Devon Reed is a San Francisco songwriter who also happens to be super-passionate about his volunteer work at 826 Valencia, everyone’s favorite Dave Eggers-founded, pirate store-fronted, kids’ literacy nonprofit in the Mission. A little over a year ago, he had the thought: What can I do that would combine the philanthropic and creative sides of my life?
The result is You Be My Heart, an album of 17 songs (almost all of them love songs of some kind) written by Reed, recorded by artists from around the country that he simply liked and decided to approach — including an impressive amount of indie rock royalty, like Bowerbirds, Horse Feathers, Fruit Bats, Maps & Atlases, Marissa Nadler, and Mark Kozelek. Proceeds from the album benefit 826 Valencia.
“I generally approached artists whose work was literate, wordy or melodic, or all three, since I tend to write dense, structured songs,” says Reed. “I also gravitated toward musicians who have a good-natured or folky streak in their work, since I thought that would give a good representation of the feeling of 826.” With the exception of Ghost and Gale, a local dreamfolk duo, he didn’t know any of the artists personally before he started the project. He simply asked bands to participate, and if they said yes, handed songs off to them for reinterpretation.
“I was mostly surprised, pleasantly, by things like a pedal steel solo in Marissa Nadler’s track ‘Half as Much,’ or Bowerbirds adding some real dramatic elements to the bridge of ‘Seven Wonders,’ — little changes that weren’t in my original demos but which nonetheless added something significant to the final versions,” says Reed of his reactions to the bands’ work. “Hearing each of the recordings for the first time was like unwrapping one present after another.”
Below, check out a video Valentine from a handful of the participating artists, as well a track from Bowerbirds. They’re both pretty. Just listen. For the children.