Artists give back to troops
December 18, 2008
Last year at this time, Grammy Award nominee John Ondrasik, who performs under the band name Five for Fighting, was wondering how his project, "For the Troops," would work out.
He had called in most of his favors with fellow artists, representing many types of music, and many of them offered their songs for a free CD and download Ondrasik was compiling for military ID card holders.
Servicemembers and their families downloaded more than 400,000 times from AAFES.com, and none of the 200,000 free CDs were left on Army and Air Force Exchange Service shelves.
Today, Ondrasik is happy to tell military members, families and retirees there is a second CD available.
"I saw how much the first CD meant to a lot of the families and the troops when I was doing some of my USO trips," Ondrasik told the Cannoneer. "I asked what type of music they wanted, and everyone had an opinion; the response was so great last year. I enjoyed doing it, and I thought, 'How can we not do another one''"
This year's CD is again available for download at www.AAFES.com. Several hundred thousand hard copy disks are being sent to military members in combat zones and to various AAFES facilities.
This year's lineup has a little more rock, said Ondrasik, but it still features an eclectic mix.
The acts who contributed songs include: 3 Doors Down; Daughtry; Five for Fighting; Good Charlotte; Gretchen Wilson; Isaac Hayes; Joe Perry (from Aerosmith); Josh Groben; Jude; Keith Urban; Maroon 5; Roy Orbison; Alan Jackson; and Trace Adkins.
Ondrasik said an artist contributing a song for the CD means they are giving up the rights to that song, so they don't get paid for each download or CD.
"I think it's a credit to not only the artists and their managers, but to the labels and publishers who all had to sign off on this," Ondrasik said. "They're not to just giving away songs, but hit songs, money-making songs, songs that everybody knows, songs that are still on the radio. It's great and it's the least we could do."
But, there are limits. Ondrasik said that's why the CD is only available to military ID card holders at AAFES.com. He said supporting the troops is one thing, giving a song away to the general public is another.
The album is not meant to be political. Yet, Ondrasik said some artists he approached declined to contribute, whether for monetary, political or other reasons. He said he's fine with that and he doesn't push anyone to contribute.
Ondrasik said he never knew anyone in the military while growing up and only started meeting them during his shows. Now, he includes military members in his shows whenever he can. He tours military installations whenever he's near one. He and his family have become regular visitors at Edwards Air Force Base, near his home in California.
He said he gets much of the influence and ideas for his music from people in uniform.
"There's always a song or two on my records inspired by my trips and my experiences," Ondrasik said. "There's a song on my next record called, 'A Note to the Unknown Soldier,' and if I'm not hanging out with military people or learning that way of life, that song doesn't get written. When things move you and you're passionate about things, it can't help but end up on your record."
He said he will continue to tour and perform where the troops are and continue to help support them any way he can.
Right now, that means starting this week on "For the Troops 3."
Military ID card holders can download the 15 songs from the current "For the Troops II" at www.aafes.com
For more information about the artists and songs, go to www.cdforthetroops.com