David Swider wanted a way to give back. Swider owns of The End Of All Music, Oxford’s lone record store that was listed in the USA Today’s as one of ten great record stores in the country. The End Of All Music has become a key destination for Oxfordians and tourists alike, and this year Swider was able to find a way to use the record store to help those in need by making a benefit record for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The idea sprung up when Swider was talking to celebrity chef and friend of the record store Hugh Acheson about doing some type of benefit. At first the plan was for a benefit concert, but eventually Swider decided he wanted to make a record.
The finished product is a 12-inch vinyl record with original songs by Patterson Hood, Bonnie Prince Billy, Adam Torres and William Tyler, but originally the plan was for a 7-inch single with some local bands on it. It all changed when Swider reached out to indie folk artist Bonnie Prince Billy, who Swider knew from the record store.
“I asked him if he had any songs he wanted to do for a benefit, he emailed me back in like ten minutes, which is kind of weird for him, because he usually takes like a week to respond, and he was like ‘actually I’m going to record some today and I have a song in mind that would be great for it, and I’ll send it to you,” Swider said.
“He sent it like the next day, and I couldn’t believe it, and listened to it and it really blew me away and I was like wow, this is the song on the benefit,” Swider said. “And at this point, I thought it was just going to be his song and maybe a b-side. His song kind of really got the ball rolling, and after that I was really excited, because any time Bonnie Prince Billy puts out new music I’m a big fan of his, any time he puts out new music anyway I get excited, and the fact that I was going to be able to put it out really meant that this project had some legs and could really take off.”
“Things aligned to make the “Treasure Map” song come along just when this marvelous benefit record was being conceived,” Bonnie Prince Billy said.
Next, Swider reached out to Matt Patton of Drive By Truckers, who informed him that the band wouldn’t be in the studio for the next few months but helped get him in touch with Drive By Truckers singer and guitarist Patterson Hood.
“So I emailed Patterson and he almost instantly said sure I’m on board, I’m going into the studio later this month and I’ll record something for it,” Swider said. So I not only had two great artists involved, but I had two artists that were willing to record all new material.”
After that, Swider was able to get William Tyler and Adam Torres on board as well.
“Pretty much it all came about with friends of the record store, all of those musicians have either played here or have been here and shopped and have met, so it was kind of a real grass roots project from the get go,” Swider said.
As for the logistics of the project, Swider credited Patrick Addison of Fat Possum records with helping him and also for the idea to make the record a 12-inch vinyl.
“I was still at this point going to do a double seven-inch record, and he was like ‘why don’t you just make a full EP out of it, it’d cost the same, really, manufacturing wise.’ Which I was surprised about,” Swider said. “So that was a last minute decision, we were literally getting ready to send the record to the pressing plant and he was like ‘you should just put all the songs on one side, and do it this way.’ So that’s how we did it.”
In addition to the music, the art insert and front and back of the album was carefully selected to keep with the theme of the record. Maude Schuyler Clay, who lives in Sumner Miss. and put out a photography book in 2015 called Mississippi History.
“Anyway so I love the book and the cool part of her work is the format of it. Its all square format. And I was like that would look perfect on an album sleeve. Her photos popped into my head when I started designing the 7 inch, and when It later became a 12 inch I was even more excited because it was going to be bigger,” Swider said. I emailed her and I think I sent her this really long proposal, pretty much saying I really want to use your artwork but I can’t pay you anything because it’s a benefit. Your photos, they really touch home with this whole project, with being photos of Mississippians, and I she sent back an email that was like ‘so excited, yes.’ She let me go through the book and pick out the photos I wanted to use, so she was very hands off with that part of it, which was like for me a dream cause I got to pick my favorite pictures.”
The art extends to the actual record as well, as one side of the vinyl doesn’t contain music but does contain a drawing by Nathaniel Russell on it.
“There’s an etching of kind of a piece of art that went viral right after Trump’s election, it was made by this guy out of Indianapolis named Nat Russell, who’s also kind of a friend of the record store,” Swider said. “But it says resist fear, assist love. I hit him up kind of last minute, because when we decided to do a 12-inch it was like all the songs were on one side, and we had a blank side. Patrick over at Fat Possum, it was his idea to do an etching, and it was a great idea it looks really good. I emailed Nat and was like ‘I need to know about this really quick cause its going to the press tomorrow and we have to get it made’ and he was like ‘yeah definitely do it’ so that was really cool too.”
Swider said it was amazing to see the project finally come to life with so many talented artists working together.
“It was pretty amazing, because the only thing we spent money on was the manufacturing, and even the manufacturing, Memphis Record Pressing gave us a really good deal,” Swider said. “They ended up knocking off a nice chunk of the full bill. Once it sells out we’ll be able to make over $15,000 for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is awesome. And we’ve sold half of them so far, so we’re well on our way. It’s an exciting project and I’m just really proud of it.”
“It was very very humbling seeing how willing all the artists were to help on it, because I hate asking people to do stuff for free,” Swider said. “I just know how it is, artists need to get paid, and anytime someone asks them to do something, probably nine times out of ten there’s no money involved, and this was one of those projects, but I think all the artists involved were very into the idea of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and really behind what that organization is doing.”
After seeing all the enthusiasm and willingness by southern artists to come together for a good cause, Swider is already thinking about what he could do next year.
“I’ve already been thinking about doing it again, maybe in the fall or early next year and doing it for a different charity, whether it be the ACLU or something more local like the innocence project or something like that,” Swider said.
But for now, the next thing on Swider’s agenda is to throw a proper release party for the album.
“We are going to do maybe some type of cookout and have bands play and kind of celebrate, maybe we’ll do it when it sells out. But we are going to do a party.”
You can purchase the album here: