Meet Up and Coming Singer Kylie Hughes

 

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious when someone is born a star. When she was little, singer Kylie Hughes would belt out Disney tunes (her favorite was the Hercules soundtrack). Now, she has a number of musical accomplishments under her belt, including producing an EP when she was fourteen, performing at music festivals, and sharing the stage with several well-known artists such as the Beach Boys, Jesse McCartney, and Building 429. She’s also opened for a John Mayer concert and performed a duet at Carnegie Hall with Michael W. Smith.

Kylie is a Cali girl at heart, and a lot of her music is inspired by California and the fun, upbeat, sunny lifestyle. When asked about her style of music, she said she dabbles in a little bit of everything, from pop to country. “I love how blurred the lines of music genres are these days. You can almost do anything.” Her debut album features an array of beautiful, original songs such as “Heat,” “Love Somebody Else,” and her personal favorite, “Gotta Get Out.” She says that it’s very fun to perform live because there is a bit of call and response, and she feels really connected to the audience on that one.

Besides singing, she loves interior design and traveling. “I actually love living out of a bag from time to time. It keeps me spontaneous.” When asked about what advice she has for other young singers, she said this: “Stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to try and fail. You will gain invaluable lessons. But if you are going to take a risk, do it because YOU want to, not because you feel pressure from other people. Trust your gut.”

Be sure to check out her website and follow all her socials (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) for updates, including information on when her new music video is coming out!

 

Written by Anna Tallarico

Photo credit: Shalon Goss

 

Jordy Searcy: Seasons

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

jordyWhen I googled Jordy, his Youtube channel was the first to pop up.  I had already been listening to his EP and was more interested in information about him, so I didn’t click on it, but the description made me stop for a second:  “a singer-songwriter and a cover artist with a great passion for songs sung honestly.”  I wonder how many times I’ve read similar descriptions about other artists…I guess the saying “if I had a dollar for every time…” fits perfectly here.  But, rarely, I think, is it ever more true than with Jordy.  At twenty, Jordy knows more about who he is and what he wants than most forty year olds that I know.  After listening to only four songs, I know without a shadow of a doubt that if a producer/manager/whoever asked him to sing a song that went against who he is or what he believes, Jordy would say no, no matter the risk.  I have crazy,  mad, immeasurable respect for that.

So how did I come to that conclusion?

Jordy begins Seasons with the song “Don’t Talk to Me.” As the most upbeat song on the EP, it reveals two things about him:  Jordy likes lyrics (lots and lots of words!), and when he recognizes he has a weakness, he knows it’s best to just stay away.  The song is playful, but he isn’t kidding; he’s telling the girl who tore his heart in two that she has to stay away so he can move on.  Favorite lyric:  “Don’t try to drink me dry/And get what you won’t keep.”

“Birdie” is my personal favorite, although out of a solid four songs to chose from, this wins by only a hair.  This one is all about encouraging someone to go for their dreams. What I love best is the encouragement comes at a personal cost; sometimes watching someone else’s dreams come true comes at the cost of letting go of personal feelings.  That’s true love.  Favorite lyric(s): “She’s not perfect/She knows that’s alright” and “Fear is a fable that ties you down/And no one will have wings like you now.”

“Seasons” is a masterpiece for two reasons; the song is poetry, and it perfectly captures all that is true and pure about a love that lasts a lifetime.  Set in contrast to the following track “Real Love,” Jordy crushes all that popular culture romanticizes and holds up an ideal worth fighting for.  While the song goes through the four seasons, I love the visions of what a marriage may like through the course of fifty plus years.  The song is flawless in itself, but the fact that someone so young wrote it makes it all that much more exhilarating.  You have to listen to this one; whether the acoustic or regular track, it doesn’t matter.  Favorite lyric:  To isolate any of them would not do justice to the song; it takes all of them to create the beauty of this track.

Jordy restored a lot of faith in humanity for me with these songs.  It’s so incredibly refreshing to me to discover young artists who still seek what is pure and beautiful and what may be difficult yet incredibly rewarding over what is easy and instant and fleeting.  I love him for his talent-he has heaps to boast about, and to me, he sounds very similar to Kris Allen, another musical hero of mine. And I pray that his talent takes him amazingly far; the world will be a far lovelier place if more songs like these touch people’s souls.  But, really, and I don’t say this lightly, his beautiful heart is an even more precious commodity.  Seasons proves he is much better than just another singer songwriter in a world overflowing with good musicians.

Tamara Laurel: Runaway

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Tamara Laurel: RunawayCountry music generally isn’t my thing.  While I will listen without complaint, rarely do the songs resonate on a deeper level than, “Oh, this sounds good.”  So when I listened to Tamara (her pronunciation rhymes with camera) Laurel’s newest release, I was pleasantly surprised by the feelings her songs immediately woke within me.  While I love how she doesn’t use strategically placed steel guitar to fit the “country bill,” nor does she force a twang that simply isn’t her, I adore the fact that she constructs all her music around the stories she tells.  The deep strings splash crimson longing and remorse and poetic phrases like “eyes like mid-July” evoke all the reasons why I listen to music at all and why I am helplessly drawn to songs that speak to the darkest shadows of my heart.

The seven song album begins with “Whiskey.”  While love is once again compared to an addiction, I appreciate the track for her recognition of what isn’t good for her.  The momentum of the song is the best part, however; while the beginning is seasoned with a sense of sadness at the acknowledgement of needing separation, the music builds, representing not only an immediacy, but a freedom.  It sets the stage of a woman who realizes her weakness but refuses to stay there, and it’s empowering.

