Look what we did!

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.16.33 PM

Wow! Thanks to everyone who supported the She’s a Rainbow: Esme Barrera tribute record Indiegogo campaign! We almost doubled our goal and we raised enough money for over 20 girls to go to Girls Rock Camp Austin through the Esme Barrera Unlimited Possibilities Scholarship Fund! The outpouring of generosity is a testament to Esme’s spirit and friendship. It’s my hope that every time you play the record you’ll be reminded to be kind and open and live fully in the moment, just like our friend. I’m really proud of this project and I hope that seeing the band at the memorial service or with the Polyphonic Spree helped facilitate some healing. I wanted to post the story of how the band came together and how the record came to be. This was originally posted in the campaign updates.

How did the Esme Barrera Fan Club come to be?

I was on the Board of Directors at Girls Rock Austin when Esme was killed and we had a lot of discussion of how we could memorialize our friend and beloved volunteer. We wanted to show the community how much Esme meant to us as a volunteer and as a person. We wrote a press release expressing our grief and decided to name our scholarship fund after Esme, by calling it the “Esme Barrera Unlimited Possibilities Scholarship Fund.” It didn’t seem like enough. I knew Linda Maher, my co-organizer on this campaign, was arranging an Austin memorial in addition to the service in Esme’s hometown of El Paso. I knew the perfect song and I had an army of brilliant musicians at my disposal – my and Esme’s fellow volunteers at Girls Rock Camp. Inspired by Terri Lord’s suggestion of a drum line, I asked Linda if we could perform a song in Esme’s honor at the memorial. I talked to a core group – Terri leading percussion, Cari Palazzolo on keys and Akina Adderley as vocal arranger. Once they were on board I put the call out to the volunteers who’d worked with Esme. I didn’t know what to expect but everyone jumped on board. Under any other circumstance, organizing almost forty people would be a huge challenge – it can be hard enough to get four people in the same room for a band practice, but to say this was different would be an understatement. Everyone dropped everything and miraculously, the whole thing came together in just a few days. After the four of us came up with an arrangement, we had a full band rehearsal on a Sunday afternoon at the Scottish Rite Theater. Except for the two keyboards and the violins placed in front of microphones, the instrumentation was to be totally acoustic – marching band style drums, acoustic guitars, ukuleles, horns, and lots of bells and percussion. There were too many of us to try to make it into a rock band. There wasn’t a lead singer, just all of our voices together trying to convey the sadness of our loss and the respect and love we have for Esme. I was blown away by the magical coming together and the response we got.

How did this recording happen?

After the Austin memorial, Linda showed Benjamin Hotchkiss the video of the Fan Club performing “She’s a Rainbow” at the memorial. Linda commented how cool it would be to release the song as a 7” single. Benjamin, a local musician and producer, sprung into action. He called Kyle Crusham, who works at Tequila Mockingbird. Kyle talked to his bosses who immediately gave him the go-ahead and “She’s a Rainbow” was recorded in two emotional nights last February. The first night we did basic tracks – two full drum kits, piano, guitars, violins and saxophone. The second night we had a choir of around twenty women, added some glockenspiels and oboe, and started mixing. Benjamin and Kyle worked hard on the mix after the initial recording and we let it rest for over a year.

Things were really intense after Esme died but the beauty that happened was pretty amazing to watch. Love came pouring out, not just out of all corners of Austin, but from all over the county. Esme’s life inspired many who’d never met her and those of us who knew her felt the immediate need to do SOMETHING. Some held benefits for her family, made mixtapes and playlists, dedicated performances, hosted art shows and softball games, and much to our surprise, they suggested that mourners should contribute to Girls Rock Austin. This song and recording is what our little corner of the Esme universe did.

And then?

It took some time to heal. We let the recording rest and got ourselves back together. A year and a half later, we still feel our loss – hard. But we’re ready to share this with the world. We’re excited to do that on Esme’s favorite format – vinyl. We’re confident that this recording captures Esme’s beautiful spirit and we want people to have that experience, even if it’s just for the time it takes to play this song. Also, we hope you’ll pledge generously and help send some awesome kids to Girls Rock Camp Austin through the Esme Barrera Unlimited Possibilities Scholarship Fund.

About the B-side:

Christina Arellano is a seventeen year old singer-songwriter and guitarist from Tyler, Texas. She met Esme at Girls Rock Camp and was so saddened by her death she immediately wrote this moving song in tribute. She performed it, along with the Esme Barrera Fan Club, at the Austin memorial. She recorded this version in one take, and it first aired on Linda’s show the Clear Spot on KOOP 91.7.

Melissa Bryan
Austin, TX
July 8, 2013

About the Polyphonic Spree show:

After the Austin memorial, the Polyphonic Spree heard about our tribute to Esme and asked us to perform “She’s a Rainbow” with them at their Austin show last February. They’d already been covering the song (unbeknown to me) for years but they let us take the lead. We ran through it once at sound check and it turned out pretty amazing – over 50 people on stage – and done with absolute reverence to Esme. The band donated a good portion of their merch sales to the then newly created EBUPSF, funded a couple of scholarships and singer Tim DeLaughter talked up Girls Rock Camp and told the audience how inspiring Esme’s spirit was to him. Here’s a short video from our performance. Pretty amazing, eh?

Leave a Reply