Interview With Josh Garrels

The term “god’s gift” is used flippantly in our society today.  Rarely, is it literally true.  God gave Josh Garrels a transcendent talent that he has used to make beautiful, compelling music for us over the years.  In the past two years, God gave Josh Garrels Love & War & The Sea In Between, and then commanded Josh to give it to us to glorify God. I don’t care what style of music you like or don’t like. You need to download Love & War & The Sea In Between, put your headphones on and spend an hour with this work of staggering beauty and compelling complexity. God gave it to you. Take advantage of His free gift, which may be some Unique Gifts for Mom.

Now that Love & War & The Sea In Between is officially One21music’s 2011 Album of The Year come spend a few minutes with Josh Garrels to dig deeper into the artist who created the masterpiece.

Interview with Josh Garrels

One21: Many of our readers are just discovering you.  Can you take us back to the beginning and give us the story of Josh Garrels the musician?

Josh Garrels: I was born outside of Detroit 1980 but grew up most of my life in South Bend, Indiana.  My dad was a music teacher and my older sisters were also avid music collectors, so music was definitely the common language in our house.  Whatever music I was into at the time, I always had a sort of compulsion to not just listen but also create.  So, early on I would record myself by cycling tapes and layering overdubs on a double tape-deck.  My dad would always bring home old instruments and keyboards from the schools he worked at, so our basement was full of stuff to experiment with.  I made a lot of punk rock in middle school and early high school, and then started making east coast sounding hip hop later in high school using four-track recorders and such.  Really though, when I think back, I wasn’t aspiring to do go anywhere with music, mostly it was about creating a soundtrack for skateboarding, which at the time was my main focus.  It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I realized how important creating music had always been to me.

One21:   Josh Garrels folklore includes being “discovered” street singing at the Cornerstone Music Festival  food court. Can you tell us that story and share how the musicians from that community helped you get started?

Josh Garrels: At the time I was an intern with Alliance World Coffee’s which is a coffee roastery out of Muncie, Indiana.  Each year AWC would set up a coffee tent in the main vending court and we would serve coffee and espresso to the festival crowd of about 25,000 for the full week.  I’d recently come to the faith, so Cornerstone was an awesome change from the  tripped-out drug haze of the Phish festivals that I’d previously frequented.  Once again, my compulsion to not merely be a listener. but also to create and share got the best of me.  Despite 30 plus stages showcasing bands that actually got invited to play at the festival, I set up one little speaker in front of our coffee tent and played one long set of music.  Looking back, it was so confirming to me that people actually stopped, sat down, listened, and even bought my home-made CD’s!  The next year people were actually waiting for the performance.  The year after that, I was invited to play on a “real stage” at the festival.   Years later I was asked to play on mainstage.  It was a fun progression, and along the way I became close friends with many of the folks at JPUSA.

One21:  We believe your sound is unique into today’s music scene.  Some compare you to Citizen Cope but your discography parallels his.  Who were your early influences as you developed your “signature sound”?

Josh Garrels: Like so many of us, finding my dads old Beatles LP’s was a transformative experience for me, as well as Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young etc.  As a youth I absorbed a lot of my older sisters’ music as well, so I was affected by the The Cure, Pixies, Morrisey, Bjork, Pavement, and Fugazi among others.  When I started skating I fell in love with punk rock, and spent several years listening to Bad Religion, Pennywise, NOFX, Good Riddance, and No Use For A Name.  Practically overnight I abandon Punk Rock for the layed back poetic aggression of east coast Hip Hop, which at the time was still a form of “struggle music”.  Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Guru and Gangstarr, Jeru the Damaja, Nas, and Wu Tang Clan were my constants through high school and into college.

In college I came to faith while studying art and my musical taste fractured in every direction.  I began listening to folk artists such as Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, and Ben Harper, and also old recordings from the Mississippi Delta, Appalachians, and church spirituals.  All of these sounds I’d grown up with suddenly had the freedom to be mashed, juxtaposed, and fit together like collage work.  I’d never felt the freedom blend sounds and genre’s until I became a believer in the Lord, and realized that music no longer had to be subject to strict sub-cultural laws but had the freedom to breath, and blend, and be made new.  In many ways, 10 years later, I’m still completely captivated by this freedom to blend genre and influence…sort of like breeding all these different species of animals together to see what new creature might come about…

One21: I know many musicians dislike the term “signature sound” but, so far, you have maintained, and built upon, the Josh Garrels sound.  Very few musicians in the history of popular music have been able maintain a core sound while successfully expanding their artistic reach. How have you maintained your musical vision while developing and growing the artistry and complexity of your music?

Josh Garrels:  I think if one doesn’t purposefully embed themselves squarely into a specific genre or industry, the better his/her chances are of being free of the particular rules and limitations that that closed sub-culture/club would threaten to impose upon them.  As humans we’re drawn to rules because they give us a standardized method of judging success or failure (aka religion).  When we follow the rules we’re “in”, and when we don’t we’re “out”.  Bob Dylan picks up an electric guitar and his faithful following of folkies are so disgusted they want to burn him at the stake as a traitor.  My guess is that he wasn’t trying anxiously to “reinvent” himself  like Axl Rose in corn rows, but was merely in the mood to play some rock and roll, and it’s honest decisions like this that make an artist great in my book.

There can be a fear of following through with new artistic interests, desires, and influences, because of the possibility offending those who embraced our previous work.  This is called “fear of man”, and any work produced under the compulsion of fear will come off as pandering, soulless, and inferior to ones previous work.  For an artist to refuse to evolve because of fear, or to attempt reinvent oneself out of fear, are equally destined for failure.  If I’ve had any success in the evolution of my sound, I think it stems forth from my impatience of using any sounds, ideas, or influences that are not captivating to me.  Throughout the years some aspects of my music have come and gone, only to be heard during that particular season, yet other aspects that have remained as constants through the years are simply the things that never cease to be of interest to me.  I believe that if I can keep my heart and mind fully invested in all aspects of each song then the end product will contain something of integrity.

One21 :  You have a distinct lyrical vision.  You drive home unflinching truths about our faith appropriately wrapped in the joy and hope of redemption. Some of the best examples of this I can point to are “SISU” from Over Oceans, “Zion & Babylon” from Jacaranda and about five songs from Love & War (“Beyond Blue”, “The Resistance”, “Farther Along”,Etc.) Can you tell us how you craft your lyrics?

Josh Garrels: Faith is an interesting animal to grapple with and “work out in fear and trembling”.  Two people can be looking at the same thing, one through the eyes of faith and the other through the eyes of unbelief, and the thing will be seen entirely differently by the two people.  When I came to faith in Jesus, it’s as if I stepped through the looking glass, and the things that had once been confusing, distasteful, angering, and impossible suddenly began to glimmer with a new shimmering light of hope, forgiveness, redemption, and eternity.  This is how it’s possible to sing of confusion, darkness, spiritual bondage, and betrayal, without resigned to these being final.  I’m seeing and experiencing the same anger, depravity, hurt, and brokenness that the rest of my generation is, and to neglect these would be untruthful and dishonoring to our shared human experience.  Yet, I can also see Gods spirit hovering all around us, waiting for any invitation to break into this reality and bring utter transformation.  So with the darkness I can’t help but point to the coming dawn.

One21:  Starting with Jacaranda but fully delivered on Love & War, your musical arrangements have grown more complex and more beautiful. What is your process for developing your musical arrangements?

Josh Garrels:  I had a defining moment years ago while watching Michel Gondry’s film, “Science of Sleep”.  I was really affected by artfulness and presentation of the movie so afterward I watched all the bonus material, and in doing so, I realized just how much time, attention, and energy was needed to create such masterful work.  At that moment I also realized that I had a lot of work within me that was waiting to come out, and that it would take my full attention and time to realize it.  Up to this point I had been bi-vocational with music, either working at Alliance World Coffee’s while making music, or pastoring a church plant in Indianapolis while making music, and this was the moment that I decided to enter into music full time.  The first thing I did was to move with my wife Michelle to a guest house in the country where I spent the next year of my life fully dedicated to the creation of Jacaranda.  It was the first album in my career that I allowed complete focus, and in so doing, pushed myself to take more time with arrangements and poetry.

As you noted, Love & War was a continuation of this process of focus and dedication that began with Jacaranda.  We began Love & War upon moving to Portland, Oregon, and overall it took us about a year and a half to create.  With Love & War, I took new steps forward in both music engineering and collaboration.  I’ve always recorded and produced my own work, but I’ve had no formal studio education, so engineering my own albums has always been an exciting yet frustrating process.  With Love & War, I was able to to invest in some better studio gear, and also work with other engineers to help refine the sound in ways that had previously eluded me (thanks Dave Wilton!).  I also collaborated with about 15 other artists on the album.  Part of my own growth as an artist was the realization that I’m bound to hit my own limitations and begin repeating myself if I don’t invite in some outside influences.  So, on almost every song in Love & War I brought in other musicians, whether composer, instrumentalist, vocalist, or producer, each song has the fingerprints of more people than just me he even sometimes go to instrument rental stores to firm autographs and greet people.  The album would be far less exciting and dynamic if not for the team of people that surrounded it and infused there own sound into it.

One21:  Now, let’s talk about Love & War & The Sea In Between.  We are telling everyone who will listen that this is a masterpiece of monumental proportions, and we are not the only ones.  It is an epic album of 18 tracks and it has been over two years since we heard from you. How did you come to releasing a huge album in this day of artists rapidly turning out eps and singles for iTunes?

Josh Garrels: First, when I sat down and began writing…a lot of songs came out!  Initially I had over 30 songs that I subjected to editing and the ears of my wife, and I began moving forward with many of them.  Once the album was really underway I considered breaking it up into a few separate albums, but the songs all felt as though they had a common enough center that I knew I had to keep them together.  This may be a source of eye rolling for some, but as best as I can discern the voice of the spirit of God, He kept telling me to “make new songs”, and to “fill up ALL the jars with water” with each song representing a humble clay jar.  For whatever reason, I felt commissioned to not only write songs, but a lot of them, so I followed through the best I could.  More is not always better, in fact maybe rarely so, but I think with the current trend of bite sized musical works perhaps an epic album at least peaks folks interest.

One21:  Each of the songs on Love & War are beautiful on their own, but the entire recording feels like an integrated work. Is there an overriding theme or message you were exploring with this work?

Josh Garrels: Well, the title of the album is fairly self-explanatory in presenting the themes of love, war, and the sea, but I suppose the overarching story is one of navigating life in a dark and mysterious world with the hope of a homecoming where God has set all things right.   I never cease to be intrigued and in awe of how the physical world affects the spiritual, and how the spiritual interacts with the material, so all of the songs tend to be telling stories with dual realities.  Not separate realities but hopefully a holistic vision of our epic journey.

One21:  We could spend hours discussing each song, but I will limit myself to two.  First, let’s discuss “Slip Away”.  I will let you tell us your heart behind the song. In the song someone is relentlessly plucking and strumming what I think is a mandolin, which creates a subliminal sense of urgency. That is contrasted by a lilting cello, which sets a melancholy tone.  How did that song develop and what are you trying to convey?

Josh Garrels:  Once again, two realities were pressing upon me during the creation of this song.  One was the flesh and blood reality of many of my peers getting divorced, including one of my best friends who plays on the album.  The other reality is experiencing my generation falling away from the faith, including some of me and my wife’s closest friends who literally walked away from Christ to become pagans and worship the individual spirits that reside in tree’s and deer and mother earth.  Both of these realities, divorce between humans and divorce from God, are tragic and have deep ramifications.  The urgency is that we only have a short time here in this life, and to reach the end of our life without coming to a reckoning of our own betrayal and finding forgiveness will be to live an eternal separation…and that’s a very heavy reality indeed.

One21: Secondly, I want to discuss one of the most striking songs of your career.  ”Ulysses” is the type of song that makes a person stop in their tracks to listen. It may be the most ambitious vocal performance of your career.   Please, just tell us about “Ulysses”.

Josh Garrels: It was one of those melodies that came to me and made me cry before any words even written yet.  When that happens I know there’s something substantial happening within a song, and I’d do well to pay attention.  My wife Michelle was also in love with the melody, and the song reaching it’s final refinement is as much her work as mine.  She was an english literature major, and she was so jealous for the song to reach the high mark she felt it deserved, that she was a brutal critic and editor of my lines.  We had a few “marital moments” of real anger and frustration towards one another, as I just wanted to be done with the song, but she would keep pushing me to find the best way of saying something.  I love my wife for this.  I kept wavering between abandoning the classic story of Ulysses (which I’ve loved from the time I was a boy), or making the song so literal that it was no longer personal and emotional.  With my wife’s help, we reached the delicate balance of honoring the classic epic, while breathing into universal elements that we all can deeply connect to.

Here is Josh doing a stripped down performance of “Ulysses”

One21: Okay, so the question everyone is asking, “How is that Josh Garrels is giving away this epic masterpiece?”

Josh Garrels: In all truthfulness the idea wasn’t mine, and initially the thought of giving it away actually made me angry.  I was fighting sickness during the final 4 or 5 months of the creation of the album, and I had literally built the entire album around scratch vocal tracks, for I hadn’t had my full singing voice needed to record the final vocals!  I was down to my final few weeks of recording and the lack of a voice had reached a point of crisis.  I fasted and prayed and shook my fists at God exclaiming, “why would you lead me to create an album that I can’t even finish!”.  When he answered I was put in my place like Job before his Maker.  My response was, “Lord, let no one rob You of Your glory!”, and his response shocked me for he said, “Will you?”.  I said, “No Lord!”, and he said, “then give it to Me!”.  And at that moment I knew what he was asking for.  He was asking for me to let go of the album, and all the funds that would come from it!  I sat in silence for 20 minutes, let down and angry, as I counted the cost of what it would mean for me and my family to let go of our work and income.  And he waited in silence for me to give my answer.  I finally exclaimed in true stubborn child fashion, “Alright Lord, it’s Yours!”, and I sensed his pleasure upon this decision.  He then proceeded to lay out the ramifications and parameters of the decision, which were; For one year give away as many copies of the album as you can, this will be a year of Jubilee, any money that comes in from the album through itunes, amazon, or song placements must be given away as well, keep nothing.  He then asked me what I needed to complete the work and I responded, “A voice! and ten thousand dollars!”.  That week my voice came back and a complete stranger from another country wired thousands of dollars into my account.  It was unreal.  The rest as they say is history.