What follows “Whiskey,” however, is truly what sets her apart from most artists.  And to be honest, I didn’t agree with all that Tamara explores.  “Come On, Come On,” as incredibly enticing as the song is, is nothing more than physical attraction.  She alludes to intimate relationships that transpire way too quickly, and the resulting heartbreak may be of her own making.  But the depth of her analysis, and her honest introspection, create the most precious realizations.  There aren’t many songwriters out there who are this fearless.  Tamara is poetic and beautiful and tragic, but best of all, she is completely real.  The song “Unraveling” will follow me around for the rest of my life; while she promises there is nothing to regret, the song is saturated with mourning of a lost love.  It is hauntingly beautiful…my favorite kind of lovely.  The theme of this album is freedom, but all of it is hinged upon a blossoming courage that only grows in the light of strength.

And she really is my favorite kind of artist.  Her songs create stories that my heart understands, and the hiccups and imperfections reflect a humanness that creates bonds more than it caters to isolation.  I had read her bio and knew that she had to conquer fears that could have prohibited her from realizing her dreams.  I had listened to the songs where she uncovers bravery that uncage her from a lifetime of unhappiness.  So it really should not have surprised me how inspiring she is.  But she did, surprise me, that is.  I hope that you listen to her music and uncover the same strength I discovered.  I hope you read on to find a similar inspiration that I found.

For more information, please visit www.tamaralaurel.com.

 

Relate:  First memory of music:

Tamara:  I remember being in a car seat in my dad’s car.  Both my parents were in the car, and I remember the song “Sweet Dreams” by Heart.  I remember listening to that song, and while I was maybe 2 or 3, I was asking questions about the lyrics.  I remember my parents thinking that was super weird.

 

R:  Name one song you wish you had written and why:

T:  Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio.”  She’s talking about how her mom wants her to do all these things, and it eludes to her mom pressuring her to get married, trying to get her to settle down and she just wants to run off.  It’s a really cool story.  I just like that she wrote this song about a wild character-this girl who goes against what everyone wants her to do.  She decides she’s going to drive off to Atlanta and live out this fantasy life.  It’s a fun song.  You should listen to it.

 

R:  If someone was to choose only one song from your album Runaway, which one would you want it to be and why?

T:  I wrote for a long time for this album and we had a ton of songs to choose from.  We narrowed them down to seven songs.  The night before we were to track demos, I wrote “Runaway.”  It happened in 15 minutes.  That night I was like, “Oh, I want to record this song instead of one of the other ones.”  I played it for the producer and the band, and everyone agreed.  So it bumped one of the other songs and made it onto the album.  I think that alone gives it just enough significance-that it happened at just the right time to make it.

It also tells a story and is kind of an anchor for the album.  It tells the story of the transformations I went through where you can be in a situation where you’re unhappy or not treated well, and you kind of hold on because you’re afraid of change or afraid that letting go will bring more pain or you’re just afraid of the new.  This taps into sometimes the only strong thing to do is completely run and start over and work with your circumstances rather than fighting them.

Because of the message of the song and because of the way it appeared, that would be the song I’d want people to listen to.

 

R:  What can you tell us about the inspiration for this record and why you wrote these songs?

T:  I had a couple years where wild things were happening, and I’m a firm believer in experiences and saying yes to life, even though there are consequences involved, and this has given me a lot of great songwriting opportunities.  I’m always drawn to the formation and solution of romantic relationships.  This album is really me growing up and deciding to take charge of my life and not caring what anyone thinks and sticking up for myself.

 

R:  I read that you had terrible stage fright and it was one performance at the House of Blues in LA that changed everything for you. This is a two part question:  why were you so afraid to perform solo and what was it about that experience that gave you courage?

T:  I sang in musicals growing up and would kind of hide in the chorus.  I could still sing, but I didn’t have to own anything; it wasn’t really my fault if it didn’t go well.  I think all stage fright is essentially fear of failure and fear of not being able to control your circumstances.  I didn’t grow up learning how to proficiently play music-I’m not one of those virtuosos.  I couldn’t grow up taking voice lessons or anything like that.  Everything I’m doing, it’s just what I think I should be doing.  I learned to play guitar from what I learned on YouTube.  I think I was just insecure about that, and I was terrified to go onstage.

Before that House of Blues show, I couldn’t eat; I was so nervous and sick.  I knew putting myself in that situation where family and friends were in town and it was a big crowd-there was a lot on the line.  I didn’t feel I had a choice.  I had to get up on stage.

There’s a theory that people with really big fears like fear of flying, for example, or fear of performing like I had, that if you expose yourself to it and force yourself through it, you can completely wipe away a life long fear, which is kind of crazy.

I knew that night if I got on stage and it was terrible, it was only going to be a terrible half hour of my life.  And if it wasn’t terrible, then I had just changed everything.  Luckily, it ended up being great, and after that, I was like, I just played at the House of Blues, I can play at these little shows.  I think that’s why it had such a profound impact.

 

R:  Do you still ever battle nerves or doubt and how do you overcome them?

T:  I don’t get nervous for most shows, I get excited.  I get nervous for filming videos, so I still deal with that.  I think the nature of being an artist is experiencing life.  It’s a really crazy experience to write something extremely personal and put that out there.  Not only are you telling your life story, but you’re also singing to it and composing chords around it, so it’s just very…it can be a very scary place to be.

