By: Brenda Nicole Moorer

I come from a long line of performers. My grandfather and his brothers formed the group The Esquires in the ’60s and won two gold records. They toured the world and supported their families. I still hear their songs in the grocery store sometimes. My father was a singer and piano player, and I’ve been carrying on the tradition. So, you can imagine my excitement last year as I planned my album release tour with my band for my third record. I scoured the internet looking for the best venues to fit my music, for booking contacts, emailed back and forth for two months with different venues, wrote numerous grants, and finally nailed down all the details. We were set for the MARROW East Coast tour for August 2020. When March rolled around and the world shut down, I didn’t freak out. I listened to the news, stayed inside, rested with my family, enjoyed the momentary break, and was optimistic that in a couple months everything would be under control. Six months later, the pandemic is still roaring, and it’s gotten harder to stay optimistic, to say the least. My tour is postponed to March 2021, which I’m hoping can actually happen.

My first cancelled gig came at the very beginning of March. It was actually for a performance in June through a large corporation. Since March, I have lost over $10,000 in revenue from gigs that were already on the books for the year. And likely another $20,000-$30,000 in potential income that could have been by the end of 2020. Let’s break this down, for those that have no idea how musicians and artists make a living.

There are six main ways musicians make money: performing, CD and merch sales, teaching, studio session work, licensing music, and royalties/streams. Arguably, a musician could focus their efforts on just one of these areas, but generally, working indie artists are shooting for them all. Now, we all know streaming pays pennies and you can’t stake a living on that alone. Royalty checks usually come quarterly and depend on how well your music got streamed and played. In 2015, Pharrell claimed to make only $2700 from ‘Happy”, one of the biggest songs in the world that year. Now, licensing music does happen and when it does it is glorious; but, most indie artists don’t stake a living on getting their song on a TV show. Studio session work comes and goes usually through industry connects and friends, but isn’t the bulk of most musicians income. Some musicians are good teachers and can make a decent living this wage, but not everyone who can play can teach (it takes a special person). CD sales and merch get sold a lot actually, to the surprise of most people who think CDs are dead. But, you can only sell CDs and merch, if you can…perform. Performing makes up the vast majority of most working musicians income.

I have a band myself, and I also get hired as a lead singer for other bands. Let’s talk about how I make a living with my own band first. On a good year, my performing, helps to employ 15-20 other artists and musicians. When my band is hired for a performance, and let’s say paid $1500 for a two-hour show; I don’t get to keep that $1500. As the band leader, I contract and pay the other band members. My being employed for one show, helps three or four other musicians be employed as well. Sometimes I book gigs on my own, sometimes an agent books gigs for me, and sometimes I’m asked to sing at weddings or other corporate events.

Now, when I am hired as a lead singer, rather than the band leader, I don’t have the expense of paying a band. Usually this means there’s someone else acting as the band leader, and I am the one being hired as a contract worker. So, if I make $500, that’s mine to keep. I get hired for these gigs from word of mouth, experience, other band leaders that I know, corporate bands who need a lead singer, and awesome organizations like ATL Collective, who understand how musicians make a living and help to keep money circulating in the local musician community.

Let’s say, my average pay for one show, whether I’m the band leader or singer for hire, is $300. I would need to play two to four gigs every week to make an annual income of $30,000-$60,000. Most musicians I know, do this regularly. We book gigs in advance and we plan out our year. When January rolls around, we should start filling up dates for February, March, April. Usually the goal is to leave no weekend open; all weekends should be filled with work. This is a success and normal for a working musician.

Now, how did musicians lose so much money all at once when COVID hit and why are they all freaking out? Most gig bookings are booked months in advance. Festivals, tours, corporate events, weddings, are all booked six months to a year in advance of the actual performance date. So, this means not only has all of our gig work for the last six months been cancelled since March, but also future gigs have been very difficult to book or plan; since no one knows when it will be safe to have live performances again. This is nearly a year of cancelled work. There are of course local gigs, like bars and restaurants, that can be booked the month of, but many are still closed and sadly, some may never reopen. Churches play a huge part in keeping steady work for musicians to count on each Sunday. With churches closed as well, they have had to cut budgets, which means less pay for musicians. Most gigging musicians have been living in a state of suspended belief since March, and for the near future, with little to no income, outside of federal assistance.

