NEW YORK-With the compilation "Hope: Mothers Helping Mothers," CD Freedom Records is aiming to draw attention to the special needs of mothers-with help from artists who are mothers them selves. A portion of the album's proceeds will benefit Project Hope, a Dorchester, Mass.-based homeless shelter organization for women and children.
The album was produced by Boston - area Barbara Kessler, who is featured on the set, along with singer/songwriters Rachel Bissex, Ashley Cleveland, Eliza Gilkyson, Sara Hickman, Tish Hino-josa, Jan Luby, Laurie McClain, Lori McKenna, Suzzy Roche, Ramona Silver, Karen Taylor-Good, and Diane Zeigler.
"I had my daughter three years ago," says Kessler, "and ever since then I wanted to combine my calling as a mother with my career as a songwriter. I realized there really wasn't any album that represented that, and that's how the idea to do this album came about. I wanted to do something that celebrates the bond between mothers and children.
"I was so moved by the whole 'Respond' project," Kessler says of another female-driven compilation album, which benefits. Respond, a nonprofit organization for victims of domestic violence (Billboard, Jan. 23, 1999). "It's like working hands-on in the community to empower women."
She adds of the "Mothers" album's musical direction: "I didn't want a completely sleepy record. I had a critical ear for anything that was too sappy. I wanted to touch on things that were truthful and raw, musically and lyrically:"
"There were a lot of people who wanted to be on this album," says Phil Antoniades CEO of Artist Development Associates Inc., the company behind CD Freedom. " But the biggest surprise was that some people didn't want to be on the record, because they don't want to be recognized as mothers in the industry, as if it's a stigma."
Kessler adds, "The album also speaks for the frustrations many women feel in the music business about not being the 'right' age or the 'right' size."
Antoniades, Kessler's husband, says that the target audience for the album is "24-to 40-year olds who still buy CDs. There's a lot inspiration in this album, because mothers get unique inspiration from their children."
He explains how the album's proceeds will be allocated to Project Hope: "We're going to be paying a minimum of $3 per CD to the charity, until the album recoups its expenses. After the album recoups expenses, we'll be giving all the profits to Projects Hope."
Project Hope director of Development Meg Lusardi says, "We were thrilled to be approached about this album. How could we not pass up this opportunity? Even thought we have a great economy right now and a low unemployment rate, there's a [homeless] population that's not being seen or heard. People may have jobs but not jobs that pay enough living wages."
Project Hope had roots in its community for several years before it officially launched in 1981. Lusardi says that Project Hope is all about "helping homeless families achieve self-sufficiency. Creating more shelters isn't the solution to homeless. We're focusing on creating programs to end homelessness, such as adult-education programs."
The "Mothers" album is being sold on the CD Freedom Website (http://www.cdfreedom.com), as well as Boston-based retain chain Newbury Comics. Antoniades says that the company is securing a deal to distribute the album through Red Eye Distribution by the end of May.
Natalie Waleik, buyer for the Newbury Comics chain, says, "Barbara has had successful records with us in the past. The 'Mothers' album is for a good cause, and I have no reason not to expect it to do fairly well."
The "Mothers" CD and Project Hope were the focal point of a Mother's Day concert to benefit Project Hope May 14. The concert, which took place at the Somerville (Mass.) Theater, featured performance from Kessler, Mary Lou Lord McKenna, Silver, and Luby. The concert was not sponsored by public radio station WUMB Boston.
"We did special announcement on the air about the album and the concert," says WUMB music director Marilyn Rea Beyur, who hosted the Mother's Day concert. "It's a wonderful recording. We've been playing it, and there have been a number of people asking how they can get the album. I don't have to do anybody a favor to play the album, because every song is high-quality. But it's nice to play it, because it benefits a good cause."
Singer/songwriter Hickman ways that being both a mother and a performing artist can present unique challenge: "There's still a perception that female artists who get pregnant will drop out of sight, because their children will become more important than their music. It's true that you have to alter your priorities when you become a mother, but more people in the industry need to realize that children aren't a burden to female artists. We can have support in raising our children."
Hickman, who is pregnant with her second child, due this summer, adds that she was able to tour this year through her eighth month of pregnancy: "Two and a half years ago, I toured with Dan Fogelberg, and I brought my daughter and mother with me. It was fun, and people were a lot more accommodating than you'd think they'd be. There are certainly days when it's overwhelming being a mom and an artist, but most of it is walking hand in hand. It makes me enjoy my music more."
Kessler says, "Touring is definitely a unique challenge for mothers in the music industry. When my daughter was younger, it was easier to organize baby-sitting, but you adjust and do what you have to do.
We've had such a great response to the 'Mothers' CD." Kessler adds. "One of the things people keep telling me about the album is that it's more cohesive than most artist compilations because of the theme. I would love to make a serious contribution to Project Hope, because with this album I wanted to take something that was frustrating and make something positive out of it."
For more album information, call 800-937-3397. For more information
on Project Hope, call 617-442-1880.