I couldn’t be happier to announce the release of something I’ve worked on more than I am right now. But let’s start the story of how this project came to be at the beginning…
Many years ago while attending Berklee College Of Music, I very briefly met a young quiet Kenyan student named Eric Wainaina. We weren’t close friends, and probably only spoke to one another once or twice during our time there. But we traveled in the same social circles. Truthfully at the time I actually thought he was a British national. He would often come up in conversations between my friends and I. He was/is an excellent vocalist, and songwriter. And as far as my experience had told me a wonderful person. Much to my later regret we never got to know each other very well during our time at Berklee. In 1999 we graduated, and went our separate ways. Me to Nashville, New York, back to Boston, and eventually on Los Angeles. He went back to Nairobi.
It was during one late night during my second stint in Boston that Eric’s name came back to me in one of the most startling ways imaginable. I used to fall asleep listening to one of Boston’s NPR stations, WBUR. Between midnight and 5am they would broadcast the BBC World Service, which I love. As I was drifting off this particular night, the BBC was airing an interview with a very politically active musical artist from Kenya. He was talking about his experiences. Having shows shut down by the government, possibly being followed, fearing for his safety. All because he dared to write popular music questioning whether his country was free, and his government fair. I had to know who this guy was. THIS was music being used at its most powerful. The kind of music I dreamed of becoming a small part of. It wasn’t until the end of the piece that I finally heard the artist’s name: Eric Wainaina.
It couldn’t possibly be. I jumped on my computer and started doing a web search. Sure enough, there was the Berklee student I’d known, now using his music to work for change. I was absolutely floored. I started listening, hoping one day we could find a way to work together.
As it happens, that opportunity didn’t come for another 10 or so years. I’d written to Eric through Facebook, but gotten no reply. Finally I sent an email to him directly through his website. It wasn’t until some months later that (after nearly having given up on the idea), I got a reply. We started a dialog that led to a conversation via Skype. And that conversation led to Eric asking me to work with him on this re-imagined version of the song “Selina” from his album “Love And Protest.” I’m not only thrilled with the results, but grateful for the opportunity.
I was the co-producer, co-engineer, and mix engineer on this track, as Eric and his talented crew in Kenya had already sketched out many of the ideas. But I would like to make mention of the talented crew on my end here in Los Angeles who helped shape the final version: Eric Holden on electric bass, Kevin Hastings on keyboards, and Taylor Dexter on drums. Thanks so much to all of them, and to Eric Wainaina for returning that email! Hope this is the first of many to come!