What in the world are we supposed to do to make a living then? Well, thank God for the internet. Musicians with an audience base (This is important to note, because many musicians are side men and don’t have their own following) have been able to pivot and turn to virtual performances as a way to make a performance income. Virtual performances allow you to reach and perform for people anywhere in the world. Keep in mind though, that this is a very expensive pivot. When you are looking at capturing good sound and video, you have to pay a sound engineer and video production, which severely cuts into profit margin. Nevertheless, this is the best alternative for some musicians right now.

Music is such an integral part of a vibrant city. The net weaved by musicians is large and affects so many people. Right now, musicians need support more than any other time. Fans who can donate or pay for virtual performances helps so much. The biggest help was coming from federal assistance, which has stopped assisting. So, we look to organizations like ATL Collective and their With the Band Fund to help alleviate some of the financial burden in a moment of crisis. Working musicians have families to feed to homes to pay for; it is not a hobby or pretend job. I think a lot of people have this perception that it’s not a real job. It is a very real job when it puts food on your table.

Get tickets to Brenda’s virtual concert on Saturday, August 15 here. Listen to MARROW on most streaming platforms.

To meet the critical needs of our Atlanta-based musical community, ATL Collective has moved swiftly to create a relief fund we call With The Band Live Music Fund.  The purpose of the fund is to create crisis relief for those for whom illness, injury, immediate family death, sudden care giving responsibilities or disaster has temporarily or permanently halted their ability to work. Support full-time musicians (or crew members) whose primary residence is in the metro Atlanta area that spend the majority of their time devoted to live music performance and preparation or technical support of performances. We’ll be rolling out the opportunity to support and engage this fund in the coming months, but in the meantime, you can donate to the ATL Collective’s broad mission to empower and connect Atlanta’s music community here.

In a nutshell Thriller is the most influential record of my time. I grew up in a very strict, religious home & Thriller was the only “secular” album my mom would allow me to have.

The year was 1983: The Jackson Five are performing at Motown’s 25th anniversary, and I’m glued to the TV. Toward the end of there performance, I hear my mom yell “GO TO BED”. What happened next changed my life forever: The “Billie Jean” drums start, and I can’t move. I’m torn between my mom telling me to go to bed and this music that’s changing my life. I decided in that moment that a spanking was well worth what my ears were hearing. Good thing my mom was too tired to get up. That was the first time I heard “Billie Jean,” which led to a quest to get the record. My mom finally agreed to purchase the album for me (I bugged her for months). Before I even knew what credits were, I would read the names of the people involved in making this record and felt like we were connected, from Temperton to Phillinganes to Quincy.

The feeling that I got every time I played the record was unmatched with anything that I had ever experienced. Soon I realized how powerful the compositions were and still are. I played the hell out of the album (literally) until it would play no longer and my mom had to go and purchase another copy. Without any doubt this record has shaped my approach to music as a producer, artist, musician, writer, arranger and mix engineer (and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way).

-Jamie Portee

In a nutshell Thriller is the most influential record of my time. I grew up in a very strict, religious home & Thriller was the only “secular” album my mom would allow me to have.

The year was 1983: The Jackson Five are performing at Motown’s 25th anniversary, and I’m glued to the TV. Toward the end of there performance, I hear my mom yell “GO TO BED”. What happened next changed my life forever: The “Billie Jean” drums start, and I can’t move. I’m torn between my mom telling me to go to bed and this music that’s changing my life. I decided in that moment that a spanking was well worth what my ears were hearing. Good thing my mom was too tired to get up. That was the first time I heard “Billie Jean,” which led to a quest to get the record. My mom finally agreed to purchase the album for me (I bugged her for months). Before I even knew what credits were, I would read the names of the people involved in making this record and felt like we were connected, from Temperton to Phillinganes to Quincy.

The feeling that I got every time I played the record was unmatched with anything that I had ever experienced. Soon I realized how powerful the compositions were and still are. I played the hell out of the album (literally) until it would play no longer and my mom had to go and purchase another copy. Without any doubt this record has shaped my approach to music as a producer, artist, musician, writer, arranger and mix engineer (and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way).

