And so it went. Things in music do not always go as they should for anyone. Even with the best intentions, practices, discipline — circumstances, like boulders, tumble down the mountain you just climbed. No matter how cool the past has been, the present and future have NO. GUARANTEES.
So I surfed for a while. The big waves weren’t coming along until another dark December morning a call from Hawaii asking for help with a Grammy nomination. I’d worked a mainland project for Palm Records a few years earlier and now the Recording Academy had created an entire category for Hawaiian music after some diligent effort. Again, five nominees in the category, all tied to the heritage of Hawaiian music.
Charles Michael Brotman was a nominee for a compilation CD,titled Slack Key Vol. 2 on his label. There were a number of well-known slack key players featured, but they were mostly known among the Hawaiian population. And then a wonderful realization hit me. After asking who the other nominees were and connecting some dots it was a pretty sure bet this album was a major contender to win this Grammy. So a deal was made and we were off to the races.
In the meantime I looked up all the 2004 nominees and noticed Will Ackerman had been nominated for his release, Returning. He had been the main contender we had to get around during Tingstad and Rumbel’s nomination/win a few years earlier.
After a few emails of congrats and pleasantries, I told Will if there was anything I could do to help, it would be a pleasure. I’d talked with him a few times, and since the onset of my career everyone spoke about him in glowing terms. He had the midas touch. He had a successful solo career as an acoustic guitarist; but primarily he was legendary as the founder of Windham Hill Records — perhaps the most successful indie label of the 20th century. You can read his bio here: href=”http://http://www.williamackerman.com/contact-will/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=109″>
Will’s a wonderfully playful kind of guy, and after about three emails, he said, “why should I hire you?” My reply, “I’m the person who kicked your butt on the last nomination.” I’m not taking credit for Eric and Nancy winning, but they did, and Will was a mighty opponent in that Grammy race. So we made a deal, and got off to a bit of a late start, all the while I was working on a pretty powerful strategy for the slack key album.
The window of time between the nominations and the time ballots are cast is pretty small. And it happens during the holiday season. The campaign is merely to get Academy voters to listen to the nominated CDs. There is no pressure or big media push. But there is strategy and a whole lot of work.
There was also a lot on my plate with family coming for Christmas, and a houseful of company. We got through it all, and then the day after Christmas, 2004, there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean and tsunami that took many, many lives and destroyed scores more. It was an unbelievable tragedy that shook the world.
Every major media outlet ran continuous stories about the devastation. Getting through to any media over the holidays is a miracle, but combined with this, there was global gridlock like I’d never seen. There was essentially no movement as the world watched in grief and amazement what Mother Nature was capable of doing.
So you see, there really are NO. GUARANTEES. OF. ANYTHING. Even with great stories, great news to share, and the means to do it.
All in all it was devastating, and of course, we were all very empathetic. At one point I’d sent an email “apologizing” I wasn’t able to get more done. I do remember Will writing back to say, “there are more important things in the world to worry about.”
Feeling very badly about the whole thing, I’d hired a friend to help me, and we continued with the Hawaiian strategy and changed gears on everything else. It wasn’t total failure, but I didn’t sleep very well for the next two months.