The Asbury Park Love Contingent Shines Like a Bright Light in "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)"

The Asbury Park Love Contingent hits the street with a lockdown video and musical collaboration which will def lift the spirits of anyone who desires to peep this cover of an all but lost classic anthem of peace, love, and harmony.

There's almost an immediate sense of jubilation that washes over you as you listen to The Contingent's debut single, "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" written and performed originally by Melanie Safka.

This track spreads positivity and love with ease. The natural vocals hold such a vibrancy on their own, and once combined with a high-energy production, listeners receive absolutely, the vivid imagination of this creation 

Apart from the celebratory feel of "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" the 3 vocalists (Emily Grove, Tara Dente & brainchild Karen Mansfield) give us intimate yet dramatic feeling. Throughout, they successfully connect with the listener on more of an emotional level, and once they got you, the genuine feel-good aspects of the song instantly stimulate and invigorate what should be a broad audience.

Hello Karen! "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" by the Asbury Park Love Contingent just debuted and featured an incredible feel-good kind of ambiance. What exact kind of emotion were you hoping to impart to listeners with this track?

Thanks for picking up on the feel-good vibe of our single! That's exactly what we hoped to accomplish. We were looking to send out a musical love bomb during the pandemic crisis that would embrace listeners with optimism!!

Are there any moments throughout your artistry that you've felt that you really challenged yourself as an artist? Would you say that any components regarding the writing and recording elements of "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" posed themselves as a challenge for you artistically?

I feel that if I am not challenged I am not creating anything worthwhile. David Bowie said we should be so far out of our comfort zone while creating that we feel like we are almost treading water, just about up to our chins. This recording was exceptionally challenging because each musician’s part was recorded remotely by themselves during the lockdown, the fact that it worked out so well is proof that there are still ways to be creative and do good work even in a pandemic!

We were about a month into lockdown when I had the idea to record this 1970 Melanie Safka classic. She wrote it after her performance at Woodstock and had a huge hit after recording it with the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

When there’s a crisis I tend to want to do something, take some kind of action to feel part of the solution, rather than living in the fear and the negativity about the situation.

I had seen a handful of collaborative zoom looking video /audio recordings of songs on social media, remakes of songs like “We Are the World” and “What the World Needs Now”. I had been thinking of this Melanie tune, with the lyrics “we all had caught the same disease...” and “raise the candles high, cause if you don’t we could stay black against the night”. Melanie wrote about her experience performing while looking out into the darkness of Yasgur’s Farm, and as she sang candles were passed out and being lit up in the night, spreading out across the dark field. Today, for me this means encouragement for us to find the light inside of ourselves pronto and shine it brightly because there are some crazy dark times happening right now and it could get way worse before it gets better. So the song, I feel, speaks to us in our current situation.

I reached out to my producer Steve Greenwell with the idea, not knowing how he’d respond. First off I said, “none of us would be getting paid, we can post this on social media, it won’t be for sale it’ll just be for people to enjoy, for good vibes, to bring good cheer and if anyone wants to they can make a donation the homeless shelter here in Asbury Park, the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission.”

That call happened on April 15th, which was before the COVID-19 numbers peaked in NJ. We didn’t realize how much more stressful things would become.

Let's talk more about the production of the track. What kind of process goes into choosing the kind of production style you want to incorporate? Can you describe your collaboration with the track's producer and mixer, Steve Greenwell?

Because we were all in lockdown, there was no way anyone of us was going into Steve Greenwell’s studio. This project was not approached in the same way either one of us would have approached a project during nonworld crisis times. Of course, we needed the recording completed immediately in order to share it on socials as soon as possible. We never planned on releasing the single for sale, we just wanted to record the song lickity split, make a quick Zoom type video to post on Facebook to get the message out. I believed 100% that this song would help listeners during these times. It was done with pure love and desperation to meet the need.

Steve and I confirmed our main purpose with this project and what we wanted to achieve. He and I picked the players, we reached out to who we had in mind, explaining that this was for charity and needed to be given top priority. Everyone was on board and excited to be a part of it. Steve told everyone what we wanted and each player did just what was asked.

