How "All He Had," came about. A true story
So, for the last few days, every since the release of my new music video for "All He Had," I've been asked... What is the story behind the song? And is is true?
My answer to the second is, "Yes, it is?"
My answer to the first... well, here is it.
So, when I was in high school, more than ten years ago (yikes) a few of my friends and I decided to go downtown in Salt Lake City and sing Christmas carols on a street corner to raise money for our High School "Sub For Santa," fund raiser. It is a tradition we did every year at Bingham High (It's a great day to be a Miner. He he,) and we wanted to contribute.
We painted a few signs asking for donations for our cause and just headed downtown. The group consisted of one of my girlfriends, Lashea Lewis, and two of our guy friends, Ben Macbeth and Todd Burton.
Picking a corner close to temple square, where everyone was traveling to see the famous lights that illuminate the grounds around this time of year, we starting to sing 4 part harmony songs.
And so began our AMAZING and LIFE CHANGING night.
We were having a blast and every person who passed by was more than generous, putting ones, tens and every fifties in our jar. At the beginning of the night, I remember a few children coming forward to put some money in our jar that their parents had given them.
There was one boy, whose face I'll never forget. He came forward, reached in his pockets and gave us just a few cents. Then he smiled a little and went on his way. In the video, the little boy is played by my 3 year old son and who, I think, did such an amazing job. But I may be biased. ;) ;)
At the beginning of the night I also noticed a man sitting in an old wheelchair across the street from us. He had a small cardboard sign saying he was homeless, a veteran and "God Bless." The man was quiet. He was Still. He listened to us all night. The crowd mostly passed by him without noticing that he was there. I also noticed that this man didn't have any legs. His hands were bare and he wore a thin coat. The air was cold. I was bundled and still, I shivered all night.
As we were ending our night and cleaning up, this man struggled to wheel his chair across the street to us. He emptied his cup and gave us the very few cents that he struggled to make that night.
We froze, not knowing what to say. I think one of us may have uttered a small "thank you," as he wheeled away. I remember feeling physical pain in my chest.
Walking back to our cars, and with a jar full of love and donations, we talked about this man. After very little discussion, we drove around the city looking for this man trying to find him so that we could give him all that we had made in return.
We never found him. I still look for him every year. I hope I find him someday.
Fast forward 10 years and after graduating high school, college, song writing, getting married, singing, songwriting, having two children and more songwriting... I found myself in my co-writers front room as we contemplated what kind of Christmas song we should write.
I'd written many many songs, including a few Christmas songs that were ok, but I wanted to write a song that meant something to me and possibly, to many.
We talked stories... things we had experienced, traditions, what Christmas means to us, etc... Nothing stuck. Then, I remembered this man. I said to my co-writer (Rich Parkinson), "I do have something that happened to me when I was in high school that I've always wanted to write about."
I proceeded to tell the story. When I was finished I looked up and there were tears in Rich's eyes. I'll never forget his next words. "Chelsey, we have to write this song."
So write we did. We started writing the song in September of 2012. We shared our version of it that Christmas and, to my surprise, people really responded to it. We did a concert and based the concert around this song, donating proceeds to the Salt Lake City Road Home (our local Homeless Shelter) in this man's name. I even had the opportunity to go on the air with 101.5 the eagle and share my song. They had said I would have 30 seconds. The DJ ended up giving me 3 minutes without interrupting or taking his eyes off me while I told my story.
During the next year, Rich and I still kept on tweaking the song. We re-wrote and re-wrote until we thought it was perfect.
In August of 2013, we recorded the song in Nashville, TN, along with five other orginal songs, with some top tier musicians. In September of 2013, almost a year later, we put the finishing touches on the lyric, recorded vocals and finished the song.
We then proceeded to find people to come be in our video, which we filmed in Midvale city UT, close to Vincents drug. Vincents drug store was used in the movie "The Sandlot," which I'm sure many of you remember.
I found 4 high school kids to play the part of me and my friends. They were amazing and so perfect and so like the 4 of us that were there that night.
Then we found our homeless man. I still don't know how we happened upon Lloyd, or maybe I do. It was all because of Santa. Our good friend Santa (also in the video), introduced us to Lloyd Bond. Lloyd is 72, a Vietnam war veteran, and he has parkinsons disease. When he heard the song for the first time, he cried. He then said he would be honored to play the part. I was thrilled. He is absolutely perfect in every way. Lloyd is not only a sweet and generous man, he played to part perfectly and to a T. I know it was a struggle for him to sit out with us in the cold while we filmed for hours. But he never complained. In fact, he kept thanking me for the opportunity every chance he got. I love this man.
We had a huge turnout of extras. I can still feel the love from them all. If you were one of them and reading this, I am so grateful and will always be grateful.
Our amazing Videographer, Justin Ahlmann, brought magic to the film. He was so passionate about the song and making it right. I am thrilled with out it turned out.
In the end, I hope the message I can share through this song is the message of giving. We don't have to have much to give. We can give a smile, or the gift of friendship. We can give the gift of time, or give a compliment. We can give a few cents, a dollar or five if we can. In the end, it's all about giving our love... however you give.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and/or a wonderful holiday season. And if you'd like to see the video, please click the link below. All I ask is that, if you like it, please share.
And I hope one day, that this reaches that man. I will never forget him or the small gift he gave with a lot of love attached.
Thank you all so much.