Drummer Barra Brown is a busy man. In between recording and touring with Shook Twins, he's also shared stages and sessions with established PDX pop acts like Ages and Ages, Alameda, Old Wave and his own hip-hop-beat-dropping, jazzy, electronic duo Korgy & Bass, as well as releasing several jazz albums on PJCE Records as the leader of the Barra Brown Quintet.
All this activity means that the creation of the collaborative Poem Project took several years. Between winter 2014 and spring 2017 Brown invited eight musical friends and colleagues to reenvision his song "Poem"—listen to the original composition below. And while it all started unexpectedly with Old Wave's Adam Brock reinterpreting "Poem" on his own, the experience sparked Brown's curiosity: What would the song sound like if other musicians interpreted, arranged and built upon this single idea?
With two different versions—one the above original and the other, dubbed the alt version, was Brock’s interpretation—of "Poem" initially appearing on Brown's 2013 PJCE release, Songs for a Young Heart, Brown next asked Patti King (Radiation City, The Shins), Colin Jenkins (Ages and Ages), Zubin Hensler (The Westerlies), Gregory Uhlmann (Fell Runner, Similar Fashion), and others from L.A., New York, Austin and his hometown to reimagine the song. And then the whole thing was mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
The parameters for Poem Project were as follows:
▶ The artists were given recordings for the original "Poem" as well as sheet music
▶ They were asked to write lyrics to the existing melody
▶ The B section has chords but no melody, and the artists were free to compose a melody there
▶ How the A section and B section are ordered and how many times they are used were completely up to each artist
▶ The artists were asked to record their versions so that each track has a unique sound
Two of the guests include versatile singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny and jazz drummer Chris Johnedis, who emerged from the creative process with the sparse and delicate "Poem No. 7: Goodbye Good" (which also features Brown on flute).
"Chris and I recorded the song at Barra's studio the day after the election—we were all feeling shocked and sad," Feeny explains. "I was furiously trying to finish the lyrics before getting to the studio, and feeling unprepared. The song is really an expression of disappointment and defeat. It's about letting good things leave your life through destructive choices. It's an exchange between the good thing and the unintentional destructor."