I think that is the really cool about being a musician, especially nowadays with the internet, is that, the further you go along, the more people you connect with and those doubts are kind of quieted.  I’ve heard from a lot of people who have been helped by the things I was afraid to say because they were afraid to say it or feel it as well.  I think that was good for me to push past the doubts and keep going and be grateful for the experience to do music.

 

R:  What is it that you love most about music?

T:  I think my favorite part is all these crazy things that fit together.  You have an idea for a song, you write the song, record it, play it live, make a video for it, all these crazy parts.  For me, the one thing that really gets to me is when I start to write a song, there’s usually a feeling of calm and knowing it’s going to be a good one.  Your brain is working so fast, putting this puzzle together, and you can’t get it on paper quickly enough.  I love that.  It doesn’t happen often.  I’ll write 60-70 songs in a year, and only 7 songs that are “good enough” to make the record.  It’s a really rare, fleeting feeling, but your brain is kind of solving this perfect fusion between melody, harmony, and lyric, and it’s really cool.  Every song writer I’ve talked to describes this feeling as well.

 

R:  If you could tell your thirteen year old self one thing, what would it be?

T:  Believe in yourself more.  Own who you are, even if it’s a little different than other people, because one day those things that make you slightly different will make you really happy and will let you live the life you always wanted to live.

And don’t be in such a rush to grow up.

 

R:  What is your definition of success?

T:  I think I felt successful when I got on stage at the House of Blues, and I think everything from that point on has been icing on the cake, so to speak.  I was so scared of it; it was a world I didn’t know if I belonged in, and that House of Blues show…that’s a memory that’s once in a lifetime.  I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren, and that was a highlight.  And after that, then I’ll make an EP, after that I’ll make an album and I want to play guitar on the album, and I want to release the album, and play these shows and make a music video.  I think I try to have no expectations so everything is fantastic.

In general, the definition of success is doing your best while being good to others and constantly pushing your boundaries.

 

R:  Pick one of the two:  beach or the mountains?

T:  Mountains

 

R:  Jeans or maxi dress?

T:  Jeans

 

R:  Bowl of ice cream or bag of potato chips

T:  It kind of depends on the day…bag of potato chips

 

R:  Chick flick or suspenseful thriller?

T:  Suspenseful thriller

 

R:  Piano or electric guitar

T:  Electric guitar

 

 

Interview with Jon McLaughlin

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
jon mclaughlin newMusic sustains me in countless different ways. Most of my favorite songs can be lumped into categories more than genres; there’s music I run to every morning, music I listen to that always captures my imagination and inspires me to write, music I worship to, music that I love to turn up really loud and sing along to in the car, and music I listen to because it understands me. Precious few artists make it into that final category, and even fewer fit into the playlists that cover all those needs.

Jon’s music always does.

I started listening to Jon in 2007 when he opened for Kelly Clarkson’s My December Tour.  The album and the song Indiana resonated a little deeper than most records do.  Maybe it’s because I am a native Hoosier.  Maybe it’s because, I, too, orbited around a piano my entire childhood (even when I wasn’t playing, it was always in prominent display…beckoning me or mocking me, depending on my mood).  “Indiana” the song put to music how I felt about…everything.  The insightfulness of “Beautiful Disaster” solidified that I had jumped on a music bandwagon and I wasn’t getting off.

I can’t name a favorite song from Promising Promises, but the feel of that record makes me choose it over and over.  It’s not so personal as it is joy from listening.  When Holding My Breath came out a little over a year later, I didn’t write a review.  I felt like I was still basking in the beauty of Promising and couldn’t absorb a record I wasn’t ready to hear.  But, now, a few years later, and I can tell you “Oh, Jesus,” in all it’s honesty and confusion and praise, cannot be matched by any other “religious” song I’ve ever heard.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, emotionally, “Doesn’t Mean Goodbye” contains such equal amounts of heartbreak and hope that it will be the inspiration for every breakup scene I ever write, and not one of them will look the same.

Jon’s new album, Like Us, will be released October 9th, and this time, I couldn’t be more ready to hear it.  He has a preview on his website at www.jonmcl.com where you can hear the new track “Before You.” This precursor to the interview is supposed to be a write up of how great the track is, and it, you know, turned out to be nothing more than me rambling about how great he is in general.  Ah well.  I mean, if you haven’t been convinced by the above gushing, a few lines about this song from my humble opinion isn’t going to do it.

Getting Jon’s perspective, though, could be the very nudge you need.  He was generous with his responses about his favorite songs (his and who he’s a fan of), how this all started, and why he keeps doing this music thing.  So finish reading and then go listen.

 

Relate:  First memory of music?

 

Jon:  I grew up going to this tiny little Methodist church in my home town and they had an old piano.  After the service, I was that annoying kid, you know, after everyone left the sanctuary, I would go back and play and make up songs.  I would just sit at that piano.  This was before I was taking piano lessons; I would just kind of bang out whatever.  I’m sure it sounded terrible, but I used to do that every Sunday.  I think that’s what started this thing and lead to taking lessons.

 

R:  What do you love most about music?

 

J:  That’s a tough question.  I think what I love most… I mean, being a musician, music takes on a lot of forms in my life.  There’s writing, and there’s recording, there’s obviously going to shows.  I think my favorite aspect is playing live.  There’s nothing better.  If I don’t go on tour for awhile, I start to get antsy and have to get out and be up on stage and play some songs.

 

R:  Name one song you wish you had written and why?