One21: Wow, that story gives me a deeper appreciation for Love & War & The Seas In Between. This leads me to another line of discussion.  If you have a few more minutes I will try to sum it up in one question. John Thompson of EMI and the Wayside has declared that were are returning to a time of the musical troubadour where only the best of the best will be able to make a reasonable living over their lifetime.  But none of us yet know how musicians will be able make a living.  For you, a man of undeniable musical gifts straight from childhood when you used to play with miniature instruments, a man who is driven to speak truth, a father and a husband, how do you provide for you family while exercising your calling?

Josh Garrels: I agree with John, in that it’s common knowledge that the music industry is like the wild west right now.  It’s anyone’s game, but that also means there’s now millions of people trying to win the lottery.  For me, six months after the release of Love & War, my plans on how to proceed after this “year of jubilee” are beginning to really take shape.  I believe we’re actually on the verge of a new Renaissance in the arts, and that similar to the days of old, artists will be commissioned to create new work, rather than trying to win the attention of potential buyers with sexy packaging.  You can already see this happening with the explosion of fan-funding sites like Kickstarter, free music sites like Noisetrade, and the fact that Love & War was completely listener funded .  The difference in a new Renaissance, is that the work will not only be funded by wealthy benefactors and royalty, but the “direct to fan” marketplace of the internet will allow the general public be a part of commissioning their favorite artist to “bring forth” new work.

In the recent past, big companies would front a lot of money to an artist to make an album, but the investors main motivation would be to make product that sells, for their goal is to not only recoup their investment but to make money.  In this model the artist is left with a huge debt to pay off, so they become motivated to create work that is marketable as well.  So in a sense the art becomes merely a product, seen in units to be pushed, and this kills the passion of many honorable artists.  However, with commissioned work, the public will take the responsibility of investing in work that isn’t yet created, which is an act of trust and a calling forth, rather than the consumeristic view of art as “product”.  And this paradigm shift will also bring new freedom to the artist, to not be ruled by the desire to create something that will merely sell, but to create art that is of worth and service for it’s own sake.  In my case, I’m then going to give away my most recent work for free, as a thank you to all who freely give to me.  I intend to continue inviting my listeners to invest in new work, and I also intend to give away each new album for a year, along with all revenue from the new work.

Check out the music video for “White Owl” below

you can listen to Josh Garrels incredible new album below in its entirety and download it for free

The ONE21 Interviews Kiros

kiros interview copy

We present to you our email interview with ANGR pop-rock band Kiros. This band has been nose to the grindstone for almost 10 years now, and with their new full-length being released early 2012, the band is ready to take their place in the rock world. We talked to vocalist/bass player Barry MacKichan about the history of the band, their message and what the future of the band holds. Read up

The ONE21: For those that don’t know, talk about the story of Kiros.
Barry MacKichan, the vocalist/bass for Kiros: Kiros started back in 2000 at a church youth group. The night I met Ryan, I found out he played guitar, and I told him I wanted to start a punk rock band. We liked a lot of the same bands, so he said yes. We were a 3 piece band, playing local scene shows until we put out our first full length in 2002 called Counterproductive, which was a straight up punk rock record. The record sold over 2000 copies very quickly, exploding our fan base locally, and all of a sudden our shows were selling out all across western Canada. This landed us some Vans Warped Tour dates in 2003, and we started playing more out of town than in town.

(In 2004) We made a 5 song EP called Fight The Night, quit our lives and started touring full time. We did our first cross Canada tour with a Drive-Thru Records band called Allister, and never looked back. We toured Canada hard until summer 2005, when we released a 3 song self titled EP, and landed the whole Warped Tour, which ended up being our first tour in the US of A. In that time period we played over 250 shows. Looking back, I don’t think we were prepared for Warped tour, mentally, spiritually, financially, or musically, and it almost killed the band. We didn’t do anything after it for almost a year, our drummer quit,
and we lost all our momentum.

The current incarnation of Kiros really started in 2006. Tyler joined the band as our new drummer, and we became a four piece, adding a second guitarist/backing vocalist. We started touring Canada again, and recorded A Single Strand (released in 2007 Canada, 2008 USA) which has now gone on to sell over 16,000 copies independently. Our sound evolved from a pop punk band to more of a driving rock/alt/pop sound that we feel is all our own. This record is what re-launched our careers. It caught the attention of Yogi Allgood, our current manager, landed us tour after tour, had our first music video to get into rotation in Canada, had our first radio single that actually got played (“Of Wolves and Angels”) and we were back on tour 8+ months a year. We also won a GMA award for Rock Song of the Year, and were nominated for three others awards. 2008 was when we really started touring the USA consistently. We played mostly club/secular shows.

We found ourselves in consistent negotiations with record labels, ranging from majors to minors to indies. There were plenty of flights to Nashville, writing sessions, meetings, and it all resulted in a whole lot of nothing. We didn’t see eye to eye, or didn’t like the direction we were being pushed in, or were looking at contracts trying to figure out how we’re supposed to survive when all our money goes
to someone else. So we just stayed on the road with an old record. Knowing we were greatly overdue to record new material, we started talking to producer Mark Lee Townsend (Relient K, House of Heroes), who immediately jumped on the project. In 2010, We recorded 6 songs with him, and independently released the song “Broken State” to radio. It hit #11 on the USA Christian Rock charts, and the tours kept getting bigger and bigger. But we still had no way to effectively release the record. At this point we had transitioned to doing more on the Christian market side of things, but still doing a couple club tours with bands like Emery, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, and Blessed by a Broken Heart.

(In 2011) We signed with Ain’t No Grave Records, did our first European tour, went out with Seventh Day Slumber and Stellar Kart in the USA, followed by the Music With A Mission tour with Hawk Nelson, Fireflight and Superchick. We released a teaser EP online for the record on September 27th, and the full length will be released early 2012. We were approached by ANGR in January. They came to us as the first label that actually seemed to understand what we are, what we’re going for, and what limitations we don’t want. Instead of trying to change what we’re doing, they wanted to come along side us, and help take it to the next level. We signed with ANGR in May 2011, and went back into the studio with Townsend to record another 4 songs to add to original 6. Our first full length in 4 years. Our full tour history can be found on our wikipedia page.

ONE21: How would you describe your music to people who havent heard you?
Barry MacKichan: I’d say we’re a mix of rock, alternative, pop, and punk. We put a
lot into the melodies, lyrics and hooks.

ONE21: Talk about your latest album, the Outlaws & Prodigals EP.
Barry MacKichan:The Outlaws and Prodigals EP is a teaser. 2 of the songs are from our upcoming full length, and the 3rd is an acoustic cut. This is also our first release on ANGR, so everyone is testing the waters and working on building some more buzz for the full release early 2012.
ONE21: So what can we expect from the full-length?
Barry MacKichan:The full length, titled Lay Your Weapons Down is a 10 song, 3 chapter story on one CD: “The Revolt, The Trenches, The Surrender.” Each chapter has songs connecting with the theme of the title. As a whole, it tells a story of war inside every one of us, and the different emotions, thoughts, and struggles along that journey as we are invited to surrender our broken lives for something better. It will be released in February 2012.

