A tribute fit for a hero
By Stefanie Wallace
March 7, 2011 - Promises are a recurring theme in Dave Carroll’s life. As a musician, Carroll experienced one broken promise after another in a battle against United Airlines when a baggage attendant broke his guitar. As a volunteer firefighter, those broken promises led Carroll to realize the importance of the promise that he and so many other first responders make to their communities: when you call them, they will come.
By Stefanie Wallace
Now, Carroll, who gained notoriety and exposure with his United Breaks Guitars trilogy that went viral on YouTube, is celebrating that promise with his song, Everyday Heroes (www.911song.com), and the Everyday Heroes tour across Canada and the United States. The tour kicks off April 1 in North Bay, Ont., at the Northeastern Fire Education Conference and trade show.
The Everyday Heroes tribute events are meant to gather residents to share Carroll’s message and honour the community’s first responders – fire, police, EMS and dispatch. “It would be nice to have all four elements in the room, where one’s not being given more credit over the other,” Carroll says.
|Dave Carroll, a singer, songwriter and volunteer firefighter, is touring across North American to pay tribute to first responders for keeping the promises they make to the communities they serve. Photo courtesy Steve Richard.
Carroll came up with the idea of the tribute events while playing the song at a festival in Maine. After hearing Carroll perform, a woman approached Carroll and asked him to play the song at a neighbouring town’s festival as part of a surprise she was planning. At the festival, the entire fire department was brought to the front of the stage before Everyday Heroes was performed. The firefighters didn’t know what was happening, and Carroll didn’t know they would be present.
“Anytime I’ve played the song, I’ve had a strong reaction, but it was nothing like that,” Carroll says. “All of the guys and most people in the audience were teary eyed, and the fire department received a standing ovation. It occurred to me then that the same experience could happen if it were better organized, all over North America. There aren’t enough ways to show we’re grateful, and I had an opportunity with this project to bring that gratitude to places where it’ll be accepted.”
Carroll hopes to generate the same response with each tribute event he hosts.
“At the end of each show, I would hope there would be first responders and community members who will see the value that first responders offer and create a dialogue among first responders to improve communication,” Carroll adds.
Carroll’s manager, Brent Sansom, says the goal is to do 100 Everyday Heroes tributes across Canada and the United States to bring together first responders, community organizations and charities.
“The focal point is to work with local organizations and bring the community together. Dave will host the entire evening and will close the event with a musical performance,” Sansom explains.
“I’ve found I have the ability as a musician to bring people together with my music and I’m hoping this project will bring people together too,” Carroll says.
Carroll decided he wanted to play guitar while attending Carleton University in Ottawa. “Our dad used to play guitar and a bit of piano, but he taught us a love of music. When I got to university I just had a hunch that I might want to play guitar, so I bought one and taught myself the chords,” he says. Carroll and his brother, Don, entered a talent contest at the university and tied for first place. “I remember just feeling the passion as something I wanted to do.”
|Carroll hopes to generate awareness and appreciation for first responders during his Everyday Heroes tour, which kicks off April 1 in North Bay, Ont. Photo courtesy of Brent McCombs and Steve Richard.
The brothers continued to play the pub circuit in Ottawa as Sons of Maxwell, and after a trip to the East Coast, they made the decision to relocate and reconnect with the roots of their music. “We were doing a lot of Celtic, Irish and maritime music in our set at the time and this was the best place in North America to do it,” Carroll explains.
As the career of Sons of Maxwell evolved, so did the band’s performances. On March 31, 2008, the band boarded a United Airlines flight to Omaha, Neb., from Halifax, by way of Chicago. Upon landing in Chicago, a passenger on the flight made a shocking discovery: the baggage handlers were literally throwing around the band’s instruments, including Carroll’s Taylor guitar.
After months of trying to get United Airlines to pay for his broken guitar, to no avail, Carroll realized he was fighting a losing battle. Instead of being angry, he decided to use music as a creative outlet, writing three songs about his experience and bringing a positive light to an otherwise negative situation. Carroll gained worldwide exposure from his United Breaks Guitars trilogy that details his frustrating experience from start to finish through music, videos and humour.
“The message in United Breaks Guitars, about the promise that was made and then broken by the airline, was so successful because millions of people around the world resonated with Dave’s experience,” explains Sansom.
But Carroll didn’t realize the impact his message had on people until he was approached by George Heinrichs, the president of Intrado (a company that provides emergency communication services). Heinrichs was a fan of the United Breaks Guitars trilogy, and liked the “Canadian, non-confrontational way” it was done. Heinrichs was interested in organizing a musical performance for his employees, and offered Carroll the chance to see what the company does first-hand.
|The Everyday Heroes cast spent a weekend in May 2010 depicting first responders and victims in emergency scenes during the Everyday Heroes video shoot.
“They have this interpretative centre in the company where you can hear previous 911 calls that were very moving,” Carroll remembers. Heinrichs brought up the idea of writing a song dedicated to first responders. “I am a five-year volunteer firefighter, and my brother is now a fulltime firefighter. I had tried to write a song before, but could never find an angle that suited me. George challenged me to take another shot at it.”
The meeting at Intrado inspired Carroll. “Companies like Intrado have a marriage of technology with intelligent people working it. At the end of the day, the whole 911 system relies on the integrity of the people who answer the calls,” he says. “If someone needs help, they call this number and they get routed to someone waiting for a call, who will come and help because the said they would.”
This promise became the basis for the song. After Carroll finished writing Everyday Heroes, (a solo project, although he is still a part of Sons of Maxwell) he sent it to Heinrichs, who challenged him again; first, to make a compilation CD, and secondly, to film a music video. Carroll performed Everyday Heroes at Intrado in October 2009, alongside powerful still images of 911 scenes played on big screens. The audience awarded the band with a standing ovation.
“When George saw how this was affecting others, the wheels started turning again. Intrado made it possible for us to make the music video we envisioned, without any expectation of ownership,” Carroll explains.
The video for Everyday Heroes was shot in May 2010 and features firefighters (including Carroll’s brother Don) and apparatuses from Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency. “They really stepped up to make the video authentic,” Carroll says.