The factors that motivate a songwriter to create a piece of music are unique and deeply personal.
But to a singer, songwriter and band, each of the 26 performers who contributed to the Can We Get Together? compilation album, which was released in April, have something very much in common: a deep desire to help those hurt by the tragic Jan. 8 shooting rampage on Tucson's northwest side.
"I have never been so proud to be a part of something like this before," said singer Jake Willis, whose former band Beyond the Firewall composed "Carry on Together," an original rock song for the 30-track album, which is unrelated to Luz de Vida. "It really makes me happy that I was part of this."
Willis' connection to the shootings was personal, as his day job brought him in close contact with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her family. He was their termite inspector, and when he heard of a tribute album being put together, he said he needed to be a part of it.
Musician John Monfore was working at the Red Cross of Southern Arizona's blood drive on the eastside of Tucson when the shootings occurred. The news shocked him, and once he saw the outpouring of assistance from Tucsonans who flooded the blood drive to give, Monfore said he knew he needed to write about the event.
"I wanted to do something dark and somber, but instead, I changed (it) to be more about the healing process," said Monfore, whose contribution to the compilation is called "When the Sun Shines Through."
For folk singer Ron Walker, a former television journalist, watching the scenes from the mass shooting inspired him to get his guitar out and pen a new song, "Saturday Morning."
"This event, when it happened, it struck me really, really hard," Walker said. "When I'm trying to control my emotions about something, I write a song about it. I drive past that intersection every day. And when I was watching it on TV, the cameraman was a guy I used to work with."
Willis, Monfore and Walker ended up getting their songs on Can We Get Together? after answering an ad placed on Craigslist by Robert Current, a University of Arizona law student who admits he's the world's least-experienced record producer.
Current got involved with the project after a longtime friend, singer/songwriter Cynthia Correa, said she had a song about the shootings that she wanted to promote and hopefully turn into a charitable effort to raise money for those affected by Jan. 8.
"I knew some people who had the ability to record it," Current said. "I had really no idea what I was doing, but people just started throwing songs at me. It kind of snowballed."
Current said there was no shortage of local musicians interested in participating—so much so that he had to turn down some submissions.
One track that made it onto the compilation was "Tsunami," by Seashell Radio. Keyboardist Cassie Van Gelder said her group got involved in the project because they felt a song was the least they could do to help.
"Listening to music can kind of be a healing thing," Van Gelder said. (Seashell Radio also contributed a track to Luz de Vida.)
Current said it was a whirlwind 2 1/2 months between the time when the album was first thought up and when it was released, on April 11. He said this relatively short time span had a negative effect on the compilation, as many of the songs needed to be recorded quickly and lacked the kind of high-level production quality most of the musicians would have liked.
With no significant promotion, sales of the CD—both hard copies and digital versions, through iTunes and Amazon—have been sluggish. Current said he's yet to recoup the roughly $5,000 he spent to put the album together.
"In concept, it was a good thing to do," Current said. "I just hope it at some point gets enough attention that it starts making money for charity."
Any proceeds that do come from the record are earmarked for Homicide Survivors, one of the many groups that joined the consolidated Tucson Together Fund, which was established to aid those affected by the Jan. 8 attack. Homicide Survivors has received no money yet from sales of the CD, although Current says some people have donated money directly to the organization on behalf of the CD.
For more information on Can We Get Together? visit www.coseismic.org.