By Sheryl Aronson
On February 8th 2017, at the Sunset Marquis Hotel, Rock Against Trafficking held an industry soft launch of their album, Set Them Free, which are songs from Sting and The Police played by Grammy Award winning Artists and other superstar celebrities. Some of the artists include, Slash, En Vogue, Carlos Santana, Journey, the late Andy Fraser, and actor/musician, Rob Morrow. It was announced that the record will be released March 17th with a phenomenal concert to follow in Nashville.
This evening epitomized all the hard work done by Gary Miller, Sam Aliano and their organization, Rock Against Trafficking, as they have been dedicating themselves to raising money for programs and groups that help these victimized women and children. Although the atmosphere was festive, the serious juxtaposition of why everyone was there, resonated throughout the night. I had written in a previous article that had covered Rock Against Trafficking’s Grammy Party in 2015:
Human trafficking is a 31.6-billion-dollar business and is one of the fastest growing activities of tans-national criminal organizations. Statistics show that 27 million people are slaves today. 80 percent of these victims are women and children. Fifty percent are minors. RAT is dedicated to using the power of music and the entertainment industry to raise money and provide resources to rescue and rehabilitate the abused children, prosecute the perpetrators and open the eyes of the world to this critical cause.
The Hollywood 360 interviewed some of the musicians and board members involved in the project. Here are those interviews.
Carlos Calvo is a guitarist/songwriter who played guitar in the house band back in 2015, and also worked with actor/musician Rob Morrow on the Set Them Free album.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us about your involvement in this project.
Carlos Calvo: When Sam reached out to fellow musicians, artists, writers… it was unanimous to jump on board for an issue this compelling. It started with music, it will continue with music and it will end with music. What a great medium to do a little bit of good.
The Hollywood 360: You were playing that night in 2015? That was such a hot concert.
Carlos Calvo: I was. I was in the house band playing guitar. Very exciting to be a part of that.
The Hollywood 360: Andy Fraser was on stage.
Carlos Calvo: I got to play with Andy, Sam, Gary and Rob Morrow. The band was absolutely all-star.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about the songs that will be on the upcoming album being released in March.
Carlos Calvo: I work with Rob Morrow and he did a song on the album, Sting and The Police’s song, “Murder By Numbers.” We performed it that night in 2015, and Rob cut it for the record. The record is just about wrapping up.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about working with Rob Morrow?
Carlos Calvo: He’s an absolute sweetheart. He’s very soulful, very creative. Creative people tend to transcend whatever medium they are involved in. He’s an incredible actor, incredible writer/director. But then he switches to music, and he comes at it with the same passion and creativity which he does film. It’s very inspiring to us musicians to see an actor come across from that side, and come across with so much passion and enthusiasm.
The Hollywood 360: What is your personal feeling about human trafficking?
Carlos Calvo: This is a continuation of slavery. When we talk about slavery, we are horrified by it. And to think that is still happening under our noses, it is unacceptable and has to stop. I love the fact these guys are taking it on.
Sam Aliano is the co-founder of Rock Against Trafficking. The Australian born drummer began his career in his home country then moved to Los Angeles. He has been in Los Angeles now for 14 years and has worked as a musician and musical director.
The Hollywood 360: How has the organization evolved from the 2015 Grammy event to present day time?
Sam Aliano: A couple of years ago when we had the Grammy party, it was more of a party… getting together with friends and promoting our record. But today is special because we are actually launching our product. It is a soft launch, an industry launch, but finally coming out and saying, ‘We have our product. It is a great record, with Grammy award winning artists.’ It’s a musical compilation of Sting and The Police. We are so proud of all the artists we have on it.
The Hollywood 360: Why did you choose this music to feature?
Sam Aliano: It’s quite simple. Sting is unbelievable. The lyrics to his songs mean so much to us. His song, “Set Them Free” is about the kids, setting them free. It was an obvious choice about using his music. All the artists embraced it. We had artists like Journey, Santana… and Rob Morrow did a great version of “Murder by Numbers”…all the artists that have come on board have taken the lyrics meanings and made it their own.
The Hollywood 360: You are releasing this record in March.
Sam Aliano: March 17th. We have a concert pending. We want to launch it together. Today is a soft industry launch, not a product launch. It will be launched in a month’s time.
The Hollywood 360: What are your thoughts and feelings about Human Trafficking?
