A Mercer University professor recently found herself outside the classroom and inside a recording studio.
Dr. Charlotte Thomas, professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was in Historic Studio A at Mercer Music at Capricorn, putting the final touches on recordings started before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sitting in the isolation both, she crooned into the microphone the lyrics to “Ghost,” a sorrowful song she wrote about heartbreak.
Listening back to the song in the control room, Capricorn Sound Studios Chief Engineer Rob Evans suggested the song needed a little bit different guitar texture. Dr. Thomas borrowed a guitar and went back in the booth to record the track.
“I have dealt with loss in my life and frustration, and one of the ways that I manage that is through song writing,” she said, noting not all songs are as sad as “Ghost.” “Writing songs and singing them just helps me work through it, process it, make sense of all that.”
Dr. Thomas, along with Dr. Andrew Silver, the Page Morton Hunter Professor of English, co-founded an Americana band called blueskyblue with five other members of the Macon community — Bray Carr, Erica Carr, Roger Hill, Aaron Rubenstein and Nina Talon. “Ghost” is just one of the songs the band recorded at the storied sound studios.
“Capricorn takes this deeply nostalgic place where so much legendary music got made, and it weds that memory to state-of-the-art recording equipment,” Dr. Silver said. “So it’s like having one foot in the 1970s and one foot in 2021.”
Dr. Thomas and Dr. Silver write and sing most of the music for the band. Dr. Silver started writing music when he was a teenager, after his mother died of metastatic breast cancer.
“The music itself is healing, but when I play it with my sister-in-music, Charlie Thomas, one of the closest friends I’ve ever had, and then we get to play that music with another five close friends, it’s community, it’s church, it’s therapy, it’s family and it’s joy,” Dr. Silver said. “Music shapes the chaos and pain of our lives into something inexpressibly beautiful.
“There’s power in that beauty — power over the chaos and pain.”
While blueskyblue has been together about five years, Dr. Silver and Dr. Thomas started playing together long before that — to an audience of children at their kids’ Montessori school.
“At Montessori of Macon, the parents do volunteer hours; it’s just part of the culture,” Dr. Thomas said. “And Andy realized that if he went in and played songs for the kids, that worked as his volunteer hours, and so he asked me if I wanted to come do children’s songs with him.”
Soon, they also were playing with a Montessori teacher and two other Montessori parents, and their first band, Good Country People, formed. Eventually, they started playing for an adult audience.
But playing for children had its perks.
“They literally like everything,” Dr. Silver said. “Any reserve I had about playing in front of people went away because kids are the most generous audience in the world.”
As the band evolved into blueskyblue, the musicians started playing every Sunday night at Dr. Thomas’ house. Then, Wednesday and Sunday nights. They also had regular gigs at Macon venues like Grant’s Lounge and The Society Garden.
In January 2020, fans voted blueskyblue the winner of Bragg Jamuary, a battle-of-the-bands-style competition featuring local music acts in three weeks of preliminary competition, followed by a grand finale showcase. The prize was the opportunity to play on the Hargray Capitol Theatre stage during that year’s Bragg Jam Concert Crawl.
Then, the pandemic happened. As the world shut down, so did live music.
“We’re really hoping Bragg Jam will be back this summer and that they’ll let us play on the main stage because we were all really looking forward to it,” Dr. Thomas said.
The pandemic also stalled the band’s recording at Capricorn.
“I was mixing with Rob in March of 2020, and we had to call if off when quarantine started happening,” Dr. Thomas said. “So everything was sort of left almost finished for a year.”
Now, that work is almost complete, and the first song, “Ghost,” will be released as a video soon.