The making of the video for 'A Soul Can't Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane.'
The 60 year old me did not envision the 61 year old me making a music video, but make a video I did. Well, that’s not quite true. While I wrote the song on which the video is based, the video was conceived and created by Bobby Lee Messer and Doug Imbrogno of AMP Media. You can visit them here: https://ampmediaproject.com/2021/12/01/about/
As production on the album was wrapping up, producer Ron Sowell suggested that a video or two could be valuable in helping promote the project. Ron knew Bobby Lee and Doug’s work for years and brought the four of us together for some conversations. After our first meeting my head was spinning. As I did several times during the production of the album, I called Ron in a panic, “man, I’m not sure about this.” Ron assured me things would work out well—something he did many times over the several months of recording.
We decided that the first site to film would be at the Haymond Cemetery in Braxton County, WV. While ‘A Soul Can’t Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane’ was informed by many scenes in West Virginia, it was this little cemetery that sat a stone’s throw from interstate 79 that ultimately compelled me to write the song. While I had accessed the cemetery by parking on the interstate berm—not a very secure place to park—and crossing the four lanes of traffic, dropping down into a roadside ditch, then crossing a fence, I decided that we’d be wise to access the cemetery as they did in the old days—from down on what was the family land.
On the day we were to meet, I drove down a bit early and knocked on the door of a home that I had been told was home to the land owner. In short order a kind elderly woman came to the door. Not wanting to cause her any anxiety about a stranger, I said there was no need to open the screen door, then dropped the name of a friend of mine who grew up just a short distance away from her, and told her that I was seeking permission to cross her land and go up to the cemetery. Permission secured, I drove back to the interstate exit to wait for Bobby Lee and Doug.
Once back at the property, we exited our cars and Bobby Lee said, “where’s the cemetery? “ As I pointed out the quarter-mile route we’d be taking across the field, onto the railroad tracks, across a small trestle, then up an overgrown path that led to the hillside cemetery, Bobby Lee looked at me, looked at the loads of camera equipment in the back of his car, then gave a little, “ummm.” We loaded up everything we could carry and made the trek up to the cemetery. Once there Bobby Lee’s doubts turned to excitement and he quickly began laying out the scenes and shots he wanted to capture for the video. Doug found a nice tree to settle under, then promptly had a seat and enjoyed a cigar while occasionally providing some creative input for scenes.
For the next few hours it was Bobby Lee giving me directions such as these: “Chris....I am going to be here with the camera. You are going to start over there and walk toward me while the song plays from the Bluetooth speaker that will be hanging off the back of your pants. Look at the camera, walk as smoothly as possible, be animated in your singing, but be sure to be right on the beat, don’t trip, and don’t stop doing anything until I say so.” Sometimes the footage was captured with a drone camera. When the drone was coming at me it was akin to singing to a large flying bug...trying to keep a straight face while the thing whizzed around my head.
Once we lost the good light from the sun, we called it a day and headed back to the car. By this point the daughter of the nice woman who granted us permission had arrived on the scene. She looked with both suspicion and puzzlement at the three of us lugging equipment back across the field toward the house. We talked in the driveway, I again dropped the name of the friend we had in common, then I gave her a copy of the CD and thank her for allowing us to invade their property.
Over the course of the next several weeks we repeated the process in different locations—Morgantown, WV, Mt. Morris, PA, Point Pleasant, WV, Charleston, WV, and Hurricane, WV.
Bobby Lee, patient as ever, took critique from Ron, Doug, and me on several “final versions” of the video, even going back out and capturing more footage we felt was missing.
At one point I reached out to folks in Braxton County via a Facebook page that focused on old family photographs from the area. I made no references to any particular location, but rather just said I was working on a music video and was looking for photographs of pre-Interstate 79 landscapes in Braxton County. Believe it or not, the first person to respond sent a photograph of her family’s land—the very land which held the Haymond Cemetery. I immediately followed up with her on Facebook and we both were amazed at the coincidence. She encouraged me to share the song and video on the Facebook page as she thought folks would get it as so many had farms cut through by the interstate. Post it I did, and dozens of people chimed in with their thoughts about their family cemeteries, farms, and on a few occasions, the very cemetery from the opening/closing of the video.
I’d be remiss to not compliment Bobby Lee, Doug, and of course, Ron, for their standard of professionalism, and enthusiasm for this video project. As I understand it, we'll be working up the story board for the next video before too long!