“With a new solo album in the stores and spinning on radio from coast to coast, Transcendence singer-guitarist Ed Hale will jet from Vancouver, British Columbia to his current hometown of New York City for a day, then on to Cartagena, Colombia in South America, then Sao Paulo, Brazil, and then of all places Lahore, Pakistan for three days before returning home for what one assumes will be some much needed sleep.”
Recording and promoting a new album in the music world of today is a cookie-cutter process that has become as predictable as it is difficult in an ever increasingly competitive music marketplace. With the advent of home-studio recording and internet distribution over the last ten years, talent is no longer a prerequisite for “releasing an album” to the public – whether it be a band of well-to-do 13 year old suburban pre-teens who dream of becoming the next Plain White T’s, or a group of pot-bellied off-duty cops who once dreamed of being the next big thing back when Led Zeppelin were topping the charts, anyone can record a collection of songs, call it an “album” and unleash it to the unsuspecting masses. This has made the music business one fiercely competitive industry to make a living in. The steps artists are supposed to take along the way are routine: record, release, promote, and tour. There was a time way back when this process worked. The only glitch is that now there are tens of thousands of would-be next big things of all ages doing the same thing every day of the week three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.
The statistics don’t lie: over ten-thousand bands applied to perform at last year’s biggest independent music festival, South by Southwest in Austin Texas. On any given week over five thousand new CDs are released into a flooded marketplace – all expecting radio airplay and big sales. The artists, no matter how big or small, are expected to follow the same routine regardless of how difficult or futile the actions or results are. Bands tour up and down and back and forth across the country in rented vans living on peanut and butter jelly sandwiches playing for two to ten drunken stragglers in nameless, faceless bars or clubs or any venue who will have them – knowing full well that they aren’t going to make a a dime from doing it. They don’t do it for the money though. They do it because according to legend, and some crusty higher-ups, that’s just the way that you do it. Most bands expect and accept that unless they break big with a song on the radio or in a big Hollywood Blockbuster or the new iPod commercial – all highly unlikely, though still possible – that touring after they release a new album will set them even further in the hole of debt they already incurred recording their initial album. But they do it anyway. Touring, no matter how lacking in fun, profit, or glamor is supposed to at least serve to lend credibility to an emerging artist’s reputation. Or so it is said.
Recording artist Ed Hale, best known as the singer-songwriter-guitarist for the rock band Transcendence, knows the process well. Having just released his eighth studio album, the majestic acoustic pop jewel entitled Ballad On Third Avenue (the album debuted at #14 on the CMJ Most Added Chart last week), he is accustomed to being asked to jump through the usual hoops of the contemporary circus that is today’s music business. “Record, release, radio and tour man… that’s the game. But we’re playing it a bit different this time out,” the singer said over a cup of espresso after a two hour interview on Canada’s Vancouver Persian Radio Show Saturday night. The self-proclaimed “Ambassador” has been giving a lot of interviews since the June 16th release of his new solo album. And his schedule over the next six months is more jam-packed than a rental van full of scruffy-haired indie rockers on their way to Cleveland. But the topics of conversation in said interviews are remarkably different and unexpected for a singer promoting a new album – as is his tour schedule. (The Vancouver interview was based on Hale’s involvment with a side project of his, the website, and was by all accounts an activist lover’s dream – with Hale ebulliently excited about his latest infatuation – Iran – and emphatically declaring that “people from all over the planet need to come together to support this mega-revolutionary people’s movement of our Iranian brothers and sisters at this historic moment” – hardly the usual banter of top 20 college radio pop-stars).  Over the next three weeks in fact Hale will jet from British Columbia to his hometown of New York City for a day, then on to Cartagena, Colombia in South America, then Sao Paulo, Brazil, and eventually of all places to Lahore, Pakistan for three days before returning home for what one assumes will be some much needed sleep.
