When it comes time for most local musicians to raise a family, they often seek out a "real job." Playing late night gigs, touring for weeks at a time, and chasing dreams takes a backseat to the need for a steady paycheck.
"For Graham Whorley, it was the opposite," says filmmaker Adam Chase, who worked with MPA Productions co-owner Mandy Philips to produce Permission to Think: The Documentary. The film chronicles the recording of Whorley's new 14-song studio album of the same name. Chase says, "It was his wife and family that challenged and pushed him harder to not have to leave what he loves to do."
Chase and Philips spent eight months following Whorley and his family, compiling over 80 hours of footage that they condensed into the 30-minute film. The couple took on the Whorley project pro bono, seeing it as an avenue to grow their production business (they've since recorded videos for the Heavy Pets and Acoustic Syndicate).
"What really inspired us to want to make it was Graham's ability to support his family as a musician," Chase reiterates. It's an evident theme throughout the movie, as the cameras capture him playing and teaching songs to both his son and daughter or laughing with his wife, Keli, in their kitchen.
Early in the film, Whorley tells the story of his first gig, when at 14 he was forced to hide behind a stack of speakers while the club got raided. After moving to Folly Beach — penniless — he often played for small change and dinner, building his reputation as a strong solo performer.
The filmmakers also speak with a collection of notable locals about Whorley's influence, including artist Ishmael and the City Paper's own Ballard Lesemann.
"Graham Whorley was here when I started, and Graham Whorley will be here when I'm gone," says musician Cary Ann Hearst to the camera. "He's the Rock of Gibraltar of the Charleston music scene. He's deep down in there."
Initially planned as a for-sale DVD, the team eventually decided to release Permission to Think: The Documentary over the holidays for free via YouTube and Whorley's website (see below). They recently released Graham Whorley apps for iPhone and Android as well.
MPA plans to submit the project to film festivals in 2012, and Whorley recently signed on with Leeway's Home Grown Music Network to promote his album. He plans to tour the Southeast in March with his band, which includes bassist Will Ames and drummer Karl Anderson.
"It's a little more about my lifestyle, as opposed to what most people would think the rock 'n' roll lifestyle is," Whorley says of the film. "I wanted people to know me a little better on that level." —Stratton Lawrence
The Graham Whorley Band performs at the Pour House on Sat. March 3. Whorley performs solo at Juanita Greenberg's in Mt. Pleasant every Thursday at 6 p.m. Visit grahamwhorley.com for more.