 

J:  That’s a long list.  There are a lot of songs I wish I had written… like Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”  It’s probably my favorite song of all time.  I think it’s genius.  I love that song every time I hear it.  It’s probably the most impactful song on my life.  I think I was four or five the first time I heard it, and I loved it immediately, and it’s kind of a weird for a five year old to love that song.

 

That one would be on there and “A Little Bit of Everything” by Dawes.  They’re one of my new favorite bands.  They’ve been around for a little while…I think I first heard them back 2009 or so.  They’ve got this song on their second record called “A Little Bit of Everything” that I think is one of the most amazing songs ever written.

 

So there you go, both an older song and a newer one.

 

R:  If  you could pick one song from your catalog to give someone who had never heard you before, which one would you choose and why?

 

J:  These questions are hard.  A song from the new record called “Down In History.”  I feel like it musically touches on all the different styles that I play.  You know, kind of a schizophrenic song.

 

An older song of mine called “Indiana” that has always been one of my favorites.  I think that it’s my best efforts lyrically; I really like those lyrics and think they stand the test of time.  It would be one of those two songs.

 

R:  Tell me about the new album Like Us and how does it differ from your previous recordings?

 

J:  The first album I put out called Indiana-this record is kind of a mix between Indiana and my second record OK Now.  I recorded it with the same producer-Dave Barnes who I recorded with OK Now with.  He is an amazing producer and has worked with Dave Barnes, Parachute, Switchfoot…tons of great records.

 

It’s very piano based, which is my second record is really guitar based, and I kind of got away from my sound a little bit.  So, this one is a good blend.  It’s very piano based, but there’s a lot of other sounds there.

 

Every song on it is a relationship song.  Obviously, I’m  not breaking any new ground by writing songs about relationships, but I wanted to write a record that sort of touched on as many different emotions as I could.  Not just straight up love songs like “oh, I’m falling in love kind of song,” which, there are some of those, too.  Once you get in a relationship, you go through all kinds of different emotions and different experiences.  I wanted to write a record that touched on a bunch of those different experiences.

 

R:  Most embarrassing moment onstage?

 

J:  I was in Knoxville, Tennessee, back in 2008, I think, and I said, “So great to be here in Nashville, I love your city.”  I felt so bad and immediately caught it and said, “I’m so sorry, I love you Knoxville.”  But it’s tough hard to recover from that.

 

R:  Best compliment a fan has said to you?

 

J:  Someone recently wrote in on Facebook with a really long beautiful letter that they’d written.  It was kind of a sad journey where her husband had died and she was getting remarried.  All these songs throughout my catalogue had helped her along the way.  Like the songs that had helped her when he died and my song which I just put out, called “Before You” is her and her new guy’s song.  It was a really cool letter explaining how my music had helped her through all these different stages throughout her life which is great.  It’s kind of the whole point-to put music out there that means something to somebody so to get a letter from somebody saying that not only do I like this one song of yours,  but these four or five songs have really helped me throughout the past four or five years.  That is one of the cooler letters that I’ve gotten.

 

R:  Out of the three things you do so well-writing, recording, or performing, if you could only do one of them for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

 

J:  Performing/playing live. I like all the other aspects of it.  When I go out on tour, it’s amazing, but then by the end of the tour, I’m ready to rejuvenate, go see some other bands and get filled up again.  Then I start writing, and then start recording, then you’re ready to get back on the road.  It’s a good healthy cycle.  If I had to choose, I’d say playing live.  If I never played live again, there’d be a void in my life.

 

Being on stage, playing my songs, hearing people singing it back has always been the greatest thing in the world.  I remember playing in Grand  Rapids, MI, back in 2007; that was the first time I saw a crowd of people, eyes closed, singing one of my songs.  I’ll never forget it.  It was amazing.  It was almost ten years ago, at this tiny little club, but it’s definitely the end game.

 

R:  “Oh, Jesus” is your only overtly Christian song on the full length albums.  What prompted you to record it for Holding my Breath?

 

J:  It wasn’t calculated.  People ask me about this song a lot.  I’m a pretty outspoken Christian-people know I’m a believer.  People who have followed my music know I don’t have a lot of songs like that on my recordings, but I included it because I wrote it and I liked it.  It was a culmination of a bunch of general feelings…how things work, why are there huge tragedies in the world and these small victories.  We choose credit for somethings, but not other things.  Once you start dissecting it, it gets really overwhelming.  There are no answers in the song.  It’s really just me talking to Jesus about all these thoughts.  I never thought I should take Jesus out of it or if I should save it and put it on a full length Christian record.  It wasn’t calculated.  I’ve gotten a great response, and I’m definitely grateful for that.

 

R:  Congratulations on the birth of your second daughter!  What’s the most important lesson having children has taught you?

 

J:  You can survive on no sleep at all.  It forces you to become very, very selfless.  I think we’re selfish innately; you just kind of look out for yourself until you have a baby.  The world changes.  Your independence changes because there’s this little person you would do anything for without even thinking.  Learning how to be selfless and make decisions that don’t just benefit yourself anymore because you’re thinking about your little baby girl.

 

R:  Like Us will be your fifth album; what do you hope to accomplish through music that you haven’t already achieved?

 

J:  The goal is to simply that I hope new and more people will hear the music and be turned onto it.  As an artist, I feel like I have something to say, and if I didn’t I wouldn’t put these records out.  So I hope the music will spread and mean something to more people.

Interview with Dan Rodriguez

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Dan RodriguezCome On Home, the new album from Dan, is all kinds of wonderful. I’ve been listening to James Bay lately, and I was intrigued that Sawyer won the latest season of The Voice; their presence reminds me there are still real musicians out there who don’t sell out for the latest trends. Dan Rodriguez can proudly stand among that group. Music like this is the response to my heart’s longing.

