In a perfect musical world, I see no need for copyrights. Nobody owns a C chord. Nobody can put monetary value on lyrics, or a melody, or harmonic structure. Musicians do not sell out to the people offering the most money, and artists do not copy each other. Their original work is treated as such by those who appreciate it, whether by listening or playing.
Music is about collaboration. The value of the art is dependent on how the creator has invested themselves into their work. This is where true originality is in music, not created by a copyright or other legal rights. I cannot begin to experience the same emotions and thoughts that Townes Van Zandt felt when he wrote “Waitin’ Around to Die,” I cannot imagine the pain Eric Clapton felt when writing “Tears In Heaven.” I can only sing and play these songs from my view and my emotions. This is the beauty of collaboration and what music truly is when not perverted by money and the longing for power and fame.
Andru Bemis is, in a sense, a perfect musician in an imperfect musical world. A New Mexico native who was raised in Michigan, Andru Bemis has devoted his life to music. His style is simple, but his music is more intimate than that of any musician in his genre. Writing and playing primarily in the folk and old-time traditional styles, Andru Bemis travels almost exclusively by rail, playing small venues and house concerts and tuning neglected pianos.
I have seen Andru Bemis in concert on five different occasions. He always had something new to bring to the stage. His beautiful renditions of long forgotten traditional songs like “In A Little While We’re Going Home” and “Hard Times,” shed light on the past that illuminates the present. His high, piercing tenor voice chills the room, especially in songs like “Stephen” and “Beulah.” His outstanding banjo skills, along with his guitar, traditional style of fiddling, and the occasional banjulele and piano all give new life to the old songs he plays.
While Andru Bemis is known for reviving long-forgotten traditional songs and tunes primarily from his album “Rail to Reel,” he is also a talented writer. Songs such as “This Old World,” recorded with Elisabeth Pixley-Fink on “Say Yes to Yourself,” and “Nobody,” also a collaboration with Pixley-Fink from the same recording, show deep influence from traditional styles of music, telling of the troubles on Earth and hoping for whatever may come next.
Bemis is an intimate songwriter. He is not afraid to put a part of himself into his work. In “Nobody,” Bemis takes what seems to be utter hopelessness and accepts it, but only as temporary. He writes in the chorus “I’m waiting on the day no body to tie me down. I’m waiting on the day nobody gonna keep me down.”
This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. He perfectly describes the feelings of despair and weariness, to the point that all that is left is a strange sense of hope. Accompanied by guitar and piano, Bemis and Pixley-Fink pour all they are into this song. The song shows such a longing for something more than we have here.
Bemis helps to create something new in this world with his music. Through his desire to heal with music and tell stories through song, he has waived any copyright or related rights to his original lyrics and music. Anything he writes goes directly to public domain. To create a more collaborative culture independent of what industry has turned music into, Bemis encourages us to adapt his work and record, perform, and distribute it from our own stories.
With his love of music and people, Andru Bemis brings healing and hope wherever he goes.