by William Abbott
Ex-Dayton/ex-Columbus/Charlotte poet Ed Mabrey has released a three-cd set called Blackbird Airlines. This work is an ambitious collection of poetry, music, artwork, and storytelling. I contacted Mr. Mabrey to ask some questions about his new work.
You’ve had a long list of accomplishments since we first met. Do you want to hit the highlights for the readers?
Mabrey: TedX Dayton, Ohio speaker 2016, 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion (4x), 2016 Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam Indie Champ (2x back to back), Comedian, 10 years touring professionally, etc etc.
You have really interesting packaging and art work for Blackbird Airlines. Tell me about how it came to be.
Mabrey: The Blackbird Airlines project is a living project, in that the goal is to create more artistic items involving the “world” it was created in and then encourage others to take inspiration from it and add their own contributions to that world. It came to pass as I wanted to create an album that covered issues on race, bigotry, LGBT-phobia, socio-economic bias and prejudices. However, in doing so I wanted it to be an album you could ‘see’. So it was intended to be an experimental concept album with only a handful of poems and Nina Simone’s song “Blackbird” as the primary focus. However, after a two-day recording session, I left Ohio and realized that while we recorded tons of material, I hadn’t recorded a single poem. From the need to record the poems and they not have a ‘slapped on’ feel to them, there arose the need for an actual concept. I dreamt of this mystical, mythological plane that was so long it was always taking off, always landing. Sort of a Hotel California on wings. Once that dream was written down and I asked myself a few hard questions, the rest fell into place. There’s still more items coming out to flesh out the ‘movie’ that triple album is. With that said, I couldn’t have just any type of art for an album of this magnitude. The outside art was actually painted by an artist while I was performing the poem “Libretto,” which is on the album. I asked his permission to use it and he was gracious enough to say yes. The flying Blackbird Airlines was created by another artist to be the actual logo for the airline I created. All the rest of the interior artwork was created by me. The idea was to make an ‘explodable’ album. This means that you can separate the pieces of the album and actually frame them for artwork. Every piece of the album, including the actual cds, can be removed and framed.
What does the listener have to look forward to in the poetry?
Mabrey: If the listener just listens to the album in random order, they can still enjoy it. I suggest going in order with cd 1 cd 2 and then the Blackbox album. Headphones and even an eyemask (which I actually mailed to some people who purchased the cd in a pre-sale special) are strongly recommended. The entire album has been arranged so that the listener can ‘see’ what is happening throughout the album. They should expect to laugh at the right and wrong times, get a little upset, get very upset, be moved to tears, cry, be afraid, sing along, have moments of pride, and hopefully walk away from the experience different than when they first pressed play.
“Blackbird Airlines” is available for purchase from Mr. Mabrey’s website, blackbirdairlines.com, and is well worth it.