I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. ~ Jackie Robinson
Passion. Persistence. Patience. Qualities that are beneficial to anyone’s life, but absolutely necessary if you’re dealing with the music industry and the foster care system. Random? What does music have to do with the foster care system? In the case of Stereo RV’s upcoming EP, “Human:” Everything.
A Bit of Background
Stereo RV, (formerly Pending Black), is a radio ready pop group based right here in Salem, Oregon. This ambitious duo is made up of Myra Gleason and husband Gabe Gleason. They met in 2011 at a singing competition at The Tiffany Center in Portland. They decided to collaborate and their relationship grew from that. Myra hit me up in the Spring of 2016 when they were still Pending Black. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at last year’s Make Music Day Salem, and I was truly impressed. I knew that Myra sang and Gabe played acoustic guitar and did beat boxing, and honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from that description.
I wasn’t prepared for Myra’s amazingly powerful and soulful vocals and her welcoming and magnetic stage personality. Gabe was capably backing her up on guitar – but his beat boxing. I knew there wasn’t a drum kit on stage, but I found myself instinctively looking behind them to find one. Perhaps a drum machine concealed on stage somewhere? Nope. Gabe’s beat boxing is truly impressive. He authentically and convincingly replicates a full drum set with his mouth. You really have to hear it to believe it. And hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. You’ll have an opportunity to hear for yourself this weekend at their EP release at 1859 Cider Co., here in Salem. But more on that a little later.
So how does this tie into the foster care system? Myra works for a foster care agency, CCPC, that facilitates mental health services, mentoring, skills training, and placement in cooperation with the embattled DHS. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Besides the enormous challenge of working with truly challenging kids who are dealing with unimaginable damages, there is the constant funding issue; what Myra refers to as the “Silent Crisis.” There are over 8,000 children in foster care. Since 2011, Oregon has lost nine programs and over 500 beds for these kids in transition; children waiting to be able to return home or for a secure and loving home or just a bed for the night. It is daunting and unbelievably complex. But Myra’s passion and patience has helped her persevere.
There’s not a lot she can single-handedly do about the funding; especially in this slash-and-burn political climate. But she feels empowered and driven to communicate with her community (that’s you, Salem) about what’s going on in our own backyard. Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a foster family. But there is still so much that almost anyone CAN do. Myra is advocating for members in our community to get involved with mentoring and/or skills training. Mentoring looks like this: Do you have a skill? Knitting? Soap making? Playing a musical instrument? Anything. It is meaningful and enriching for these kiddos to have an hour a week with you – supervised and in a public place – where you share YOUR passion with them, and share it consistently to help them realize they’re wanted and important. You can imagine that consistency is a luxury these displaced children have gone without and sorely need.
Skills training. The older kids will be on their own soon. Do you know how to repair a bike or own a bike shop where you could teach them? Own a diner where they could wash dishes? Have a retail shop where they could learn to handle money and interact positively with the public? These are easy ways to give these forgotten humans a leg up, give them hope and give them some semblance of normalcy and control over their lives. If this hits you in the heart place, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Myra directly at email@example.com. These kids are waiting and honestly, the community has the obligation to step it up.
Back to The Music
What in the heck does this have to do with Stereo RV’s music? Well, in regards to their new EP “Human,” dropping this Friday, April 7th, it’s all about these kids. Myra’s close connection to them has inspired her to drop the love songs and tell their stories. “I’ve got scars/They show me just where my past has been/It’s in my future that I will mess up, I’ll make mistakes/I’m a diamond in the rough/Just trying to be Human.” These are lyrics to the title track “Human” and my favorite song on the EP. Admittedly, pop music isn’t my usual fare, and a big reason is the lyrics are usually self-absorbed and vacuous. Not so on Human. The songs have depth and meaning and are instantly engaging and catchy. I dare you not to get Human stuck in your head after a single listen. And did I mention that Myra has a killer voice and Gabe does beat box on every song (except The One)? It is definitely a one-of-a-kind sound for around here and lends to the diversity of music coming out of Salem today.
The Patience and The Payoff
This EP has been a long time coming for the duo. Again in 2011, Myra attended an A&R Capitol music conference and met musician/producer John DeGrazio. He truly believed in Myra and her song “The One.” He referred her to another producer in Nashville, but that didn’t quite work out – we’ll leave it at that. But she didn’t let that disappointing experience derail her. She had the courage to go back to John and put herself out there. She got through to him, and he said that he would produce and record her as soon as his studio was up and running, but had no idea of the completion date. So Myra tenaciously texted John once a month for 6 years until in the Summer of 2016 she read, “It’s done. Come out.” So Myra and Gabe took the leap and travelled to New Jersey where their “Human” was born. They recorded the title track “Human,” and “The One” with the help of John’s piano work and the studio assistance of Stan Chan. The three other songs, “Runaways,” “Who Am I,” and “Free” had been previously recorded in Portland, but had to be remixed and remastered to match up to their evolved sound.
Persistence paid off. Stereo RV has a beautiful and professional product in “Human.” It must be an amazing feeling to finally have it in their hands. And you, dear reader will have the chance to experience them live this Saturday, April 8th at 8pm at 1859 Cider Co at their EP release party. Also performing will be Joe Kye from Portland. Kye is a Korean born singer/composer/violinist-looper who has already received critical acclaim in his short career. From this new and exciting venue to the standout performances – this will be an exceptional night of music in Salem.
After “Human’s” release on April 7th, it will be available online on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and other places you get the music. Please see the links below and check out another side of Salem’s music scene.