“What’s it Gonna Take” (feat. Graham Sharp)
RECORD LABEL:Organic Records
For as long as people have written songs, they’ve written songs that respond to and reflect on events in the world around them. And so, when Organic Records’ Anya Hinkle and her neighbor, Graham Sharp (Steep Canyon Rangers) got together to write on the day that news broke of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, it was almost inevitable that what would emerge was a meditation on the gulf between American aspirations and American reality.
“In fraught moments, you usually write what you need to write, to process what’s going and find the words to move forward,” says Sharp. “This was the case with ‘What’s It Gonna Take.’ My first instinct as we were writing was to look inside myself and what I could do. It was a very raw moment to see the pain of George Floyd and the Black community and know that I needed to account for myself in that moment.”
“Writing was the only way to really open up to things we often keep locked inside, things that aren’t pretty to examine, that are scary in fact,” Hinkle adds. “It helped us get honest about that, to push through some kind of strange fear of admitting how clearly some of us benefit from the system and others just lose over and over again. I don’t think the song does anything except to invite people to take a look at this sparkling mess and admit it’s there and needs to be reckoned with.”
As events continued to unfold, the pair worked to complete the song, and when it was finished, Hinkle began to think about how to record it. With Sharp’s participation an obvious ingredient, she reached out to a couple of other western North Carolinians and invited them in. “When we went into the studio to cut the single,” she recounts, “We asked a master of the sacred steel guitar, DaShawn Hickman, and gospel singer Wendy Hickman to join us in asking ‘what’s it gonna take?’ Bringing in their voices was an important part of processing the difficult summer, building trust and beauty through song. Only by listening to Black voices are we going to know what it’s gonna take.”
With producer Jon Weisberger rounding out the ensemble on bass, the recording came together quickly. From a hushed, somber opening that features Hickman’s steel and Sharp’s banjo, the singer’s voice quietly emerges, with Wendy Hickman delicately creating a spare vocal counterpoint to a contemplative, almost anguished set of observations and questions that swell into the song’s aching chorus. A searing steel guitar solo defines the performance’s emotional peak before subsiding into a final chorus that, just as in the larger world, leaves the listener with the challenge to answer the title’s question.
“One of the great things about a song is how, once it’s finished, it keeps growing and kinda finds its own meaning out there in the world, adapting and adding layers to itself,” says Sharp. ”Hopefully, ‘What’s It Gonna Take’ has grown to fit the times and can be a positive voice for the peaceful reckoning our country needs so desperately.”
“We are all asking ‘what’s it gonna take?’” concludes Hinkle. “How can we create real and lasting change to the dynamics that rob us, as a nation, of the American dream? Can we listen and learn, make a commitment to trying to get it right?”
KEY SELLING POINTS
- The content of this song can be a change-agent in our current times, encouraging deeper thought into racial and justice issues in America
- After fronted the beloved acoustic band Tellico for the better part of a decade
- As part of Tellico and now as a solo artist, Hinkle has toured nationally and internationally and has developed as a notable songwriter
- Her song “Courage for the Morning” was #1 on the Folk Radio DJ charts in Nov. 2018, and song “Ballad of Zona Abston” won the 2019 Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Competition