“Come on Home,” the opening track is genius in lyric and genuine in delivery. The song exposes everything that is great about this musician: vulnerable and honest lyric, beautiful musicianship, and gorgeous vocals. My favorite line in the song is “I’ll pray for rain so this bridge doesn’t get burned,” but really, I could quote the entire song as examples of brilliance. Have you ever watched someone self destruct? This song is what the soul feels, watching it happen and being absolutely helpless. It’s absolutely agonizing, but at the same time, it reveals the beauty of the compassionate human soul: to want more for someone more than she wants for herself. My analysis of this song could never do it justice; it truly is a stand-out track not just for Dan, but for the music I’ve heard thus far this year.

“California” is almost as great. I loved the painting of a beautiful portrait and then the realization that that is all it is; it can never be home or real or tangible because a loved one isn’t there to share it with. “Believe,” on anyone else’s album, would have been my favorite, but the fact that there are songs on Come On Home that I favored more, elevated this guy to a lofty level. And then there’s “Second Chances” which firmly entrenches Dan into fantastic songwriter territory; with this many songs that I adore, I realize he isn’t just accidentally writing a great song here or there.

Dan delivers a feel good jam just as well as the deeper and richer songs. My favorite is “New Kind of Love” because it simply described that great feeling I get when I’ve uncovered an artist I had never heard before and he’s so much better than I expected. The irony is he isn’t singing songs of infatuation or superficial love. He isn’t trying to be trendy or hip or new or out of the box. With the soulful voice and the blues guitar and the talent, he doesn’t need an iota of the fickle gimmicks so many artists shamefully adorn themselves with. Take into account that his lyrics have actual content that matters to me and moves me and inspires me, and I realize I have heard a musician that I’ll be listening to ten years from now and will still be as excited as I was when I heard him for the first time.

Relate: First memory of music:

Dan: One of my first memories of music is watching my older brother playing the piano in our living room. It sounded so beautiful, and I wanted to be just like him. Today, when I play full band shows, he is a part of the band, hes played on every record of mine, and for the most recent album Come On Home he even co-wrote 2 of the songs. I get to live out that memory every time I play.

R: Name one song you wish you had written and why:

D: This question always gets me, because Im usually glad it wasnt me who wrote my favorite songs

because if it were my own I would have probably ruined it with over-editing and insecurities. If I had to pick one song that I wish were my own it would be Leonard Cohens Hallelujah. I even have my own version of it on my last album entitled Roaring Dan. Its been a favorite song of mine for the majority of my life.

R: Favorite song of yours and why you wrote it:

D: I think currently my favorite song in my catalog is Come On Home. Lyrically its desperate and real, and musically it features my vocal range and lets me belt out some bigger notes. I wrote it about a friend who was struggling in a tough time in their life, and Im happy to say that theyve pulled through that tough time. The song was my own way of expressing how I felt at the time.

R: Dream collaboration:

D: I know somebody somewhere is going to try and give me grief for this, but if I had the opportunity to write and perform with Taylor Swift, I would be deliriously elated.

R: Most rewarding aspect about being a musician:

D: Im constantly amazed at the endless rewards in playing music. Im not sure if I could ever pay back everything that music has given me. The biggest reward for me, however, is when somebody tells me that a song of mine helped them through a hard time, or that they were touched or inspired by some lyric or song in a way that nothing else could. Its extremely humbling when it happens, and its the strongest reminder of why I do what I do.

R: How does the album Come On Home differ from other albums you have created?

D: In my career as an artist Ive always been independent of a label or management. This has its advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is having to pay for your own recordings. Because of my limited funds, my past albums have been acoustic, low-production albums, or only a hand full of songs. Come On Home is different because not only are the songs more mature, but this is my first full length, full production album. 10 tracks of band rockingoodness.

R: Favorite memory of recording or writing?

D: One of my favorite writing experiences was writing for this last album. Two songs on Come On Home were written with my brother Andre Rodriguez. We spent a weekend writing up in a cabin in the northern woods of Minnesota, and two of the songs we wrote that weekend ended up on this album. New Kind of Love and Rum River. My favorite recording experience was for this album as well. Packing my friends and family in a van and trekking down to Nashville to do this record together was unlike anything Ive done before. I wouldnt trade those memories for anything.

R: Favorite memory of touring?

D: Since my wife is an instructor at a university, she has her Summers off. Being able to travel and make music, and do it with the people that you love, can be some of the most memorable and rewarding times in life.

R: What is your definition of success?

D: Ive always said that my definition of success in music is being able to make enough of a living to support a family and a simple lifestyle while being able to travel and play my songs in venues all over the country & the world. According to that definition, Ive achieved success. According to my own heart and personal drive, Ive only begun to scratch the surface.

 

Manafest: The Moment

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

 

manafest-themomentCarpe Diem:  seize the day.  I remember a foreign exchange student trying to teach me his definition of a concept I thought I knew.  He thought fearless meant reckless, freedom meant wild, seizing meant capturing.  I was enchanted by him, and I fell for it all only for it to culminate in a devastating end.  But it taught me what carpe diem meant to me, and how it set me apart from most people.  Manafest’s The Moment puts it all into perspective:  about living this life fully and trying not to waste an iota of time.  Sometimes, he has me singing along at the top of my lungs with my windows rolled down, enjoying freedom, and others, he has me sitting up a little straighter, goosebumps on my skin as I realize how easily I get led astray when I thought I had focus.

