By SARAH SCHWARZ
For The Beachcomber
A new CD by islander Arnon Burns is a product of his passion for music, as well as a testament to the community support he’s received in his endeavor.
For Burns, the album “Crazy World” is not only a personal accomplishment, but a way for him to give back to the community that he says has given so much to him. For every copy sold, Burns will donate 50 percent of the proceeds to the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness (IFCH).
Burns grew up on Vashon and left in 1996 to travel. When he returned in 2011 to visit his brother, he decided to stay.
“I had no money and was soon homeless, which was OK because I had my guitar and the winters here are mild,” he said.
Burns had recently overcome drug addiction and lifelong depression, had no place to live and no job, but was still the happiest he’s ever been, he said.
“I had spent many years hiding in depression, so it felt good not to have anywhere to hide,” he said.
Burns was homeless for a year before moving onto a friend’s property. During that time, he used every resource at his disposal to practice and grow his musical abilities.
“I practiced every chance I got. I would sit in the back of the Red Bike every night and plug in my laptop and take guitar lessons on YouTube,” he said.
Burns eventually bought a four-track recorder and began to record music at Ober Park late at night or in the post office. When he wasn’t able to play or record, he would write poetry or new song lyrics.
Over the last three years, Burns taught himself to play every instrument he would need for an album. He also learned to use all of the technology he would need to record, edit and mix it.
“It was me writing, performing, arranging and engineering everything, so I didn’t have to make any compromises or concessions,” Burns said. “It’s my vision in entirety.”
Since he moved back to the island, Burns has also regularly attended the Vashon Community Meals Program. Through the program, he got to know Harmon Arroyo, a meals volunteer who helped him with the logistics of creating “Crazy World.”
An anonymous donation provided the funds for Burns to create 60 copies of his work. Justin Huguet of Vashon Allied Arts helped him with album artwork, and islander Peter Ray created copies of the CD.
While Burns had studied music all his life, in preparation for this album he focused on “the greats, mainly The Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Elton John,” he said.
The album itself reflects Burns’ lifetime of experiences. Its tone is both playful and dark at times, but has an over-arching theme of inspiration and optimism. The artistic range that Burns has developed is clear throughout the album, with different instruments and styles highlighted on different tracks.
Burns plans to continue to focus on music. Once the first 60 copies of his CD are sold, he will use some of his portion of the proceeds to print more, and 50 percent of the proceeds will continue to go to IFCH. He is also already working on a second album, which he describes as “more ambitious than the first,” and also hopes to form a band. “Crazy World” can be purchased at Vashon Island Music.
“I couldn’t have done this without the wonderful and supportive people of Vashon,” he said. “It is an atmosphere that harbors creativity and love — an artist’s paradise.”
— Sarah Schwarz currently studies journalism at Northeastern University.