I believe it was over 2 years ago, I heard a dangerously cryptic song on banjo through Espresso Royale’s speakers, as I was writing. Still in the works of finishing Edo, I thought to sample the song, but then quickly rebutted myself with, “Edo is no place for a banjo, my man. Furthermore, you need not be adding to the sampled lot of your works. Write for the piece, find someone who plays the banjo, and make this an original.” So, I did.
Putting out the word to Facebook that I was looking for a banjo player, my South High compatriot, Rick Widen, answered the call. We recorded a not-so similar tune to the cryptic banjo laden song I had heard a year before, but it held all the ominous elements I was looking for.
Rick came through Dr. Wylie’s headquarters to record the one song, to which we got 3 songs out of the session. Yep, Minnesota is just the 1st of 3 banjo heavy ballads we’ll be audio-dealing to the masses. Two of those songs will be on Lesser Restoration, my solo album releasing privately at the album release show (Friday, Nov. 4) and digitally online/everywhere (Tuesday, Nov. 29). I digress. Back to Minnesota…
After our session with Rick, over a year passed by- I released Edo, Wylie completed his Kickstarter, 2015 threw a curve ball, and I sat down to a cup of coffee and a notebook. I noticed on the particular page that I had opened up to that I had written several lines:
“She cares for me with cops,
Looks after me with laws,
Calls me “nigger” when I’m not around.
Employs me with a job,
Kisses me with snow,
Keeps me alive to make the wheels go ‘round”.
I had written those lyrics in 2014, and finished the rest of the song at that table in the summer of 2016. I initially began writing in lieu of the police shooting of Terrance Franklin. Now, it culminates and spotlights everything: my experience with whiteness in Minnesota, police in the U.S. and the reality of being a black male in America.
It couldn’t have been but a few weeks after we had recorded Minnesota, that I ran into Kevin Obsatz at Peace Coffee. Just a few months before he was hired on at the U to teach film, Kevin was seemingly at Peace more than I. Sidenote: very folks spend as much time as I in coffeeshops. I had just wrapped up an industrial film with Kevin and a mutual film comrade, Ben, and figured I’d throw it out there that if he were ever up for filming a music video- I was game. Kevin obliged and I emailed him Minnesota.
Our initial intention was to film at the site of the Philando Castile murder. Once we scouted the location, we were somewhat jaw-dropped at the site of the memorial to Philando. At this point of this post, I don’t really know what to say. A black man who has been pulled over more in his short lifetime than the combined lifetimes over a dozen white people was murdered in cold-blood, daylight, and innocence. I just don’t know what to say here, except that it’s for damn sure we should preserve that ground as sacred. We owe it to him, ourselves, and the future.
Kevin and I walked around for a little bit, and decided that filming at the site just didn’t feel right. However, filming the performance to the site held a weight in it of itself that could do justice to the entire message of the song and space itself.
And so… we filmed for less than 2 hours, and called it a wrap
The one thing I’ll say that I’ve repeatedly experienced throughout the process of creating Minnesota is a voice in my head saying, “This is good. Now… do it again.”
With that said, I took little satisfaction in completing the writing of Minnesota. You know as much as I do… this isn’t over.