These days, J.C. Whitelaw prefers to steer a middle course.
The Detroit classic rock singer-songwriter and guitarist cruises in the center lane as passersby impatiently zoom ahead to the left and right on his latest politically charged single, “It’s Happening Here,” with the Disciples.
For Whitelaw, the lanes on either side of him become congested as drivers yell back and forth across a growing divided national highway.
“With all the Left and Right going at each other over the past four years, it would be hard not to be affected by it. I was shocked to see the level of hate that was conjured by both parties and friends alike and the disrespect for each other over a difference in opinion and ideas. I really believe the loss of civility in these times is unfortunately something that isn’t going away anytime soon,” he said.
Whitelaw emphatically channels those lingering frustrations throughout “It’s Happening Here” as raw, crunchy electric guitars, pulsating drums, crashing cymbals, thumping bass and spirited sax erupt in a fiery Rolling Stones-esque intensity.
In tandem, he passionately sings, “As horror becomes our laughter/Now we’re left in tatters/Scattered on the deafest ears/Happens here!/So now we walk in silence/While hate becomes our triumph/Lost all sense of sanity/Had to be/You and me/We can see/It’s happening here!/It’s happening here!”
“For me, it’s a snapshot of what’s going on right now – mentally, spiritually and socially. I was watching some televised opinion show that most would call news these days, and this melody came to me. I grabbed my guitar and laid it down. I had a few lyrics fly out, and then I left it alone,” Whitelaw said.
“A few days later, one of my old bandmates, Jon Ross, messaged me some lyrics he had been working on and shared the same sentiment that I was feeling. I basically cherry-picked some of his lines and mixed them with mine, and it really took shape over a week or so.”
Along with the single, Whitelaw released new video for “It’s Happening Here,” which features the Disciples’ Jimmy Sparks (drums), James Megerian (bass) and David Reinstein (sax) performing at Jimmy’s warehouse on Aug. 22. Detroit folk rock singer-songwriter Billy Brandt and vocalist Kristin von Bernthal also contribute to the track.
“The Disciples got together for a video/audio socially distanced recording session at Jimmy Sparks’ warehouse and recorded a set for the Beats Go On program. We donated all proceeds to the cause. We were pretty excited as we hadn’t played together since February, and this gave us the opportunity to work on some new material for the new record we’re planning on recording,” said Whitelaw, who worked with The Mission Recording Studio’s Sean Morse and Stellar Videography’s Tracy Viers on the track and video.
“The recording and video is from the second pass of the track after showing the band the song. It’s mostly a live take of the band except I layered in a lead guitar track and Kristin von Bernthal’s vocal tracks at Sean Morse’s Mission Studio. Sean also helped multi-track record the entire session at Jimmy’s warehouse.”