‘Real Music’ satisfies hunger for more than food
The music collections are just one aspect of a collaborative program that promotes the artists and benefits the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which receives 100 percent of the profits.
About one year ago, Oliver’s Markets V.P. and General Manager Tom Scott conceptualized the project, which includes in-store broadcasting, local radio features, live performances, workshops and Real Music web pages featuring more than 70 artists.
Scott’s vision began with a desire to play local music over the public address system at the three stores located in Cotati and Santa Rosa.
“Music is so much a part of Sonoma County,” he says, “as important to the community as the local food.”
Calling the project Real Music made sense, considering the Oliver’s Market’s tagline: Real food. Real people.
More than 80 musicians donated original songs for Volume I, which could only accommodate 12. So the first album turned into a two-disc sampler featuring 33 artists.
Since it was released about six months ago, they’ve sold all but 100 of the 1,000 copies. Now the number of entries submitted has grown past 130.
“It’s not a popularity contest. We want to include everybody,” says Frank Hayhurst, a musician who owned Zone Music in Cotati for 30 years and remains dedicated to connecting musicians to each other and the broader community.
Hayhurst was instrumental in soliciting and organizing submissions, along with the arrangement of final songs, which an advisory panel—including publicists and booking agents—helped select for each CD. He also wrote the biographies featured in the 24-page insert that Oliver’s graphic designer, Kirsty Leach, designed.
Blair Hardman of Zone Recording works the technical side, digitally mastering the songs, many of which are recorded in home or local studios. He’s also the voice on the broadcasting system, announcing “Real Music” artists the customers listen to when the stores play the music Tuesdays and Saturdays.
The CDs, also available on iTunes, sell for just $10 each at checkout stands as well as the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa. Participating musicians can also sell their own CDs on consignment, which storeowner Doug Jayne inventories and supplies to Oliver’s markets.
Oliver’s offered 15 live shows in-store last year, and Scott wants to refocus his efforts this spring to draw greater audiences.
“The musical community benefits by reaching more people, and customers get a chance to hear what they might never hear otherwise,” says Hayhurst.
Each Real Music CD also pays homage to an early musician. Volume I includes the late accordionist Jim Boggio’s “East Cotati Blues.” Norton Buffalo’s hit, “Loving in the Valley of the Moon,” will be featured in Volume II.
The eclectic second CD set includes salsa, Mariachi, jazz, blues and country. There are even a couple of protest songs such as an anti-GMO tune by Arann Harris and The Farm Band called “Corn Fed,” in which he sings, “It ain’t what it used to be.”
“Each of these bands brings forth something that is meaningful to them,” says Hayhurst.
All of the compositions are original, with the exception of a cover song by the Afro-Cuban band Batacha.
When veteran blues singer and guitarist Levi Lloyd didn’t have any new material to contribute, Hardman brought him into the recording studio and told him to write a song. The result was “Music Maker,” after which Lloyd wanted to compose more.
“Real Music has become a neat community-building project where different connections are made,” says Scott.
With Oliver’s Markets at the helm, it isn’t just the food bank that benefits.
A Real Music Volume II release party and fund-raiser for the Redwood Empire Food Bank will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, at the Sebastopol Community Center. The event will feature bands from both CD compilations, including a rock ‘n roll dance party and a singer-songwriter circle for acoustic lovers. Cost is $10 and a can of food for the food bank.
Click on Zone Recording and scroll down the page to hear a preview of Levi LLoyd’s “Music Maker” and Brendan Smith’s “Bright Star” from Volume II. Solicitations are underway for a third volume CD. See oliversmarket.com for submission guidelines.