By David Willis
---- — When the offer was presented to the Boys & Girls Club of Haverhill, the teenagers there had just one response.
They were in.
Jillian Cardarelli, the Haverhill native and current Nashville singer/songwriter, wanted the teens from her hometown to star in the music video for her charity single “Complicated.” What was there to consider?
“When they told us we could try, we were all jumping up and down because we were so excited to be in the video,” said Yarymar Rosario, a Haverhill High senior. “We jumped at the chance. Before (club activities director Deb Card) could leave the room we were saying, ‘Don’t ask anyone else. We’ll do it.’”
What began more than a year ago as an offer to Cardarelli to record a song for a cause turned into an opportunity not just for the singer, but for her home town.
That song became “Complicated” — now available on iTunes with all proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club. In December, the music video for the song, starring members of the Haverhill club and shot around the city, was released on YouTube, and has already been viewed nearly 500 times in just over a month.
“I knew this was something I really wanted to be a part of,” Cardarelli said in a phone interview from Nashville. “I feel that giving back with music is something very special because music is something that everyone can relate to. I was honored and so happy that the kids from Haverhill had the chance to be a part of it.”
The story began with Signature Music Design (SMD), a Boston-area based group that, according to their website, “Recruits artists with compassion and who have a desire to use the gift of music to encourage and promote positive change within their communities, families and society at large.”
In search of a country performer to add to their roster of artists, the group reached out to Cardarelli, who had previously worked with SMD’s Kenny Lewis on her first album, 2010’s “Little Big Sky.”
Cardarelli quickly accepted, and was given a choice of songs to sing. She selected the song “Complicated” written by Chantel Hampton, who is now an instructor at the Berklee School of Music.
“They pitched the song to me and I loved it,” said Cardarelli, who was recently named to the dean‘s list at Belmont University. “It was kind of pop with a country twang. I felt like the kids would love it because it is a very fun song to sing. Chantel coached me through the recording.”
The song was recorded in the summer of 2012 at Lewis’ “Mixed Emotions” studio in Middleton. But Cardarelli still faced the challenge of selecting a cause for her song. Other organizations supported by artists from SMD include NBA star Ray Allen’s “Ray of Hope” and the “Pearl Alliance,” which is fighting to stop human trafficking.
For Cardarelli, the Boys & Girls Club immediately came to mind.
“That summer I had worked with a lot of the kids at their camp (Camp Tasker) on writing their camp songs,” said Cardarelli. “Plus, my grandfather was also a very active member of the Boys & Girls Club, and I love kids. I took a tour and knew it was the right decision.”
Looking to extend the reach of “Complicated,” Cardarelli and her family began to consider a music video to support the song.
But, instead of a video starring the singer, a new idea came to mind. The video would instead feature the same people that the song benefits, the children of the Haverhill Boys & Girls Club.
“The Cardarellis approached me with the idea of making a music video for Jillian,” said Card, the club activities director. “We had worked with Jillian in the past at camp. They asked if the teens would like to make the video their own.
“At the beginning of a meeting for our (teenage) group called the Keystone Club, I talked to the kids about it and they ran with it,’’ she said. “They were already our most outgoing teens, who are here on a daily basis. They were more than enthusiastic about it.”
For the teens, it felt like a perfect fit.
“We walk around the club every day singing and dancing,” said Rosario. “We knew we wanted to do it, and we wanted to take charge of it. Once it became official, we said, ‘This is real.’”
Joining Rosario in the cast were her fellow Boys & Girls Club members Priscilla Pabon, Melina Rolon, Camilla Mera, Lauren Hinchcliffe, Jay Pereya, Brian Nguyen and, just barely, Jacob Baril.
“As soon as everyone found out, I was depressed because I wasn’t a teen,” said Baril, a seventh-grader at Consentino School. “A couple of weeks before the shooting began, I brought it to Deb’s attention that my birthday was in November and I was turning 13, and she said I could just make it. I was really overwhelmed by the opportunity to be in it.”
The cast, with the help of Card, set to work on planning the video, writing a complete shooting script, including locations and a formulated a story.
“We sat in the teen center for a while and mapped out the video, listening to the song over and over,” said Card. “We considered a number of different areas because we wanted it to represent the city of Haverhill.”
Shooting of the “Complicated” video took place through November, with the cast filming at locations including Haverhill’s Trinity Stadium, GAR Park, Camp Tasker in Newton, N.H., and at the Boys & Girls Club.
“I thought it was amazing,” said Pereyra, a Haverhill High sophomore. “I don’t think many clubs have the chance to do something like this. I got to play a lot of catch, and there were a few great bloopers. It was a great experience.”
After production wrapped and the editing process was complete, the video was released on YouTube on Dec. 27. A day later, it debuted during Cardarelli’s headlining performance at the Blue Ocean club in Salisbury. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Webster-Dudley, Ludlow and Salisbury also contributed.
“I loved the video and I am so glad I could make the kids a part of it,” said Cardarelli. “You could tell how passionate they were about it. It wasn’t just my song. It became our song.”
While it was a rewarding experience for the teens, they were also thrilled to have had the opportunity to complete it their way.
“It was a lot of work, but I can’t describe how exciting it was,” said Rosario. “We got to show who we were and be ourselves. We didn’t have to change to do this. We had the chance to express ourselves, and I did it with my friends, people I enjoy being around.”