Local producer and performer Brian Stratton’s album aims to raise money for ALS ONEBy Kelly Chase | Pedro Blanco Photography
This summer, South Shore-based producer and performer Brian Stratton released “Pay it Forward,” a charitable benefit album. All proceeds generated from the album will go directly to ALS ONE, a nonprofit organization founded by the late Kevin Gosnell with a mission to find a cure for ALS by 2020. “Kevin Gosnell is a friend and he was the seventh guy I knew that had ALS. To me that was a wake-up call,” says Stratton.
In 2016, Gosnell formed ALS ONE and brought together the leading ALS experts in Massachusetts. “Kevin got a dream team of doctors together to combine their efforts for research and treatment,” explains Stratton. An ALS diagnosis is heartbreaking and while doctors can make a patient comfortable, there’s little they can do to slow the disease. “It’s scary and Kevin couldn’t wrap his head around the doctors telling him that. So he started to think, how can we change this for the future?”
ALS ONE raises funds for research and care, and “Pay it Forward” is Stratton’s contribution. The album features tracks by Bill Champlin, Darius Rucker, Arnold McCuller, Jeffrey Gaines, Paula Cole, Kenny Cetera, John Ford Coley, Danny Seraphine, Dave Mattacks, The Gin Blossoms and Edwin McCain. Some songs were recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles; however, most of the album was recorded in Hanover at Ultrasound Productions, which is owned and managed by Joe Clapp.
Stratton has been in the music business since he was 15 years old, alternating between performing and producing. In the early 1990s, he worked as a producer at Polygram and Universal Records, where he worked on charity compilation discs such as “Women for Women,” which raised money for the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations. He has also toured nationally with the bands Hootie and the Blowfish and Chicago.
His time in the business allowed him to connect with artists for “Pay it Forward,” but some participants like Arnold McCuller, a vocalist for James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt, he met for the first time. “When I contacted him at first, he said, ‘yeah I want to do this and by the way I am singing in Fenway Park for James Taylor next week, so I can do it then.’” Stratton’s girlfriend picked McCuller up and they drove down to the South Shore to work on a song. “He came in and he buzzed for two hours and we did a great tune and before I knew it we had a track and we buzzed him back up to the Four Seasons,” recalls Stratton. “He got himself ready and he played Fenway Park the next night.”
While the songs on the album feature the talents of multiple musicians, all have a familiar thread. “I chose songs that had feeling and came from the heart,” says Stratton. “Love is the foundation of life. Love is what propels these things from ideas to fruition. I am drawn to a love song, not a cheesy love song, a love song with substance that means something. A lot of these songs have that theme and it’s pretty powerful.”