The Neal Casal Music Foundation (NCMF) has been created to honor the memory of the late great, multi-dimensional artist through an ongoing series of charitable endeavors. The initial focus of the 501c3 non-profit is to provide instruments and lessons to students in New Jersey and New York state schools where Casal was born and raised, as well as to make donations to much needed mental health organizations that support musicians in need. NCMF is being spearheaded by Neal's longtime manager Gary Waldman along with a team of Casal's friends. A first round of funding for the foundation is being raised through a Kickstarter campaign comprised by two primary packages: a 30-plus song tribute album, 'Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal' and a coffee table photography book, 'Tomorrow's Sky: Photographs by Neal Casal.'
"In a note left behind, Neal told the story of how he got his first guitar when he was 13," explains Waldman. "As he explained it, 'I remember the day on one of those drives where dad asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said an Atari, and he said 'c'mon Neal, you can do better than that. I always see you with your radio playing music, do you want more records? Do you want to play an instrument? Anything but Atari y'know? It’s just going to collect dust after a few months, I want to get you something useful.' I sheepishly said I like guitar, and his eyes lit up and he said, 'sure i’ll get you a guitar, at least you'll be learning something.' So that was it, my life was set right there. I remember the exact place where we were when he said it. We were passing that reservoir that’s in between Oak Ridge, NJ and route 23 into NY state.' So with that in mind, the concept for the foundation was born. We will also donate a large portion of proceeds to MusiCares, Backline and other mental health organizations for musicians. This was also a specific wish of Neal's and we have already donated over $25,000 to MusiCares from our preliminary fundraiser at the Capitol Theatre tribute concert for Neal on September 25, 2019."
'Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal' will be a double CD/triple vinyl album celebrating the prolific body of work Casal left behind over the course of 14 studio albums. Recording sessions for the project began in February led by co-producers Dave Schools of Widespread Panic and seven time Grammy-Award winning recording engineer/producer Jim Scott at PLYRZ Studios in Valencia, CA. Over 30 artists have been confirmed to appear, including Lucinda Williams, Jonathan Wilson, Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band, Cass McCombs, Steve Earle, Warren Haynes, Jaime Wyatt, Shooter Jennings and Robert Randolph & The Family Band among numerous others. The first single and video from the recording was captured during those initial sessions in February. It features Billy Strings with Circles Around the Sun performing "All The Luck In The World.” It has premiered today at Rolling Stone (watch / share).
"It's been overwhelming to record these talented artists as they put their own spin on Neal's songs," says Schools. "It speaks volumes to the high quality of his songwriting and to the depth of love and appreciation that his peers had for him."
One of Neal's other last wishes left behind was that a book be made of the photographs he had taken while traveling the world over the last 20 years. 'Tomorrow's Sky: Photographs by Neal Casal' is a 240-page, hard cover, coffee table book that presents over 250 of his photos. The book is broken up into six sections entitled Surf, Road, Rooms, Humans, Travel and Music—all subjects near and dear to Neal. Each section is a deep reflection of where Neal was in his life, whether backstage with his band, in a recording studio with Willie Nelson, an empty stretch of highway through a tour bus windshield, or on the beach with a surfboard. The photographs were carefully curated by Ricki Blakesberg using Neal's Instagram, Tumblr and photo albums as a guide, while the book’s producer is Neal’s close friend and legendary photographer, Jay Blakesberg.
"'Tomorrow’s Sky' is a look at the world seen through the eyes of Neal Casal. Neal was a stealth photographer who always carried his camera and documented the people, places and scenes as they passed before him," says Jay Blakesberg. "The photos are intimate, beautiful and from the hip. Nothing is set up, it is real life in real time."
Neal Casal was a songwriter, singer, guitarist, record producer, photographer, surfer and friend. Over the course of a 30-plus year career, he appeared on multiple recordings as a member of bands like Circles Around the Sun, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Beachwood Sparks, The Skiffle Players and Hard Working Americans. He added his sublime musical touch to studio sessions and live performances by a long list of artists, including Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks, James Iha and Vetiver. His extensive body of solo work was embraced by audiences worldwide and continues to be rediscovered in his passing. With the formation of the Neal Casal Music Foundation, the body of work he left behind, including an extensive archive of unreleased material, will be reimagined to further shine a light on his artistry, while providing resources to raise money for positive change. Neal Casal brought joy to so many and, in his absence, the foundation created in his name will further that purpose. It also hopes to reflect back to Casal the beauty he brought to this world in pursuit of a life dedicated to music and art.
Highway Butterfly: The Songs Of Neal Casal
Confirmed Artists & Track Listing
Aaron Lee Tasjan - "Traveling After Dark"
Beachwood Sparks - "You Don’t See Me Crying"
Billy Strings w/ Circles Around the Sun - "All The Luck In The World"
Britton Buchanan - "Willow Jane"
Cass McCombs - "Miss It When It’s Gone"
Courtney Jaye - "Grand Island"
Dori Freeman & Teddy Thompson - "Sweeten The Distance"
Hannah Cohen & Sam Evian - "Junkyard In The Sun"
Hazeldine - "Today I’m Gonna Bleed"
Hiss Golden Messenger - TBD
Jaime Wyatt - "Need Shelter"
Jason Crosby - "Pray Me Home"
Jesse Aycock - "The Losing End Again"
Jimmy Herring w/ Circles Around the Sun - "Bird With No Name"
Johnathan Rice - "Me & Queen Sylvia"
Jonathan Wilson - TBD
Kenny Roby - "Too Much To Ask"
Lauren Barth - "Lost Satellite"
Leslie Mendelson - "Feel No Pain"
Lucinda Williams - TBD
Mapache - "The Wisest of the Wise"
Marcus King & Eric Krasno - "No One Above You"
Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band - TBD
Robbi Robb - "I Will Weep No More"
Robert Randolph & The Family Band - TBD
Shooter Jennings - "Maybe California"
Steve Earle - "Highway Butterfly"
Todd Sheaffer - "December"
Vetiver - "White Fence, Round House"
Victoria Reed - "Angel & You’re Mine"
Warren Haynes - "Free To Go"
Zephaniah OHora - TBD