Over a montage of murals, photos and videos centered around the fight for racial justice, more than 40 local Austin artists performed the song ‘Walk with Me Austin’ on a YouTube livestream on Sept. 24.
The idea for the song came when more than 20 musicians with ties to Louisville, Kentucky, created “Lift Up Louisville,” a song meant to inspire the people of Louisville and benefit the One Louisville COVID-19 Response Fund. The song aims to unite Austin against racial injustice with lyrics like, ‘We will rise in this together if you walk with me.’
In early June, Adler asked Adrian Quesada, an Grammy-award-winning musician, composer and producer, to take charge of the project. Quesada contacted various Austin-based artists, gave them a basic instrumental demo and asked them to help write what would eventually become the song, “Walk With Me Austin.”
“Walk With Me Austin” profits benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, an organization that works toward giving Austin’s low-income musicians access to affordable health care. The nationwide initiative was taken up by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts.
"In Austin, people are struggling, and venues are dying,” said Gina Chavez, a singer-songwriter and UT alumna who collaborated on the song. “It is going to be a different landscape, and we need to support our creatives.
Chavez, who was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award Sept. 29, said it has been difficult for musicians in Austin to not perform at gigs.
“I love being around people,” Chavez said. “They give me energy, and they inspire me.”
The song was written by nine artists, including Blackillac and Kelsey Wilson, and features the vocals and instruments of more than 45 different artists. It was composed, produced and mixed by Quesada, with additional help from Tee Double, Abhi the Nomad and DJ Orion.
“I tried my best to have a good cross selection of Austin music, with gender balance, racial diversity and multiple genres and generations,” Quesada said.
Quesada said he gave the artists creative freedom but wanted to make sure that the song had a message of unity, hope and diversity. He also wanted the song to discuss systemic racism.
After months of writing and composing, Quesada asked each artist to go to his studio in Austin to separately record their part on the track. All the vocals and instruments were then pieced and edited together.
Terrany Johnson, also known by his stage name, Tee-Double, was featured on the song, and he helped write and produce it.
“The process was really everyone putting into it what they felt in their hearts and minds at the time,” Johnson said. “We let the music guide our artistry.”
Johnson said he and other artists use music as a coping mechanism.
“Music teaches us how to take a breath, especially with this song, and just listen,” Johnson said. “No talking, no arguing, just listening as one body: Austin.”