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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Summer Music: San Diego Songwriter Al Howard Teams Up With His Mom For New Project

 September 3, 2020 at 10:16 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 In these tumultuous times of racial inequality, a global pandemic and growing economic hardships, the arts help us make sense of our feelings and keep us sane with entertainment that allows us to escape the bleak realities as part of our summer music series, songwriter, Alfred Howard and painter, Marian Howard, who happens to be his mother. Join us to talk about their new multimedia project. Alfred Howard writes our plans to write a hundred songs. Each song accompanied by an original painting by Marian. You can see the paintings and hear the music at kpbs.org/summer music series. Here's their first song from the project quote. We all breathe the same air by Al Howard performed by Nathan Moore, Speaker 2: 00:43 No shin of T you can't undo the M booze of a moment. And Amber, we all will remember when the wind blew in the timbers, the timbers and the truth was exposed to the light [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 01:46 It was Al Howard song. We all breathe the same air performed by Nathan Moore. It's part of Alan, his mother Marion's new multimedia project. Alfred Howard writes Marion and Al Howard. Welcome to midday edition. Now the song that we just heard, we all breathe. The same air is the first song released for this project. I got to say, I love some of the lines like 20, 20 vision is a blinding affliction, and I want to read part of the chorus. Again. We all breathe the same air. Only love can pull us through the dark. And if it's one, it's everyone, someone's daughter and someone's son. So Al first of all, you, what does this song mean to you? Speaker 2: 02:26 So this song was a direct response to the lynching of George Floyd and seeing that happen live in the streets in America. And one of the important things about this project to me is like, I've been in bands for years and you'll write a song and sometimes it'll take two years to get the album out, but this platform and creating music this way allows you to be very reactionary. So something like that can happen. And, you know, we were just in shock and awe and also just numb to it at the same time, because there's been so much of this kind of violence on, on blacks in America. Speaker 1: 03:06 Marion, can you describe your painting for this song? We all breathe the same air it's it's, it's kind of wash of color watercolors you work in, right? Speaker 2: 03:15 Yes, I do. Um, that was a hard one for me because as a mother to a son who was a young black man living here in America, it was very heartfelt. Um, if you can understand what I'm saying. Um, I just, it was, it was heavy for me, very, very heavy. It was very emotional. I cried a lot when I heard it when I heard the, the words, because it just, it just, it just came to my heart, you know? Um, because all I could imagine is my own son doing the right thing and this him being taken from me just like that, you know? Speaker 1: 03:56 So all of your writing two songs a week, that means that you can respond to what's going on in the news quite in real time. Speaker 2: 04:05 You know, being able to react to it, instantaneously, create a song, have it out as a response, one week later is a different kind of creativity than I'm used to. But I feel like for me, it's the way forward. You know, our art is always reactionary at its best, you know, and there's, there's a lot to be inspired from right now, whether it's like adversely inspired or positively inspired. You know, I always try to find hope in these dark situations. Speaker 1: 04:34 So Al you've been working, uh, as a musician for decades and you're one of San Diego's most prolific musicians, but you were close to quitting music altogether before this project began. What inspired this project? Speaker 2: 04:48 Well, I've been playing in, uh, eight bands and writing lyrics for eight bands for a long time, but I've also been struggling with chronic Lyme disease for 24 years. And I was getting to this point in my life where the shows and late nights and the toll that it took on my joints, it, it just wasn't pleasant anymore. And it started to feel like work. And then during the downtime of pandemic, I sort of got a passion for writing again, and I was trying to figure out a way to involve myself in music without the gigs, but, you know, work some new people. And then I kind of came up with this idea. Speaker 1: 05:23 Let's listen to another song from your project. Now, then this one is called peace Speaker 3: 05:28 Veterans of civil war game. Speaker 1: 06:02 That was piece performed by Shelby Bennett vocals in own guitar. Daniel share keyboard with lyrics by Alfred Howard. Well, the two of you were obviously very tuned in anyway, but what would you say working together like this has done for your relationship? Speaker 2: 06:19 I lived on the East coast. My son came to the West coast athlete. He graduated from college. So this gives me a chance to really know the person as a young adult, not a child also to involve myself with him. Creatively has been really interesting because a lot of times Alfred and I will sit and we'll talk about something, have a discussion. And we'll say the same thing at the same time. And we'll be thinking about the same thing at the same time. And it just boggles my mind, just not working with Alfred, but as a mother and very, very proud mother. I am so glad that my son is back to writing because as a creative person, I can't imagine never doing my art. It's just unimaginable. And for me to see Alfred not picking up a pen and putting it to paper to write it broke my heart. Speaker 2: 07:17 So with this epidemic that we have going on, and that him being closed in four months and me being closed in, I was always going to be able to paint. But when he picked up his pen and start writing and working with this project and shared it with me, I was blown away. And I was like, yes, you really want me to be part of this? Of course I will. You know, no pay, no pay. I'm the only way you don't have to pay the freebie. You know? So, um, this has been very challenging, but very rewarding for me as a mother to see my son create again and such a nice and a big way, and also a very giving kind of way, because Alfred is not selfish. And he's not thinking about himself. He's thinking about all the musicians that can't work right now and how can I enhance their life? Speaker 2: 08:13 How can I help them? And so, yes, I'm, I'm just in awe of what, what I'm able to do with my son right now. So Al anything to add. Yeah. You know, um, especially during the pandemic, like my mom and I, we would get together a few times a week. Sometimes we'd watch a movie or, you know, we'd go for walks. And we both been very careful during the pandemic and we don't get to, to share in the same things that we did, but there's different ways to communicate and getting to communicate via this project, I think has been important for both of us. You know? So we're still sharing something that's really significant and that's, that's been a Speaker 1: 08:56 Great and important and needed thing for me in my life. And I hope so for her too well, Maryann and L Howard, thank you so much for joining us on midday edition. Thank you so much to hear the full interview, see a video and learn more about Alan Maryann Howard's project. Go to kpbs.org/summer music series. We're going out on a song songs. I gen Grinnell's lyrics by Al Howard. It's called always on the run Speaker 3: 09:36 Dove trees. [inaudible] Speaker 1: 11:08 Coming up on KPBS evening edition at five or six 30 on KPBS television. San Diego unified is urging Congress to pass the heroes act, which would release more funding for schools and join us again tomorrow for KPBS midday edition here on the radio. If you ever miss a show, you can find them a day edition podcast on our website, as well as our mid day edition newsletter that comes directly to your email. I'm Alison st. John, along with Mark Sauer. Thanks so much for listening. Speaker 3: 11:49 [inaudible].

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As part of a new multimedia project, Al Howard is writing 100 songs — each one accompanied by an original watercolor painting by his mother.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments