Brian Jackson Fetzer isn't your typical musician. He's a multi-talented artist who has just released a CD and a book of photographs celebrating the many faces of Salt Lake City.
Fetzer is obviously enamored with Salt Lake City, and his new album, "Salt Lake City — Ready to Fly!," is an affectionate tribute to Utah's largest city. And only someone who has as much enthusiasm and exuberance as Fetzer could conceive and carry out this vast project.
"I love Salt Lake City," Fetzer told the Deseret News. "I think it's a great town." He says "Salt Lake City — Ready to Fly!" is an attempt to capture the heart and soul of the city. "The whole city was participating in a great moment of celebrating what Salt Lake City is about."
Cities are made up of people and places, and Salt Lake City, of course, is no exception. But what Fetzer has done with both his photos and his recording is focus in on and highlight the things that make our city unique. "I wanted to write about it, sing about it and photograph it," Fetzer said. "There are a lot of beautiful things around us."
And so the CD has songs about Gilgal Garden ("Love, It's a Beautiful Word"), Hansen Planetarium ("Planetary Bells") and the Salt Lake International Peace Gardens ("Colors"). There is also a special section devoted to the Children's Museum of Utah, which includes a rocking version of every toddler's favorite song, "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
"I doubt that any other city has this kind of musical portrait," Fetzer pointed out.
The seeds for "Salt Lake City — Ready to Fly!" were planted years ago when a local radio station was looking for a new song about the city and held a songwriter contest. "KALL radio wanted a Salt Lake City song — this was back when the station was up by the Cathedral (of the Madeleine). I wrote three of them but didn't win." However, it did get Fetzer's creative juices flowing, and the new CD contains music that spans some 25 years in Fetzer's career as a musician.
The Salt Lake singer/songwriter is a raconteur who has an anecdote for just about every one of the songs on the album. One of his favorites deals with "Colors," which is about ethnic diversity, and how being exposed to many different cultures can enrich your life. "One of the first times that ( 'Colors') was performed in public was for a group of blind people. I told them, 'You have an advantage, because you can't see a person's color and race. You look at people from the heart.' "
Fetzer, who's 52 now, started singing and writing music when he was in grade school. A lot of his early tunes from the 1970s were jingles, which he wrote while he was artistic director for Pathfinder Productions. Fetzer is responsible for such ditties as "Music is for Everyone" for Daynes Music, "Oh, What a Feeling" for Wagstaff Toyota and "Be Kind to Animals" for the Humane Society of Utah.
Fetzer has been inspired by many artists, although he mentions two in particular. "My main influences are Peter, Paul and Mary and Harry Belafonte." And as for his voice, the Los Angeles Times once described him — fairly accurately — as sounding a bit like Dan Fogelberg.
But no matter what his influences are, or who his vocal inflection might resemble, Fetzer is definitely his own man — and a refreshingly distinctive musical personality in a world filled with unimaginative uniformity.
But he is quick to point out that he couldn't have realized "Salt Lake City — Ready to Fly!" without the aid of many local musicians, including Stan Funicelli and Craig Kaelin. And he also readily admits that his wife, Lori Jill Petrovich Fetzer, is the main reason he was able to see this project through to its completion.
Fetzer is an optimist who sees the future as bright and full of hope. "I really see that Salt Lake and America have a great future," he said. And in his opinion, that future is founded on a healthy creative environment. "I think that photographs, songs and poetry — if they're good — can add positive values to a culture. They can add continuity and stability, and that is very important for the culture of a city and a nation. It helps us to remember the greatness in the past and see the greatness in the future."