Sam Aliano: The way it got started was Gary Miller and I got together and said, ‘We know so many famous musicians that we’ve worked with in the past, what can we do to create awareness to deal with this tragic situation?’ We knew we had celebrity power to create awareness. So we decided to make records, create awareness, and partner with organizations that really go out and save these kids. The more we got into it, the more horrific the stories were. Like Andy Fraser said, bless his soul, (and we are dedicating our record to Andy Fraser), one cannot turn back. We cannot turn away, so we really want to make things happen. It’s an ongoing project. It’s not going to be just one record. We have many records in the making to support the cause.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about your music career.
Sam Aliano: I’m Australian. I’ve been here for 14 years. I am a professional drummer and musical director. I met Gary six or seven years ago by accident. I did some fund raisers’ gigs with Slash. I brought Slash on board and he was a big supporter and artist of our cause straight-a- way. Things grew. On the album I am playing drums on the whole record. It’s anyone from Slash to Andy Fraser to Rob Morrow. I am really passionate about what I do and I know I can make a difference.
The Hollywood 360: Where were the songs recorded?
Sam Aliano: The majority of them were recorded in Gary’s studio in Malibu. I want to thank everyone who has supported our cause over the years. I know it’s been a long time in the making. But we’re finally out, we’re here, please support us. Check out rockagainstrafficking.org. We can all make a difference. Let’s not turn away from what is. Let’s make a difference.
Ian Abouloukme is the CEO of Rock Against Trafficking.
The Hollywood 360: How did you meet Gary and how did this organization all begin?
Ian Abouloukme: I met Gary in July of 2016. We were doing a speech about Sustainability in Vegas. We started speaking about the human trafficking problem. I’m a Dad so it was something that touched me and I felt I had to do something about it. Here I am CEO today, hoping to make some serious change.
The Hollywood 360: How will the project go out into the public and raise the money.
Ian Abouloukme: The objective is to cast a big light onto the human trafficking problem itself through music, and having all the entertainers getting involved. We are able to attract a lot of donations for Rock Against Trafficking and then disperse those donations to the organizations that are actually doing something to stop the problem. They need a lot of help to get the awareness out there.
We’re here to make the announcement that the album will be coming out in March. This is the soft launch and there’s a concert in the works as well.
Gary Miller is an internationally renowned English music producer, composer, arranger and songwriter. He is President and Founder of Rock Against Trafficking.
The Hollywood 360: It seems as if your project has come a long way since 2015. Talk about how this project has evolved.
Gary Miller: It’s been a long struggle. It stands to flourish now. Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse and worse with children. For our cause and what we are doing, in one way it’s a good thing, because we can shed light on the problem. There have been a lot of changes with the organization and I feel I got the right team behind me to really make a difference with all of this. The album is finished which is a relief. We got more to do. More albums to do.
I am a bit overwhelmed by it all already. Our organization wants to help all these children who are suffering around the world and with the aid of entertainment, bring it all to create the awareness to save these children through the power of music.
Hopefully, we are doing a concert in March, the 17th and 18th and 19th in Nashville, which will be the biggest human trafficking concert in history. It looks like we have Jennifer Lopez, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks to name a few.
Deon Estus was George Michael’s bass player for Wham. He has also played with many well- known artists throughout his illustrious career. Deon Estus plays bass on the Set Them Free album.
The Hollywood 360: How are you contributing to the Set Them Free album?
Deon Estus: I am playing the bass on the whole album. I’ve been working with Gary for years. I am very excited about it. The songs are fabulous and there are a lot of good artists on the record.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us about your musical career.
Deon Estus: I’ve worked with George Michael, Elton John, Seal, Annie Lennox, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner…I’ve been around a long time.
I was born in Detroit, but I’m from England where I spent 25 years there.
The Hollywood 360: What are your personal feelings regarding human trafficking?
Deon Estus: It’s so important that we all work together to make it stop happening.
Rob Morrow is an actor/writer/director of television and film. He is best known for playing Dr. Joel Fleischman on the hit television series, Northern Exposure which he received three Golden Globe Awards. He also played FBI agent, Don Eppes, on Number3rs. Rob Morrow is also a singer/songwriter and contributed his musical talents to Set Them Free.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about your involvement with this project. You are playing a song on the album.
