Coming Together on Mercy Street

Musicians Jason Hann, Brian Chapman, Greg Hyatt and Matt Rodhe collaborated from their home studios to create this multilayered, flawlessly beautiful cover of Peter Gabriel’s song “Mercy Street.” Hann used his newly honed editing skills to create what he calls a “quarantine video” of the project.

Musicians and longtime friends Jason Hann and Brian Chapman planned for years to collaborate on a new music project—the duo were in a band together in the 1990s and have separate careers in the music industry—but there was never time, until now.  The collaboration came together during the coronavirus crisis, and not with the musicians sitting down in the same studio to jam and record, but instead performing separately in their home studios to create a multi-layered and flawless cover of Peter Gabriel’s 1986 ballad “Mercy Street.”

Musicians Jason Hann, Brian Chapman, Greg Hyatt and Matt Rodhe collaborated from their home studios to create this multilayered, flawlessly beautiful cover of Peter Gabriel’s song “Mercy Street.” Hann used his newly honed editing skills to create what he calls a “quarantine video” of the project.

“It was fun to put together,” Hann told the Messenger Mountain News. “It was a way of making the most of COVID-19 stay-at-home time. We recorded video and audio in our homes and gathered it all to put this together.”

Hann explained that Gabriel has long been one of his favorite artists. He chose “Mercy Street,” a ballad inspired by the life of the troubled, brilliant Pulitzer prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, for the group project. 

“I picked the song out of pure love for it,” he said. This was a way to find something creative that we could do together.”

Hann reached out to bass player Greg Hyatt, who was also in the band Zoo People with Hann and Chapman in the 1990s, and to synth musician Matt Rohde, who has collaborated with Hann since the late 1990s.

“I wanted to do a more percussion oriented arrangement of this beautiful song,” Hann said. Hann mapped out the percussion, using a mix of culturally diverse instruments to create a rhythm template. “It had to be true to the song, a song will tell you what to do if you listen,” he said.

“I played the wonderful Sabar drums from Senegal as the base rhythm texture,” he said. “Hearing them played in a large ensemble is what inspired that stacked sound.”

Hann added West African djembe and South American cajon to the mix, and creaed a percussion break in the heart of the ballad. Once the percussion template was complete, Hann sent the recording to Chapman, who began creating multilayered vocals backed by guitar and synth at his Topanga home. 

“Brian created angel vocals,” Hann said. “It sounded great.” 

The tracks then went to Greg Hyatt in Oregon, who contributed fretted and fretless bass. 

Back in L.A., Matt Rodhe added the final layers on synthesizer. Then it was up to Hann to mix the recording and edit together the video each musician created of themselves performing each track.

“It’s been so rewarding to get this done, to take the time to do it,” Hann said. “When you make time for creativity good things come to you. Everything came together.”

The project not only came together, it brought four friends together remotely to create something beautiful and enduring.

Hann is already working to develop the group’s next quarantine video project. “I’m already diving in,” he said.

Suzanne Guldimann
Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at suzanne@messengermountainnews.com

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