Recently, Sound Off for Vets organizer was interviewed by the blog Peverett Phile about this concert series.
Peverett Phile: Hello, Chris, welcome back to the Phile. So, how have you been?
Chris Nelson: I’ve been recovering from the flu, but other than that, I’m okay.
PPh: Since you were here I have had Tish Meeks from 3 Kisses back on the Phile. She’s the one who introduced me to you. Have you heard from her recently?
CN: I’ve followed her postings on Facebook, but I haven’t really communicated with her much. She moved up to Alaska, but I think she wants to move back. I understand she’s working on a new band or project or something. I’ll have to go read the interview on the Phile.
PPh: You’re based in Pennsylvania, right? My wife is from the Mechanicsburg area. What part of Pennsylvania are you from?
CN: Lebanon, which is about 30 miles to the east of Mechanicsburg.
PPh: Do you still live there, Chris?
CN: This will be my home for quite a while, I’m sure.
PPh: Last time you were here you were plugging your The Invisible Man CD. Have you been working on any new music?
CN: I’ve been doing a lot of writing and I have enough material for a new album, but it may be a while until I record anything. I’m currently working on putting together a complilation of recordings that I made from 1986 to 2005. I’ve gone back into the archives and have been remixing, retooling, and in some cases, re-recording portions of these tracks for the release. I’m about three fourths of the way through it. It will be called Fish Stories: 1986-2005 and I hope to have it done around the end of the year. I’d also like to mention that “In Praise Of Failure”, a song from The Invisible Man was recognized as one of the top five songs of 2011 by DAMES of PA.
PPh: Nice, well done. Okay, let’s talk about Sound Off For Vets. For those that don’t know, explain what that is.
CN: Sound Off for Vets is a free benefit concert put on by local musicians in support of the Wounded Warrior Project. We sell raffle tickets on prizes that have been contributed by community members, clubs, and businesses and we also have some items that sell to raise additional money. There’s a ‘tip jar’ that we have placed near the stage area and two more that are located around the concert site where people can put in whatever they want to. Basically, it’s an outdoor party to entice people into making a contribution while giving them something to listen to.
PPh: The last benefit Sound Off For Vets was on Nov, 11th, 2011. How much did you raise, Chris?
CN: About $1,111 before expenses were paid.
PPh: That’s a helluva coincidence. You must’ve been surprised and slightly suspicious that was the amount you arranged. Am I right?
CN: Well, that whole event was a surprise. My friend Ric Albano… who has a thing about numbers… knew the guy who owns Champions Sports Bar and Grill in Highspire, where the event was held. The idea was to do something special for Veterans’ Day. I was supposed to play, but I had to back out at the last minute. They drew quite a crowd, from what I heard. They also got a lot of clothing donations to go to the YWCA’s homeless veterans program. I’d say it was a huge success, overall.
PPh: What exactly is the Wounded Warriors Project, Chris?
CN: WWP assists those combat-wounded veterans from the recent conflicts to deal with their disabilities. Sometimes its helping with overcoming physical disability, other times it’s mental health counseling for deailing with the stress of living in a combat environment, some need assistance with job training and placement. There’s a lot of services that they provide our wounded veterans. They have a complex near Jacksonville, Florida where they do most of their training and counseling.
PPh: How did you come to be a part of all this? You founded Sound Off For Vets, right?
CN: Yes. It all started when I was sent to cover a military funeral of an Army Lieutenant out of the Scranton area when I worked for the Pennsylvania Office of Veterans Affairs. He was a victim of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. As I spoke with those who know him, I found out that he had been a musician and also played all the instruments on his records, although he perferred jazz. The point was, this could have been me a few years ago when I was still in the service. I had wanted to do something to give back to the military ever since I retired, but I didn’t know what I could do. After the funeral experience, I really felt motivated to do something and started to explore different options. A friend of mine from Pittsburgh began organizing his “Pennsylvania Hero Walk” where a group of people walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh over the course of a few months to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. I’ve always wanted to do something like this with my music, since it’s something I’m quite passionate about. I decided to make Sound Off an extension of the PA Hero Walk in 2010 and planned to hold it during the week when they were passing through Harrisburg. We held it on the deck of the Pride of the Susquehanna riverboat overlooking the shore. We drew a pretty good size crowd for a Thursday. The following year, we decided to hold it during Armed Forces Day, since it sort of fit with that theme. We raised close to $500 that day.
PPh: Were you in the military at all?
CN: Yes, I was in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2004 and retired as an E-7 after 21 years.
PPh: So, how is this years event different from the last one, Chris?
CN: It’s a little shorter since we have to clear out for the Harrisburg Senators baseball game scheduled for later that evening. Everything will have to be done by 4 pm to give time for the Army helicopters to take off. We will, however, be occupying the main stage, so we will be able to get more people’s attention that way. This year, we’re located in the center of all the activity. In years past, we were near the riverfront area. People didn’t always know about us since the acoustics there swallow up the sound.
PPh: Will it be at the same place?
CN: Yes, on City Island in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
PPh: So, why do another one so soon after the last event?
CN: The actual Sound Off for Vets happens every Spring. The first one was June 2010 and last year, we did it in May of 2011. The November event, Sound Off for Veterans Day was a special event for the year. Ric was intrigued by the 11.11.11 date and wanted to do something special. I haven’t heard from him about if there will be another one for this Veterans Day.
PPh: Hey, maybe one year you can have Foghat play there… or not. LOL. How often are you gonna be doing these benefits, Chris?
CN: Is Foghat still around?
PPh: Yeah, believe it or not.
CN: I am trying to make this a recognized annual event that will be associated with the city of Harrisburg. Even after all our troops are back home from overseas, many of them are going to be needing assistance with their injuries for years to come… in some cases, for the rest of their lives. We can’t forget the sacrifices these people have made. I’m glad we have organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project to help.
PPh: Who are some of the bands and acts who will be performing there this year with you this time? If any of them would like to be on the Phile, please let me know. I’d love to have them.
CN: I’ll pass along your information to them. We currently have Rhyne McCormick, Shift Seven, and Michael Anthony Smith and the Dirty, Thieving Gypsies… and me. Mike Smith and Shift Seven have played here before; in fact, Shift Seven was one of the bands in the first show. This year, all the acts have strong military connections. Rhyne McCormick and myself are both U.S. Air Force veterans and both Michael Anthony Smith and Shift Seven have relatives in the military.
PPh: Chris, so, what’s next for you?
CN: Besides working on the retrospective album I mentioned earlier, I’m also going to be publishing my first science fiction novel on Amazon in a few weeks. I also plan to start recording, but I’m not sure when that will happen yet.
PPh: Thanks for taking time out to do this interview. I know you must be busy getting everything organized, sir. Please come back soon when you are gonna do the next one, or your next album. Where can they purchase your music?
CN: Go to my website chrisnelsonband.com and click on ‘CDs.” That will take you to the CD Baby page. They’re also available through Apple iTunes, Rhapsody, and a whole bunch of other online distributors.
PPhh: All the best, good luck and maybe you can raise $5,1912. That would be way too weird, right?
CN: Weird, but in a cool sort of way! Our goal for this year is to raise $1000. If we exceed that, I will be very, very happy!
PPh: Take care and good job.
CN: Thanks for having me on your blog!
Published 04/29/12 at http://thepeverettphile.blogspot.com