Press release from Great Smoky Mountains Association:
Great Smoky Mountains Association is pleased to announce the release of “Safe Passage: Animals Need a Hand,” a music video featuring Asheville-based band The Fates.
Using captivating lyrics and vivid imagery to highlight the need for safe wildlife crossing structures in the Smokies, the video follows The Fates as they sing, play their instruments, and walk through the forest. Interspersed between shots of the band is engaging footage of the region’s iconic wildlife species and examples of successful crossing structures.
The Fates are a harmony-driven acoustic trio comprising vocalist and guitarist Natalie Karrh, vocalist, pianist and bassist Lexi McGraw, and vocalist and violinist Bella Wells-Fried. Heard on hybrid percussion kit throughout the track but not seen in the video is world-renowned studio musician and composer River Guerguerian, who mentored the band as their high school music teacher at Odyssey Community School in Asheville.
“When River told us that GSMA was looking for a band to record a video for this song, we all agreed it was an opportunity not only to expand our musical repertoire but also to raise our voices for a project that is making positive change in our region,” said McGraw. After The Fates expressed interest in the project, Guerguerian invited his former students back into Odyssey’s studio setting, where he engineered and produced the musical recording heard in the video.
Directed by Indianapolis-based filmmaker and musician Joe Lamirand and produced by GSMA Creative Services Director Frances Figart, who also wrote the song’s music and lyrics, the video is part of a widespread, collaborative effort to draw attention to animal mortality rates along Interstate 40, as well as to promote the funding and construction of safe passages for wildlife in this area.
“The visual concept of the video was partially inspired by the band’s mythological namesakes, The Fates, from their stylized presentation to modern-day hikers symbolizing the animals that have been traveling on the same trails for millennia,” said Lamirand. “We see Lexi, Natalie, and Bella as subtle representations for bear, deer, and elk, following the ancient trails they have always known and struggling to navigate through these huge, loud, scary man-made obstacles . . . highways that have divided their land and threatened their survival.”
In 2020, GSMA became one of six organizations to help launch Safe Passage: The I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project, a collaborative effort to channel funding, resources, and support for wildlife crossings on I-40 near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Inspired by this work, Figart wrote the book “A Search for Safe Passage,” published in March 2021 by Great Smoky Mountains Association. Geared toward young readers, the book was an instant hit and is now in its second printing. While writing the book, Figart also composed “Safe Passage: Animals Need a Hand” to ignite the wildlife crossing movement by reaching an even broader public audience. The lyrics and score of the song are included in the back of the book.
Figart said her goals in producing the video are to save the lives of animals, call attention to the public’s ability to donate to the Safe Passage fund, and honor all those working for wildlife crossing options throughout the globe. In particular, she wants to honor the six collaborative partners in the Safe Passage Fund Coalition: The Conservation Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains Association, National Parks Conservation Association, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and Wildlands Network.
On behalf of The Fates, McGraw added: “We hope this video will bring more attention to the Safe Passage project.”
The music video for “Safe Passage: Animals Need a Hand” debuted Dec. 10 on GSMA’s YouTube channel, GreatSmokyMountains. Radio stations interested in playing the song can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the Safe Passage project at SmokiesSafePassage.org.