Ever since MTV sold the moon man’s soul to the corporate greed that is over-produced music and songs written by “song writer camps”, one can rarely find music videos that capture both the essence of the music and the nuances of the artist.
With our reliance on the internet for information we have started to lose our connections with musicians. They’re just a download button or a buy box on a random website. Sure, there are live shows, but what about music that can’t be found on your local venue rotations? And yes, there is social networking and Twitter; however those connections are superficial at best.
There is just something about watching a musician’s fingers prance through a complicated chord progression. Or the animalistic sneer of someone singing with passion and control. Then there is the all too familiar look of brutally lonesome desperation when someone opens their heart to release a moment of throbbing defenselessness. And, then there is always the, “HOLY SHIT! Did that HUGE voice just come out of that little body???” moment. Music is about connection and storytelling. Please don’t misunderstand; I am a huge advocate of closing your eyes and meandering through a song. But to listen to it and watch its creation, well that’s like having sex and getting an ice cream cone afterwards.
A friend turned me on to Live & Breathing by accident. It was a simple post about their friend, Langhorne Slim, who was being featured on their site. What followed was several hours of watching artist videos and doing something I had not done in a while, enjoying the subtle moments of creation. These are things we miss, in the dark lights of bars, muffled by crappy audio equipment. It’s these moments, that the team at Live and Breathing capture with perfection.
The musician’s performances are often in cramped rooms, small stages, kitchen tables and even one in a bathroom. The camera work is soft and delicate. There are no attempts to upstage the artist with elaborate camera movements. Their cameras make subtle advances to showcase each breath, grimace, fleeting look, self-conscious moment and the happy twinkle of a snare or just the soulful closed eyes of someone releasing a ghost into the room. These are sessions filled with awe and goose bumps, only made possible by the connection between artist, the film, and finally, you.
In one video, Nashville based Abigail Washburn, performs behind a build with the drum kit sitting on top of old chicken wire. In the corner of the shot, traffic can be seen zooming by, completely unaware of the music being made on the trash pile behind this building.
Another video shows Paul Lee Kupfer playfully picking out “Riverbank Blues” at a kitchen table littered with cups, trash and an ashtray. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink and the back door stands open. Just as you become enamored with Paul’s voice and mischievous sound, the white coffee maker behind him reminds you: this could be your kitchen. The wall between singer and listener are down, and what is left is his charming grin and the belief that at some point today he really will, “…go down to the riverbank to see his baby swim”.
But let’s talk about the video that got us here. Langhorne Slim & the Law. If I had heard this on iTunes, Pandora, 8 Track, etc. I likely would not have given it much thought. It’s possible that I would have just blown right past it on my way to wherever I needed to be. But no. I saw the soft focus of a piano and heard a raspy voice that seemed to know more than it was letting on. Somewhere there was resolution here. Authority. I stopped and consumed every word he sang. There is a strength and conviction in his lyrics, which were intelligent and real. And for all the strength that his voice conveyed there was a faint vulnerability of someone who had been torn down and rose up from the ashes. You could tell that he felt everything he sang. In 4 mins and 25 seconds I was a fan for life.
I won’t even talk about how much we loved Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside. Little room, huge voice and a fresh and powerful sound. We can’t wait for these guys to make it big. When they do, I hope they only let Live & Breathing record their videos.
Some of the artists filmed by Live & Breathing are ones you already know, Hoots and Hellmouth, Megafaun and Chatham County Line to name a few. Other bands, like Spirit Family Reunion, may be new, yet powerful additions to your music collections. The artists themselves are raw and honest. The people behind the camera bring you that and so much more.
You can find their session work here, or all the artists here. My own greedy desire is to see local musicians, reach out to them and see what a Raleigh session would bring. Hell, I have a boat in the back yard I would donate as a studio.
Check out some of our favorites below!