Three years ago, Troy Michael, owner and founder of “Innocent Words” independent music magazine, got the idea to put out a compilation album to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his publication.
Michael, a self-described music geek since he was 6 years old, didn’t want to be just another indie magazine putting out another indie CD.
“I don’t want to just put out a compilation, I wanna make some noise with it,” Michael said.
The result was the Innocent Words Records compilation for Riley’s Children’s Foundation, a fundraising group for Riley’s Children’s Hospital where Michael received treatment when he was a teenager. The third benefit album, “More Words Than Three,” will be released March 1, but it will be available earlier at release party at the Highdive Saturday night.
Riley’s is a referral-based hospital dedicated solely to the care of children. Michael had his fair share of health problems growing up and in October of 1986, he found out there was something wrong with his kidneys. After months of tests, he was referred to Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, for a kidney transplant. He was 14 years old.
Riley’s is part of the University’s National Institutes of Health-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and is one of the best pediatric research and care centers in the nation, according to their website. Because of Riley’s Children’s Foundation’s fundraising, no Indiana child is ever denied care because of financial shortcomings.
On May 11, 1986, doctors at Riley’s transplanted a kidney donated from Michael’s mother into her son. It was Mother’s Day.
“I want to give back to the hospital that basically saved my life,” Michael said. “I was in the hospital for 31 days and there was nothing to do. They had a recreation room and I always went down there and just did whatever I could. That made an impression on me.”
Michael thought the best thing he could do for the patients was make sure they had an awesome recreation room to utilize during their stay.
“I could have just gave a check and said ‘Hey, here’s some money,”
Michael said, but instead, he uses the money raised by the album to buy art supplies and books to stock the rec room.
“That’s Troy’s bag, he’s very creative himself,” said Scott Kimble, a close friend of Michael and member of Innocent Words band Terminus Victor.
“I go out and buy them art books and crayons and whatever and deliver them over myself,” Michael said.
Michael used the $300 raised by last year’s compilation album, “A Warm Breath…And a Scream,” to donate the complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes books to the hospital. He’s also given a dozen or so art picture books and other supplies to help the kids kill time and encourage their artistic side.
Michael is glad he can use his record label to help out something so dear to him.
“This will be a yearly event until we can’t do it anymore-until we’re dead, or not a label,” Michael said, adding that’s he’s already planning next year’s comp.
This year’s album, “More Ways Than Three,” is the third volume in the Riley’s Benefit compilation series. The track list features Lorenzo Goetz, Terminus Victor, Triple Whip, Cameron McGill (a new Innocent Words artist) and nationally known artists such as Tegan & Sara and Ani DiFranco, who was also part of last year’s project.
Ani DiFranco’s participation in this project is more than just a song on the album. She’s actually part of the reason Innocent Words Records and magazine even exists in the first place.
In 2001, Michael and longtime friend Larry Gates went to an Ani DiFranco show in Indianapolis. Michael was inspired by her get out there and do-it-yourself outlook and remembers her encouraging the audience to think the same way.
“She’s 30 years old and built an empire,” said Gates. “She started building a fan base and now has her own label.”
“I had just turned 30, and she’s my age too, and it was like ‘damn, look what she’s accomplished, and I’ve done shit,'” Michael said. He took a cue from DiFranco and got started on the first issue of “Innocent Words.” The label was born a year later after the first benefit album was released.
“I want to be different, more national, I just don’t want to be another local magazine,” Michael said. He uses his record label and magazine to give people a voice.
“People won’t like everything we do, but somebody will and at least we’re doing something. I think that’s where we’re lucky, we get to do something,” Michael said. “I try to be more active…[I want] people to know what Innocent Words is and what we’re about. It’s a forum to raise awareness.”
On the Innocent Words web site, Michael lists an array of charities to help out and ways to get involved. Many of the charities Michael supports are health problems he, or someone he know, battles.
“Troy’s integrity is impeccable. Everything he does is for the right reasons,” said Kimble. “Any thing we can do to help him install that integrity and vision in young people [we will].”
Lorenzo Goetz, Terminus Victor and Cameron McGill will be playing at the “More Ways Than Three” release show. This is Lorenzo Goetz’s third appearance on the Riley’s benefit album, and Terminus Victor’s and Cameron McGill’s second-all with exclusive tacks. Gates said he’s glad to be given this opportunity.
“At the end of it all, you’ll either be on your death bed with regrets or know that you did it,” Gates said.
The release party is tomorrow at the Highdive in downtown Champaign. The show lasts from 7-10p.m., and costs $5 to get in. “More Ways Than Three” will be available at the show for $10.00, as well as at local CD retailers and online at www.innocentwords.com starting March 1. Proceeds from album sales as well as the show will go to benefit Riley’s Children’s Hospital. “Innocent Words” magazine is a free, bi-monthly publication available at record stores, coffee shops and other locations nationwide.