ONE21: What is your normal writing process?
Barry MacKichan: Depends on the song. I have a home studio that I do a lot of writing in, and I write some on the road. Often songs start on acoustic and evolve from there, or sometimes they come out of the whole band jamming. We have done some co-writing as well, and the songs do always seem to take big jumps once we’re in the studio ironing out all the parts. Every song has a different story and origin behind it, and methods of getting there vary just as much.

ONE21: If there is one, what would be your band’s message?
Barry MacKichan:Our band is completely sold out to the message that we have a God who
loves us and says we are worth dying for. We have hope, we have purpose, we have love. We want to see ourselves the way God sees us.
ONE21:How would you describe your lyrical approach to God’s message?
Barry MacKichan: More than anything, I try to be honest. Honest about my shortcomings and flaws, honest about wrestling with the blacks, whites and greys in this life, and honest about struggling in the pursuit of God. Honesty, to me at least, is far more relatable than ideals. And at the end of the day, this honesty culminates in the truth that God has given us real hope.

ONE21: How did you guys hook up with ANGR?
Barry MacKichan:We were first approached by Ain’t No Grave Records in January 2011. We were initially very surprised by their interest, not being a metal band and all. But after talking to them, we feel like it’s a perfect fit, and they’ve been very vocal about their excitement in having our sound on their roster. Instead of trying to change what we’re doing, they have come alongside us, and are helping take it to the next level. We officially signed with ANGR in May 2011, and we are definitely enjoying our relationship with them. Best of all, they aren’t acting scared of the current state of the music industry. They are willing to take some risks and get behind the artists they believe in.

ONE21: What is the next step for the band?
Barry MacKichan:We have a European tour booked in January, and we’ve just confirmed what will be the biggest tour we’ve been a part of so far. Unfortunately I can’t release the details of it yet, except that it will be early February to the end of March, and it will be coinciding with the release of our new full length, Lay Your Weapons Down.

ONE21: Why rock?
Barry MacKichan:In the words of Andrew W. K., “We do what we want and we like what we do.” This is the scene we grew up in, have been a part of, and have fought for since before we were even in bands. It’s the sound we connect with, and the audience we’re a part of too.

ONE21: What is good in music right now?
Barry MacKichan: There is good music in every genre right now. I think listeners have more power than they have ever had before, and more choices than they could possibly make. We have access to a world full of music at our fingertips.

A lot of great records have been coming out lately, and a lot of them are by bands from my past. Needtobreathe, Switchfoot, Thrice, Taking Back Sunday, Foo Fighters, Yellowcard, Maroon 5. For new bands, I’ve been really enjoying Trampled by Turtles and Adele.

ONE21: What would be your dream project/tour?
Barry MacKichan:We’d love do 8 month world tour with Justin Beiber, haha. At the end of the day, it’s our dream to write songs that connect with people, bring hope, and inspire. Of course we’re always hoping and working hard for the opportunity to do that on a bigger and bigger scale and stage, but we’re already so grateful to get to be doing what we do now.

ONE21:Is the digital age of music one that helps or hinders the artist?
Barry MacKichan:Both. There is so much opportunity to go out and makes things happen for yourself, promote, and connect. Our music is instantly available to most of the world’s population. That’s a pretty amazing thing! However, it’s hard to sustain creating, touring and surviving when CD’s don’t sell. A healthy music industry is good for artists and fans alike. Being on this side of it, it’s caused me to be more committed to still buying music, because I want that artist to be able to make more it for me. Every time we make a record, it’s paid for by the fans who bought our last one.

ONE21: Who is Jesus to you?
Barry MacKichan:Jesus saved my life, when I didn’t deserve to be saved. He is incredibly unfair in our favour, and He is my purpose. He is not a marketing gimmick or sales tactic, not a fad or a trend, and he’s not an excuse. But He is the only hope we have, and I’m His regardless of my circumstances.

Playdough Interview

playdough interview copy

So, I’m a blessed guy. When I was growing up and first getting into hip-hop, two of my favorite artists where Playdough and Pigeon John.   I interviewed  Pigeon a few years back, but I was really excited to pick Playdough’s brain finally.  Playdough has been around for a long time, first performing in the folk/hip-hop duo Ill Harmonics (of which I saw twice, be jealous).   At the same time, and also currently, he performed as one of the 10 emcees in Deepspace5.  After a few years, Playdough finally went solo, and dropped two massive LPs before seemingly disappearing from the scene. Then suddenly in 2010, it seemed like you couldn’t listen to anything good, hip-hop wise, without hearing Playdough‘s name.  2011 is the coming of his finest work yet, Hotdoggin, and it appears that Playdough hasn’t missed a beat. Enjoy learning more about this amazing emcee and artist.

ONE21Music:How did you get started in hip-hop?
Playdough:I fell in love with Hip-Hop when I was in grade school. I had to do a sock puppet skit for my class and I made mine a rap. My teachers were bugging out and I got such a good grade that I felt like I was on to something. From then on I was rapping.

ONE21:You started out in Ill Harmonics, and are currently on the roster of Deepspace5, how does your work in these groups differ from your work as a solo artist? Do you think you work in both groups influence what you do today as an artist?

Playdough:My work in both groups definitely influences what I do as a solo artist, or maybe it’s the other way around. With ill harmonics I really got to explore doing music and song structure and the value of live instrumentation. With Deepspace5 there’s always an unspoken feeling of trying to shine on a track with dudes that are 10 times better than me in 10 different ways and do things that I can’t do. It’s healthy and fun. As a solo artist I can combine what I’ve learned from both crews and add some things that don’t necessarily fit into those projects. The live instrumentation and musicality of ill harmonics combined with the hard bars of Deepspace5.

ONE21:You are a Texas boy right? Does your location influence your writing style?
Playdough: I live in Dallas. I was definitely influenced by some more southern style drums and felt I could rhyme a little different on those beats then what people were used to hearing me do. There’s a handful of tracks like that on this album.

ONE21:We love Lonely Superstar (it was featured on our Essential 100 list), what was it like putting that album together? Were you happy with the end result?
Playdough:I was very happy with how that album turned out. It was really a lot of ideas, verses and songs that I had been writing or at least working on since I was a teenager. Some were just me experimenting in the studio and really getting to enjoy the fact that I was working on the solo project that I’d wanted to do for so long. Other songs like “Mr. Mike R. Fone” were poems that I had written when I was learning about rhyming and writing. Looking back there are certain lines that seem a little silly but I think any artist looking back at their earlier work has things that they would have done a little differently. You just grow and learn. Overall I’m blessed that the album was so well received. It literally took me all over the world and helped lay the foundation for what I’m doing today.

ONE21:It has been several years since we have heard from you as far as new music goes, what have you been up to?
Playdough:I’m a family man. I love my family and being a dad. When Don’t Drink the Water came out my son was a baby. I stopped going on the road as much because I really wanted to be there for him and my family in a time that I thought was crucial for me to make sure my son had his Dad around. I also focused on my physical strength, I went to the gym everyday and used discounts codes for proteinworld to help my workout. During that time I was writing, producing and recording new material. In the past year I’ve released 3 solo projects and a Deepspace5 album. The whole time people didn’t have new Playdough material but I was busy making it, I just wanted to be strategic about releasing it so it’s all come out within this past year.

