Patricia Silverberg has always loved music, but never thought that she had the “proper range” to be successful enough. That all changed after attending the Lilith Festival in Phoenix, Arizona, where she saw Natalie Merchant, The Indigo Girls, and Sarah McLachlan perform. From that moment on, she knew that music was the path for her. When she watched those powerful women in action, she was inspired to take the leap.
Her new video to accompany her rendition of “Midnight Special” is all about giving a voice to the voiceless. Let’s hear what Patricia had to say about her video:
Tell us the story of this song. Why did you choose to visualize this song specifically?
“Midnight Special” is a traditional American folk song with origins circa 1900. No one knows who the true author of the song is, but Leadbelly, a former inmate and famed blues singer, made the song famous in the 1930s. I discovered Odetta’s version a few years ago. Her emotional contralto voice enthralled and inspired me. I adopted the song and began singing it at local folk festivals. To make this song modern and relatable, I added a verse about “Tent City” in Phoenix (I live in Arizona). As a folk singer, I wanted to call out the horrendous injustices that the former sheriff made towards Latinos and anyone who spoke out against him. In my opinion, “Tent City” is against the 8th Amendment. (I can only say this as he is no longer in power, or I’d be sent to “Tent City”) I feel like I’m doing my job as a folk singer!
What is the inspiration behind this video (visual, storyline, etc)?
Since I created an all-acoustic blues/Americana version of the song, I wanted the video to have an earthy unadorned feel to it. If I chose flashy special effects and images, the message, the lyrics, and the organic feel of the music would have been lost. Since I had a small budget, I used historical pictures as they are no longer under copyright restrictions. I found most of the assets from the Library of Congress. I interweaved a video of myself with images of steam trains (including footage from Thomas Edison’s studio) and prisoners to illustrate the story. I purposefully chose images representing diverse people, including African Americans and women. One of the images is of Ledbelly: the man credited for making the song famous.
What was the process of making this video?
My budget was limited. I used my cell phone with a simple background to capture myself lip-syncing the song. A small lamp sits in frame to represent the Midnight Special “shining its ever-lovin’ light on me.” The filming took place at Greenworld Recording in Gilbert, AZ; the studio where I recorded my EP. I used a video editing application to slice the footage with the historical photos and films. The final master of the song was added to the editor’s timeline. I added fade in/out transitions in between images for subtle special effects. Fitting the historical images and film into the same frame along with the video proved challenging. I had to crop and adjust each asset.