I love how a word can have several meanings, and I love even more when a theme can be so dynamic as several perspectives are considered.  Manafest zeroes in on the concept with the title track, “The Moment,” going with the obvious and then widening the scope with the following tracks.  “Edge of My Life” has so much energy, and it hits me personally as he lists the responsibilities of life and all their distractions, taking us into a secular world rather than the one God wants us to live.  I love “Criminal” for the way he proclaims his devotion without shame.  I’ve often wondered, if I was put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence against me.  There would be my Bible, my writings, my journals.  But even more importantly, I want the testimony.  I want dozens of people standing as witnesses to how I lived my life.  There’s not enough time to fudge the lines.  Either you’re a Christian or you’re not, either you’re living it out, or you’re not.  “Cage” is the song that surprised me, the thought of life being too short to be put in a box, whether it’s one of our own creation or whether it’s one we allow others to put us in.  Again, life is too short to not live in freedom.  I would like to say “Diamonds” is my favorite track, but this is an album full to the brim of “this is one is my favorite…wait, no, THIS one is.”  I love the story behind it (a song about addiction inspired by Brian Head Welch’s battle), but that chorus “Diamonds aren’t the only thing that shines” gets me every time.

While all these tracks show versatility, the underlying motivation of this album is all about the pursuit of being the people God wants us to be.  He gave us dreams and passions for a reason, but we fall away from them for a multitude of reasons.  Manafest mentions in one song, there’s no right way to do the wrong thing, but he flips that on it’s head and sheds light on the fact that there’s no wrong way to do the right thing in a different song.  It’s funny how we dismiss really great ideas, talk ourselves out of taking chances, let the smallest of setbacks discourage us completely.  None of that is what God wants for our lives.  His portrait of what our lives look like to Him is so much more wonderful than the ones we paint for ourselves.  Why do we do that?  Why do we cover it with gray and desolation and heartbreak?

I truly love this album.  I would have loved to have given it to my younger self.  I would have

loved to have given it to that foreign exchange student.  I would have given it to him and said, “This, this is what I believe. This is what carpe diem means to me.”  I don’t have the opportunity to give it to him because I don’t know where he is, but I can recommend it to you.  And as a favor to myself, I will play it when my painting gets a little bleak and my doubts start to obscure the view.

For more information, please visit www.manafest.net and be sure to download a copy today.

Interview with Manafest

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

 

manafestManafest’s latest release is called The Moment.  He describes the theme on his website bio as  “True peace comes from Jesus and from being content with what you have right now. I’m a big believer in setting goals and striving for bigger things but you’ve got to enjoy—and be present in—the moment you’re in now.”  Yep, that’s pretty much perfect, and since I can’t explain it any better myself, read on to find out what else Manafest has been up since The Fighter and to learn more about him and his new album.

 

Relate:  Two years have passed since we’ve last had an interview. What has changed for you in the past two years?

Manafest:  A lot has changed for sure. . . I’m a new dad to a little girl who is now 1 years old.  I released a book called “Fighter 5 Keys To Conquering Fear & Reaching Your Dreams.”  Plus I released another album entitled The Moment.  Sounds almost stressful writing all that I’ve been up too :)

R:  What is your favorite track from the new album and why?

M:  “Edge Of My Life” is my favorite one to perform live.  I think the message in there is really gripping and it’s a strong chorus.

R:  Your new video for “Diamonds” is pretty cool to watch. How involved are you in creating the concept of the videos you’re in, and do they always turn out the way you hope they will?

M:  I came up with the idea to shoot in a bunch of different locations and my director/friend Chris Stacey knows how to execute on spot.  It’s funny because the way I see it in my mind isn’t the way a director always sees it in his.  Either way I don’t think I’ve made a bad music video yet.

R:  “Diamonds” was also co-written by TFK’s Trevor McNevan.  How did that come about and what was it like working with him?

M:  I opened for their CD release party many years ago like 2002.  Since then we’ve always collaborated on all of my albums since.

R:  Is there anybody out there that you’ve dreamt about collaborating with and you haven’t had the chance to yet?

M:  Sonny from P.O.D I’d love to sing on a song or rhyme.  Gavin Brown for production.

R:  What is your favorite aspect of being an artist?  What is it that keeps you creating?

M:  I love touring and seeing new places and working with new people.  I’m waiting for a new song right now which is getting mixed so that really pumps me up.

R:  I love the background story to why you wrote the song “Diamonds” and how an excerpt of Brian Head Welch’s drug abuse helped inspire the lyrics. Have you had your moments of darkness from your own life that helped inspire a song, and can you give us an example?

M:  Touring can be a lonely place sometimes.  So can being rejected when you put your art into the public to be either loved or rejected.

R:  In our last interview, you said you always have books with you while you’re on tour?  What is your favorite book of all time and why?

M:  My favorite book besides the Bible is probably “How To Reach Your Life Goals” by Peter Daniels.  He’s inspired me so much and I’ve re-read all of his books because they’re short but packed full of great content.

R:  What is one thing that you think fans would be surprised to learn about you?

M:  I’m more of an introvert which people wouldn’t tell from watching me perform on stage.

R:  You have written a book about conquering fears and reaching dreams and you also help aspiring musicians.  What do you think is think is the biggest obstacle people have that keep them from reaching their true potential?

M:  Fear of rejection, failure and (not) believing that they can actually do it.  If you can conquer that voice of fear in your head and take action, you’ll be unstoppable.