ONE21:Last year you released two albums for free (The Bible Bus Mixtape and Writer Dye, both of which made our end of the year “Best Of” lists), how did those projects come together? Why release them for free?
Playdough:For the Bible Bus Mixtape I used other artists beats that I’d always wanted to rhyme over. The other beats were either B sides or songs that I’d collected from different compilations or situations that the general public hadn’t gotten to hear. Some were originally for Hotdoggin but got cut earlier in the process so I used them for the mixtape.
Writer Dye came about because I had the idea to use other bands lyrics and turn them into hooks for a hip-hop album. For Beats Sake did all the production on that one. I wanted to do another free release to follow Bible Bus and I figured since I was using other people’s lyrics that it made sense for me to use that project as the next freebie.
I put them both out for free because it had been so long since I’d released any solo material that I wanted to let the world know I’m still here and still growing as an artist. My fans have followed me and supported me for a while but I wanted to introduce myself to people that may not be familiar with my work. If I made it free then they had nothing to lose in giving it a listen. The hope was that the two freebies would get everyone excited about my next official studio album Hotdoggin.

ONE21:That brings us to Hotdoggin, how did this album together?
Playdough:I’ve been working on this album for a long time. I wanted to show people that I’m more versatile than some of my past solo projects have shown me to be. I made beats, bought beats, wrote hooks, bridges, choruses and then rewrote some, added live instrumentation and really tried to stretch myself.

ONE21:Is there an overall theme in Hotdoggin? What were some of then ideas you were trying to express in the songs?
Playdough:There’s no official theme. I intentionally wrote songs in good times, tough times, regretful and disappointing times of my life to convey the emotions that we all experience in life. The contrast of the day to day. So it’s really about putting all of me in the music and comparing that to a hotdog being made out of everything. It’s a flawed man who loves God, his family and life and wants to offer something of use to the LORD and the listener.

ONE21:What is the title track about?
Playdough:Putting everything I have into my music. Just like a hotdog is all parts of whatever animal a hotdog is made from. My music is all parts of me whether they be mistakes or victories, regrets or success. Hoping we can learn from it all. I know people are just like me so I wanted them to know I’m just like them. We’re human, I’m just really good at rapping. It’s also meant to be a light hearted song that allows me to show off a little bit of word play.

ONE21:Who is Harry Krum?
Playdough:That’s a great question. He does a lot of my production and has always been my go to producer. He also handles my booking and other day to day business dealings.

ONE21:How much control do you have over the beats on your projects? Has your involvement in that process changed over the years?
Playdough:100% control. I’ve always maintained that. Even when labels would try to accomplish an agenda that was different from mine, it’s always come down to me.
ONE21: What is your writing process as far as coming up with beats? There are alot of layers in your songs, so how long does it usually take you to create a song?
Playdough:I’m a pretty fast writer. Sometimes the hook just hits me and I can’t stop. Other times I may write a verse and lay a rough vocal to see if it’s worth persuing and go back later to fill in the gaps.

Some beats are done when I hear them. If I add additional instrumentation it varies. I’ll have players lay parts down and then go back and sample the new parts to chop them and use my MPC to replay them.

ONE21:Hotdoggin is out, so what is the next step for Playdough?
Playdough:I’ll be touring and supporting this album on the road. Working on new music at some point but I’m not thinking too hard about the next music I make just yet. I’ll be working this album for a while.

For the next part of the interview, I asked Playdough: some more genreal “survey” questions on a few topics that are near and dear to our heart

ONE21:Why hip-hop?
Playdough:Hip-Hop is the only music that ever inspired me enough to give it a shot. Hip-Hop isn’t just the music I chose to do, it’s my culture and everything I know. I’m in it, I live it and I love it so even if I tried to do something else it would still come out as Hip-Hop in some way.

ONE21:Whats good in music right now?
Playdough:You tell me. I’ve been working so hard I feel like my head’s been in the sand a little. I like the classic stuff, hip-hop and classic rock. I also like anything Jack White, Paris Jones, Mayer Hawthorne, The Black Keys, PacDiv, J. Cole, Coldplay and all the usuals. Anything with good writing and soul.

ONE21: What would be your dream project?
Playdough: I’d love to work with Jack White. Just vibe out and see where it goes.

ONE21:Is the digital age of music one that helps or hinders the artist?
Playdough:That question can only be answered when you’re comparing the way artist’s sales were and what they are now. If you just take the way things are right now for what they are then digital is great for artists. It’s a whole new world.

ONE21:Who is Jesus to you?
Playdough::This shouldn’t be a hard question to answer but it is. I guess it’s kind of hard to put into words because He’s so much to me that I don’t want to sound cliche and say He’s my life, though He is. He’s my hope, my future, my ransom and my example. In Him I live, move and have my being. He’s my reason.

Heath McNease Interview

heathmcneaseinterview copy

In 2010, Heath McNeasereleased two of our favorite albums of the year. This is especially awesome considering of the the albums (The Gun Show) is straight underground hip-hop, and the other (Shine On) is sunshine folk. We have been listening to the two albums for awhile now (regular rotation for the trip to Cornerstone), so I was happily surprised when I received an email from Heath about two weeks ago. We talked about a few things, and the end result is the interview below. Its a long one, but it is an awesome look into the wacky mind of one our favorite artists in the game.

ONE21 Music:Talk about the story of Heath McNease
Heath McNease:Honestly I started playing music really late in the game. I’m still amazed every day that this is my job, because of how long it took me to come to the realization that this was my calling. My mom was a choir director, so me and my brothers were always forced to sing in the choir…but it was a small country church. You only needed a voice and a pulse to be involved. haha. However, I was always in love with music. one of my older cousins lived with my family from the time I was 4 until i was 7, and he was obsessed with music. He chose me and my older brothers to be his little pet projects, so we all just soaked it up. The Beatles, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hall and Oates, Naked Eyes, Duran Duran, Divo…the spectrum was so vast for a 6 year old, but i loved it because that’s what my older brothers and cousin were into. But I didn’t truly decide i wanted to be involved with music until i heard Beck and Ill Harmonics. they were white guys who didn’t need to qualify themselves as such or run away from that fact. They were just incredibly fresh and soulful naturally. That really resonated with me as a high schooler. by the time i had graduated high school…I felt God was calling me to start making music. I had never picked up a guitar or written a single lyric. It was daunting and NOBODY I grew up with understood what i was doing, because in Colquitt, GA…you don’t do stuff like that. It is a small, close knit, conservative town that I love dearly. but there aren’t a lot of hip hop artists coming out of that area. haha. so i enrolled in the Theatre program at Valdosta State University and spent several years focusing on my craft as an actor, vocalist, and improv artist while simultaneously obsessing over writing songs. so that’s how it started.

ONE21:You released two albums this year, The Gun Show and Shine On. While Gun Show was more focused on hip-hop, Shine On was more of a singer-songwriter album. What was the motivation behind release duel albums in one year?
Heath: The motivation was based partially out of my desire to do something different and partially out of necessity. Over the past 3 and a half years that I’ve been doing music full time I have played so many different venues stylistically. I lead worship at churches, do rap shows at clubs, colleges, coffee shops, spoken word nights, festivals, etc. So my artistry was growing out of the need to bring balanced and nuanced performances to the different shows. I couldn’t just rap all night at a coffee shop. I’m not gonna lead worship at a bar. so i had to cater my sets to the audience I had that night. I wanted that challenge. I wanted to be able to take as many listeners from as many divergent paths as possible and bring us all together for an hour and say…we are NOT that different. I just wanted to create an open atmosphere where I could share as much as possible.

