Kevin Williams’ “If We Live”
Posted on December 11, 2013, 3:27 AM
It started as a conversation about Charles Bukowski – Bukowski being the writer behind works like “About My Very Tortured Friend, Peter” and Ham on Rye, the semi-autobiographical novel about an outsider with disfiguring acne. This was December of 2012, but as the topic of Kevin Williams and Jenny Moller’s conversation may indicate, it was not exactly a time of holiday cheer.
Musician and producer Williams and his singer friend Moller were reflecting on the year that had passed. Moller had lost friends over the holiday season to cancer. And Williams, like so many of us, knew what it was like to lose loved ones to the disease – including the woman who raised him, his beloved grandmother, Juanita.
Williams and Moller knew they had a choice. They could wallow in the pain of their losses. They could follow Bukowski’s approach and turn to drink. Or they could make something beautiful out of it and, as Williams put it, “Get together and make some music.”
Williams planned to build two tracks for Moller. But when he didn’t hear from his vocalist friend for a couple of weeks after their conversation, he kept going. All of a sudden he had 10 tracks ready to go, which is a little like an architect with a blueprint and a yard full of bricks, but no team to help build a house.
Williams began reaching out to his musician friends. He started with Karl Leiker, a bassist and producer who, among other things, produced songs for the film Twilight sung by actor Robert Pattinson. At the time, Karl’s wife of 16 years, Helen, was battling breast cancer. Next came Joel Scott, the legendary keyboardist and musical director for the Jackson 5 and Aretha Franklin, whose mother had recently passed from cancer. Scott came in to record on December 14, 2012: the day of the Sandy Hook Element School shootings. If any single day could point to the fragility of life, and serve as a reminder to cherish our moments with our loved ones, that was it. It was tragedy on a mass scale that seemed somehow connected to the musicians’ personal losses. According to Williams, the shootings “changed his consciousness about these recordings.” When Joel Scott left that night, Kevin sat and thought, “every person that I have recorded so far is dealing with cancer in a very personal way.”
Seven months, 18 songs, 60 singers, songwriters, lyricists, musicians, and one mastering engineer later, the album was ready. By then it was unanimous: Kevin and his friends decided it should be dedicating to cancer healing – specifically, by having proceeds benefit Stand Up To Cancer’s researchers. And while inspired by tragedy, the music is anything but somber. The key song of the recording is the New Orleans flavored celebration “If We Live,” which includes a massive 57 singers on the chorus. It’s a musical romp down Bourbon Street that’s intended to leave listeners, according to Williams, “elated like a Mardi Gras experience.”
But as life often does, the joy and elation of completing the album was coupled with tragedy. On the very day Kevin had completed mastering the CD, he received the news that bassist Karl Leiker’s wife Helen had lost her three-year battle with breast cancer. “If We Live” is dedicated to her life and spirit, and the life and spirit of fighters everywhere. Williams hopes even in the gloomiest times listeners will recall the album’s key lyric: “If we love just a little bit longer…. it will be all right.”
You can find “If We Live” at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kevintwilliamstheifwelov
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