-Jamie Portee

To say that our band spends a significant amount of its time trying to copy Michael Jackson’s Thriller would be quite accurate. There are two reasons why. First, the songs. Thriller is a pop music masterclass. Each song is a musical iceberg–on the surface sits deliciously effortless ear candy, but underneath lies a brilliantly crafted layering of extreme musical sophistication. As a young pop band, our goal is to make musical complexities seem easy, and no album has ever done it better.

Our second reason is, of course, Michael himself. Listen…we’re talking about an album cover where the guy threw on a white suit, lounged on the ground, and took pictures with a tiger. I mean, come on! I have no idea whose idea that photo shoot was, but I’d like to think that after hearing the album, someone walked into a meeting and said, “well, I think it’s pretty obvious what needs to happen here. Someone call the zoo.”

Joking aside, as good as these songs are, they’re nothing without someone to deliver them, and Michael does that and more. He elevates them. He embodies them. And we’re not quite sure how he was able to do that. But it’s worth noting that just over thirty years later, we, an up-and-coming pop band, are still looking to Thriller for the answers.

Thanks for reading, and in the words of the ancient Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu, “mamma se mamma sa mamma kusa.”

-The Shadowboxers

When Creedence Clearwater Revival released their third album, Green River, in August of 1969, the nation’s mood was a somber one. With the Vietnam War raging on and the wounds from the Civil Rights struggle still fresh, John Fogerty’s title track declaration that the “world [was] smolderin'” was something of an understatement, a sentiment that Fogerty carried into subsequent albums Willy and the Poor Boys and Cosmo’s Factory.

Here in 2014, that sentiment feels as prescient and timely as ever. The events in Ferguson, MO, and the increasingly dire situation in the Middle East have made for a particularly bloody summer, one that has drawn a number of comparisons to those 1960s summers that inspired so much of CCR’s output.

While CCR’s message feels as relevant as ever, the music itself sounds nothing like what one hears scanning through today’s pop and rock radio, leading one to wonder whether the band responsible for countless Billboard hits and 26 million albums sold worldwide could survive today’s musical climate. When trying to conjure modern day equivalents, a couple names come to mind (namely Kings of Leon and the Black Keys), but there is no one comparison that matches CCR in sound, message or overall trajectory. In fact, it’s those three qualities, which brought the band such overwhelming success in the 1960s, which would likely damn them to obscurity today.

Though Fogerty and company hail from El Cerrito, CA, their music has an undeniably southern bent, one that has sparked many an “are they or aren’t they” debate when it comes to the distinction of “southern rock.” True “southern rock” or not, that Louisiana bayou-inspired sound made CCR famous is nowhere to be found on rock radio today (unless, again, you count the Black Keys, whose more recent output has drifted away from the Delta blues pastiche of their earlier albums). Country radio, too, has turned away from traditional country and southern rock in favor of pop and hip-hop, relegating most of what southern rock gets played on radio to oldies stations.

There are a handful of artists, like Little Big Town who have managed to bring a bit of CCR’s bayou sound to country radio, but noticeably without the band’s message, which, with their protest songs and frank discussions of class, would be far too liberal for a format that trades in patriotism and small town family values. Outside of country radio, protest songs are still a thing of the past, outdated relics occasionally dusted off by more outspoken artist like Bright Eyes or, more recently, EMA, never amounting to the colossal commercial success of songs like Green River’s “Bad Moon Rising” or Cosmo’s Factory’s “Fortunate Son.”

Few acts in recent memory have had the career trajectory of CCR, either. Mumford & Sons, whose Americana-via-England brand of interloping does mirror CCR’s outsider take on southern music, did see a swift rise to stardom with their debut Sigh No More, but have failed to match CCR in both prolificacy and cultural significance. With seven albums spanning just five years, CCR’s career is something of a microcosm of rock and roll stardom, with the band’s rise, peak and ultimate breakup occurring in the same time span it takes most acts to follow up their debut. That their legacy endures as strongly as those of other bands with decades under their belts speaks volumes to the influence Fogerty and his bandmates had on popular rock music.

CCR, then, is the kind of band that was truly born from a moment in history, one that managed to distill the tribulations and anxieties of a United States in transition into the kind of music that’s still influencing artists fifty years down the road. It’s hard to say if CCR would have had the same impact even just a few years later, as the Vietnam War ended and both disco and the Laurel Canyon movements swept the United States, but luckily for us they were in the right place at the right time. And while this generation may not have found its John Fogerty just yet, at least we have these albums to get us through, our own Green Rivers to escape to when the world starts smoldering.

