Alfred Howard’s committed to two songs a week for a year.
“We’re documentarians, and this year seems important,” says bandleader and record label honcho Alfred Howard, who launched a new 2020-themed streaming site, Alfred Howard Writes With Friends. “A pandemic, a social justice movement, a heated election, a fractured America — I wanted to capture the year in song and turn things around quickly, with quality, but have the capacity to be reactionary to what’s going on. Making albums sometimes takes away that capacity. At the same time, it’s not going to be all newspaper. There’s the personal developments of a year which coincide with the external. The goal is just to get it all out there to see and hear and reflect on.”
Streaming content planned for the subscription website includes other locals who committed to creating new and timely music that encapsulates events happening in the world at the same time that the tunes were crafted. “Gonna have Shelbi Bennett of the Havnauts and the Midnight Pine; Dawn Mitschele of Cardinal Moon, John Meeks, Rebecca Jade, Birdy Bardot, Dani Bell, Erik Canzona of the Heavy Guilt, Anias Lund, Ian Owen of Oh, Spirit, and Ellis Bryant. As for San Diegans, I’m sure there will be more as the year unfolds. It’s a year commitment, a hundred songs in a year, two songs a week.”
Oh, Spirit singer-guitarist Ian Owen (who also plays with Howard in Dani Bell & the Tarantist) just recorded a track with Howard called “Hasn’t Been Long Enough.” “It’s been awhile since I released anything on my own,” says Owen. “I’ve spent the last few years playing guitar and writing songs for others. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on some of my own material.” The collaboration with Howard is the first of those new tracks to go public.
Don’t you take it too fast, it’s all time and a half
It’s all about patience and pacing and wading through the fiction for facts
The end always comes, can’t depend on the sun
Are you really that careless, naïve, and fearless
That you’d risk everyone?
“I know Ian mostly as a guitar ace, more so than a vocalist,” says Howard. “I’ve heard him do some backing vocals in Dani Bell’s band, but they keep him nice and low in the mix. But Ian sings this week’s song. And it’s really good. Like extremely good. It actually upsets me how good it is, and that it is Ian. And I have to tell him how he made songs great again. Ian actually had a pivotal role in the genesis of this website. I had been putting lyrics out there on Facebook during quarantine, inviting strangers to do versions of them, and not getting a huge response. And there were some lovely takes of songs I wrote, but there was one version of a song I did that was so different than how I heard that song sounding that it was almost the last straw on a frail camel’s back that sent me off into the sunset. Then Ian did a song the next day and I was like ‘This is really good. I wish it wasn’t Ian. But it’s really good.’ And it was honestly at that moment that the idea for this site came together.”
The song — which Owen first debuted live on Instagram — features backing vocals by Shelbi Bennett, as well as Jason Littlefield (upright bass), Elizabeth Goodfellow (drums), and a string arrangement by Tim McNalley (New Archaic). Another recent addition to Howard’s site is his own track “America,” co-created with Erik Canzona (The Heavy Guilt).
“Music has been a lifeline this year,” says Canzona. “Not only as a distraction, but as a way to process the mess we’re in.”