A SNAPSHOT OF BLUE-COLLAR MUSICIANS
At least that's Amy Hendrickson's plan for the week of Oct. 6-10. The musician has summoned 15 of her working-musician buddies to spend five days recording an album — and filming it — at her great-grandparents' former home, Rodman Plantation. The entire process will be captured for a documentary called Local Honey. Though a number of local artists were in the running for the project, Hendrickson will be joined by Colton McKenna, Scott Sweet, Don Dunaway, Joe Schaur, Shea Birney, Jim Johnston, Micah and Lauren Gilliam, Chelsea Saddler, Sam Pacetti, John Bailey, Michael Jordon, Hunter Miller and Bob Patterson. Hendrickson hopes that if this release of Local Honey is a success, she can make it an annual event and feature a wider array of musicians.
"We picked the artists for the album by trying to cast a wide net over the local music scene," Hendrickson says. "There are some players on the album who have been gigging in [Northeast Florida] for 40-plus years. Some of us have 20-plus years, and then we have the players who are just beginning to cut their teeth. We also wanted to pick a diverse set of players and personalities for the film. We had a player drop out of the project early due to a timing problem, and we voted in the last member. I really loved that everyone took their responsibility of voting seriously. It was in that moment that we became a true collective."
Hendrickson is a veteran performer, having acted and performed in the area for nearly two decades. I worked with her a number of years ago in Theater Jacksonville's adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and found her energetic and committed. I can only imagine that, as a full-time musician, her tenacity and love of the art has grown, which bodes well for the project. But priority one is raising funds.
Hendrickson has put together a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the whole shebang. The total project cost is $16,000, which includes musicians' fees (they'll be taking time away from their professional music schedules), filming and sound recording, graphic design, house rental and catering. The popular web-based crowdfunding solution isn't a guarantee, but Hendrickson is confident she'll get there. At this printing, the campaign, which runs 45 days, hovered around $1,330.
"The planning for the Kickstarter has come together very quickly and smoothly," says Hendrickson. "In many respects, it has felt a little too easy. Every musician on board, from day one, has understood the intention of the film and album, and has been a huge cheerleader in the planning phases. The Kickstarter profile, video and mission statement would not have come together without the help from our head videographer and partner-in-crime Eric Hood. He has been my right-hand man throughout the planning and execution."
Documenting the experience at Rodman Plantation has special resonance for Hendrickson, as her great-grandparents Vella and Woody Tilton once owned the house. Her grandmother, Judy, grew up there. Set on 6,000 acres in Palatka, the plantation now mainly hosts weddings, but for a week in October, it will be a Big Pink of sorts, hosting a collective of musicians who don't usually work together.
"I feel like recording and filming in a relaxed environment, with very little cell phone reception, is going to impact every aspect of this film and album in a positive way," says Hendrickson. "The intention here is to have the musicians relax and truly only focus on the music and creating a space for good conversations. The other main focus is the togetherness. We never have enough opportunity to truly talk with our fellow players because, well, we are all usually working at the same time."
If Hendrickson's enthusiasm for Local Honey were measured in dollars, there'd be enough in the bank to fund a library of these films. Regardless of the challenge she faces, at this point there's no turning back. "In the beginning, I was terrified of this project," she says, "because it is incorporating everything I hold dear: my family, my music, my friends, my fellow players. I was so scared that I didn't even want to begin, even though it's the coolest thing I have ever been part of. The point of no return has become a spot in the distance, and now I will do anything to tell this story. We are trying to [present] a snapshot of the blue-collar musician and what it takes to live off of your craft."