Sade – Love Deluxe

In 1992, the musical landscape appeared to be suffering from a mild case of schizophrenia. Where there had once been clear and defined lines separating music genres from one another, those lines began to blur at an unprecedented rate as R&B, hip-hop, rock, jazz and even country began bleeding into one another and garnering crossover success in the process. 

Seminal releases by the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Mary J. Blige, TLC, Dr. Dre and R.E.M.  crowded the airwaves and music charts. As music began taking on a more experimental approach, one release in particular had no trouble standing out amongst the ever growing list of releases—Sade’s fourth studio album, Love Deluxe. In the midst of the cacophonous sea of sounds that were spilling forth in the name of grunge, electronica, New Jack Swing and everything in between, Love Deluxe provided a bed of comfort and familiarity. Much like the previous work from this British band, Sade’s fourth album was filled with atmospheric sounds mixed with a hint of the mysteriousness that had made the group an international success dating back to their 1984 debut, Diamond Life. 

However, a closer listen to Love Deluxe would reveal that the album did mark a turning point for the band that consisted of lead singer Sade Adu, guitarist and saxophonist Stuart Matthewman, bassist Paul S. Denman and keyboardist Andrew Hale. For a group of musicians that had built its brand up on crafting understated and brooding music, it’s not farfetched to assume that their venture into new territory would be ever so slight. 

Even though it had always been difficult to neatly package the Sade’s sound into one category, the genre they became closest associated with was jazz, perhaps due in part to Matthewman’s saxophone riffs that often lent color to songs such as Promise’s “Is It A Crime.” Despite the hard lean into jazz territory, other influences could be often be uncovered like the sounds of bossa nova carefully woven into the fibers of Diamond Life’s “Smooth Operator.” Perhaps the best description of the type of music brought forth by Sade would be to call it world music, a title that though broad, best encompasses Love Deluxe

“Feel No Pain,” the second single release from Love Deluxe, bears the traces of Africa, with its hypnotic drums as she paints a portrait of a family’s struggle with unemployment, poverty and pride. The slow and steady thump of the drums provides the perfect canvas to portray the combative nature of fighting for survival, she warns of impending doom if situations don’t improve (“One day we’re gonna wake up and with the ghetto’s all around/All over my friend/Have you ever seen a man break down?”) The accompanying video was equally stark as the lead singer and her longtime backing vocalist Leroy Osbourne are seen in the barren desert. 

Equally as grave in both content and musical composition is “Pearls,” a solemn tale of a Somalian woman’s struggles. The violin and cello-driven song offers a near-classical performance that is juxtaposed by Adu’s wails of “Hallelujah!” towards the end, a cry that is as close to gospel that the traditionally-restrained vocalist gets and jars listeners out of their somber reverie. Matters of the heart were treated with the same glum outlook as “Like A Tattoo” feels equally as plaintive as Adu wails across a melancholic guitar that wavers somewhere between Spanish classical and American blues.

In the midst of all of her doom and gloom, Sade still found the time to exalt in power of love. To this day, “Kiss of Life” remains a venerable love song, kept alive by timeless proclamations like, “When I led to you, I knew you were the one for me/I swear the whole world could feel my heartbeat.” While a much of the band’s success relied on Adu’s voice, much of it can be attributed to the musicianship of Matthewman, Denman and Hale, who perfected the art of telling a story with just music alone. Songs like the album’s lead single, “No Ordinary Love” actually feel as if the listener is submerged in water, much like the lovelorn mermaid Adu portrays the video. 

Speaking of those videos, Love Deluxe also marked a transition in how fans were able to view the singer. Whereas past videos always featured Adu with her sleek, tightly-constrained ponytail and signature red lipstick, the videos for “No Ordinary Love,” “Feel No Pain,” “Kiss of Life” and “Cherish the Day” each featured the singer with her long hair billowing in the wind, her lips decidedly absent of lipstick. For the first time, fans were able to literally see her “let her hair down,” a stark contrast to the decidedly detached and sometimes downright iciness found in her delivery. It allowed her to appear just the slightest bit more accessible, despite the fact that we knew that she would never completely pull back the curtain of her carefully constructed façade. 

At the time of the album’s release, reviews were mixed. Many felt that it had strayed too far away from the lush, ambient sounds heard on their earlier works. Still, others felt that it had not far drifted enough from the original formula. However as with most things, the best judge is the test of time. The first hint of the Love Deluxe’s longevity came two years after its release when Sade took home a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1994 for “No Ordinary Love.”  To date the album has sold over four million copies. 

As the years have worn on, songs such as “Kiss of Life,” “No Ordinary Love” and “I Couldn’t Love You More” have certainly passed that test, remaining in rotation on many adult R&B radio stations while also inspiring covers by the likes of Richard Marx, The Deftones and the Rosebuds, who decided to cover the entire album in honor of the 20th anniversary of its release.  Meanwhile, “Feel No Pain” feels just as timely as the economy still struggles to rebound from the recent recession, making it easy to wonder if the band had the foresight then to know that such issues would still prevail 22 years after Love Deluxe’s release. One thing is certain, however; by leading with their heart and intuition, Ms. Adu and company have quietly provided a timeless classic that will likely continue to reach out to the world for another 22 years more.  

Ivory M. Jones,, Billboard, BET

It might have been easy to overlook an album like This Year’s Model early on. After all, here was a set of songs that typified the insurgent attitude of punk rock in its ignominious heyday. It was the work of a petulant young upstart clearly determined to upset the pop cart — and possibly the pop charts — through a turbulent approach that turned its back on pop precedent. Early on, it came across as an intimidating affair, bolstered by songs that seemed to affirm an angry, nihilistic point of view. Indeed, entries such as “No Action,” “Radio, Radio,” “Lip Service,” and “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” took broad swipes at antagonists real and imagined, and with them, society at large and the mores that it imposed. Costello himself was the perfect outcast, a gawky persona in Buddy Holly glasses who seemed the very antithesis of the rock star ideal, a performer who seemed to have no intention of embracing his audience, but rather to further isolate them, if not from himself, then certainly from their current environs. After the free fall dissolution of the harmony and idealism of the ‘60s, This Year’s Model served as a reminder of the harsh realities and disingenuous platitudes the succeeding decade had ushered in in its place.

Nevertheless, for all its gloom and downcast pontificating, This Year’s Model did provide some promise. Only Costello’s second album overall — and the first with his remarkable new band, the Attractions (although they weren’t given the equal billing they deserved) — it heralded the continuing rise of an artist who had quickly established himself as an indelible presence, one capable of not only writing and recording great songs, regardless of genre, but inspiring others to do the same. (Graham Parker, take note!) Despite his determination to paint outside the lines, first and foremost Costello was capable of crafting great songs, flush with attitude, aptitude and, in most cases, the amplitude that all but assured immortality. Gone was the momentary self-pity of “Allison” from the first album. In it’s place was a new set of rallying cries, those garnered from the likes of “No Action,” “Pump It Up,” “Hand in Hand” and “This Year’s Girl.” They were lean yet muscular, filled with a particular tension and tenacity that ensured an immediate visceral appeal.

Likewise, the band’s flirtation with reggae rhythms and Costello’s take on Dylan-esque wordplay (which even extended to a title like “You Belong To Me,” a possible reference to the Bobster’s “She Belongs To Me”), showed this was a man and a band that had already outgrown the standard punk precepts and advanced to a particular pedigree all their own. “I don’t wanna kiss you/I don’t wanna touch/I don’t wanna see you/’Cause I don’t miss you that much,” Costello snarls on “No Action,” intersecting the same avenues of separation and alienation Dylan referred to in “Positively 4th Street” (“No, I do not feel that good/When I see the heartbreaks you embrace”)

At some point in their evolution, only a few great artists are able to outgrow their marginal trappings, elevate themselves beyond their early influences and exercise their ambitions to become something greater and more than the product of their times. Costello accomplished that early on with This Year’s Model and he was all the more remarkable for being able to do so at such an early, formative point in his still evolving career. It served as the solid foundation for a brilliant career that’s still evolving to this very day, one that shook the punk stereotype even while retaining its freewheeling everything-goes attitude, and eagerly embraced new musical spheres — rock (of course), country, adult easy listening, Americana and practically everything in between. It allowed Costello to become an equal iconic partner on the ultimate musical plateau, positioning him comfortably alongside Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Burt Bacharach, the Grateful Dead and all the other gatekeepers of modern music.

