Welcome to CompassionateCombat.com! My hope for this space is that it becomes a dynamic Thank You card for the nurses that have been giving of themselves during this Pandemic. There will be a place for nurses to tell their stories, for patients and family members to tell their stories. A place to donate to nurses organizations to help pull them through this incredibly exhausting time.
About the Project
by Susan Gibson
Back in mid-April, 2020, my friend Carolyn Phillips reached out to me to write a song for her organization, Songs for the Soul to say thank you to the nurses who are giving so much of themselves to care for us through this pandemic. I have worked with Carolyn and Songs for the Soul before~~I’m a huge fan of her, her music and her enormous, enthusiastic, empathetic heart. Even before the pandemic, one of the danger zones in the nursing profession is something known as caregiver fatigue. Nurses care for other people at the expense of their own health and well-being. Songs for the Soul is a program of pairing nurses with songwriters with the idea that by telling their stories and then hearing them put into songs, the nurses will experience a degree of healing, of being witnessed. I have to say, I know that to be true for myself in my own work. As I have worked with other songwriters and groups of people who may not have the language or felt entitled to their own emotions, the combination of truth-telling and then objective crafting to create a song that resonates with the writer or anyone else is a very healing process.
So, I worked on the song, Compassionate Combat and sent it to Carolyn. She sent it to her network (namely the nurses in Nebraska who were living in RV’s parked outside of the nursing home where they worked because the virus made it too dangerous for them to come and go from work to home.) Carolyn sent out the song and I felt great about touching the exact people that this song was written for. Mission accomplished.
Later in the summer, a friend of mine, Linda Schiable (of the musical duo Amelia Earhart Returns), asked me to make some singing telegrams of the song for about a dozen nurses who were awarded the top healthcare professionals in the Houston, TX area by the Houston Chronicle. What an honor! To be a tiny part of the recognition of these two handfuls of people that stood out amongst over 300,000 healthcare professionals in their area. I sent out the videos and felt great about getting to touch a few more people with this song. Namely, the people it was written for. Mission accomplished.
I spent the summer in Montana as an amateur lumberjack.
Fast forward to late November. I was doing an online concert as a part of the Blue Rock Winter Concert Series at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas. Now, Blue Rock and Billy Crockett have had a profound impact on much of my recent material as I used to go up there every Tuesday (we called them Blue Tuesdays) to meet with a few songwriters and play our new songs and get some thoughtful, insightful and compassionate feedback from folks who know the craft. The line-up would change depending on who was around and I missed a lot of nights because I was out of town, but I always left there a better writer than I was when I arrived. So, to come and play a set at Blue Rock and not have a new song to play for Billy just felt wrong. But that thought didn’t occur to me until I was sitting backstage listening to Billy and Dodee welcome the virtual audience to the show. “Compassionate Combat” was really the only song that I felt like I had finished this year. (No need to judge me...I’ve got that covered.) So backstage, last minute (it seems to be my favorite minute) I listened to the voice memo on my phone of the song to write out the lyrics on a paper towel. Yes, so professional. Even as I was starting my set, I was on the fence about performing this unrehearsed song, but I decided to listen to my own advice which is, “Nobody dies in live music. What’s the worst thing that could happen?” You know, when taking a tiny risk like this one, I never think to ask myself, “What’s the best thing that could happen?”
Well, Ya’ll! The Best Thing Happened! Dr. Cole Edmonson was sitting in his home in Dallas, Texas watching the show.
Dr. Edmonson has spent almost 3 decades of his career in nursing and nursing leadership and currently is the Chief Experience and Clinical Officer at AMN Healthcare. I had never heard about AMN before being introduced to Dr. Cole, but they are a nurse staffing organization. You know all those stories we’ve heard lately about the nurses from Omaha, Nebraska who are in Brooklyn, New York taking care of that Covid spike? Or how about the nurses from Madison, Wisconsin who are in Fargo, North Dakota taking care of that Covid spike? Or the nurses from Spokane, Washington who are in El Paso, Texas taking care of that Covid Spike? That’s what AMN does. Thank You God-Universal-Benevolent-Star-Wars-Force-Is-With-You-Source for the folks at AMN and all the moving parts and people of that network. We see you now.
