The Mando Files

Late last summer I got a message from John Troup, an old friend from Nashville, who had been following the progress of Legends of the Sandbar. He never failed to leave positive comments on my posts about the project’s status and, in his Nashville show-biz persona, would always say to me, Bick, I’m your biggest fan.

One day, in a comment to a post, he left a cryptic message. Give me a call. I may have a job for you. 

The job in question was to create visual content for Mando Saenz, one of Nashville’s most enigmatic writers. Mando is a longtime staff writer at the legendary Carnival Music, and is an extremely talented singer and performer in his own right. This year he has been hard at work on his fourth LP (produced by Ken Coomer), and John had an idea in his mind: I want you to do the Legends of the Sandbar of Mando Saenz. When I asked exactly what that meant, he said. Just do what you do, chief. Tell Mando’s story. 

As these things go, it was another six months until things actually materialized, but late this past winter I spent a week embedded with Mando, photographing stills, shooting video with my assistant Sam Grant, and hanging out at Mando’s favorite dive bars. I have many stories to tell of that week, and have since become good friends with Mando, but this post is not about the experience so much as it is about the artistic direction we took in the process.

Shooting a musical artist is not always easy, especially one who is predominantly a songwriter. Working with Mando required getting him to do things he wouldn’t normally do, like put on a suit, or play a character rather than writing a character. But he stepped up to the challenge, and by the end of the week we were having a great time co-creating images and video that fleshed out what is, I must say, an incredible record. It hasn’t yet been released to the public, though Coomer’s Dropbox link of the master recording has spread through the halls of Music Row and it’s definitely making an impression.

Since the shot wrapped, more opportunities have opened up for me in Music City, and it’s looking like I might be spending a lot more time here in the years to come. But in the meantime, here are a few drafts of some CD art I’ve been working on, based on the shots we took. I’ve always found the effective pairing of words and pictures to be one of the strongest mediums of communication short of full-blown cinema, so this project has been kind of a dream job for me. It’s been fun too to reference the days when the album cover was your ticket to an imaginary journey, and the precious bits of artwork and lyrics that graced the jacket and sleeve were as important as the music itself. So many of us grew up that way. I hate to be that guy, but Spotify just doesn’t provide the same experience.


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