“If we’re lucky, by the time I get back to the States in a few weeks the album and the single will be doing well enough [on the radio] to actually warrant a real tour. That’s the goal. It’s not that I don’t want to play now. Our last show in Miami was amazing! And I would love to see that beautiful night repeated in every major city in America. Truly. Because I love doing it. But for one thing I have a ton of prior commitments. And two, we’re not going to jam into a bus or van and tour just because that’s what’s expected of us now because we have a new album out,” Hale commented. “In the meantime there are all these other opportunities that keep coming up that are just out of this world cool and awesome. And more importantly, they serve a greater good than just promoting a new album. Anyone can put out a new album and talk about it. And they do. Obviously. But spend ten days working outside in the hot sun on the equator pounding a hammer… that’s a whole different thing.” Hale is referring to the ten days he will spend in a poor area of Colombia doing construction work helping to build a local church and community center. (For all his glitter and glam rock posing, Ed Hale is surprisingly unafraid to wear his religion on his sleeve – right next to his bleeding heart and frantic soul searching, another refreshing characteristic of the singer in a world often full of pomp and posterboy pouting.) It’s an odd activity to participate in in the middle of a national PR and radio campaign for a new rock album. But like all things Ed Hale over the last eight years since Transcendence released their debut album Rise and Shine – where the band blended world music styles with modern rock while the young singer sang in some six languages, sometimes within the same song – it’s a refreshingly unique approach to a normally tried (or is that tired(?) and true process.
Between the nail pounding in Cartagena, Hale will also hold meetings with peace activists and members of local government in Bogota on behalf of the peace organization Fellowship of Reconcilliation (FOR). “Making contact and connections, letting them know we’re here for them if they need us. It’s all about building that coalition stronger and stronger so we can see this goal of real world peace happen in our lifetimes. The meetings are a formality for the most part, but they’re still important.” From there he flies to the capital of Brazil, Sao Paulo – the singer has been having a public love affair with that country and its music for years – to appear on the country’s most popular and longest running late night talk show, Programa Amaury Jr. to perform songs from his new album and a few other songs that he will sing in the country’s native Portuguese and talk about his love for Brazilian music and culture. Finally the singer will fly to the Al Queda infested metropolis of Lahore in Pakistan to film a documentary about two schools owned and operated by a non-profit American organization, A CNBC camera crew will follow Hale around for three days while he puts on his “Ambassador” persona and clowns it up while attempting to shed light on the plight of Pakistani girls if they are not enrolled in a school full time – in a nutshell: enforced slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking. “These two Americans I know have taken on this ridiculously challenging task of saving the lives of like over a hundred girls. And they’re getting nothing from it. I mean, they’re not doing it for the money obviously. This is total ‘service to others’ and I am humbled to my knees thinking about how selfless they are for doing it. So I want to help spread the word about their schools. Gather up support in any way we can for them, financial support, cards, letters, supplies, whatever will help them succeed in their quest to make the lives of these children better. They’ve got a website. Let us all use it and let’s keep this party going. Serving others has become the coolest trend out there. Right? So why not take advantage of that and help as many people as we can while it’s hot? You know?”
At some point you think Ed Hale might break into an equally enthusiastic exploration of the music and songs on his new disc – an adventurous foray into a softer more intimate music style than the last eight year’s worth of Transcendence era Bowiesque Brit pop that his band has become famous for, but he doesn’t. Instead he continues to ruminate on the possibilities of a world made better by turning ‘helping others’ into “cool,” a subject he is passionate about to say the least. Though one gets the idea that the time will come. If his new album continues to do as well on radio and with sales as it has in its opening weeks, at some point Ed Hale is going to have to give in and stop pretending that he isn’t the gifted songsmith with that golden voice that he really is. But for the moment he seems to be having a blast acting his Superman save-the-world role and in the process blazing a new trail for future artists who also see the potential in taking a less traditional approach in playing rockstar. Refreshing indeed.
July 24 to August 2, 2009 – Cartagena, Colombia South America – Ed Hale travels to one of the poorest areas of this coastal town with 25 others and UMCOR in order to build a permanent multi-level, multi-function church and community center for the townspeople. As always the trip will be filmed and edited to create several episodes to be posted to the Transcendent Television channel on YouTube.
August 3rd to August 9th 2009 – Sao Paulo, Brazil South America – Ed Hale will appear on the Programa Amaury Jr. television show, the most popular and longest running late night talk show in the country. Ed and a few members of Transcendence will perform songs from his new album as well as songs from their Rise and Shine CD sung in portuguese like “So quero um xodo” and “Eu sei que vou t’amar.”
August 10 to August 18, 2009 – Lahore, Pakistan – Ed Hale travels to one of the most tumultuous and impoverished cities in the world with a CNBC film crew to create a multi-episode documentary about an amazingly generous and adventurous American couple who have started two schools for Pakistani girls – 60 girls in each school. As long as the girls stay in school they stay off the streets and out of human trafficing and prostitution and slavery. More information about this inspirational couple and thier admirable quest can be had at As always the trip will be filmed and the episodes posted to the Transcendent Television channel on YouTube.