Janet Feder on the $100 Guitar Project
When guitarists Nick Didkovsky and Chuck O'Meara bought a $100 guitar, they came up with the idea for their $100 Guitar Project: They hit up a dozens of their guitar-playing friends and asked them to write and record a short piece of a song. They each had a week to come up with their part, and then they'd send it on to the next player. Over the course of two years, the guitar traveled over 30,000 miles across the United States and Europe into the hands of 65 guitarists, including, among other players, Wilco's Nels Cline, Testament's Alex Skolnick, Fred Frith and Colorado's own Janet Feder and Bill Sharp.
All of the players agreed to donate their royalties from the two-disc album, which was recently released on Bridge Records, to CARE, an organization fighting global poverty. Shawn Persinger, one of the guitarists on the album, told Feder about the project and encouraged her contact O'Meara and Didkovsky.
"My approach to writing for the $100 Guitar was definitely colored by three things," Feder explains. "First, I was challenged to create on a guitar that some very wonderful players had already had their way with. I had to try hard not to think about that. It would have been paralyzing to wonder how my piece would stack up to everyone else's."
Because of her schedule at the time, Feder says that by the time the guitar arrived in Colorado, she only about a twelve-hour day to write and record her track, "The Wind that Brought the Fire." Because she composes around concepts that are like postcards, where there's a visual image with a narrative or description, she says surrendered to the story of where she was.
The song, she says, "is about being at Bill Sharp's home above Horsetooth Reservoir a few weeks after the fires had burned through those mountains, about the charred land surrounding his home up to his front door that now sprouted new bright green growth, about the beautiful breeze blowing the day I was there to meet, write and record something on this traveling guitar, a breeze exactly like the one that had brought the inferno.
"Bill told me stories about what had happened at that time," she recalls, "and about being evacuated. I imagined it happening to me, and thought about what it must have felt like to have to move from home and then not know for a period of time what was left standing and what might be gone forever."
While Feder says she's played all sorts of guitars, the humble cheapness of this particular electric guitar wasn't really an issue. "It played nicely," she notes. "It's small and red, and once I got used to seeing all of the signatures on it, I started to feel like I was really among friends. I hadn't followed all of the Facebook postings, so I didn't know who all was involved. I loved seeing signatures of people I know and many who I haven't seen for a long time on this guitar I was holding."
Feder says it's the element and the scope of the people involved that makes the project cool and beautiful, adding it's like a big party for guitar players. "I love how this album is like a snapshot in time of a great cross-section of guitar players," Feder concludes. "I'm so deeply honored to be a part of it."