I had the pleasure of teaching Faith in grade four and five at Emily Carr Public School in London. She is a soft spoken, hard working individual who would lend her help to anyone. Faith has a big heart.
Last year we were preparing to go out to participate in the Terry Fox Run. I had some large stickers given to me with a heading that read, "I'm running for (name of cancer victim)". I asked the students to come up to my desk and whisper who'd they'd like to run for, if they wanted, and I'd write their names with a bold marker. There was no prompting, no mention of names but almost every child whispered "I'm running for Faith". When Faith went outside to start her laps of the school ground she could read her name on many of her classmates backs.
Her father Dave came by the classroom a few days later to tell me about this and that Faith wanted to give back by walking from London, Ontario to Sarnia, Ontario. I guess Faith had been pressing her parents into doing this for awhile.
When I heard about the event I knew that I needed to write a song for her and her cause. I had recorded and produced songs around my teaching career for twenty-five years or so and I knew I could contact a few great musicians to help me out.
I asked Tracy and Dave Abbey if they'd be OK with that and I started to come up with a few chords and a simple melody line. I asked Faith what words or phrases come to mind when she thinks back to those days of difficulty. Faith didn't hesitate and replied, "Faith and Believe, and oh, hope too. So that's where the title came from, directly from Faith.
Throughout July I worked on creating the song and its production treatment. I knew we had to capture the seriousness of what cancer was about but at the same time the song needed to be a celebration of overcoming challenges when having faith. It was a fine line. I knew I had to start putting together studio times, engineers and musicians so I started that soon after. I phoned my friend and Chalet Studios owner Dave Chester if he could donate some studio time in August. He asked what's the song like, can I send him a copy. "Dave, I haven't written the song yet", I had to tell him. After a short pause, I shared the story with him and that the song was about faith. Dave generously offered his studio and engineer.
Dave Chester came to the project's support again when he offered to invite the members of his band to record the beds (usually drums, bass and guitar). Each one is a very talented studio musician in their own right and they graciously agreed to help out. Aubrey Dale - drums (Broadway, David Letterman), Dale Russell - guitars (The Guess Who), Rob Laidlaw - bass (Platinum Blonde, Honeymoon Suite) and Dave Chester - organ. Engineer Dave Featherstone worked for twelve straight hours setting up and assisting Dan Brodbeck the day and evening of the recording.
Dan Brodbeck was also very quick to help out and he's also such a tremendous talent. Dan and I worked on many projects together in the past, including The Visages French Educational Series and projects that included great musicians such as Stephan Moccio, Colin Linden and Terry Brown to mention a few. Dan won a Juno Award in 2010 for best sound engineer in Canada.
I spent the next few weeks working on a scratch demo (very basic recording outline of the song) and upon listening the song seemed to be missing a verse to fill out the story about explaining faith. I had one line left to create and it was a key line to understand the concept of faith without being too wordy. I knew I wanted something about faith that it's not what you see using your eyes but its about the heart seeing. After several hours of continuing to work on it my wife Kay called to me, to come up from the basement office to take a break. I headed upstairs and she asked me if I'd like to watch the movie "Heaven is For Real". I left the office with that line rolling around in my head.
If you haven't seen the movie it's about a four year old boy, Colton Burpo who has life threatening surgery after a ruptured appendix. His father, Todd Burpo who is a pastor near the town of Imperial, Nebraska was hearing from Colton after his recovery that he had gone to heaven, met Jesus and shared information that this young boy could not have ever known. Pastor Burpo's legitimacy in the congregation started to be questioned as word of Colton's story became public. There's a scene in the movie where Pastor Burpo is finally going to address the congregation about the issue. He wrote down on a piece of paper his succinct thoughts about his feelings on faith, readying to share with the congregation on Sunday. What's written at the top of his paper is the heading Faith. The camera then zoomed in for a close up of his paper, and at that moment our AppleTV froze. For some profound reason, here's the line that I had been struggling with for hours now full screen staring at me in the face on my TV frozen. The line is about seeing with the eyes of your heart. Kay and I couldn't believe it. Shortly after the watching the movie I finished the song.
Faith is like the sun, It's not always seen yet the sunrise comes, When all you see's the crippling dark, Open the eyes of your heart,
Our "beds" were recorded at Chalet Studios. Dave Featherstone set up the drums and prepared the room for miking and recording. The players and sound engineer, Dan Brodbeck showed up around 12:30 pm and recording commenced around 3:30 pm. Around the time we were just to begin Faith, Dave (her father), Cole (brother) and Kim (a friend who was taking photos) dropped by the studio. After the recording was done Dave and Faith handed out Faith's Footsteps T-Shirts to all involved. The guys wanted Faith to sign their T-shirts. We had a couple of group photos taken and they were off.
Chalet Recording Studio Team from left to right:
Dave Abbey (father), Dave Chester (B3 organ), Dale Russell (guitar), Steve Revington, Faith Abbey,
Dan Brodbeck (Engineer),
Dave Featherstone (Asst. Engineer), Rob Laidlaw (Bass) & Aubrey Dale (Drums). Insets are Saidat & Doug Varty (Vocalists)
After a supper break, Dale Russell recorded some extra lead guitars and the acoustic guitars. I had a specific idea on how the main lead should sound as I had George Harrison on my mind when writing the song. George recorded the very first popular music charity recording for the Concert of Bangladesh and I wanted to capture that style on this charity song. Dale nailed it. Dave Chester set up the vintage B3 Hammond organ and laid down a beautiful track which gave the recording a nice, warm tone. Dayle Aubrey (drums) and Rob Laidlaw (bass) delivered excellent, confident tracks that captured the energy needed in which the build the song on. After everyone left, Dave Featherstone and I continued to edit tracks and record some vocals. I recorded a ghost vocal (guide vocal) and then proceeded to build the oohs and "Just need a little faith" harmony parts". Dave worked until 1:00 am to clean up the tracks and back the recordings up onto a hard drive to take home. I took the hard drive over to Dan's at a later date, the same day that the vocals were to be recorded. He had already laid down some beautiful guitar parts, that are inherent in Dan's great playing style, and after adding a few couple of hooky lines in the chorus, the guitar parts were ready. I was extremely happy when popular performers Doug Varty and Saidat confirmed they could sing on the project, I asked Rob Nations of EMAC Studios in London, ON if he could help out and he generously donated studio time to get the vocals recorded and edited.
Over the next two days Matt Grady (EMAC Engineer) and Kyle Ashbourne (EMAC Engineer) recorded the vocals. Saidat and Doug did an incredible job as they only had a short time to learn the song and record it. They didn't even have a chance to rehearse together prior to recording and yet they pulled off performing an intimate song with harmonies and its genuine feeling. Their talents and commitment were GREATLY appreciated.
Kyle added shakers and a tambourine track and then we edited the vocals. I delivered the hard drive to Dan's home studio where he mixed and mastered the song. I asked Dan to make his magic happen and he certainly delivered. On Friday Sept. 5 Josh Davis of Indie Pool emailed to tell me that "Faith & Believe" was now live on iTunes. What a great feeling to know that it's out there and that any person, wherever they are in the world can help with Faith's Footsteps. Indie Pool donated their distributing network and waived their fees to help out with this cause as well.
Dale Russell ready to start recording guitar tracks
Dayle Aubrey recording drums
Faith Abbey & her father Dave Abbey
The London Free Press article "Faith, hope & charity". Click to read
If you could take the time to download the song and pass the link onto others it sure would be appreciated. It's only .99 Please consider phoning your local radio station and requesting the song. Your help to generate support for Faith's cause would be greatly appreciated. We hope you like the song!