New service aims to bring a fresh take to the giving of gifts in a strange time
CAMAS — “I don’t even think there’s a word in English that says how I felt at that moment. It was so intimate and beautiful.”
That was the experience of Dara Eastham. She has three children, all grown up now. They couldn’t see each other very much due to the pandemic. So they got creative this past Mother’s Day. They got her a different kind of gift. They got her a song. Her song.
Camas based folk-duo, Fox and Bones, has over two decades of collective music and song writing experience, and has dropped two full albums along with an EP and many singles. Sarah Vitort and Scott Gilmore comprise the optimistic and snappy pair, and have been building their melodic dream since 2016.
In a streak of ingenuity, they crafted Our Custom Song.
“People want to have songs written about them. Like, it’s kind of a cool thing to be someone’s muse,” Sarah said. “But not all of us have significant others or children or friends that are musically inclined. So we were like, wait, we could do this for people.”
The process starts with a Zoom call to the friends or family of the person the song will be about. From there, Sarah and Scott collect unique info and anecdotes about the person and begin crafting the song. Depending on the type of project commissioned, the process can be adjusted.
The most affordable option called a Song-Gram is a videoed cover performance by Fox and Bones of an existing song of the friends and family’s choice; dedicated to the recipient. The more elaborate and specialty versions are an Acoustic Custom Song and a Full Band Custom Song.
“I knew Sarah and Scott and knew that their tour had been cancelled,” said Dara’s middle daughter, Carley McNeice. “For me personally, it was two prong you know, I wanted to be able to support them, but also obviously this incredible gift for my mom. My sister I think said it so perfectly: We paid these people to write a song, but it just didn’t feel like that, it felt so personal. They really captured the stories and the feelings that we were trying to tell and portray.”
Fox and Bones has always set out to create music that is upbeat and hopeful, as well as impactful, Sarah explained. The creation of the customs songs came a few years into her and Scott’s relationship and touring, when he wrote her a song for Christmas.
They ended up liking the song so much they actually put it on the album they were producing at the time. Since then, they have crafted songs in each of their categories; even writing and recording a full band one about a close friend who passed away suddenly.
“It’s kind of like the gift to end all gifts. Like once you’ve gotten somebody a hand-written song that’s personalized to them, what else do you really need to get them?” Sarah said, laughing. “It really got us emotionally, like this isn’t just a business service that we can provide, this is actually a way to make people’s lives better right now.”
When the song for Dara, called “Your Greatest Art Project,” was completed, her three children — son Jaime, daughter Carley and daughter Shelby — surprised their mom at her home, which is a few hours away. Dara said she was excited simply to see her kids.
Her children then gave her a framed poem, which turned out to be the lyrics to her song. As she read the words, she began to cry, and that was when Carley turned on the song Sarah and Scott had recorded.
“Next thing you know, I’m hearing these words,” Dara said. “No one else is ever going to know the words to that song, but boy I do. Talk about an incredibly positive connection when I couldn’t touch anybody. What a smart, creative, wonderful way to do it. I mean, it’s not money, boy, it’s soul, it’s heart.”
The hour-long Zoom call where Carley and her siblings talked with Sarah and Scott about their mom, was also recorded for Dara to watch afterwards. Stories from their childhood, tales of their mother’s passions and heartfelt memories of moments with her all surfaced during the brainstorming session.
“That is a piece that is so valuable, I felt completely connected to my children without even being able to touch them,” Dara said.
After doing several driveway concerts from a home in Camas back in June, Fox and Bones is gearing up to produce more custom songs as well as working on a new full-length album that should be out next year.
Sarah and Scott began making music separately in Portland many years ago, before hitting it off and deciding to be a touring group and begin their musical, nomadic life. During a normal year they tour the U.S. in the spring and stay in the Pacific Northwest during the summer. In the fall and winter months, they are in California, before coming back to Portland in January to host the Portland Folk Festival.
“I always call it the gift that keeps on giving because it’s this amazing gift very personal to you that you can listen to forever and immediately be transported back to that moment that you received it,” Sarah said. “Music is medicine and it can heal you and it can heal, you know, your soul.”