Thursday, April 07, 2011

NewTek exec croons on album benefiting Japan

The lone San Antonio musician featured on a live album from South By Southwest to benefit Japan is not George Strait or Flaco Jiménez.

In fact, you likely never have heard of singer Philip Nelson, an executive at NewTek, which is based in the Alamo City.

But it is his rendition of Paul Sanchez’ song “Unwind Our Hearts” that is featured along with other global rock stars — like Ben Folds, Natasha Bedingfield and Bowling for Soup — on the iTunes and Amazon digital album that emerged from the project on April 5, 2011.

Nelson, who was at Austin’s SXSW interactive, music and film conference operating NewTek’s TriCaster cameras to live stream many of the concerts and events, says the whole experience has left him “speechless, which is saying a lot because I’m a talker.”

During the music portion of SXSW, Nelson was working closely with Hanson — an American pop band made up of three brothers: Isaac, Taylor and Zac — to film their Austin concert.

“Thursday at 1 a.m. I get a call from Taylor Hanson, and he wants to do a 12-hour musical telethon Webcast to raise money for the victims of the Japan tsunami,” Nelson says. “By Saturday at noon, we were live streaming. By the end, we had featured 40 bands.”

While Nelson was working on that project, though, he received a call from his father saying that Nelson’s grandfather from Louisiana had died.

Nelson thought about driving straight to Louisiana, but decided that his work helping raise money for the Japanese victims was a larger calling. He asked the Hanson brothers if he could play a song by a New Orleans’ musician as a tribute.

“They said: ‘Can you play?’” Nelson recounts.

As it turns out, Nelson could. He had played for years, lugging his Taylor guitar around on business trips and booking gigs at dive bars around the globe; he also jammed with friends in the San Antonio band the Dead End Project.

So he grabbed the closest Gibson and sang Sanchez’ song, which you can find on Amazon here.

Two weeks later, the Hanson manager called Nelson to say the team wanted to include the song on the album. Nelson called musician Sanchez — of the band Cowboy Mouth — and asked for permission.

“Paul said yes immediately when I told him all the proceeds go to help the people in Japan,” Nelson says. “Paul says he is forever grateful for all that the Japanese did for the Katrina victims.”

Now, Nelson is simply giddy about his inclusion on the album.

“The thing that is so cool about all of this: My company NewTek always gives us the freedom to do the things we love and support projects that help the community,” Nelson says. “When I called my boss about doing the telethon, the question wasn’t, ‘What’s in this for NewTek?,’ but rather, ‘What do you need?’”

“The whole thing is just awesome,” Nelson says.

For more information on the project, click here.

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