Lots of love and positive energy went into this recording and I am delighted that others can feel it when they hear the song. I wasn’t sure how it would work with remote recording. We’re all about recording rhythm tracks live, so it was a challenge to let that notion go and to see what could happen by trying this remotely. Then again we didn’t have any other choice.

Santo Rizzolo laid down his drum track at his home and sent that to Steve. Steve sent that to Jack Daley (Lenny Kravitz) to add his luscious bass track. We sent those tracks to Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco) out in California and he added his killer vibey Fender Rhodes track. Next our pal singer-songwriter Arlan Feiles added his piano track to the mix. Emily Grove, Tara Dente, both amazing singer-songwriters, and I each recorded our own vocal tracks and sent them into Steve. Guitarist Jules Drucker added the finishing touches and we were done.

Each artist recorded their part in their homes, with whatever means they had. A few of us laid down our tracks using GarageBand. We had a sincere sense of urgency with this recording, it was more about how we needed to hurry up and get this out there to spread some positivity right now!

It needs to be said that at the time of this recording everyone was freaking out, no one had enough masks, hospitals were filing to capacity, there weren’t enough ventilators for patients, people were dying alone. Everyone was complaining about toilet paper! Healthcare workers from across the globe were sharing heart-wrenching videos of what their shift was like. It was terrifying. We were compelled to create something to counter all the fears, anxieties, and negativity.

We were done recording, mixing, and mastering within a week, which was amazing. The video took a bit longer. Award-winning film producer George McMorrow was gracious enough to do the honors, but it was getting each musician to send in their video that took so long. By May 2nd video editing was done and it debuted on Facebook where it quickly reached 27k+ views. From there Deko Entertainment wanted to help the cause and sign us to release the single worldwide.

Up until that point, we didn’t have a name for the project. I quickly came up with Asbury Park Love Contingent to represent that we are presently or originating from the Asbury Park Music Scene, our mission is all about love and that we are keeping it humble by admitting we are just a small contingent of the goodness and positivity that is happening around the world. We want to send musical love bombs out when and wherever they are needed most.

All of the proceeds from "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" will be going to the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission. Are you able to elaborate more on this project, as well as what drew you to their cause?

Well like I said earlier, in a crisis, I am compelled to be of some help. We didn’t want this to be about us, we wanted to share a joyful message of love and hope while bringing awareness to others that have it way worse than many of us. Everyone involved in the project is either currently a vital member of the Asbury Park, NJ music scene, or in the case of Mikael Jorgensen, was originally a big part of this scene. We wanted to help a cause locally and I felt the homeless in our community, during a worldwide health crisis, were most worthy of our attention and any help we could provide. As it turns out, and we found this out after the fact, Mikael Jorgensen has a cousin that works for Jersey Shore Rescue Mission!!

I’m am personally drawn to their cause because I, along with my very small child, were homeless for a brief time twenty years ago. Our homelessness was brought on by a string of unfortunate events that lead to debilitating depression, which lead to more misfortune. We were helped by others who’s heart and mission was the same as that of the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission. Food, shelter, and clothing are basic human needs. You can’t find needier than the homeless especially during a quarantine, or a stay home executive order.

What's keeping you inspired in 2020?

I am inspired by everyone and anyone who is using this time to negate the negativity, and to share the love!! There’s a lot of negativity out there, and if we’re stuck safely at home we are still bombarded with it on the news and social media.

Mr. Rogers says, when he was a boy and saw scary things in the news, his mom would always tell him to look for the helpers, because you’ll always find people that want to help. I am inspired by the helpers and I want to be the best helper I can be. Creating and sharing uplifting music is the best way I know how to help, and using my music along with the experience of the struggles I’ve endured to help others is the best calling I could have.

I’m envisioning in the Asbury Park Love Contingent continuing to record musical love bombs for worthy causes, maybe using a different set of musicians each time, picking another cause that is close to my heart each time.