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Unveiled is a new collaborative album by singer and songwriter Wiley Rinaldi in collaboration with his son Daniel and other musicians from around the world, where they share a handful of treasured songs, written from the 1960s to 2013, but never before recorded.
Wiley Rinaldi was behind some of the songs used in Book 3 of the Ruhi sequence of courses, and in this album, Wiley searches for truth through his music, asks important questions, seeks hope and faith, evokes nostalgia, and quotes spiritual verses.
I decided to catch up with Wiley to find out more about him and the album:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Wiley, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and your musical background?
I grew up in a beach town in Southern California. Most of the kids of my era sang at school and had the opportunity to learn to play an instrument. I studied the violin in my early years but dropped it for the sake of football. I wish I had kept it up. Later, when the interest in folk music blossomed in the States, guitar caught my interest as it did many others. Over the years I was in musicals, was with a touring marionette show, involved in a little band and studied theatre. Later as a member of an ensemble theatre group I participated in the development of shows which often incorporated music. I became a Baha’i during that time and the Faith inspired me to write a couple of songs.
Baha’i Blog: So what was the idea behind the album and what were you trying to achieve?
We chose 12 of my songs that would allow the album to be for a wider audience and not just Baha’is. We feel it especially appeals to adults of my generation who are asking questions about spirituality, truth, religion, and in who in general have an open mind. Sonically we were trying to explore and experiment. My songs were pretty much always played with just an acoustic guitar, but we obviously did not limit ourselves to one instrument to explore where the song should go.
Baha’i Blog: I heard that you had contributed many of the songs for Ruhi book 3. Can you tell us more about that?
Back in the early ‘70s large scale teaching of the Faith was initiated in Colombia. My wife, Enidia, and I participated in the teaching effort, which normally included gathering groups of children in a neighborhood and having impromptu children’s classes. Pages were put together for the children to color and learn the quote at the bottom of the page. Some songs apropos for the virtue being taught had been written but more were needed. I wrote additional ones, sometimes collaborating with other musicians, since there was a need. A number of them caught on.
Baha’i Blog: The album is mainly a collaboration with your son Daniel, and it’s based on some songs you had written over the last few decades. Can you tell us a little more about this and the process you and your son went through to produce the album?
My son tells me the reason he wanted to produce this album was as a “thank you” to me. When he was in high school, we purchased some home recording equipment to record my songs. He didn’t know anything about the equipment, but quickly learned and fell in love with recording and producing. He wanted to take advantage of the fact that he had access to his university studios and more knowledge and experience to record my songs. The project had two phases. The first phase was to simply record all of my songs acoustic and live, and my son would interview me in between to record the history of why and how the songs were made. The second phase was choosing a few of those songs to make a well-produced album. The vision at first was for us to invite maybe three or four musicians to help out. We ended up collaborating with nearly 30 musicians and singers, and not just in Atlanta, but in North Carolina, Canada, Colombia, France, and Spain. It became bigger than what we expected.
Baha’i Blog: How has the album been received so far?
To launch the album we started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for production and to spark interest in friends and others. There were quite a few contributors who had no connection with us nor the Baha’i community, which was really nice. Generally speaking people were very pleased. We get some heartwarming stories too. For instance, we were told a girl in Lima, Peru listens to the CD to and from her elementary school every day. Also, in North Carolina a friend from long ago and her husband chose to play “With Eyes of Faith” as one of the dance tunes for their 50th wedding anniversary. It’s nice to hear that the music is touching a few hearts. I think what has touched people most is the fact that it was a father-son project. We didn’t spend too much time promoting the album, but we think it can reach many more people.
Baha’i Blog: Will you be working on any similar follow-up albums, or what are your plans for the future?
Though I don’t see myself performing these songs myself, I’d love to get them out there. I’d like to hear other singers/musicians put their spin on them. A number of the children’s songs that have been written are catchy and I think deserve to be given a nice treatment. Genevieve Labbe in Canada made a marvelous recording of “Animals” on a CD for children which was also done in French. It’s been amazing to realize that some of the children’s songs are being sung all over the world in a multitude of languages. What an honor!
Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to other musicians out there?
I would say that music has been a wonderful way to share the Faith. It cuts through boundaries and language barriers. I’ve found it as a great way to break the ice and as a tool for teaching children in Colombia and in indigenous areas. I would also encourage musicians to write songs from their heart while thinking about the kind of impact the song might have on the listener.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much Wiley for taking the time to do this interview and thanks so much for all your years of service. Please say thank you to your son Daniel as well for taking the initiative to make this album happen.
You can listen to songs and purchase the album Unveiled here.
Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.