Compassionate Combat resonated with Dr. Edmonson as if it was written just for him. Because it was. Mission accomplished. He reached out to Billy to see about getting a copy of the song to send out to his nurses. When Billy asked me about that, I was like, “Well I could send him my voice memo off my phone…?” LIke I said, super professional over here. Billy and I were trying to work out how we could make a beautiful, quick, low-cost recording of the song to get out to Cole and his partners. Two days later, Dr. Edmonson and the leadership over at AMN gave us a budget to record the song and a video for it. HOLY WOW! Thank you so much, God-Universal-Benevolent-Star-Wars-Force-Is-With-You-Source.
We went into Blue Rock Studio (dream come true) on December 8th and recorded basic tracks. Billy engineered the session and then filled in piano and guitar parts.
Nathan Walters, who was there to assist Billy and to photo-document the session, played drums and percussion. The next week, Dirje Childs (www.dirje.com) came in and revealed the song to us with her cello. Next it was time to get some more voices on this track. So, 2 days before Christmas, I reached out to some friends, Bill Small, Adam & Chris Carrol, Elizabeth Wills, BettySoo and Walt Wilkins. I was nervous and doubtful about asking these people to set aside holiday plans for a minute and record a vocal track for me. But then I remembered my new question for taking risks. “What’s the Best Thing that Could Happen?” They all said yes! Some of them came into Blue Rock and recorded and some sent tracks from home. Thank you sweet friends. Billy brought in the masterful ears of Chris Bell. When you have about an hour, check out his discography. Amazing. Ok, so now we have a song...what next? We have to make a video.
Uh-oh. I have never made a video that wasn’t Jana Pochop and I, with our iPhones being ridiculous. Those videos are classic. Comedy Gold. But this was something different. Billy introduced me to Brent Tallent. His company is Video Propeller and they do a lot of video content for marketing and branding but I actually met him at an audition for Troubador TX in about 2008. I may have scolded him for asking a group of us to recreate a spontaneous moment. We both learned something that day. He agreed to work with me on this song anyway. :)
We met on a snowy Hill Country Sunday (this never happens~~divine!) at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio where we had recorded the song. I was super nervous. All my insecurities seem to really shine under the bright lights of professional video. But Brent was a pro. His daughter Ellie was there to alert me to my random staticky hairs that were floating up over my head (I used my own spit to smooth them down). I have always said I would never lip sync to my own songs. Well guess what? I can still say that because it never works to lip sync, but singing the song is completely different. I now have to eat all my judgments of folks and their music videos who I have accused of lip syncing. Boy am I full. We did several takes from multiple angles in the grand room at Blue Rock. Billy and Dirje and Brent and Ellie all wore masks and I didn’t. It was easy. It was painless. For me. However, Brent had to take all that raw footage and began the painstaking work of editing the video together. In the meantime, I had reached out to my nurse friends to ask for photos to insert in the video. I asked them to reach out to their colleagues for more photos. Then I would send them to Brent and he’d put them in the video and then send me a draft. Then I’d send him more photos and he’d edit. Then I’d say “my mouth looks funny on that word” or “my bra strap is showing in that shot” and he would fix it. I am so proud of the end result. And I love how a question became a song, became a project, became a connection. I hope you love it too. Please take 4 minutes to watch the video. Take a second to share it. Send it to your nurse buddies. Take a minute to put a little money in the jar for the American Nurses Association. They have been advocating for the nursing profession for 125 years and have disaster relief funds, endowments and scholarship funds.
Let’s show up for our nurses. They’ve always been there for us.
Produced and Engineered by: Billy Crockett at Blue Rock Studio in Wimberley, Tx
Mixed by: Chris Bell
Mastered by: Jerry Tubb
SG: Vocals + Guitar
Billy Crockett: vocals, guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, breath
Nathan Walters: Drums, percussion
Dirje Childs: Cello
Video Filmed at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Produced by Brent Tallent, Video Propeller Inc.