What People Are Saying
A story within the Story
One might wonder how a Canadian television producer came to develop a monumental, three-disc concept album called This Is My America. According to its executive producer, Douglas Hutton, the idea was first conceived more than 30 years ago when he was traveling in the U.S. on various film and music projects. Struck by the beauty of the land and the hearts of its people, Hutton's vision of an album that could capture the essence of America slowly but surely began to materialize.
"This Is My America is a musical journey," Hutton says. "It travels through the pages of time, telling stories in song about the significant events in American history."
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The apparent irony of a Canadian citizen documenting the history of the United States, using music and narrative, never occurred to the award-winning producer. Rather, Hutton felt compelled to chronicle America's story, as relayed in the original interpretations of significant historical events by American songwriters. With experience producing books, television programs and music distributed to more than 50 countries worldwide, the task was daunting, but not impossible, Hutton says. The chance to give something back to the country that has given so much to others was motivation enough for a project that grew into one of the most expensive albums ever produced in Nashville. At its core, however, This Is My America is simply a well-deserved and much-needed homage to a country in trying times, a country that "just needs a hug right now," he says.
The culmination of Hutton's vision for This Is My America formally began in January 2008 with a trip to Nashville to approach the Nashville Songwriter's Association International (NSAI) about commissioning writers for the project. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, Hutton quickly realized that many of the writers he met shared his passion for American history and its stories. In fact, some had already written songs that seemed destined for an album with such lofty ambitions as his.
While the number of participants grew, so did the scope of the material, as writers crafted their songs on a variety of subjects: the Asian nomads, Native Americans, European exploration, the arrival of the Mayflower, the California Gold Rush, the Civil War, Western settlement, World War I and II, 9/11 and other significant events in U.S. history. Soldiers, immigrants, heroes, cowboys, pilots, gangsters and explorers came to life in song and spoken narratives through the pen of 37 of America's finest songwriters.
"Stories are one way of letting people know who you are and what has happened in the past," Hutton says. "This project began with the songwriters. As soon as I explained my vision to them, they got it."
Bart Herbison, Executive Director of the NSAI, recognized the importance and potential of This Is My America as soon as Hutton presented it to him.
"This is one of the most amazing projects the Nashville Songwriters Association International has had the privilege to be involved with," he says. "The music is incredible, the stories amazing, and the concept is fabulous."
Much like the songwriters, it became evident that there would be no shortage of performers willing to lend their talents to the project either, including the Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Grammy award-winning Nashville Symphony. All told, 56 artists and songwriters contributed 38 songs and 26 narratives to the epic collection.
As President of King Motion Picture Corporation, Hutton has produced and directed music and television programs for more than 40 years, but the humble Canadian admits that This Is My America may well be the crowning jewel of his career. The chance to create something that could leave a lasting impression on future generations and become its own piece of history in the process seems like an appropriate way to retire, he says.
"In a sense, I wanted to do something major that would finalize my career, but I wanted to tell the story of America in a different way than what the daily news reel of life on Earth tells us through television and radio and newspapers."
The true measure of America is that its spirit knows no boundaries and can be rightfully shared by anyone willing to embrace it. Douglas Hutton's deep reverence for that fact and his willingness to undertake a project of such magnitude is a profound testament to the remarkable nature of America's colorful past, and of Douglas Hutton himself. Of course, the soft-spoken Alberta native would be the first to deflect praise away from him and back towards the subject of his life's most ambitious work.
"The ‘star' of this project is a place called America," he says earnestly. "It's not about me, or the writers or singers involved, or the studios or musicians."
With the culmination of an idea that began decades ago, Douglas Hutton has created more than another contemporary collection of patriotic hits; he has created a poignant opportunity for people around the world to gain a more meaningful understanding of the story and spirit of America.
"I have a fondness and appreciation for America and a respectful understanding of this country," Hutton says. "America has a good heart, but I think Americans themselves have an even bigger heart."