Fourteen years after R.E.M. recorded Automatic for the People in New Orleans, singer Michael Stipe is helping out the people there by releasing a benefit EP to raise funds and awareness for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
The EP, which will be released exclusively via the iTunes Music Store on Sunday, will feature six versions of a song called “In the Sun,” including three featuring Chris Martin with one of those remixed by Justin Timberlake and Will.I.Am and another recorded live with Coldplay.
“The news cycle has moved on, and I don’t want the public to forget about those who were affected by Katrina or to believe that everything is fine now,” Stipe said in a statement. “Things are not fine. The storm is still impacting people’s lives in very real ways, and many have been left desperate. I want to remind each of us that as humans, and certainly as Americans, it is our responsibility to help those in need.”
“In the Sun” was written by singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur and featured on his 2000 album, Come to Where I’m From. Arthur is featured on two of the EP’s versions, including an acoustic rehearsal. (The sixth is solely Stipe.)
“The first time Joseph and I spoke, he was in New Orleans,” said Stipe, who also has family roots in the Gulf Coast region. “When I saw what happened with Katrina, ‘In the Sun’ came to mind. He writes from a very deep, intuitive place.”
With the exception of the live track, which was recorded for “Austin City Limits,” the EP was produced by former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and features Fountains of Wayne singer Adam Schlesinger on piano.
The Martin duet version will premiere on “Grey’s Anatomy” after the Super Bowl on Sunday, while the song will return to television in the spring as part of a short film, also titled “In the Sun,” on the Sundance Channel. It features interviews with the song makers, hurricane survivors and volunteers.
Proceeds from the EP will go to Mercy Corps, a nonprofit humanitarian relief agency.
“I had to do something as a Southerner,” Stipe said. “I had to do something as a public figure. The one thing I can do is sing, and it’s probably the best way to get people to pay attention.”
To find out what you can do to help provide relief to victims of Katrina, head to think MTV’s hurricane relief page.