Anyone who has been through high school English classes or seen Star Wars: A New Hope knows a bit about the archetype known as “the hero’s journey.” Initially described by Edward Burnett Tylor and then popularized by Joseph Campbell, it describes a narrative in which a person receives a call to adventure, finds mentors and companions, endures hardships, reaches a catharsis, defeats an enemy (sometimes with the help of the gods), and returns a hero. This classic story structure has been explored through various forms of media such as books, movies, and television. Now, Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter Beth Kinderman will be exploring it through song.
Along with members of her band Beth Kinderman and the Player Characters, she is raising funds through Kickstarter to produce a concept album around the idea of the hero’s journey. A more personal project than previous ones she’s released, this is an album she’s been working on for some time.
Kinderman told me that working on a concept album has been a very long time in the making with seeds of the idea being planted in 2008. She cited Kate Bush as an inspiration for drawing the themes of the songs from literature. “I always felt that I wanted to make a concept album at some point in my music career,” she said. “I just didn’t know what to make a concept album about.”
After she read Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, she realized that it would make a great concept album theme. After researching to see whether there had been other concept albums with the same idea, she felt empowered to start gathering material for it. Kinderman smiled as she admitted, “I’ve had the idea for long enough that [now] other people have made albums based on this, but not in the same genre of that I’m doing. That’s okay, because [the monomyth] is big enough to hold a lot of different people’s stories.”
Thanks to two successive February Album Writing Month projects starting in 2014, Kinderman finally had enough material to take into the studio with her producer and bandmate Dave Stanger to workshop the songs in demos and start thinking about how to craft the instrumentation. “Some opportunities came up this year that suggested that it was time to get it into the world,” Kinderman explained.
One interesting feature of this concept album is that despite bandmates Dave Stanger (guitar) and Justin Hartley (drums, other various percussion) and session musician Dennis Maddix of the Gernsback Continuum (bass) being credited as contributors, they will not be doing any vocalization on the record. Instead, Kinderman has gathered other female voices from the filk-rock world to join her in doing harmony vocals. The album will feature music and vocals from bandmate Elizabeth Greenberg, who also plays violin, as well as harmony vocals from Lizzie Crowe (Cheshire Moon), Tami Murck (Feng Shui Ninjas), and Sarah Ravelry and Kelly Reich (Candles Enough). A special guest on the album is also Nikki Huls, a former member of Beth Kinderman and the Player Characters.
Another interesting feature is that the album will be marketed as a solo project for Kinderman, despite most of the music being played by the entire band. “[This project] is very personal, and I don’t want people to believe that if they pick this up they’re going to get something that’s full of Battlestar Galactica songs, zombie songs, comic book songs, and such,” she explained. She was quick, though, to state that there was no way she could complete this project without their help and support.
She needs to reach her Kickstarter goal of $5,300 goal by October 31, 2018, to release the album in June 2019. Stanger said about the project, “We have a bad habit as a working pair of not realizing we don’t know how to do something. The Hero’s Journey is strongly carrying on our musical tradition of biting off more than we can chew.” However, as of this writing, the project has less than $300 to go.
After our conversation, Kinderman followed up by email to note, “Part of making a record in the style of the 1970s-era prog-rock concept albums we’re inspired by is making something that isn’t only a beautiful piece of music, but a beautiful physical object. We’re putting funds into commissioning art and releasing the record as physical media because we want our audience to be able to hold the album in their hands if they want to and see the art and lyrics as they listen, the way they might have done with a newly released concept album in the ’70s. It’s part of making the project an immersive experience. It’s a bit of a throwback, but so is the record itself. Also, it’s my experience that it’s easier to sell CDs than download cards or codes at live shows.”
For more information about the campaign and The Hero’s Journey, you can visit the Kickstarter page or watch the full interview and preview a song from the record below.