Part of a very busy in-person July has been bringing Justin Haefner, one of my longtime guitar students, into the studio to record one of his songs for a very special project in his horse training business. In addition to being a fine young guitarist and songwriter, he is a gifted horse trainer.
Justin is participating in a rather amazing equine rescue project, the Appalachian Trainer Face Off. These horses are all untrained and most are feral by all practical measures. The trainers get 100 days to get them trained so that they might be adopted to a forever home. The end of the competition they show their horses and hopefully each horse goes home with a new owner. The trainers put in the work to build the rapport with the horses, and develop the routines for the contest.
Justin's horse Scotty is spirited to say the least - with a fight or flight reflex that could easily get someone killed. I never doubted Justin would find a way to get through to him, but it sure hasn't been easy. Rather than using someone else's music for their ring routine, Justin decided to write a song telling their story. Over the last few weeks, we've Zoomed chords and lyric writing sessions back and forth, fussing over the details even as the outcome of the story remained very much in limbo!
Friday we went into my "office" at Cabin Studios with my trusted engineer and friend Dustin Delage to record the song, even as we were still polishing the lyrics and melody. With my old bandmate Lisa Taylor on drums and Wayne Estes (founder of The Catoctin School of Music) on bass, we laid down the basic tracks and a song was born.
While I am always thrilled when one of my students has the opportunity to basically do a college capstone seminar - from the song idea to the finished product is an incredible learning experience - what gives me the most joy is helping Justin bring their story to the world, especially to the audience that will see them work together in person in West Virginia in just a couple weeks. It's a fine song, and while a few lyrics will tug on some tear ducts, the chorus will still be rolling in your ears long after.
After the competition we'll share the song in a separate post, perhaps even with some video. I encourage you to follow Justin Haefner here and read his thoughtful and eloquent blogs about the project on FB, or in The Chronicle Of The Horse.
And yeah, I'm a lucky dude who gets to do some really cool and eclectic stuff as part of my life's work.