Rob Morrow: Sam and I go back some years, because we have played a bunch of gigs together. He told me about this project and it was a no brainer. I have a 15- year- old daughter and just imagining someone like her getting caught up in something like human trafficking is horrific. I am a huge Sting fan, so when they said I would play a Sting song, that made it even more exciting. Somehow I ended up with “Murder by Numbers” which is a song I love, and we had a great time recording it. I think we are going to go out and do some concerts.
The Hollywood 360: You performed at the Grammy event in 2015 where Andy Fraser played.
Rob Morrow: I performed three songs and “Murder by Numbers” was one of them. Andy Fraser was so sweet. We had a good time. We got a couple of rehearsals in so I got to hang out with him. Great musician.
The Hollywood 360: What are the differences creatively being an actor as compared to being a musician.
Rob Morrow: One of the cool things and why I think I am also a musician is, it’s immediate. I can go into my studio and transcend with music. I can get into this space that I can’t get to in acting and in writing. With music, you feel it. It’s not so much about thinking. It transforms me. I can do it autonomously without negotiating, auditioning, developing. I just can do it. It feels like a salvation for me.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about your music career.
Rob Morrow: It’s not long. I started playing drums when I was five or six. I played all the way through my teens. Ultimately, I think rhythm is at the heart of everything I do. I direct. I act. I write. Everything comes down to rhythm for me ultimately. I feel like that is my touchstone. I always sang. I started playing guitar in my twenties. I had a guitar with me always, on the set, in my trailer. So I played every day, mainly covers. But then 10 years ago, I was on a television show for ABC called The Whole Truth and we did 13 episodes, then went off the air. When we were in the middle of the fifth or sixth show, they knew it wasn’t doing well so they were trying to come up with PR gimmicks. Conan O’Brien had just shown up on the Warner Brothers Lot and they said they were going to put a camera in his hallway and anyone on the lot could get 10 minutes. The PR people came to me and said, ‘You got to do something. They said, ‘Do a song, you’re always playing music …write a song…in two hour’s time.’ I went in my little trailer and I took a 12 chord blues progression and put lyrics that were apropos to the show into it. And it worked. A lightbulb then went off that I had written a song.
I began studying guitar with Carlos Calvo, since then we have become friends and writing partners. He started coaching me. I’ve been in a ten- year intensive program, studying voice and we have written a ton of songs. You can pick them up on Itunes and under my name and Carlos’s name. We got two songs we are about to record.
The Hollywood 360: What is your style?
Rob Morrow: We call it Funky Pop… Soulful Rock and Funky Pop. Very singer/songwriter influence. Because we’re not beholden to any style there’s Brazilian influence all kinds of stuff. I write all the lyrics and I can see I have certain predilections that are starting to emerge.
The Hollywood 360: You do “Murder By Numbers” on this album. Have you ever met Sting?
Rob Morrow: Yes. I got to see him two weeks ago coincidently… my friend Stanley Silverman, who wrote a classical piece, and is Sting’s friend got invited to a recording session. Sting told Stanley to come down and I went with him. It was just Sting, Stanley, me and the engineer. I watched Sting record this classical piece which was so cool because it was so precise. No room for improvising. Note for note. He is such an amazing musician.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us about your acting career right now as well.
Rob Morrow: I’m acting on four shows right now. I am on Designated Survivor, Billions on Showtime, Sun Records which is on the Country Music station (not out yet) and a show called The Fosters, which I direct and act on.
The Hollywood 360: Is there a difference being on one show like you did with Northern Exposure as compared to now where you mentioned multiple shows?
Rob Morrow: Cool part about it is…the real joy is in the creation of the character. If you have a good character you’re taking a long journey with that person and finding all the nuances over time so I would call that an advantage.
The Hollywood 360: Any last words about human trafficking?
Rob Morrow: Just the idea that people would steal the innocence of a child … the work that Gary Miller and his organization is doing is critical.
In the words of the organization, Rock Against Trafficking: Rock Against Trafficking uses their social platforms to spread awareness of the issue and to raise funds for distribution to support trafficking survivors. We believe that because of the lack of awareness around the issue of human trafficking, the demand for policy and societal change is lacking as well. Rock Against Trafficking produces music, recorded and live, and releases it as a tool to educate the general public around the issue, encourage people to get involved in the fight against it and raise the funds necessary to support the rehabilitation of all survivors of human trafficking.
You can find out more about Rock Against Trafficking by going to the following links: