Over the summer, local singer/guitarist Howard Markman was on his way to a teaching gig in Timonium when he noticed there was a new message on his cell phone. As he recalls, it went something like this: "Hi, this is Commotion Records in New York, and we'd like to talk to you about using your song, 'Almost Home,' for a movie project. Please call us at your earliest convenience."
Markman, a staple on the local music scene and veteran of bands such as Disappear Fear and Freewater, had been trying to sell his songs to labels and music publishers for decades, with no success. "My initial thought was, 'Which one of my friends got a friend in New York to make this call?'" he says.
But the call was no prank: Commotion was putting together a soundtrack for Carrier, a 10-part documentary—produced by Icon, Mel Gibson's production company—about life aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitzduring a deployment to the Persian Gulf. "When they asked if I'd be interested in letting them use my song," says Markman, "I was practically jumping up and down inside the car."
According to Carrier editor Jay Keuper, he had originally hoped to use Ozzy Osbourne's "Mama, I'm Coming Home" in a particular episode, but the cost was too high. So Keuper turned to iTunes. "One afternoon, I spent quite a bit of time typing in keywords that would fit the theme of coming back to the States," recalls Keuper. "One of the songs that came up was 'Almost Home.' I had never heard of Howard Markman before, but the 30-second preview sounded promising, so I downloaded the song."
Keuper liked what he heard. "I felt like the song was going to fit musically," he recalls, "[and] the line 'I'm almost there, I'm almost home,' seemed like it was written for us." (Markman declines to specify how much he was paid for his song, saying only that he was "fairly compensated.")
When Carrierdebuts on PBS in April, Markman's song will be in good company: Ozzy may not have made the final cut, but tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, and The Killers did.