Happily then, its legacy gives testimony to that distinction. Despite the fact This Year’s Model barely scraped the U.S. top thirty (although it did manage to make it to number four on the British charts), in retrospect, it’s garnered any number of impressive kudos. It was voted the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. In 2000, Q magazine placed it at number 82 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 1987, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 11 on its list of the best albums of 1967–1987. In 2003, the album was ranked number 98 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Perhaps most telling of all is the fact it’s been re-released three times, each with ample bonus tracks to justify its reacquisition.

Thirty-six years after its inception, This Year’s Model became a model for practically every year that followed. If Costello is considered rock royalty, and damn well he ought to be, then this album in particular provided the keys to his kingdom.

– Lee Zimmerman
Blurt, American Songwriter, M Music & Musicians, New Times, Goldmine, No Depression, 
Country Standard Time, Elmore, Relix, CBS Watch, Bluegrass Situation, SyndicatedNews.NET

ATL Collective’s greatest hits

Atlanta’s ongoing album-performance project uncovered

Frustrated by a general lack of cohesion in the Atlanta music scene and decreasing interest in full-length albums, David Berkeley and Micah Dalton formed the ATL Collective in 2009, hoping to spark a sense of collaboration among local and national acts, and pay tribute to classic works. Aided in the early days by photographer Andy Lee and songwriter Tyler Lyle, the pair began curating shows covering classic albums from start to finish. Between 15-30 artists perform at each show, which often also include themed food and drink offerings such as red velvet cupcakes for The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The Collective has staged shows spotlighting albums as diverse as Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the Beatles’ Revolver, and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds at venues ranging from the Earl to the Goat Farm.

Dalton works with Rhiannon Clark and the Collective’s music director Matt Lipkins to choose curators to select albums and the lineups to do them justice. Berkeley, who currently resides in New Mexico, and Dalton took a few minutes to revisit the Collective’s landmark shows and discuss the project’s appeal.



Paul Simon’s Graceland, August 2010

The Collective enlisted local producer and performer Will Robertson to help with arrangements for the vocal choir. “I think this was the first album where we elevated the music to the appropriate level,” Berkeley says.

“Since we were basically a glorified house party potluck, there were moments where the line between fan and performer was blurry,” Dalton adds. “On this show, the A/C went out. It was August, and you had a room full of people singing and dancing and sweating. It was really something.”

This show was one of the first performances “where I knew we had something really special,” Berkeley says. “Something that had the potential to grow and blossom and catch fire.”



Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, September 2011

During the Collective’s long residency at Eddie’s Attic from February 2011 to July 2012, its shows were mixed by Shalom Aberle, who often replicated the stereo imaging and classic after-effects of some of the albums, including What’s Going On. By this point, the Collective had formed a “house band” to back its performers and add a layer of consistency to its events.

“This show in particular was when we were fully introduced to Adron and Chantae Cann, two of the most signature voices in the South,” Dalton says.



Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, November 2012

The Collective brought a bunch of haystacks into Elliott Street Pub to form a second stage for unplugged performances. “We would go from electric to acoustic from song-to-song and, without meaning to, sort of mirrored Dylan’s personal evolution from, or conflict between, acoustic to electric,” Dalton says. The featured act, Nashville’s Escondido, was “willing to keep it loose, which helped shape the evening into something really special.”



Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison, May 2013

Berkeley cooked up a pot of refried beans and asked the Flying Biscuit to donate some grits — both of which were served on cardboard. “We forgot, or ran out of, spoons,” he recalls. “So people were actually slopping the food up off the cardboard with their hands. Total prison scene. And the energy for that show was incredible. You can hear the audience [of prisoners] often on that recording, and we asked our audience to get into the role. They certainly did.”



Paul McCartney’s Ram, January 2014

“Our multimedia guru David Feldman was well on board by this record,” Dalton says. “Our productions were becoming more and more complete. We took pictures of fans smiling and then projected them onto a screen during the song ‘Smile Away.’ It was fantastic. David is leading the charge to integrate other media pieces to retell these stories. That’s the direction we’re moving toward.”

source CLATL

Story by Brittney McKenna

Looking back over the last few decades of popular music, there are only a handful of albums that serve as true landmarks, points on a timeline that elucidate our musical lineage and say, “Hey, this is how we got here.” Many of these albums display a marked departure from the artistic norms of their time and, as such, often don’t find commercial success until the rest of the culture has caught up. A few, however, capture the zeitgeist of an era in such a way that everyone is forced to take notice, listen up and follow along.