ONE21: Are there any other genres that you think you will tap into for your next album?
Heath:Well…I already throw the kitchen sink next to the instant pot ip-lux50 cooker at everything that I do. hahaha. I can’t even count how many different genres were crossed, borrowed, reconstructed, and deconstructed on The Gun Show. And I didn’t do it out of a need to show how many styles I’d like to pull off. It just goes back to being brought up on so many different genres of music. It’s just coarsing through me at all times. So I have no idea what the overall sound will be just yet. I know there will be some surprises for sure.
ONE21: You talk in alot of your songs about being strapped for cash. Alot of underground hip-hop artists today are making songs about this very subject. Is this the new reality for underground emcees? Do you think that artists are becoming more open about this a response to the overly material based world of mainstream rap?
Heath:I think it depends on the context of the song. If it’s a funnier more self effacing jam…the being poor thing is usually based more out of sarcasm than reality. The truth is I do quite well for myself…but that’s only because this is my life 300 days a year. I’ve made the choice to abandon a lot of common comforts to do this, so I don’t spend my money on a lot of the things that normal people do. I’m also notoriously frugal…haha. I think the thing that is true in both the serious and the fun songs…if it comes up…is the ridiculous nature of the road. It is just a labyrinth truck stops, service stations, hotels, host homes, flat tires, airports, sleeping in your car, etc. because you live your life in this state of flux…it just plays with your mind. I’m far less stable mentally now than I was 5 years ago, because I don’t have the comfort of proximity. I often think about how in the world Paul was able to do what he did as a missionary, (and I’m in no way comparing what I do in any way to his life and struggle) because this nomadic life is hard enough when you’re given some of the creature comforts of home. But he had none of that. I do think that a lot of artists play the poor card as a direct response to wanting to be different than the mainstream “wealth” angle. But…that’s equally a crutch if it’s not authentic. You gotta write what you know.

ONE21: What is your writing process?
Heath:When I first started writing music at 18…my process was entirely different. I would sit in front of a computer screen for 6-8 hours a day (whenever I wasn’t in class…I was writing) and I would just write. Headphones on…trying to be funny…trying to be thought provoking. But I was doing it with no real background to draw from. I wasn’t digging into the things that really made me who I am…and I don’t think I had experienced enough to really know who I was anyway. Now things are far easier/painful. haha. The benefit that came from writing so much when I was younger is that I had the template in place. I KNEW how to edit and streamline my words and thoughts into the best possible structure. I just didn’t have the right words and thoughts at the time. Now I don’t have to sit for 6-8 hours, because life is continually happening around me. It is perpetually kicking me in the teeth, stabbing me in the back, raising me up, showing me God’s grace, and then putting me back on the floor again. So as I’ve had the benefit of experiencing more joy and sorrow both personally and as a member of humanity…the abundance of the heart speaks. So now…I let the songs come much easier. There is NO substitute for being in the studio and vibing out to an idea that you hear in the moment. I’d say 6 of the songs from The Gun Show I wrote the same day we made the track. Because I was so ready to communicate something…and the Lord allowed the creativity to pour out in the moment. So I’m really working now on balancing the songs that I really have to live with and work on for days with the songs that I write in 2 hours. Creativity is such a crazy and elusive thing.

ONE21: What do you prefer, the writing/recording process or playing live?
Heath: I love them both so much. I don’t think i could choose.
ONE21: Why?
Heath: Well…writing is where it starts. and that’s time with me and God. He just hangs out with me and I write and hope to make him happy while I do it. In a room, in my car, a stairway at a venue, a hotel room, etc. those times of writing are so solitary and I love that. Now the recording process is the biggest undertaking, but it’s so satisfying to be in the studio with guys that I love and trust, (Playdough, Red Umbrella, Don Chaffer, Incorporated Elements) because they want me to succeed just as much as I want to. They are patient, generous, hard working, and bring so much creativity to the table that it makes recording feel like a game. We just throw instruments in, take some away…chant and shout in the backgrounds…and we try to freaking catch lightning in a bottle. That is a huge challenge. To say…”ok. let’s take the naive thoughts on this paper and turn them into 4 minutes of music that we hope people are going to live to.” That’s daunting. So it’s great to have guys that you trust working with you. Playing live is so satisfying because you get the immediate reaction of the people that you do all of this hard work for. Without the audience…these ideas would just be self congratulatory…and they would have no home. Being able to share my heart with people on the stage is my greatest and most profound joy and honor. I love it so much, because I love people so much. I want to see them changed…even though I will be onto the next town and may never see that change take place. But the process of playing live can’t happen if you don’t go through the dog work of writing and recording.

ONE21: What is the Whose Rhyme Is it Anyway?
Heath: Whose Rhyme is it Anyway is such a blast. It is an idea that was shaped and reshaped between Playdough, Red Cloud, Manchild, and myself. Essentially me, Playdough, and Manchild (of the Mars Ill/ Deepspace5fame) are doing 60 minute freestyle shows that are based on the short form improv game “Whose Line is it Anyway.” Playdough is a 5 or 6 time Dallas Freestyle Champ…Manchildis the Atlanta Redbull Freestyle Champ…and Red Cloudis the best freestyler I’ve ever known…so those dudes are champs at what they do. I have an extensive background in improv…both short and long form and was actually considering moving to Chicago to train and hopefully become a part of Second City until the record label came knocking. So my background is more focused on the truth of improv, but I’ve been freestyling for ten years…so I’m no slouch. haha. I just never did much battling. So we play games and do mini concerts in between some of the games. We use the format of several Whose Line games and we’ve made up a lot of our own and we sometimes also find time to play PC games, once we found out how to overclock fx 6300 it was an insane amount of fun.
ONE21: How did the idea for the show come about?
Heath: You know…the beauty of the concept is that it’s so free. for whatever reason people are just so enamored with the art of freestyle. It’s something that a lot of people don’t understand yet still try to do for fun…so it brings a level of both understanding and mystery to the show. I think the first performance we did…we were like…”wow. we really are up on the tight rope with no sign of a net underneath us. if this bombs…there is NO way to recover, because this is all happening in the moment.” But that actually just brings a certain level of freedom and “devil may care” to the process. Its inception was a combination of things. Playdough and Red Cloud were the guys that first hashed out the idea…although when I was in college…I did a lot of games that were similar to the concept because I had the ability to freestyle so we utilized it in some of the short form structures. Playdough and I were on the road and we were talking about really making it happen so we reached out to Manchild and he was 100% down to do it. So it’s the three of us and we are going to be using Red Cloud when the timing works out for west coast college/bar shows, because he isn’t really doing a lot of churches right now.
ONE21: Is Red Cloud still involved in the show?
Heath: He hasn’t done any shows with us yet, because we haven’t been out west as a crew yet. But when we do colleges and clubs out west…he will definitely be a part of it. Ideally…as we get Whose Rhyme on it’s feet…we want to have the 4 of us and a DJ. We love Red Cloud and support him as he’s figuring out a lot of stuff in his life. We just will only be working in the context of more general market venues with him, because that’s what he’s most comfortable doing now.

