“Write By the Sea, Vol. 1” might sound a little different if it weren’t for Hurricane Michael.
Charitable organizations Rock by the Sea Inc. and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure recruited volunteer songwriters to write and produce the collaborate record, “Write By the Sea, Vol. 1,” to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.
Beth Gosnell, the president of Rock by the Sea, said the plan was to record the album in a trio of large, upscale Destin homes in October 2018. The group of musicians didn’t even have time to unpack before being evacuated when Hurricane Michael was about to make landfall in Florida.
In the wee hours of the morning, they drove to one of the musicians’ in-laws’ old lake house in Cropwell, Alabama, and created a makeshift recording studio.
“They started writing — I think the last video clip I took was at 5:43 a.m., and it was amazing,” Gosnell said. “A lot of the songs mention weather. It’s a great record. I think what we learned is that we don’t necessarily need all of that. They did not need three beach houses. They just needed one little house.”
“Write By the Sea, Vol. 1” released March 12 and is available on Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, iTunes or through RockByTheSea.org. Several of the featured musicians will perform May 8-12 at the 2019 Rock by the Sea Music Festival at Harry A’s on St. George Island.
‘When it wasn’t raining’
Rock by the Sea is no stranger to music.
The nonprofit based in St. George Island raises money for children’s charities through music events — such as the Rock By the Sea Music Festival — silent auctions and golf tournaments.
“We bring together people in the music community,” Gosnell said. “They travel all around the country for music, so we thought, ‘Why not do what they love for charity?’”
Rock by the Sea has produced nine volumes of a Christmas record, a project that’s starting to gain traction financially, Gosnell said.
“The artists donate a song, maybe an original they’ve written or their take on a traditional,” Gosnell said. “I thought, ‘If we’re doing this much money with Christmas music, why don’t we do some regular music?’”
“Write By the Sea, Vol. 1,” a multi-genre collaborative album, became the organization’s next fundraiser. Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., agreed to match Rock by the Sea’s album proceeds up to
$50,000 for a donation to the University of Florida’s brain tumor immunotherapy program.
Nine musicians donated their time to write and record 12 tracks in less than a week. Gosnell loves listening to the record in the car, she said.
“This experience was the coolest thing,” Gosnell said. “Watching them create it — when I hear certain lyrics, I’m like, ‘Oh, we were on the dock when it wasn’t raining.’”
‘A little bit different’
Fradiani remembers watching the weather that day thinking, “This doesn’t look good.”
Even though they were squished in a car between guitars and recording equipment, he was relieved they evacuated.
“I feel like when you go through that, it makes it easier to sit down and write a song in a weird way,” Fradiani said. “That first 24 hours brought everyone together, so we were more comfortable to sit down and write a bunch of songs.”
Hurricane Michael did change the tune of the album, he said.
“It was the first song that was written of the week,” Borné said. “We felt like it really set the tone ... Thirty minutes later, the other group comes out with another great song. That kept happening. It was really special.
“I hope (the album) gets listened to by a lot of people.”
The first day, Fradiani co-wrote “The Way It Is,” and the second day, he co-wrote “The Unknown” with Todd Wright and Donnelly.
The speed of the songwriters impressed Fradiani, he said.
“There were so many great lyricists there,” Fradiani said. “Everybody complemented each other. We really figured out how to work together — you have to in that situation.”
The record isn’t perfect, but that’s how they wanted it.
“We wanted it to be raw and exactly how it was done,” Fradiani said. “The drums were recorded in a kitchen. The vocals were recorded in a little bedroom. The rawness — you really don’t get to hear that that often in music. There’s no Auto-Tune, no tricks going on.”
Fradiani hasn’t performed any of the songs live yet. He looks forward to reuniting with fellow songwriters at the Rock by the Sea Music Festival.
“What’s cool about it is you get so many different types of music, different genres, on one album,” Fradiani said. “At the same time, all of us were working on almost every song. There’s something that bonds it all together somehow.”