In April, ex-Boisean/current Portlander Levi Cecil sent an e-mail to family, friends and fans. The subject line read "Please Help Me Release a CD!" and the first line went right to the point: "I have a proposition for you and it involves almost none of your time and about 20 of your dollars." Cecil wanted to record his sophomore solo effort and had no money to do it with. He attached an mp3 of "A Mass in Empty Space," a song that would be on the new record, as well as a breakdown of the costs associated with recording and distributing the CD, which came to between $2,800 and $3,800. He raised the funds, but he got more than cash from his thinking-outside-of-the-box experiment. Cecil wanted to get the people who had been so positive about the first CD involved in the new one and to create a grass-roots vibe around it.
"It was really only partly about the money," Cecil said. "I really wanted to engage people."
Cecil became more engaged in the project as well.
"I'd been working on the CD for two years off and on," Cecil said. "The first donation that came in really lit a fire under me. I had to finish it," he laughed.
What both Cecil and his donors got out of the deal was a sense of solidarity and a limited edition CD of 11 finely crafted songs in Everything Is Fine, scheduled for official release on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Everything is Fine is, in turns, moody and cheery with tambourine, handclaps and spacey guitar celebrating indie-rock and a DIY spirit. One standout is Cecil's beautiful, haunting cover of Peter Ivers'/David Lynch's "In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)" from Eraserhead and from which Cecil took the name of the album.
Even if you don't agree with Cecil's method of fundraising, you have to applaud his understanding of a new business model and that we have to find new ways to get new music. Then, everything really will be fine.
Cecil previews his new CD at Bittercreek with Thomas Paul, Friday, Aug. 7, 8 p.m., FREE.