Released this week, a new country-music CD of songs about addiction and recovery is intended to raise public awareness of the disease, and backers are hoping the recovery community will play a key role in promoting the record.
The Songs of Hope, Awareness, and Recovery for Everyone (SHARE) CD features 17 songs from a variety of artists, including such household names as George Jones, Travis Tritt, John Prine, and Martina McBride. The compilation features one new, original song, “When Love Rules the World,” performed by a number of the artists featured on the CD plus such luminaries as Kathy Mattea.
The compilation — otherwise comprised of previously released material — tracks the process of addiction and recovery. Songs on the CD are divided into three segments: “What it was like … The Problem,” “What happened … The Hope,” and “What it's like today … The Solution.”
“Alcohol and drug abuse have been a part of country music almost since its inception,” writes Nashville journalist Rob Simbeck in the album's liner notes. “Many of the classic country songs deal with the bottle or little white pills, with the tone and subject matter ranging from the hilarious to the tragic. Many of the most memorable, though, have found writers and singers pulling some of the best art out of some of the worst misery.
“The history of music has unfortunately included the loss of many great talented artists, producers, and songwriters who succumbed to the ravages of addiction, and there are tales beyond counting of promise undone, happiness lost, and riches squandered,” continues Simbeck. “In recent decades, there has been a change. More and more, it is possible to see victories, to hear stories of the famous, the infamous, and the peripheral alike pulled back from the precipice by a message of recovery carried by one person to another. This CD catalogs that movement from hopelessness to hope, from weakness to strength.”
A Chat Over Lunch
Nashville musician and independent producer Al McCree, the executive producer of the SHARE project, said hundreds of invitations were sent out to record companies in order to pull together the artists and songs for the CD. Being in recovery wasn't a prerequisite for the musicians. “Some were, some weren't,” says McCree. “Addiction and recovery touches everybody's lives.”
Not, however, that promoters' acceptance of the project was universal. “Some didn't think the project was appropriate for their artist's image,” notes McCree. But having influential Nashville producer Paul Worley involved with the project helped generate star power for the CD.
The SHARE CD concept was born over lunch, during a conversation between two friends who were familiar with both the recovery community and the Nashville music industry. Laura Gatrell and Walt Quinn were discussing an essay on stigma and advocacy by recovery writer William Cope Moyers, and decided to round up some friends to use the power of country music to raise awareness and money for the cause of addiction recovery and treatment.
Early supporters of the project included Amy Kurland, owner of Nashville's renowned Bluebird Cafe, Debbie Carroll of MusiCares Foundation, McCree, and Nashville publishers Jerry Smith and Stacy Slate. Worley, who produced the Dixie Chicks' “Wide Open Spaces” CD, agreed to produce the SHARE CD, including the “When Love Rules the World” single.
SHARE's funding came from Join Together's Demand Treatment! initiative, which is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Volunteers donated everything from promotions to studio time to catering to help move the project along.
McCree says that “When Love Rules the World” has the potential to be a hit song, perhaps doing for the recovery field what “We Are the World” or “Do They Know It's Christmas?” did for children's and hunger causes.
“The problem comes down to marketing 'juice,'” he says.
The initial reach of the project has been encouraging: the CD should be hitting the shelves in record stores from coast to coast, including outlets like Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Tower Records, and Amazon.com. Specialty outlets, such as the Hazelden Bookplace, also are selling the CD.
“When Love Rules the World” also has been distributed to every country radio station in the nation, and the Great American Country music-video station is airing the video for the song. (The larger Country Music Television network also has the video, but has not yet committed to showing it.)
Moreover, the Grand Ole Opry will devote 30 minutes of its Sept. 9 broadcast to the SHARE project, featuring performances by participating artists like Hal Ketchum and T. Graham Brown. The show will be broadcast on radio and online.
Still, McCree admits that SHARE alone does not have the marketing staff needed to push the CD onto the top of the charts. Radio promotion is a huge part of marketing records, and McCree is hoping that people in recovery will help promote the CD by calling radio stations and music-TV networks and requesting that they play songs like “When Love Rules the World.”
Some grassroots action already has taken place: The San Francisco Demand Treatment program recently sent a copy of the CD to KFOG-FM 104.5 and pitched the idea of doing a story about SHARE; the radio station is now considering a program including interviews with SHARE President Jerry Smith, musician John Prine, and an addiction expert from the San Francisco Department of Health.
Likewise, McCree is counting on people in recovery who are in the music and radio business to give the CD some “goodwill” attention in support of the project's mission. “We feel like there are people in recovery who will say this is a way to give back,” he says.
SHARE needs to sell about 20,000 copies of the CD to break even, but McCree is hoping to do better than that. “We'll know by the end of the year if we have anything,” he says. “The initial response from the retail community has been OK, but the response from the recovery community has been exceptional. The demand that Hazelden has had has been huge.”
Individual ($18) or discounted bulk quantities of the SHARE CD are available for purchase through the Hazelden Bookplace. All net proceeds will benefit addiction treatment and recovery programs. For more information, see the Join Together website.