A local musician and volunteer firefighter is getting ready to hit the road. His tour will cover local firehouses. It's inspired by the recent tragedy in West Webster.
"Country music I always loved. I was a big George Strait fan."
Music is in Paul Cummings' blood.
"What got me about country music was the storytelling."
Inspiration for what he sings comes from the heart.
"Country, you can listen to one song, and it's like listening to a 300 page novel in three minutes."
The words for the country music singer/songwriter don't always come easy.
"Sitting down, actually constructing a song is actually quite challenging for me. It takes a big event for me to actually sit down and want to write about it."
Sometimes inspiration comes when you least expect it.
"You get in the cab of one of these trucks, and there's a lot that you don't know," he said. "You go knowing you might not come back to this building."
Four and a half years ago, the Bergen volunteer firefighter went on a call he'll never forget.
"We were the first engine in. It was blazing. We had confirmed people trapped."
Despite the best efforts of firefighters, four people died in the flames. It was in that tragedy that Cummings found his lyrics.
"I had a studio upstairs in my house, I pretty much locked myself in for two weeks and wrote the song, and that's what got me through that."
It's called, simply, "The Firefighter Song." It's an homage to firefighters who risk their own lives every day.
"It's funny. The song takes on completely a new meaning every time we play it."
Four years after he recorded it, the song again found new life, and meaning in the face of tragedy: the deadly Christmas Eve morning ambush that killed two West Webster firefighters.
"I've gotten off a firetruck somewhere between 600 and a thousand times. Never once did I even think that bullets would be flying."
Cummings corresponded through e-mail with West Webster firefighters in the day after the attack. It seems his song helped them heal. So he came up with an idea: to play 30 shows in 30 days at local fire houses. A "thank you" to fellow firefighters.
"Give them a night off, especially the firefighters related to West Webster. Give them a night to just have fun and relax."
"It surprised me a lot," said Jim Blankenberg.
Blankenberg, a promoter, has helped Cummings organize the shows, which will go off during the month of March. They will also feature other local musicians.
"It brings you down to earth. I've been at different fire scenes and seen death and this song hits home. It hits the heart," Blankenberg said.
"It's a helping hand, saying, you know what? It's a helping hand saying we've been there. We know what you're going through and thank you," Cummings said.
Once the 30 shows in 230 days are done, Cummings plans to take his Firefighter Song all over the country. He's already hit the road with it, playing fire halls, visiting radio stations, getting the word out.
Cummings is looking for sponsors for his tour. The shows are free to firefighters. He'll sing to firefighters this week at a West Webster benefit. It's the least he can do to show appreciation, from the heart.
"When we've done the song around the local areas, we get a huge sense of pride in the room. All the firefighters band together and they cheer. It makes me more proud to be a firefighter."
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