Godfather of Green: Danny Mullikin of Tuatha Dea on the Green Album

Green Album cover

Last year, in one of the greatest bits of synchronicity I’ve ever been part of, the band Tuatha Dea released Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae, an album based on and inspired by my first three Tufa novels. I was also lucky enough to appear at four different events with them, to be featured (briefly) in their video for “Wisp of a Thing,” and to be there when they saw the final cut of the video for “The Hum and the Shiver.”

Now they’ve spearheaded and released The Green Album, a collection of all-new tracks by fourteen of the best New Age, Celtic and Pagan-themed performers around: Ginger Doss, Wendy Rule, SJ Tucker, Bekah Kelso, Tuatha Dea, Damh The Bard, Celia Farran, Kellianna, Mama Gina, Brian Henke, Spiral Dance, Sharon Knight, Murphey’s Midnight Rounders and Spiral Rhythm. 

Twenty-five percent of all proceeds from all 14 artists go to the Rainforest Trust. According to Danny Mullikin, leader of Tuatha Dea and spearhead of the project, “We just made our first donation to Rainforest Trust, and according to our current RF liaison, the proceeds from just our first three show dates at the Caldera Festival will be used to purchase 1,817 acres of the Balanga Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Danny was kind enough to answer some more in-depth questions about the project.

Danny Mullikin

Danny Mullikin

1) How did you choose the Rainforest Trust as the beneficiary? What has their response been?

The idea hit me a couple of years back after we had finished up The Tribe CD and we were honored by guest musical appearances from some incredibly talented artists from all over. I remember thinking what an amazing community of musicians we were working in and how we had the platform to do something on a whole so much broader than it’s parts. I began sharing the idea with some of the artists we already had relationships with like Wendy Rule, SJ Tucker, Brad Murphey and Sharon Knight. The response was enthusiastic enough to let me know we were on to something.

We knew from the start what out theme was. After all, it’s a universal topic that concerns everyone. We knew we wanted it to be more than a musical celebration of our planet and we wanted to walk what we were talking (or singing) and really give something back.

We needed a partnership and somewhere we could put the fruits of the labor that would effectively create change. A lot of research was conducted by various Green Album artists and eventually we narrowed our sights down to three that met the criteria we were looking for. However, Rainforest Trust really hit the mark for us. It is an organization that takes direct action by identifying trouble spots and simply purchasing the land, saving both the environment and the species that live within it. But they go further by establish the land as Conservatory and thereby creating jobs for locals and much more. Their mission and directives reflected our goals and philosophies so entirely it was a no brainer.

2) How did you approach sequencing the tracks on the album?

The main difficulty was my own apprehension regarding getting it right and being responsible for the order and placement of 13 other amazing artist’s songs, all of which were phenomenal. The different styles and directions the artists pursued would normally be a concern but in the case of The Green Album this simply did not apply. There was a creative flow that occurred organically that made the project come together.

Ginger Doss

Ginger Doss

I listened to everyone’s song over and over again in various orders, listening for how one piece moved to the next, and the order created itself to some extent. From the moment I heard Ginger Doss’ “Gaea Lives,” I knew it was the opening track. It perfectly set the stage for the album and solidified the message of everything that followed. Spiral Rhythm’s solid groove in “Help It Grow” was the definitive last word and had to be the closer, bringing the album full circle.

Spiral Rhythm

Spiral Rhythm

When I finished the proposed order I sent it out to all the artists and received a resounding and unanimous thumbs up. That was it. I simply followed the groove, feel, vibe and flow and feel like I lucked up and got it right.

3) What was it like premiering the album at Caldera Fest?

That was amazing! The universe really was at work. David Banash had been putting Caldera together for a while and we were scheduled to be there. We were working on The Green Album and 12 of the 14 artists were also on Caldera’s list. I contacted David about it and he graciously and enthusiastically gave The Green Album Caldera’s 30th and final slot. I knew the musicians were going to be awesome and was very familiar with all the music long before we arrived at Caldera and knew every song was off the hook, but the feeling of everyone coming together in such an unprecedented fashion and in a way that will probably never happen again…so perfectly and in such a spirit of unity…it defies description.

