San Francisco songwriter Seth Lael has created a beautiful folk song in “On the Road” – a thoughtful, nostalgic record-keeping of the journey to “get where you need to go.” The video – shot using handmade pinhole lenses – features original footage captured from Treasure Island to Pacifica. Whether riding the trolley, lurking at a protest at City Hall, row-boating on the Bay, or riding the PCH on a scooter, Lael comes across as something of a Bay Area cowboy (a troubadour/transient) with a rich lilt to his voice.
You can tell this video was made by someone who loves San Francisco but also sees her scars. Director Jason Jossefer — a native of the city — created the special pinhole lens (pictured below) mounted on an RED Epic camera.
Here’s what Jossefer had to say about it:
“The lens allowed for a variety of focal lengths and a range of aperture sizes. Pinhole photography offers a diffused look and dreamy atmosphere which felt appropriate for the song. We coupled this lens with a wide-screen aspect ratio and an 18 frames per second frame rate which was inspired by the experimental films by Andy Warhol.”
The “dreamy atmosphere” creates the impression that the viewer’s own eyes are the camera, which couples well with the solitary, almost-internal monologue feel of the song. Lael is poetic and melodic as he sweetly steers our eyes along the road. Lovers of Greg Brown will be delighted by this song. Incidentally, Lael calls Brown out in this song:
“Cause nothing soothes my soul
Like a little Greg Brown on the road
Cause I met him one time
And we became friends
He said ‘I’ve been driving alone all night
Waiting for this old song to pay off
I will never give into the feeling
Of wasting all of my time.’
But it ain’t easy, it ain’t easy
Trying to get where you need to go”
(There’s a special sort of satisfaction as a music writer to hear an influence in someone’s sound and then to have the artist confirm it. As Laurie Anderson said, “Oh boy, right again.”)
Check out the video below and then check him out at The Lost Church on Saturday February 11th with a new project called ‘Seth & Erma’ – a mix of original Progressive Gypsy Folk songs performed by Seth Lael and Miss Erma. Tickets here. More of Lael’s music is here.