Crosby, Stills and Nash’s eponymous debut is one of those albums. A gorgeous assemblage of confessional odes, spiritual meanderings and cultural commentary, Crosby, Stills and Nash was an immediate critical and commercial success that brought the music of the late ‘60s to an about-face, grabbing the crown from heavy blues-rock and ushering in the Laurel Canyon sound that would come to define much of the pop music output of the early ‘70s.

One of the original supergroups, CSN easily could have become the living equivalent of a greatest hits record – virtuosic playing from Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills here, thoughtful lyrics from The Byrds’s David Crosby there, with Hollies alum Graham Nash’s ironclad harmonies rounding out the effort – and still found commercial success. Instead, the trio found a way to transcend the sum of its parts, writing one of the greatest folk-rock records of all time and bringing forth a new dawn in songwriter-driven pop music in the process.

Written and recorded before fellow Buffalo Springfield member Neil Young joined the fold and gave the group a bit more “super,” Crosby, Stills and Nash served as the mission statement for a band that, in all its incarnations, would come to leave an indelible mark on what it means to make music in America. Despite serving as the genesis of a storied career spanning nearly fifty years, Crosby, Stills and Nash contains some of the band’s most important songs, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Guinnevere.” The musical output of the following years, both from CSN(Y) and artists who followed in their footsteps, like Fleetwood Mac and Jackson Browne, was irrevocably colored by the influence of Crosby, Stills and Nash, a record with so profound a genealogy that the full scope of its impact is yet to be determined.

Looking around in 2014, then, it’s easy to see descendants of the CSN family tree. The pop-Americana resurgence spearheaded, ironically, by British foursome Mumford & Sons shares a number of similarities with CSN’s early output: soaring vocal harmonies; confessional, often spiritual lyrics; and a focus on heavily rhythmic acoustic instrumentation, a style that uses crescendo as punctuation and trades more in emotional currency than it does showy feats of musicianship.

It’s hard to imagine Mumford and all his Sons – The Lumineers, The Civil Wars, even Idol-cum-pop star Phillip Phillips – existing without Crosby, Stills and Nash as their musical north star. Just as CSN found fame at the height of fuzz-drenched guitar psychedelia in the mid to late ‘60s, Mumford & Sons entered the cultural consciousness at the pinnacle of the EDM movement, offering a direct, and apparently welcome, foil to the blips and beeps of electronic music, their debut Sigh No More serving as the album that launched a thousand suspenders.

That said, how would Crosby, Stills and Nash perform were it released today? Musically, it’s rock-solid – forty-five years later and those harmonies are just as revelatory as the day they were recorded. Stephen Stills’s arrangements, replete with unconventional tunings and time signatures, still sound anything but ordinary. David Crosby’s political insights, like those on the RFK-inspired “Long Time Gone,” haven’t lost power to the relevance-stripping force of decades gone by. Graham Nash’s “Pre-Road Downs” would sound at home on Triple A Radio.

Lyrically, the record is strong but can occasionally feel dated, particularly on tracks like Nash contribution “Marrakesh Express,” which, though one of the album’s biggest hits (peaking at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart) comes off a bit campy in comparison to the rest of the record. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is still one of the most heartbreaking love songs ever written, though the odds of a multi-part, seven minute folk song peaking at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (which “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” did in 1969) in 2014 are slim to none, at best.

We’re likely fortunate, then, that Crosby, Stills and Nash was released before Spotify was a household name. Though the album is, in most regards, timeless, getting to the heart of the record requires full absorption on the part of the listener, a rarity in an age where attention runs short and the thirst for new and shiny has never been more pronounced.

It’s hard to imagine where we’d be had David, Stephen and Graham never sat around singing “You Don’t Have to Cry” in either Joni Mitchell’s living room or Cass Elliott’s dining room (the band still can’t agree on a location). We’d have folk and pop and singer/songwriters, sure, but that musical movement perhaps wouldn’t have come so quickly, or with such ubiquity. It is, after all, such a long time before the dawn, and we can thank Crosby, Stills and Nash for ushering in a new one.

