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"I invited most of the people that I know in Minneapolis, and whoever showed up got to be on the record," singer-songwriter Luke Redfield laughs, casually explaining how his new compilation, Minnesota Remembers Vic Chesnutt, came together. But the actual story of how the album was assembled is a bit more complex; Redfield says that the new compilation, which is out this week, was actually a labor of love that took almost two full years to release.
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Minnesota has been the birthplace of myriad charity compilations. In recent years, the Minnesota Beatle Project (whose third volume will be out this December) has stood out as an especially powerful series of releases, and just this week record stores will be clearing out space on their shelves for MN Music for MN Kids, a new compilation released by Children's Hospital, in addition to the new Vic Chesnutt disc. But Minnesota Remembers Vic Chesnutt stands out for a few reasons: It will be the first album released by Twin Cities nonprofit Rock the Cause, it features some truly standout tracks from musicians such as Dan Wilson, Haley Bonar, and Andrew Broder, and its high production quality speaks to the pro bono handiwork of five renowned engineers.
We caught up with Redfield, a former Duluth resident who now calls Portland his home, to get the backstory on how this remarkable new tribute to the underappreciated but highly influential Georgian songwriter came together.
City Pages: What is your relationship with Vic Chesnutt's music?
Luke Redfield: I've been a fan of Vic's stuff for many years. I think most singer-songwriters who are fans of lyricism like I am are aware of Vic's stuff because he's one of the best lyricists you'll ever hear. I never did see him live, but intended to go to what turned out to be his last show in Austin. I never met him, I was never a real superfan, but I had a few of his records and I really appreciated what he did, what he was able to do, mostly by overcoming his own disabilities and getting onstage in a wheelchair and saying, "I'm not going to let this stop me from chasing my dreams."
CP: When did you first have the idea to put together the compilation?
Redfield: When he passed away, I had heard that his wife had inherited his medical debt of $75,000, so the whole motivation behind this album was to help raise money for his medical bills to be paid off. So my initial reaction, the day after Vic died, was to just make a tribute album and donate a bunch of proceeds to his wife. But once the album finally got done, we couldn't get through to his wife because apparently she's still not talking to too many people, so we went through his publisher and they finally just said, 'Tina's not really talking, you might as well give it to some other charity.' So that's when Rock the Cause got involved. We're giving to Sweet Relief and another Minnesota-based charity that helps with people suffering from addiction and depression.
CP: How did Rock the Cause get involved?
Redfield: Rock the Cause got involved via Grain Belt Records' Mike Boeser, actually. The record was basically at a standstill for a while because I moved to Austin and we couldn't find anybody to press the record or to sponsor it and deal with giving to the charities and all that. It was just too much of a responsibility for anybody to do. Finally it just got to be a point where the album just sat for a year untouched and then at one point Mike Boeser came to me—I think he got a hold of me via a couple of the Grain Belt artists on the record, Brad Senne and Minor Kingdom. There were a lot of loopholes to go through, but it finally went from me trying to release it to Mike trying to release it on Grain Belt Records to finally Scott Herold saying, well, Rock the Cause is just going to become a label and release this and we're going to donate 100 percent to charity.
CP: When were the songs actually recorded?
Redfield: The songs would have been recorded in the spring of 2010. I called up Chad Weiss, he's a local engineer in Minneapolis, and said, 'I've got 15 people that want to record Vic Chesnutt covers for a tribute record.' He's like, 'Bring 'em on over!' So we did a four-day stand at the Devil's Workshop, which was in northeast Minneapolis. It was really Chad Weiss and Tom Herbers, Tom Garneau, Mike Whitney, Brent Sigmeth—these five engineers just volunteered their time to record and mix all these songs.
CP: How did you select the performers?
Redfield: I selected friends, basically. People that I know in the community, mostly singer-songwriter-based friends. Although I did invite a few other people that declined, and then other people had songs in the works—like Eyedea was one who said he was on board, and then he never got the song to me. I wonder if there's some sort of Vic Chesnutt cover in his archives, you never know. But he and Dosh were going to be the two that were non-folky, country singer-songwriters. It got to a point where if you could make the sessions, you were in. It sat for a while, and then I got a couple of later contributions, like Dan Wilson recorded one at his house, and JoAnna James recorded one out in L.A.
MINNESOTA REMEMBERS VIC CHESNUTT will be released at a show featuring Adam Levy, Farewell Milwaukee, Ben Weaver, Wendy Lewis, Alpha Consumer, and Eliza Blue on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12, at the GRAIN BELT BOTTLING HOUSE; more info at irockthecause.org
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