R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has recorded singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur’s “In the Sun” for a digital EP, proceeds from which will benefit Mercy Corps’ efforts to rebuild New Orleans neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Six different versions of the track will be available via the iTunes Music Store on Monday (Feb. 6); Stipe’s duet with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin will premiere the previous evening on the ABC drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” The EP also features two versions of the song with Stipe and Arthur, a remix by Justin Timberlake and will.i.am’s JAW Breakers partnership, a take with just Stipe and a live recording with Coldplay from the PBS series “Austin City Limits.”
Other artists that contributed to the sessions were Fountains Of Wayne/Ivy principal Adam Schlesinger and former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, who assisted Stipe at their own Stratosphere Sound studio in New York.
“In the Sun” was previously covered by Peter Gabriel for the 1997 tribute album “Diana, Princess of Wales.” “I guess it’s a song made for charity,” Arthur tells Billboard.com of the track, which originally appeared on his 2000 album “Come to Where I’m From.” “It must have a charitable heart in it.”
Growing up as a hardcore R.E.M. fan in Akron, Ohio, Arthur realized a dream by opening a host of shows for the veteran rock act in 2004. When Stipe called him a few months ago to discuss the “In the Sun” EP concept, Arthur jumped at the chance to contribute.
“The whole thing is such an incredible honor,” he says. “When we did the version where we sing together, he’d sing the first couple of lines, but we were doing it at the same time in the same vocal booth. I’m listening to him do the lines and thinking that I want him to just keep singing it!”
That the project is benefiting Katrina charities is of particular importance for Arthur, who recorded portions of his 2004 album “Our Shadows Will Remain” in the Crescent City. “My little area is somewhat undaunted, right in the French Quarter,” he says. “It’s still in decent shape. But if you go a couple minutes away, it looks like Nagasaki or something. There’s a lot to be done.”
This spring, a short film also titled “In the Sun” will air on Sundance Channel. Directed by Danny Clinch, it will feature interviews with the musicians as well as hurricane survivors.
Here is the track list for “In the Sun”:
“In the Sun” (Gulf Coast Relief), Michael Stipe featuring Chris Martin
“In the Sun” (JAW Breakers remix), Michael Stipe featuring Chris Martin
“In the Sun,” Michael Stipe featuring Joseph Arthur
“In the Sun,” Michael Stipe
“In the Sun” (Michael Stipe live with Coldplay on “Austin City Limits”)
“In the Sun” (Free Acoustic Couch Rehearsal), Michael Stipe featuring Joseph Arthur