Digital Underground Recording Studio
Scott Vestal: Recording engineer and artist at Digital Underground Recording Studio

Songs Rising 
     An artistic renaissance was rising from the ashes of a pandemic. I was able to write with Louisa Bransomb and Rick Lang during this time, and I am so happy with what we created. I don’t know if it was because of heightened sensitivities due to the crisis, but we just started clicking and the songs came quickly.

     I was in the middle of compiling songs for my next CD. I suddenly had time to prepare for it, and I was writing with more people than ever before.
     It also gave me time to communicate with writers and take the time to look through their catalog of works.

     Louisa and I discussed writing a song about the crisis — a hard thing to do when faced with uncertainty. We agreed that it needed to be an uplifting song — one that would project the human spirit and our desire to go on. We worked on it several days through emails and FaceTime.
     “Rising Sun” is a song full of emotion and promise, a promise that the sun will once again rise and bring “a new day and a hope of peace.”

“Rising Sun.” Video courtesy of Ray Cardwell.

Troubadours Truckin’ 
     The recording process, which I thought would be challenging, worked to our advantage.  Pinecastle/Bonfire Music Records stressed safety first over everything. And I concurred.

     The CD was produced by my longtime friend and writing pal Danny Roberts. We talked on the phone a lot. We went through the songs — listening to dropbox files — and got the right ones picked out. We asked Tony Wray (who plays guitar and banjo on the CD) to arrange the songs.
     He used his home studio in Virginia. He would send Danny and me a song at a time, and we went through several different ideas and approaches to them. Once we had the style and arrangements down, Tony then sent the song files to me in Missouri where I added my bass lines and scratch vocals to the tracks.

     Before we went to Nashville to record at Scott Vestal’s studio, we had more than a third of the project done. This approach also gave the two other musicians plenty of time to prepare.
     Once the restrictions eased in Nashville, I headed down with mask and gloves for gas stops. It was an uncertain time; everyone had been self quarantined, and it felt strange venturing down the highways I knew so well.

“Rising Sun” is a song full of emotion and promise, a promise that the sun will once again rise and bring “a new day and a hope of peace.”

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes played Fiddle
Danny Roberts

Danny Roberts played Mandolin and produced the CD

Jaelee Roberts
Jaelee Roberts sang tenor

     We were careful and took temperatures before going into the studio. There were only four of us total, and we were in separate recording booths the whole time. I felt safe that all precautions were being met.
     With the rhythm guitar and bass tracks down we flew through the songs. I felt the musicians were not only thankful for the work, but that they were really enjoying playing music again.
     It felt like a creative force was opened, and we were done in 19 hours.

     I am proud of this project, not only musically but creatively and in its clear response to circumstances never before experienced.
     The human spirit endures as we love each other and grow to adapt in new ways to be artists and 21st-century troubadours.

To learn more about Ray Cardwell, his work past and future, and to buy stuff, visit raycardwell.com.

Also continue watching NoteWorthy Music for more about Ray’s latest album, Just a Little Rain, forecast for release by Pinecastle Records/Bonfire Music Group September 25th.

For more Ray, read our feature Ray Cardwell: Passing It On.

Check out Part 2 of The Day the Music Died series with Tim O’Brien.

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