Local musicians help flood victims heal with new collection

In August 2016, while flooding in East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension parishes was still a developing disaster, local singer-songwriters gathered at the Dyson House Listening Room.

During a few curfew-limited hours at the music venue, Luke Ash, Matthew Schwartz, Barrett Black and Jacob Zachary developed the chorus and harmonic foundation for the song “Fight the Flood.” Many others later joined creative hands to complete the spirit-raising anthem, including lyricists and composers Ryan Harris, Ben Herrington, Clay Parker and Peter Simon and gospel singers from the Greater King David Baptist Church.

“Fight the Flood” is the title track for a six-song collection of the same name, released last month for the flood’s one-year anniversary. The album was written, performed and recorded by Baton Rouge-area singers, songwriters and musicians. Sales benefit Capital Area United Way disaster relief.

All those involved in the Fight the Flood album, including recording engineers John Tulley and Bill Kelley and graphic designer Matt Dawson, donated their time, talent and resources.

The idea for the project came to executive producer Jeffrey Roedel—a former editor and current contributing writer for 225—while asking Black how he and other musicians were faring during the flood. “This could be my way of giving, connecting great people and getting the ball rolling,” Roedel remembers thinking.

The collaboration Roedel had in mind was something new for the singer-songwriters. “They’re all great, but they’re largely either solo performers or the captains of their bands’ ships,” he says. “They don’t typically collaborate in this way.”

Ash, the principal composer of the majestic “Fight the Flood” chorus, agrees. “None of us write together much,” he says. “But that’s the cool thing about a group. We’re better together than we are apart.”

Ash and the other writers wanted the lyrics to speak for the community rather than themselves. “We want it to be the community’s song,” he says. “Something everyone can latch onto.”

Roedel invited Nancy Armstrong Holmes, minister of music at Greater King David Baptist Church, to add vocals to “Fight the Flood.”

She didn’t know the singer-songwriters involved, but as a flood victim herself, she responded to the song.

The original form of the song Holmes heard sounded incomplete, she says. “I wanted to give it soul and make it universal. Chicken and sausage gumbo is wonderful, but some seafood thrown in makes it all better.”

Contributing to the song was an honor, Holmes says. “Music is a form of healing. Because I was going through the flood, creating the vocal parts put my mind off things. I asked myself, ‘Musically, what’s going to help me help others?’”

Get the album
The Fight the Flood collection of songs is available for download at fighttheflood.bandcamp.com.

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.