A yellow chair. Deep set with high arms. Music in the background. Nothing complete. There is a huddle around the computer and soundboard. Trying to get it just so. Not perfect. For there is no perfect. Music is subjective like that. It’s a particular sound you listen for. Something that fits. Something that sounds, in a way, perfect; but perfection isn’t in the realm of possibility because there are no definitive perimeters for that. And that’s how it should be. Music isn’t perfect. It’s just so, and that’s why it, the music that strives toward such perfect imperfection, is worth listening to.
Today, January 28, 2017 is the first session back in Red Tree Studio without Kevin Copeland. The man. The minister. The fan. The friend.
My connection with Kevin was brief. The first time I met him was in Conroe about five or six years ago as part of a homeless outreach ministry. And then a musical miracle took place with my cousin Stephen McDonald’s band, Silvertrip. The band had long been disbanded, but somehow—a long story I feel no requirement to tell—has been revived for a final album that is being turned into a documentary. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why Kevin was here.
The prior session, approximately four months ago, Kevin was here, holding a camera, listening to every part, soaking in every beat and riff, and enjoying his favorite pastime: rock. It’s a volunteer basis involvement with this documentary, but the music is so good there are really no reasons to not be involved.
As much as today is about continuing the project, it is about remembering Kevin in a way that he would most want to be remembered: through the creation of music. During the sessions, he would be lost in his own world within the world that surrounded him with melodies that violently jumped and turned and escalated to peaks and lows that weren’t perfect, but were just so. They were moments within the creative process that caused you to listen just a little more intently and focus more on exactly how what was created had been created. The explanations and the rewrites of how point B got from point A and then would circle back around to point D. It’s been a journey that is ongoing and enjoyable. I don’t know how my cousin and the rest of the musicians, Mickey Alaniz, Mark Abdo, and Brian Herron, do it, but it’s one of those masterful moments where you watch in slight amazement and complete respect.
I think that’s why Kevin enjoyed it so much too. There were things we couldn’t put our fingers on, and we would think that what had happened was perfection. That it had to be. But really, it was just so. It’s part of the creative process of reaching a moment you look back on and say, “Yeah. Let’s keep that. I like that a lot.”
There aren’t any perfect albums. There aren’t any perfect musicians or producers. But there are great ones. There are those who earn your respect and awe. There are those who deserve to be viewed as masters of their craft.
Kevin was one of those musicians. But his instrument was one that few have really pursued to learn. It isn’t one that you just pick up and become good at over the course of a few months or a few years. It takes a lifetime, because that’s what it is: life. He somehow was able to compose those notes and beats and riffs just so. He had fine-tuned the strings on his heart to play, not perfect music, but music that left you in awe. Music that made you realize you were in the presence of greatness. A true master of the craft.
Kevin died between these two sessions.
Cancer. What other words are there to explain the death of a man, a minister, a fan, a friend? There isn’t much else to say about that fight. We all know the winner in those battles from a flesh and blood sense, and it is rarely the flesh and blood that triumphs. The doctors told him there was nothing to be done against the resurgence of this disease. It was aggressive. It was angry from its initial defeat. And now, it was over. The best that could be done, the doctors explained, was to go home and die.
Kevin didn’t see it like that. He was going home to live. To compose his final piece.
Heaven awaited the man, the minister, the fan, the friend with a heart of gold. The one who cared nothing for legalism of religion, but was drawn so intimately by the heart of Christianity: love, compassion, forbearance, understanding, grace, mercy, forgiveness. Paul said it best that “to live is Christ, but to die is gain.”
So here we are amidst the perfectly imperfect sound of music. The music that is just so. And here we are inside various parts of this studio, reflecting on the music made and being made. And reflecting on the life of Kevin Copeland, the greatest musician most of us will ever encounter. And just as the music here continues to reverberate loudly in our ears, Kevin’s music reverberates all the more loudly where it rings the most true: in our hearts.
His music wasn’t perfect music, and he would never have suggested otherwise. It was merely a sound that was just so. A tune definitely worth listening to.
We love you, Kevin, and we miss you. Your music will play on.