For more information, please visit www.manafest.net, and be sure to download The Moment today.

Love and the Outcome: Ocean Way Sessions: Live

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
love and the outcomeIt’s been a difficult couple of years for me.  I keep putting myself out there, making bold efforts for God, and the results never pan out the way I think they should.  I have felt completely and utterly dejected.  Maybe a little ignored. Abandoned, even.  Yes, by God.  My futile attempts have been met with a stony silence, and doubt surfaces, mixed in with a little anger.  Saying all this makes me feel a little ashamed, but I only say it because I’m thinking I’m not the only one who feels it.  Certainly, I’m not the only one.

So, literally, thank God for little EP’s like this one that help put things back in their proper perspective.  Love and the Outcome are a married couple from way up north who packed all their dreams, and fueled by faith, moved to Music City to pursue the artistic releases God placed in their hearts.  The Ocean Way Sessions include five songs from their full length album, plus the previously unreleased track “Home;” all of which were performed and recorded in front of live audience.  The result is six gems that have reminded me of what not only are the most important “things” in my life, but the relationship I sometimes ignore because I get so busy doing.

Hands down, my favorite lyrics unfold in the song song “King of My Heart.”  “Lord, help me believe what I believe.” My disbelief is often what makes me want to run in the other direction and hide, but this song reminds me to bring it to Him; my doubts are never surprising to Him, nor do they make Him love me less.  The song basically is about remembering that He is the center amidst all the pursuits the world tells us we need to chase after.  Do I want a relationship with Him, most of all, or do I want these “accomplishments”  that I justify by saying they’re for Him, more?  When I find myself opening up to Him in prayer, or when I sincerely search for His counsel by opening the Bible, the peace that overwhelms me is better than any fleeting moment of success.

The song “What a Promise” reminds me that I am not alone, and most importantly, it reassures me that I am loved.  The lyric of the bridge “You give strength to the faithful/to rise up on eagle’s wings” gives me the hope that sustains me through all the disappointments.  He has my back.  While I may never see the fruits of my labors, none of them are in vain.  He has His reasons, and His promises are never broken. Equally as important to me is the song, “Heart Like You.”  The first verse reminds me that there is nothing in life as important as Him…”Burn away all the things I hold tight.”

“Story You’re Building,” sonically, is my favorite.  I love the acoustics that are prevalent in the live recording, but the ability to tell a story and weave it into a melody are what draws me in.  Love and the Outcome share many similarities to the beloved duo All Sons and Daughters, and it is songs like this one that reaffirms that, yes, I need BOTH bands in my life.

The song “He is With Us” says it best:  “We can trust our God/He knows what He’s doing/’Though it might hurt now/We won’t be ruined.”  It is this promise that has sustained me, through the harshest of disappointments, and best of all, it is probably the very same promise that has given Love and the Outcome the courage to share their songs and His truth with others who take the time to listen.

For more information, please visit www.loveandtheoutcome.com and be sure to download the live EP today.

Chit Chatting with Fireflight’s, Dawn Michele

Written by:  Jill Sheets

 

Picture Credit: Eric Brown

Picture Credit: Eric Brown

Recently I had the honor of interviewing Fireflight’s Dawn Michele. Continue to read on and learn more about her, her band and what five things you may not know about her.

 

R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the music business?

D: I have been in Fireflight since we started fifteen years ago. I had a calling on my life for music, but no clue how that was gonna work out. When I was graduating from high school Glenn Drennen approached me after seeing me sing at a graduation service at my church and asked me to join the band – and the rest is history!

 

R:  Tell us about your band Fireflight?  How did you all come up with the name for you band? 

D:  Our band is made up of Wendy Drennen (Bass and BGVs), her husband Glenn Drennen (guitar), Adam McMillion (drums), and myself as lead vocals. We picked our name at the last minute before our very first show. We were playing for our youth group and when our youth pastor asked how to introduce us we realized we hadn’t picked a name yet!  We put our heads together and I had thought of Fireflight. Since we could not think of anything we liked better, we just went with it!

 

R:  How did you and your band members meet?

D: Originally we knew each other from school and church, our newest member, Adam McMillion, used to play for a band called Search the City on Tooth and Nail Records, and our original lead guitarist knew him from his wife’s church.

 

Fireflight INNOVA CoverR: Tell us about your new album “INNOVA.” When will it be released? 

D:  INNOVA is our first independent release since leaving our label of the past eight years.  We are so excited about it because it has been our first album to ever be completed all on own with the help of our fans. It will be our fifth album in our fifteenth year as a band and it will release on 5/5/15.

 

R:  What is your favorite song from the album?

D:  I have a bunch of favorites! If I had to pick one I would choose one we’ve already started playing live called “Keep Fighting.”  I love it because it just makes me feel pumped, but also because it talks about fighting for the people that we love. “Keep Fighting” is a promise to be someone that people can count on when they are hurting.

 

R: Tell us about your single “Resuscitate.”

D:   “Resuscitate,” is an intense song. It’s about those times when we feel like all of the light has gone out of our hearts; the times when life feels impossible, and we feel like we have nothing left to offer. It’s in these moments we need God to step up and bring us back to life. We have to accept that we don’t have the strength ourselves and the only power strong enough to help us get through is God’s love.

 

R: Tell us about the song “We Are Alive.” 

D:  “We Are Alive,” is a fun and bright song! It’s about seeing the beauty in every moment we are given here on earth. God’s incredible creative power is humming throughout all of the universe and we can tap into that whenever we reach out in love to our brothers and sisters all around us and experience the community we are all created for.

