Inspiration is quite a subjective thing. For some, a song about drinking beer or driving a pickup truck can be meaningful, even motivational. For others, it takes something a bit deeper.
Michelle Flood, one of three vocalists in local roots-reggae six-piece Roots Collective, falls into the second category. It's the social conscience of reggae that keeps her singing and writing new songs, including "I Rise," a track from the group's newest album, Rising.
While the song features a Jamaican vibe, it was actually created at a cabin in northern Wisconsin while Flood was contemplating Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise."
"I was thinking about the poem and how the things you do affect other people, which makes it important to try to do the right thing every day and be aware of what's going on around you," she says. "There is this element of not knowing certain things, as well -- like if what you do will make a difference."
The lyrics began to flow from there, fueled by the strength of Angelou's words and the realization that being free to make your own decisions is an honor that deserves to be celebrated. This sense of joy bursts from the horn section right away, then bounces to a wiggly-giggly sax solo by Jon Hoel, which turns the track into a funky party about three minutes in.
Flood's vocals, part Angelou and part Gloria Gaynor, serve as the song's spiritual core and its call to action, especially as she sings, "I rise all of the time because I know what's right ... Don't try to tell me what I can and cannot do." You don't want to mess with this lady, but you might want to sing along.
Moreover, "I Rise" is a song that, along with a 2007 Madison Area Music Award, encouraged a band that used to focus on covers to spend more time creating original material.
"Sometimes I go back and listen to the original version from my keyboard sequencer, and it's just so neat to see how far it's come," Flood says.
And since the song was recorded live, it's also a good taste of what a Roots Collective show sounds like, she points out.
"It's a testament to the talent of the band, and that we can play a song once and nail down all the parts on the first try," she says. "I think that's pretty awesome."
An MP3 of "I Rise" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by Roots Collective is available on the its MySpace page. The group is playing at Legend's Sports Bar & Grill on Friday, Dececember 11.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.