"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
The Times caught up with Beebe native and "The Voice" contestant Cody Belew this week. Belew recently released "Say Love," a new song and video written specifically for Little Rock-based Heifer International, at the urging of Little Rock musician and Heifer employee Shannon Boshears. The video was filmed at Heifer projects in Ecuador and in Arkansas and all of the song's proceeds will benefit Heifer. Belew will also perform May 18 at Feast in the Field at Heifer Village in downtown Little Rock. You can download "Say Love" and find out more at Heifer.org.
What first inspired you to want to work with Heifer International?
Well, to be honest they contacted me first, after my Robinson Auditorium concert in January. Shannon was there and came through the meet-and-greet line and approached me about doing the Feast in the Field event in May. She emailed me a couple of weeks later and when she did, I said I'm happy to do that event, but I want to think bigger picture, a long-term partnership. Because a year prior to that, I had this idea and it was even before I done "The Voice." I was sitting at my desk at my day job and had this idea that I was going to sing a song and start a movement for some sort of social awareness and I didn't even know what it was. I would get to work and write down ideas about how I was going to achieve this thing.
I was having these ideas about doing a Kickstarter for some sort of charity. So whenever Heifer called me, I remembered that and thought it must have been some sort of premonition. I told Shannon about that and she said, "That's so weird, because I've had the idea for a song-based benefit for Heifer. My original concept was to sing a cover, and she challenged me to write my own and that's how the whole thing blossomed.
I understand you grew up on a farm in Beebe, right?
Right. We didn't have a whole lot of land. We didn't have enough land to ever sustain our own cattle herd, but we would always have a couple of cows for slaughter and we had pigs and chickens. Looking back, I think it was more to keep me and my brother occupied. My main thing was horses, for trail riding and rodeos. My dad had always dreamed of having a large farm, so we always had animals.
Did that resonate with you when considering working with Heifer?
Well, it made sense to me, because hunger — and the issues around it and how different people have different ideas of how to fix it — my whole life I felt like I was going to have a voice in that. I always thought I'd make it in music and then use that platform to make a difference. That may sound kind of weird and kooky, but I've always put a vision out there and then gone for that vision. I check things off my list that way. I've always known about Heifer because I'm from Arkansas. But I like the whole idea of a sustainable, long-term solution in a family's life. It's not like they walk though villages and pass out bags of white paste. They are actually giving them a reason to better their own life, and it's not a cultural change. They don't go in there pressure you to change your way of life, they take you where you're at and they ask you what you need.
In Ecuador, where we went, I assumed I was going to walk in there and see these families that were hungry and starving and Heifer helped them by giving them animals — the generic Heifer story. But these people already had their way of life and their way of raising crops and animals. But they needed water, which used to come from the high up in the mountains and wasn't anymore. And Heifer pinpointed the reason and went in solved that problem. I thought that was so interesting, that Heifer really goes in and listens to the needs of the community and then tries to help them where they're at.