Last year Zack Bush, co-owner of Little Havana bar Ball & Chain, was devastated after the death of Sandra Bland, an African American woman who was arrested and later found hanging in her prison cell, dead. At the time, Bland was just the latest in a string of police killings involving unarmed or nonviolent black men and women, coming on the heels of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray.
Just yesterday, video circulated of another police shooting involving Alton Sterling, a black man who was shot in Baton Rouge while he appeared to be subdued and not posing an immediate threat to officers.
All these tragedies moved Bush to write a song he called "Fresh New Start." After recording an initial demo, singing the lyrics himself, Bush was connected to producer James Bunton who brought in singer Sonna Rele.
This version was uploaded to YouTube on June 21 with a simple lyric video. In a little over a week, it has been viewed over 50,000 times, helped by Bush's efforts to circulate the video on social media.
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But that is not enough for Bush. In the description on the song's YouTube page, he includes a passionate open letter to Stevie Wonder, pleading for the musical great to record his own version of "Fresh New Start," though he says he would also be happy with either Alicia Keys or John Legend putting their spins on his song. Bush exchanged emails with New Times to talk about his song and what he hopes it can achieve.
New Times: Why do you think "Fresh New Start" can help end racism?
Zack Bush: I think that if this song makes even one person think about being kinder, then I have succeeded. I was told more than once that the music industry wants hits, not messages. Why can't a song with a message be a hit? I don't get it. I have been told that people who hear this song are moved to tears. I say forget hits, and bring this message to the world. I believe that it is needed.
To what do you attribute the song already getting 50,000 views on YouTube?
Between YouTube and Facebook, "Fresh New Start" had over 200,000 hits in one week. With all of the ignorance and evil that exists, the song is intended to be unifying and peaceful. All of us are really so much more than the color of our skin. We are all human beings. That's it. Although I was inspired by the Sandra Bland tragedy, it is not just a black and white issue. We are all the same on the inside. I am torn as a father wondering how I will explain to my young children that some people hate others because of their skin color. This is 2016, and now is the time for a fresh new start.
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If the song gets recorded by a famous singer and becomes a hit, what are you planning to do with any proceeds?
I did not write the song to make money. That was never my motivation.
What I meant was, if any money comes from the song — which if it was recorded by Stevie, Alicia, or John Legend, there would be — would the proceeds go to a particular charity?
Regarding the money, this was never a for-profit venture.
Has your debut songwriting experience inspired you to write more music?
I have written lots of songs before, but mostly they end up with me trying to be funny. I love to joke. The few serious songs I have written are personal and really nothing that I have ever wanted to share with the public. With "Fresh New Start," I feel different. I have to find a way to get people to listen.
You explain in your open letter why you're targeting Stevie Wonder, but why are Alicia Keys and John Legend on your wish list for performing this song?
While up all night writing this song, I was overcome with emotion. I was thinking of Stevie Wonder and being a little boy at one of his concerts when he invited all the children in the audience to sing "Ebony and Ivory" onstage. I also heard Alicia Keys and John Legend, two of my favorites, singing in my head. If I were given a choice of a million dollars or having Stevie Wonder sing "Fresh New Start" to a full venue at one of his concerts, I would choose Stevie singing without a doubt. And I would be crying tears of joy and happiness because that's how much this song means to me.