Driftwood Soldier, West Philly’s premier mandolin–bass gutter folk duo, has recently launched a “collective songwriting experiment.” The goal of the project is to synthesize Philadelphians’ experience with isolation.

To do this, bandmates Owen Lyman–Schmidt and Bobby Szafranski are asking anyone who identifies as a Philadelphian to submit a short reflection of their experience with the pandemic. The submissions can be anything: a sentence, a fragment, a feeling, or even just raw sensory experiences. The submission form can be found here.

“This city is diverse and multifaceted, and there isn’t just one experience of a crisis like this. That’s the whole point of this project: to sample some of those voices, to sample some of those lives and experiences,” Lyman–Schmidt explained. “The whole nature of us being kept apart is that our stories are not always lining up in the same way that usually do. We want to hear other people’s experiences and try to put together a patchwork quilt of it to get a sense of what this time has  been like for the city.”

The end result of this project is still up in the air, though at least one song will be produced. Szafranski remarked that “the goal is to write one song, but who knows what will happen.” Lyman–Schmidt added, “We’d love it if the response was so overwhelming that we had no choice but to write a couple songs, or an EP, or a 10-volume collection.”

Submissions for the project opened last Friday, and the band has started going through the early responses. “We were very pleasantly surprised,” says Szafranski. “I was expecting some anecdotes, you know, ‘I miss my friends.’ But we’ve got some really good things.”

Both members took the time to acknowledge the weight of this work. “There’s sort of a confessional nature to the project that is been a surprise, and something that we take to heart, very seriously,” Lyman–Schmidt said. “People are really sharing with us, and trusting that their voice or their story can find a place in our music. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude that people are still looking for ways to connect with each other, and still looking for ways to connect with us and the music we’re making.”

This project is a collaboration with the Philadelphia Folksong Society and supported through the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

Contribute to Driftwood Soldier’s collective songwriting experiment by filling out this form. Submissions will be accepted until May 31st. The final project will be sent to all participants via email.

Listen to Driftwood Soldier’s latest album, Stay Ahead of the Wolf, below.