ONE21: Back to music, do you think that you will be sitting on Gun Show and Shine On for a while or are you already working on new material?
Heath: I’m never resting. I’m going to be working The Gun Show really hard for the next 6 months, but I’ve already written about 15 songs. 10 acoustic ones and 5 rap ones. So I’m just gathering thoughts and material right now. I will start hitting the studio hard next year.

For the next part of the interview, I asked Heathsome more genreal “survey” questions on a few topics that are near and dear to our heart

ONE21: Why hip-hop/ folk?
Heath: My oldest bro got me into Bone Thugs N Harmony when I was 13. That got me into the craziest and most enjoyably outlandish aspects of rap at an early age. My mom raised me on The Carpenters and Simon and Garfunkel. I grew up in a tiny baptist church. so the roots of folk/country/gospel were in me from the time I was born. It is a style of storytelling that I will just never get tired of. It is woven in the fabric of the south…and of my heart. Rap became the way I expressed my heart as i got older. The ability to be entirely who you are…both good and bad appealed to me so much. I don’t want to say the pairing is a natural one for a random listener. But it was a cause and effect that made perfect sense to me.

ONE21: Whats good in music right now?
Heath: I love listening to music just as much as performing, so I have a lot of stuff I’m into. I’m really into The Avett Brothers…and have been for years. I’m waiting for their next full length to come out. This year I got into Lawrence Arabia, Diamond District, loved the new Wu Massacre album, and Sufjan Steven‘s EP was stellar. Black Rebel Motrocycle Club, Playdough‘s Writer Dye album, Pigeon John‘s Dragon Slayer album. Just heard a great new band called J Roddy Walston and The Business. Paper Route was great. Reflection Eternal was dope. I’d have to say my favorite of the year was Nas and Damian Marley‘s Distant Relativesalbum. always stumbling onto so much great music. And most of it isn’t hip hop. haha. But that’s the stuff from this year that I’ve really enjoyed and connected with.

ONE21: Is the digital age of music one that helps or hinders the artist?
Heath:I would probably be the last person you would want to ask about that. haha. I genuinely don’t know. I think there are benefits and setbacks…but that’s all based more on point of view than it is in absolute truth. Digital music makes it easier for people to hear, share, and find new music. Plain and simple. It means its easier for people to get it without ever compensating the artist (which I actually don’t care about, but most do). It also means that music is devalued through the creative process. The “album experience” is dying. A fully realized, well structured, and carefully presented album is becoming more of a “boutique” idea and it’s being replaced by singles and EP’s. “let’s write the song…get it out to people…get the money…and do it again.” There is no right or wrong answer. I prefer listening to great albums as opposed to great singles. But that’s just my opinion. I think the world is making it’s voice heard loud and clear. They like the direction it’s going in. As a musician and performer…my job is to reach as many people as I can with the best music I can make. I don’t care how I do that. Through a label, independently, selling cassette tapes out of my trunk. It doesn’t matter, because I have no dog in that fight. I think people who either really miss how much money physical sales generated…or people who feel there is only one way to make music are the ones who really care about that stuff.

ONE21: Who is Jesus to you?
Heath: Dude…this is such a hard question to answer. Harder than almost any question. How can I explain adequately who He is to me and what he’s done for me? The best friend I will ever have. I don’t mean it in the cliche’ sense that people say it in. I mean he has seen me at my absolute worst. My most depraved. My most selfish. He knows the jealous, greedy, twisted, and hurtful thoughts I harbor both in my mind and in my heart. He watches me wrestle with trying to be a good man who loves Him with all my heart. He knows the anguish I put myself through because I don’t feel equipped or “qualified” to be a member of His family and speak to both the lost and the found. He knows that it is in my nature to steal from the poor, rob the blind, lie to your face, kill for my gain, and walk away without a trace of remorse. And despite all of that…He tells me that I’m His most dearly loved and cherished creation. He forgives me freely. He loves me in a way that I can’t even fully understand. He tells me every day that “where sin did abound…grace did much more abound.” Protector, Father, friend, shelter, best friend, shepard….He is everything. Even when I treat Him like He’s an after thought. He rides shotgun with me when I would jump out of my own freaking skin just to get away from the mess that I’ve made of myself. This isn’t false modesty. This isn’t “oh I’m just a sinner saved by grace” talk. These are the reasons I will NEVER judge another person. I will never judge them because of their deeds, thoughts, actions, or beliefs….because most of them could never come close to being the kind of selfish opportunist that I am at times. He called me to love. He replaced everything that I’ve mentioned with nothing but love. That’s who He is to me. Just love.

Interview With The Rocket Summer Posted

the rocket summer 09

Relevant Magazine recently posted an interview with singer/songwriter Bryce Avary (aka The Rocket Summer) on their website. The interview covers the recording and writing process of The Rocket Summer‘s latest album, Of Men And Angels, the fans, and Bryce’s faith. Cool interview, check it out!

Read interview with The Rocket Summer

Video Interview With Kids In The Way Posted

WalnutTV posted a new video interview with newly reunited pop rock band Kids In The Way this week.   The band sits around a fire expresses their love for music, where they got their name, and talk about some future plans.  Enjoy and watch!

LMNO Video Interview Posted


Below is a video interview with emcee LMNO and producer Kev Brown concerning their sequel to last year’s The Devil’s Dandruff With Holy Shampoo. The interview is kind of long, but you really get to see what these dudes are all about. I think I want to hang out with LMNO now….

Cathy Burton Interview Posted

cathy burton

Cross Rhythms posted their interview with pop folk artist Cathy Burton this week. The majority of the interview centers around Burton‘s turn into worship music with her latest album Source Of Every Hour, which will hit the market this week. The interview is pretty cool, and once again, here is an artists I know most of our readers are unfamiliar with, but take a chance and check her out.

Read Cathy Burton interview

The One21 Interviews Close Your Eyes

close your eyes copy
Texas natives Close Your Eyes are a breath of fresh air in every way possiable. Simply put, their music is fun, passionate, and thoughtful. Their unique brand of melodic hardcore/pop-punk gives each song that Close Your Eyes throws at you an air of fun and energy all at the same time. Their music is a perfect fix for anybody wanting to bridge into listening to harder music, or a lighter option for the avid “tuff-guy” listener. Add lyrics that do more than just touch on subjects of love and loss, and you have an amazing band with a very bright future.

Late into 2009, Close Your Eyes inked a deal with Victory Records (Between The Buried & Me, Comeback Kid, Emmure), and released their debut full-length through the label February 16th, 2010 (today). I was able to contact the band through their rep at Victory, and the following is my interview with vocalist Shane Raymond, and guitarist Brett Callaway:

ONE21: Tell everybody the story of Close Your Eyes

Brett Callaway- Well…the band started with just Shane and I. I had just moved to Abilene and thought “oh no I have moved to a cowboy town” I saw Shane at school wearing an As I Lay Dying t-shirt and so I went and talked to him. He told me he was a vocalist and so we started hanging out and trying to find new members. We finally got a full band together and about 4 or 5 months later played our first show. We do not have any of the other members that played that night with us anymore, but our line up is pretty solid. The member that has been with us for the least amount of time is our drummer, David, who has been with us for a little over 2 years.