Brittney McKenna is a writer living in Nashville, TN. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including American Songwriter Magazine, PolicyMic, and Relix. For more information, visit

ATL-Collective co-founder David Berkeley had a quick virtual sit down with upcoming curator Robby Handley. They talked about Robby’s musical roots, what he loves about Ram and what’s so special about Atlanta.

DB: Hey Robby. Thanks for sitting down to answer a few questions before you the big Ram event. Let’s start with you telling us a bit about your musical upbringing.

RH: I started piano at 5. I played bass clarinet in band. I played lead guitar in a Death metal band in middle school. I moved to bass in high school when the band director needed a bassist in the jazz band. I fell in love with jazz. I went to GA State University for jazz studies. I fell in love with a girl, dropped out of college. I went on the road with some pop singers for a few years.

I love what I do. I play bass professionally with amazing singers and bands. I have been slowly writing the music of Sleepy Guest for about 3 years.

DB: When and how did you first encounter the Collective?

RH: Friends of mine, Daniel Clay, Tim Brantley, and the Telegram crew started doing shows with the collective and I had to check it out. The first show I saw was Paul Simon “Graceland”. It was hot as hell up in Danneman’s top floor.

DB: Has it altered your musical landscape or the Atlanta musical scene?

RH: This will be my 20th show with the ATL Collective. I’ve had the good fortune of playing with some very amazing and unique performers that I would have never met without the collective. That is a huge blessing.

DB: How do you feel about the Atlanta scene?

RH: I love Atlanta. I’ve had opportunities to move to other cities, but the amicable Atlanta music community keeps me here. There’s no recognizable and distinguishable Atlanta “sound.” You can write and perform anything you want here, and if its good and genuine, people support you. There are strong musicians in every style of music here.

DB: I like that. Got to say I agree after having lived in a bunch of different cities. Atlanta is quite special. On to the upcoming event, do you remember when you first heard Ram?

RH: Yes. My Dad had the record. He had an amazing record collection. RAM was one of the records I listened to most.

Can you describe what drew you to the album?

RH: I think it was the album art is what drew me in. I was 12 when I really discovered my dad’s collection.

DB: Maybe asking too much, but do you have any sense of how the record has
changed for you from when you were 12 and now?

RH: I think the overall feeling when listening to this record has remained the same as when I was a kid. It was very experimental and quirky. That’s what I liked then and now. The only difference is now I know all the words and every instrumental part which has expanded my musical vocabulary.

Every record I’ve had to learn and perform with the ATL Collective has expanded my musical vocabulary. Thats a valuable resource for me. As Johnny 5 says, “need input”.

DB: Any thoughts on how Paul’s writing changed post-Beatles?

RH: So RAM was like another Beatles record to me. It wasn’t until my 20s when I discovered “McCartney”, his first solo record, and Wings. I got really into Wings. I wasn’t so into “McCartney”, but I do feel like it was the most necessary record he could have done upon leaving the Beatles. It was a simple approach to recording that allowed him a fresh start on the next several records. I think he continued to be very revolutionary stylistically with RAM and Wings. I’m not too familiar with the Paul of the 80s although I’m about to listen to “McCartney II” after we’re done here.

DB: Do you have a favorite track on Ram?

RH: Heart of the Country. I like to garden. I want barnyard animals. But I’d love to bring that country living to the city. Atlanta is the perfect place for it.

DB: How and why did you choose the musicians you chose to join you for this bill?

RH: I wanted to bring some new faces to the ATL Collective. This will be Lera’s and Cicada RHythm’s first collective show. The musicians in Sleepy Guest are some of my best friends and they all have participated in many collective shows.

DB: Have you had to prepare differently for curating than you ordinarily
prepare for Collective events where you’re just playing?

RH: I’ve wanted to curate an ATL Collective show for a while now, so I’m very excited about this one. I’ve always been a side man singing back up occasionally. For this show, I’m stage front and center singing and playing and directing. To say I’m not super nervous would be unfounded, but It’s a stride I must make.

DB: Are you a big Beatles fan?

DB: Are you a Paul guy?
RH: I think we know the answer to that. 🙂