What’s It Gonna Take?
When George Floyd was killed last year, Asheville musicians Anya Hinkle, formerly of Tellico, and Graham Sharp, of Steep Canyon Rangers, set out to write a song into which they could channel some of the emotions they were feeling. “I think the particulars of his killing, his calling for his mama, his not being able to breathe—well, those are things we can all immediately relate to no matter who you are,” Hinkle says. “I think Graham and I were in shock. It was difficult to write about, but impossible not to.”
It was the first song the two, who are neighbors, had written together. “I think we were both searching for perspective in writing this song,” Sharp says. “The writing process is usually the best way for me to dig into my heart and mind when I’m trying to make sense of things.”
The result was the single, released in February, titled “What’s It Gonna Take?” DaShawn and Wendy Hickman, African American musicians, join them on the record. “I think recording this song with musicians who have experienced racism was vital to the process,” says Sharp.
Hinkle had met DaShawn and Wendy at the NC Folk Festival, where they talked about collaborating some day. “When I brought up the possibility of cutting this single together, they were 100 percent behind recording with Graham and me,” Hinkle says. “Over the course of the summer, we spent a lot of time together talking about racism in our country, in our communities. We really were able to forge a connection by recording this song together and their talents [DaShawn on pedal steel guitar and Wendy on vocals] add just the right sound for the message.” The two will also join Hinkle on her upcoming album to be released this summer.
Songs have a special communicative power, Hinkle says, and she hopes that this one will inspire listeners to think more deeply about what they can do to effect changes in the country. “It’s a gospel song, a protest song and a song of unity,” Hinkle says. “It sounds like church and it talks like Guthrie.”
The song is available on streaming platforms. To learn more, visit AnyaHinkle.com.