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Dec 2, 2020

Good Vibrations: Island musicians rally around a message of hope, unity and above all things… love.

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

M.Kat Photography
Sound, in and of itself, is a miraculous thing. Taken at its simplest, most granular level, it is merely a vibration, a rippling of the air molecules all around us that generates a sympathetic vibration in everything it touches. Sound can shatter glass, or it can heal emotional wounds. It can move the soul, or it can start an avalanche. Sometimes, it does all those things at once.

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The many sounds of Hilton Head Island’s musicians have long formed a symphony that could never be heard in one sitting. You have the acoustic rock that fuels summer patio sessions at area restaurants, the soulful R&B that keeps destination weddings hopping, the jazz that pours forth from many a sophisticated night out, and even the hip-hop that is quietly growing in stature in the island’s clubs. All these sounds have all been playing at once, but we’ve never truly heard them brought together. Until now.

Anna Doyle, Greg Critchley and Trevor Harden

What the world needs now
Anna Goodner Doyle is not a musician. She’s a home care nurse and a mom. Which means that everything we’ve been experiencing from a safe distance during the COVID-19 crisis—the health risks it poses and the impact on children—has been her daily life. As such, the full weight of what is happening is something she carries a little heavier than most.

It’s something that had been weighing on her mind, not only the pandemic but the ensuing firestorm of negativity that has divided so many people. On a short drive home, the answer came to her in the form of a song. Through the honeyed voice of Jackie DeShannon, the simple message resonated: what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

Angie Aparo at The Sound recording studio

“I’ve heard this song a million times, but four months ago it just got stuck in my head,” Doyle said. It immediately brought to mind the “Broadway for Orlando” video, boasting some of the great white way’s finest singing that same tune to benefit victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting. “I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do something like that.”

Step one was finding the cause. Hoping to put the emphasis on area youth who have been hardest hit by the pandemic, Doyle picked a few including Backpack Buddies, PTOs at area schools and The Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head Island’s distance learning program.

“This all started because of the situation we’re in, but over time I realized this is an ongoing issue,” she said. “So, I wanted to do the song to launch (the Hilton Head Island Music and Arts Coalition).”

Step two was finding the musicians, no small feat in and of itself. While the island’s music scene is a patchwork of different musicians who hop in and out of one another’s bands, it’s not as cohesive as it seems from the outside.

“That first night, I called John Cranford, because I know him, and asked him what he thought,” Doyle said. “He was 100 percent in. He got me Martin (Lesch)’s number, then Martin gave me Greg (Critchley)’s number, and it just kept going from there.”

And going. And going. Numbers were still rolling in at this writing, but at press time, nearly 100 musicians stood to be represented on a special recording of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” that will debut in video form online around Christmas. And it reads like a who’s who of the island’s music scene, singing and playing for the first time as one, under the accomplished production of Greg Critchley.

Ben Hughey

Along with the legendary standbys like Gregg Russell and Shannon Tanner, you’ll find singer-songwriters like Campfire Tyler, Sara Burns and Taylor Kent, jazz and R&B greats like Bobby Ryder, Reggie Deaz and Sterlin and Shuvette Colvin. Yes, Rick Saba and Jevon Daly are in there with their signature showmanship. Even the preeminent Gullah rapper on the island, Q. Smalls puts in an appearance. We’re leaving out a few. Like, a lot. But the list could go on for days.

“These guys are so ingrained in the music community, and they have big giant hearts,” Doyle said. “They’re amazing. They’re inspiring all these people. They leave here so happy, feeling like they’re part of something.”

Part of something
As rewarding as it is for Doyle to see her vision come together, it’s even more rewarding for the musicians to be a part of something. Especially given how hard this year has been for them.

“I missed the entire spring and summer,” Gregg Russell said. “I’ve been working since I was 10 years old… It’s been strange.” When he got the note from Doyle, it was a no-brainer. “I was honored to get a note from her, and happy to do it.”

The message has proven especially resonant for the musicians involved. The honeyed voice of Fred Capers, famed for La Bodega, stands out on the track. “I like the song,” he said. “It’s very apropos these days. So, I’m all in, spreading the love and making sure everything is … copacetic.”

“The concept of the whole song, especially what’s going on today, my whole push is about coming together, and this song is the epitome of coming together, bringing different musicians together,” Quintin Smalls said. “Why wouldn’t I add my rap to it? Why wouldn’t I come together with different musicians and make something bigger than music? That’s what the world needs, right?”

As you would imagine with a group this size, the recording session was a marathon. Some of it was recorded at Critchley’s home studio, some of it on stage at Coligny Theater, and some of it at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Making it all sound good falls on Critchley’s shoulders, but making the whole video look good is the responsibility of Trevor Harden at Harden Creative.

malcolm horne

Malcolm Horne

“It’s going to be a lot of hours of footage to go through,” Harden said with a laugh. “Thankfully it’s not totally stabbing in the dark because we can come up with a map based on the recording.” Even early in the process, Critchley’s map of the song was an eye-numbing kaleidoscope of different parts all interwoven together in different hues on his laptop. With each person, he adds another layer to the sound and another voice to the chorus.

“When this is all done, it goes down line by line, and there are places where we’ve, in my opinion, deftly put people together,” he said. Pairings include Russell and Tanner for their unchallenged roles as the island’s greatest kids entertainers, plus Saba and Daly for their theatricality. But it’s in the solo sections that you truly hear all these voice coming together as one, whether it’s a vocal solo, Smalls’ rap breakdowns, or the many vocal improvisations.

There’s even a family connection across the track. Stee Colvin performed all the voices on the demo track and was eventually joined by his parents Sterlin and Shuvette later on. “He’s been singing since he started talking,” Shuvette said.

Guitarists at The Big Bamboo

Despite the craziness of lining up so many different musicians’ schedules, the whole thing has come together in the spirit of love. “I have not had a moment where I’ve needed to panic. That’s the crazy part about it,” Doyle said. “Every piece of this is just falling into place.”

But that’s the magic of good intentions. Like sound, it tends to spread out and seek sympathetic vibrations. Doyle found those good vibrations in the local music scene, and together they are making something amazing on a foundation of love.

To see the final product, follow the Hilton Head Island Music and Arts Coalition on Facebook.

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