Shane Raymond- Musically things have changed a lot from where we started. As with most bands, you have to have a period of experimenting with different sounds until you really find what it is that you say is “your sound.” It took us a bit longer than some bands, around two years. But once we wrote the song “Friends are Friends Forever” we knew that this was the style of music we wanted to be making. It just flowed out, never forced.

O: What would you say your sound is? Are there any other bands that have really helped shape what you guys are doing?

B- It is pretty hard to define our sound. We are a hardcore band with a ton of melodic elements. We have some parts that are pop punk, some parts that are infused with ambient guitar parts. But On the whole we just try to put as much passion into our music as possible and just put all of our energy into it. There are always bands that are going to inspire us, but we never sit down thinking I want to write a song like such and

S- There are a lot of influences on our music. Most of us grew up listening to pop punk and still do. Traditional punk hardcore is something that we listen to a lot as well. Bands like Comeback Kid, With Honor, Blink 182, No Use for a Name, Rancid, Agnostic Front, New Found Glory, etc. are bands that we draw influence from.

O: How did the deal with Victory Records come about?

S- Well, we got a call one day from Double J at Victory, saying that they really liked what they were hearing and wanted us to come out and play a showcase for them. So we packed up and drove to Chicago for the weekend. We played four songs for Tony Brummell and Jason and a few other people that we didn’t have the opportunity of meeting at the time. After playing, Tony came on stage and told us that he loved it, and we would have a contract to look over when we got home. He was a man true to his word. We returned home Monday to find a contract sitting in the inbox of our email account.

O: Let’s talk about We Will Overcome, what was the writing/recording process like for that album?

B- the way we usually write is that either Andrew or I will write something or at least part of an idea and bring it to the other person and work it out. Then we take it to practice and teach it to everyone else and work and mold it until we are totally happy with it. As far as lyrical themes usually we leave Shane to his own devices. Haha. Every once in a while I will write something before the song gets to Shane but I have not
written lyrics for an entire song before he gets to it in probably 3 or 4 years.

O: Were there any specific themes you guys were trying to communicate?

S- The album covers a lot of time in the life of CYE. There are songs on the album that we have had written for quite some time and have been already playing at shows. But the one thing that all of our songs have in common is the theme of hope. So often we as people find ourselves in situations where we feel that there is no hope, and that the struggles we encounter on a day to day basis will overwhelm and subdue us. We as a band will say that amidst this strife, even the fact that a person can take a breath is enough to say that there is hope.

O: We Will Overcome has a lot of songs about relying on friends and family, are you guys able to stay close with people even when you are touring alot?

S- Yes! Very much so! Our friends and family only continue to grow as we hit the road and go across the country playing in cities that we in CYE have only dreamed about visiting. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without its share of hardship. Relationships are forced to take on a different shape. Where most relationships depend on physical presence to fully mature and grow, that has to take a side seat to the emotional side of the relationship. Our families and friends are in our thoughts constantly, and we maintain a healthy communication pipeline with them through phone calls and text messages.

B- This is something that I personally struggle with sometimes. I think everyone that is on the road for long periods of time does. I miss my friends and family at home. That being said, we have amazing friends and family that are so supportive of of and that really helps us to keep going!

O: I know that you guys dont consider yourselves a “Christian band”, but faith seems to play a big part lyrically in your music. Especially on a song like “Arms Raised”, was the intention to talk about your faith specifically?

S- Yes, it was. We in CYE will never be able to hide who we are and what we have been blessed with. God has allowed us to do so much in such a short time that it still blows my mind to this day. “Arms Raised” is a sort of thank you. Everything that we do as members of Close Your Eyes will hopefully point to something that is far greater and more meaningful and profound than what we can be as human beings.

B- Yes, that song is totally a worship song. I wrote the intro of that song before the rest of the song was written at all. That song is for an audience of one in my heart when I am playing it. We do not try and hide
our faith at all. We are very open about it. At the same time we do not try and push it on anyone. We just try to live what Jesus says are the two greatest commandments, “Love the Lord your God, and love your
neighbor.” We desire to give hope to everyone we are able to connect with.

O: While we are on the subject, what is you view of “Christian music”?

B- This is a tough subject for me. To me it has to do with the heart of the artist and no one is the same. I feel like some bands use their “faith” to get ahead in the music industry. I don’t feel like Christ is something to be bought or sold or an avenue for advancement in business. That being said there are a lot of awesome “faith-based” bands out there right now doing great things!

O: Do you think the perception of faith-based music has changed for the general public?

S- I feel that has, especially in the ‘hard music’ scene. You are beginning to see more and more bands taking the stand of “Christian music” in recent years. I think that is due in large part to the fact that many people are beginning to move away from the presuppositions of past generations that tell us, “Worship music has a predefined shape, form, and implementation.” This is being left simply because we are starting to not put God into a pre-formed mental box of how it is that God can be praised for what God does. It is a dangerous position to find yourself in when you begin to claim how God can and cannot be praised.

O: Now speaking of music in general, what are your thoughts on the “modern age” of music, where Myspace has replaced plastering posters and digital music seems to be replacing physical CDs? Do you think these changes are positive?

S- In balance, it can be. Myspace Music and Digital streaming are products of instant gratification. And that can be a good thing. But we can never forget as artists, as well as fans, the roots of where it is that we have come from, and what has happened is that the roots of the music industry have been neglected. The industry was founded on people making records and selling them or giving them away in most cases just so the band’s ‘voice’ would be heard. Some might argue that digital streaming is another face of that. But more and more as artists we are seeing less ‘amazing albums’ and more two or three good songs that people will buy on iTunes.

B- I think it is something different. Not necessarily good or bad. One good thing is that there is more music out there for kids to grab on to and bands have an easier time getting their music to more people because of
tools like Myspace. I personally still buy physical CDs just because I like them better, and I like the whole overall experience. Also I know that most people do not care about this but a physical CD has a lot higher quality of sound than an MP3 or especially an MP4 that you download. When an album is mastered it is intended for a CD not to be compressed again into some other format. Instruments sit differently in the mix and vocals change when music is compressed into those other file types.

O: Whenever you guys tour, what are some of Close Your Eyes‘ traditions on the road?

B- One ridiculous tradition that we have is that we stop at every Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World that we see. That place is the coolest place in the world. Haha, I have never laughed harder than watching David try and climb all the way to the top of the rock climbing wall at one of the locations. We actually just got an XBox 360 to put into the car for while we are driving. I am not totally sure how that is going to work yet, but we are going to make it happen!

O: For anybody out there reading this interview and thinking about starting a band/music career, what would your advice to them be?

B- My advice would be just to be true to yourself and to work as hard as you can! Practice, practice, practice, and play as much as you can! Get out on the road! And lastly surround yourself with solid people that you can work with and be with for months at a time!

Visit Close Your Eyes‘ ONE21 Artist Profile for more info on the band, places to buy their music, and other artists you may enjoy as well.

Also don’t forget to go out and get Close Your Eyes‘ Victory Records debut, We Will Overcome, in stores NOW!

Interview/Music Video With We Came As Romans Posted

we came as romans 2009

We Came As Romans had a busy week this last week…

First up they did an interview with Indie Vision Music. In the interview, they talk about being a believer in the metal/hardcore scene, their latest tour, and their latest release, To Plant A Seed. Check it out!

Read interview with We Came As Romans

They also posted their latest music video for the single “Broken Statues” through NOISECREEP. Enjoy!