Calvin Arsenia Serenades Kansas City With A Love Song

Mar 31, 2017

The artist: Calvin Arsenia

The song: "Kansas City, Baby"

The album: Catastrophe

The accompaniment: Jessica Paige (vocals), Coleen Dieker (violin), Joe Donley (upright bass)

The story: Calvin Arsenia calls his music neo-classical urban folk. His signature instrument is pretty unusual – it's a harp.

But after attending the International Folk Alliance Conference here in Kansas City a few years ago, Arsenia picked up the banjo.

"I just fell in love with the picking process, and the chords," he says. "The banjo is so homey feeling, because of how the body sits so close. All of it is in your lap. It feels so close and familiar."

It was the perfect fit for a love song to his home town: Kansas City. The first verse came to him while he was driving south on U.S. 71. one night. It was about someone, but he says that's not unusual.

"When you're somebody who gives your heart away a lot, and you're looking for people to receive it ... It's not rare for me to find myself drawn to different people," Arsenia says. 

"But then the song grew into something a little more all-encompassing about wherever you feel home, and where I feel home."

He wrote the song in 2015, but saved it for his latest album, Catastrophe, released in November 2016. It's an exploration of the process of romance, he says, starting with love at first sight, and ending with the anger that comes before moving on. 

"Kansas City, Baby" fits right in the middle – right around vulnerability, and discovery of what's truly important. 

"Sometimes you find people and relationships that sting more than they are sweet. Then you go back and find the things that root you and ground you, that you should cling to," he says. "For me, that's the people here in Kansas City."

 

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR 89.3 in which Kansas City musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter and producer for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @adtudhope.