CROWDFUNDING RADAR: New Projects from Mark Erelli, Jeff Fasano, and Government Cheese
Jeff Fasano's "Americana Portrait Sessions" book
The saying goes “A change is as good as a rest.” I disagree overall, being a big fan of rest, but sometimes change can be refreshing. That’s why, in my browsing for crowdfunding campaigns to feature, I always have my eye out for projects outside the traditional new album: biographies, movies starring roots musicians, and, in this week’s column, photography. I round it off with a pair of album campaigns including the return of a major player in Nashville’s ’80s rock scene and a roots music favorite coping with a debilitating illness by pouring his emotions into his songs.
Jeff Fasano – Americana Portrait Sessions (click here to view campaign)
Anybody who attends AmericanaFest knows names like Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller. But if you go for multiple years, you’ll see another name pop up frequently on event listings: Jeff Fasano. For a decade, Fasano has been one of the most respected of AmericanaFest photographers, as evidenced by the fact that ND’s own king of the photo pit, Amos Perrine, first alerted me to this campaign. While most music photographers are focused on the stage, getting just the right action shot or emotional expression, Fasano’s expertise is in portraits. Posed photography may seem an odd niche at a music festival but Fasano has shown that, in the right hands, a portrait can tell as much about an artist as a performance shot. Fasano has taken to Kickstarter to promote his first photography book, Americana Portrait Sessions, which collects standouts from his various photo sessions at AmericanaFest. Edd Hurt will write an essay for the book and Mary Gauthier will write the foreword. Backer perks include the book, autographed or not; Americana Portrait Sessions postcards and 11×14 prints; and a three-hour photo session with Fasano.
Government Cheese – Love (click here to view campaign)
Some campaigns are more personal to me than others. Government Cheese was among the bands who were the soundtrack of my childhood, heavy hitters on the ’80s rock scene that laid the foundation for what became Americana. Frontman Tommy Womack is likely a familiar name to many in the roots music scene, and Government Cheese is his origin story. Equal parts garage rock, punk, and power pop, Government Cheese stood out from the rest of the scene by always finding a sliver of humor shining through the darkest situations. Now they’re back with a fresh Indiegogo campaign for their new album, Love, and a pair of shows in Louisville and Nashville to celebrate. In addition to the album in digital or CD format, you can get discounted tickets to either show as a backer perk. Other perks include T-shirts, a signed fish guitar played live during their fan favorite “Fish Stick Day,” and a collection of albums from the band’s archives, some long out of print.
Mark Erelli – Lay Your Darkness Down (click here to view campaign)
Mark Erelli is not only a popular roots musician in his own right, but also a multi-instrumentalist heard on albums by Paula Cole and Josh Ritter and producer of two albums for Lori McKenna. But Erelli had a worse 2020 than most as he started noticing he couldn’t see his fingers on the guitar. This led to a diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that has made touring difficult as Erelli can no longer see at night and requires a driver. But, as so many musicians before him have done, he channeled his pain (and not a little pandemic blues) into his new record, Lay Your Darkness Down. He got McKenna and another friend, Anthony da Costa, involved remotely to co-write and has taken to Kickstarter to raise funds for the album’s release. Erelli quickly more than doubled his initial $35,000 funding goal and has since begun releasing stretch goals, including two music videos, album promotion, and a driver/tour manager. Backer perks for the campaign include the album in digital, CD, and limited-edition vinyl formats; invitation to a hybrid live and livestream release party, and a songwriting lesson.