Arkansas Original / Various
Two music lovers, who happened to be my wife and myself, went to the Acoustic Sounds Cafe one night a few years ago for a Tom Cox gig. I know Tom a little, so I sidled up to him between sets and asked when the CD would be coming out. I had seen that they had no CDs for sale in the lobby like usually happens at ASC. He started backing away, saying things like 'oh, we're nowhere near ready,' 'that takes too much time,' 'we would have to rehearse for months,' 'we're so busy already.' I told him I could hold up a microphone and people would buy CDs as they left. Okay, so I oversimplified. But I really wanted a way to listen to the Tom Cox Trio anytime I felt like it. Later, I thought about it some more. For artists like Tom, Joe Vick, and Brian Brown (the rest of the trio that night), it probably is pretty daunting to put together a CD between their performances, writing, teaching, and working with other groups (like, you know, the symphony). What if there were other artists in the same spot? What if each one could just record one cut, and someone could put all those songs onto one CD for all the artists to have at their gigs? And wouldn't it be great if it could showcase local artists performing diverse styles, so that people like us with eclectic tastes would really enjoy it? Well, that was the Genesis. I knew Bill Nesbitt a little more, so I called him to find out if he'd be interested in working together on it. He's in another one of my favorite bands, the Old School Bluegrass Band, and I knew they've got a CD or two out so he would know the mechanics of that. Turns out he brings a lot to the table -- graphics, engineering, as well as his instrumental and vocal skills. Anyway, his response to the project was along the lines of 'This is such a 'duh' idea, I wonder why no one has done it before.' Thanks, Bill, for your glowing endorsement. Anyway, he signed on and we started trying to figure out how to get it funded. After piddling around with that for too long, I decided I would just have to take the plunge and put the money in it myself. At that point, Bill and I started to figure out WHO to put on the CD. We wanted high quality, diverse styles, local artists, with original music -- no covers of 'Free Bird' or even 'Unforgettable.' Between the two of us, we came up with a few artists we wanted and a list of styles where we didn't really know any locals. We went first to folks we had some knowledge or connection with -- Tom Cox, Starr Mitchell of Lark, Mark Ham of Roarin' Creek (that's a whole 'nother adventure Bill can share). Once we had Tom, Old School, and Lark signed up, we had quite a story, as each of them has a strong local following. So as we approached others, the conversation always took a positive turn when we got to the part about who else was going to be on the CD. Once these names came up, the response was 'well if they're in, we'd love to do it,' as well as a couple of 'you should also talk toâ?¦,' which we followed up on to our delight. This is how we came upon Ashley McBryde, Willie Johnson, and The Amy Garland Band -- folks we didn't know much about but had good 'reviews' from folks we trusted. We had been thinking about names all along, but none really jumped out at us. We needed to keep it simple, but we also needed it to capture the theme of the project, which is not completely simple. We bandied about a few before settling on Arkansas Original; 'Arkansas' for obvious reasons, 'Original' because most of the music is original, this is the 'original' CD of Anthologists, and Arkansas is an Original. All we had left was figuring out the studio, production, scheduling, and marketing. Piece of cake. We tracked down Hans Stiritz and Musikhaus via one of the artists. Hans writes for movies, and other projects at his home studio, which is a schoolhouse that was moved and updated. The place has great acoustics in the old 'auditorium'! We started thinking about where and how to sell the thing. One 'easy' way is through the bands, so we gave them a pretty cheap, no risk way of getting as many copies as they want to re-sell. Another 'easy' sale is to all my friends, so I added three to our projected sales. We also wanted to place the CD in non-traditional sales outlets. It would get lost in a big-box store -- where would you look for it? Plus, why would you look for it without knowing it's there? And letting you know it was there would cost us advertising money, which we didn't have much of. We figured it's such an interesting concept that people would pick it up if it were by the cash register at a gift shop, hotel, or even restaurant, as well as smaller CD stores like Been Around (which has been around) and CD Warehouse. So we started talking to a few of these and, sure enough, they were interested. After all, it doesn't take up much room, it's an easy sell, and they can even use a sample for background music in their store. So that's how this project came to be. Once we had it going, we figured we'd give people a place to find out more about it, and that's where you are now. Thanks for coming and please feel free to share your opinions and ideas with us.