 

Caldera Festival

Caldera Festival

Each artist took the stage performing their contribution (some for the first time) and each honored one another by inviting other Green Album artists to play in. It was the most amazing and harmonious thing I’ve ever been part of. We closed out the Green Album concert with our song “Green,” and almost all of the Green Album artists present took the stage with us and played and sang along as hundreds of green glow sticks wavered in the air above the audience. It was our very own “We Are The World” moment. (laughs). The closing culminated in hugs, love and tears of joy. For us it was absolute utopia.

4) What artist(s) did you want to have participate that you couldn’t get?

There truly wasn’t anyone we asked who said no. Everyone jumped right in and no one invited declined. In fact, they all went above and beyond in creating this project and for the record we are all continuing to actively work together to spread the word.

Once the word got out about The Green Album and the philosophy and idea behind it, we were contacted by so many amazing artists who wanted to be a part and add their voices to the message. Unfortunately, a CD length is maxed out at 78 minutes and we had to stop at 14 artists to make sure we hit the mark. We considered going for a double album at one point but as we we’re self financing the project it simply wasn’t feasible.

There are so many incredible artists who volunteered that we could not fit onto the CD and I want to tell them all (you know who you are) how thankful we were for your musical offering of love! We missed you.

5) How did you decide on Tuatha Dea’s song contribution?

All the music on The Green Album is new. Either the artists created the music specifically for this album, or it was something in the “green” theme they had never recorded or released before.

In our case, “Green” was written specifically for The Green Album. This song was put together in a totally different way than anything we’ve written before and is a bit outside the box for Tuatha Dea. For a Tuatha Dea song, it was created entirely backwards. I had had the basic guitar part for the verses for a while. Music has a way of creating itself sometimes, and by the very nature of a piece it can carry you in a direction.

Tuatha Dea

Tuatha Dea

I knew the song was “Green” before any other parts were established. It felt green. It was purposefully built from there in movements: transferring from minor key progressions to major with hopes of establishing both a melancholy vibe for what would later become the darker verses, and a sense of growing hope in it’s conclusion. The whole piece was written in D-A-D-G-A-D (Same as “Long Black Curl”) so hopefully the Appalachian, Celtic feel would seep through.

I paired off with the individuals in the group independently and each created their parts with the theme in mind but without any interaction with one another. Adam first created the secondary guitar establishing strong accents in the verses, reinforcing the choruses and trying to recreate the seasons in each of the four parts of the bridge. Tesea created her base part with a series of melodic flows rather than simple rhythm in mind. Then came Chantal Haskell, who recognized the message of the movements through violin before words were ever put to paper. Chris and Chantal worked together and alone to create the exchange between violin and penny whistle and finally the lyrics were born. I was trying to capture a sense of constrained aggravation and even anger about the circumstances of the earth and paint a sarcastic darker picture pertaining to our responsibilities, then pull things up by the boot straps by expressing a sense of hope through unity in the end. Becca and Kathy really nailed them down when they brought their down home bluegrass style harmonies into the mix.

Then finally…we threw all the parts together and Thus “Green” . Oh yeah…I mentioned it was written backwards. The last thing we did was add the drums. Certainly not typical of what we do. This may be the most organic piece of music we ever created. And isn’t that fitting.

The Green Album is available for purchase here.

One Comment on “Godfather of Green: Danny Mullikin of Tuatha Dea on the Green Album”

  1. Great interview Alex!
    You may just have some talent and future as a writer…. 🙂
    Too bad it didn’t work out for me to play your hometown library this Summer or you making it to Summerland Spirit Festival.
    I would love to have met the writer who’s written so much that I love!

    Brian Henke

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