 

Fireflight INNOVA CoverR:  Where can people get your music?

D:  They can buy pre-order INNOVA through our Pledge campaign at www.pledgemusic.com/projects/fireflight, or find any of our albums or new singles released from INNOVA at iTunes or other online outlets.  Our prior albums are also available through our online store www.fireflightrock.com/shop.

 

R:  Do you have any charities that are close to your heart?  If so, tell us a little bit about it.

D:  I am absolutely overwhelmed by the beautiful work that is done by World Vision as they care for and show God’s love to the hungry, sick, and less fortunate children of the world. As both a spokesperson and a sponsor of three little girls in Africa, I have seen first hand the amazing growth that can happen when people get the chance to reach out to kids who are hurting!

 

R:  Who is your biggest influence? 

D:   Lately, one of my biggest influences is Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. Books he has written like “The Hole in Our Gospel,” have changed my outlook and understanding forever. Really opening my eyes to what it means to serve Jesus in a real and authentic way.

 

R:  It is not easy being a teenager.  What advice would you give them in general? 

D:  To quote the singing group Wilson Phillips, “Hold on!” Being a teenager is a hard part of life. So much is changing and there are so many misleading messages all around you. I want you to know that God sees you and He loves you. Just like any good mother or father loves their precious child no matter what, God loves you just that way and He wants you to be happy and safe. There are changing forces within you that can feel out of control, but ultimately this will become a turning point in your life and you will come out of the other side with the lessons you have learned making you so much stronger, so long as you just “Hold on!”

 

R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

D:  The strangest question we have ever been asked was “If the band member standing on your left was a flavor of ice-cream, what flavor would they be?” That was definitely an adventure to answer (laughs).

 

R:  What are five things people may not know about you?

D:

  1. I’m gonna have a baby soon!
  2. I love to cook and bake because I love to eat.
  3. I am an amateur finish-carpenter.
  4. I used to teach high school science, but my degree is in Psychology.

 

R:  Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their addresses?  Do you have an official website?

D: Yes, our website is www.fireflightrock.com

Facebook: @fireflightrock

Twitter: @fireflightrock

Instagram: @fireflightrock

YouTube: @fireflightrock

 

R:  Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?

D:  You are special, you were created with purpose and destiny! God loves you so much and He wants to be close to you so you can tap in to the power and unconditional love He wants you to feel!

 

R:  Dawn, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.

D:  Thanks for the opportunity, and for helping us spread the message!

 

Evan Andree: Sons and Daughters of the Revolution EP

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

evanandree-sonsSo it was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and instead of cleaning my office, I was looking at my Facebook newsfeed. When I came across Evan’s post with the song “Completely Coming Apart,” I decided to listen while I decluttered my desk. Instead of sifting through papers and books and pens, I sifted through dreams and current situations and choices that have gotten me here, where I am right now. It was too early, early in December, to feel that bittersweet happiness  I usually put off feeling until the beginning of January as I reassess where I am and where I want to be. But there I was anyway, sitting in the middle of the room, not sure at the moment if I was happy or sad.

 

Evan’s new EP only includes three songs (insert more sadness here because “Completely Coming Apart” isn’t one of them), and all of them have this heavy burden of time woven through each melody, chord, and groove. But, like me, Evan feels this conflict of emotions, and shimmers of joy keep all three tracks from immersing themselves into complete despair. One of my favorite lyrics appears at the beginning of “Losing Sleep:”  “I’m worried that we won’t have time/to live the life that burns inside/but I never felt better.” It sets the heartbeat for all three songs; on one hand, there are dreams that haven’t come to fruition, and on the other, there is reality. Often, the two are uncomfortably far apart, and yet, there is life, and it is meant to be enjoyed.  Sometimes, it’s impossible not to. It can be considered gratitude for what you have, or maybe it’s just mirth in the midst of procrastination, but regardless, it’s enjoying the moment as time knocks on our door.

 

“The AM” is a haunting look into the future, knowing a relationship will end. The words “Time Bomb” are whispered in the beginning and the end; a glimpse of what will inevitably come, a lingering reminder. “I’m not prepared to wash you off just yet,” he muses as the symbolism of a new dawn peeks over the horizon. It is one of Evan’s slower tracks and probably one of his most beautiful thus far that instantly became a favorite. Again, it’s all about seizing that moment.

 

“Sons and Daughters of the Revolution” is more difficult for me to navigate, as the blurred lines between the conflict of emotions are harder for me to interpret. There is the energy of finding a cause to believe in, one worth fighting for, but there’s an undercurrent of it all falling apart. There’s the yearning of something better creating a palpable passion, but the lyrics paint a picture of realizing what was hoped to be better was nothing more than just more of the same. If you found your cause was not at all what you thought it would be, would you regret the fight? Or would you have found solace in the fact that you had a purpose to fight for, rather than living for nothing at all, as so many do? It’s all so. . .complicated.

 

I love that Evan gives me so much to ponder. I love that he can have me dancing one moment. I love that he can have me crying the next.  His easily identifiable voice, that I love, too, as I still adore the lyrics and the alternative pop beats just as much. The best thing about this EP is that while he is a late twenty-something artist, weighing both his future and the past and the right now, he gives me songs I can reflect on that not only bring out some pretty powerful emotions but a sharper image of my reality as well.

 

For more information, please visit https://www.facebook.com/evanandreemusic. The EP can be purchased here: https://evanandree.bandcamp.com.