While most musicians are stuck making music all by their lonesome selves in these quarantined times, John Mark Nelson went the opposite direction.
The Excelsior-reared singer/songwriter enlisted Grammy-winning Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson and 165 new bandmates to help record his new single, "You Are the One," which he issued online Friday.
"When I heard everybody sing together for the first time, it was totally worth it," Nelson said of the Quarantine Chorale.
That's what he's calling the cast of singers from around the world who sent in video or audio of themselves singing the song's four-word refrain. He put out a call asking for the vocal help on March 18. Within 48 hours, he received the 165 contributions used on the track.
"I was blown away by the response," he said.
The "chorale" members range in age from 2 to 89. A few of his musical pals back in Minnesota are part of the mix, including Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Jeremy Messersmith, Mary Bue and Actual Wolf. But the point, he said, was "it didn't have to be professional [or] polished."
"I was craving and seeking out the things that brought us together and reminded us that we are not alone," Nelson wrote in a note posted with the song.
"Then it hit me: Maybe I could write a song not just for people to listen to, but for people to participate in. Many of us have phones that can record audio or video and send it anywhere in the world in a split second."
Eight years since his single "Reminisce" broke big on 89.3 the Current while he was still finishing high school, Nelson has been living in Los Angeles in recent months and was working with fellow Minnesota native Wilson there in the days leading up to the quarantine.
When it became clear they couldn't keep working together in person, Nelson said he and Wilson agreed to work on one song per day and share ideas virtually; and out of that they finished "You Are the One."
It sounds at first like a doomsday song, but then turns sweet: "Even if the world we know crumbles at our feet. Even if it comes to war and riots in the street. You are the one I want to watch it all go down with."
It's fitting, then, that the final contributor was his wife, Sarah Nelson. She created the animation for the music video, which underlines the in-this-together mantra of the day.
"The part that moved me so much was not just that people wanted to sing on the tune," he said, "they also included notes in their e-mails of how thankful they were to have this reminder of togetherness."