At one point or another, almost every person dabbles in art, and dreams of making a living at it. A high school kid starts a garage band. A college student sets up an easel, and starts to paint. A stay at home mom sits down at a computer as an aspiring novelist. More than 90 percent of these people will quit before ever realizing their potential. Those that continue all have one thing in common: a price has been paid.
For Micah Boyce, frontman and songwriter for the Illinois collective So Long Forgotten, the price of becoming a professional was paid in 2006. Although it would be another three years before the band would sign a (revolutionary) record deal, the hobby band became a band worth hearing in a few short months. After two members left and another joined, the five-piece planned on moving into a house together to write and tour enough to make rent.
But all their plans were out the window when Micah’s father was diagnosed with cancer. Four months later, he was gone. “During that time, something changed in the band,” Micah says. “Everything before that, we don’t really claim anymore. The songs we wrote during that time is what we consider the beginning of a new chapter in the band.”
The songs came together to make Beneath Our Noble Heads, which was released in 2007. It truly was a change, as So Long Forgotten began attracting label attention. They recorded a series of demos in hopes of leading to a deal, which became 2008’s Baptism EP. As interest peaked, and offers came in from different labels, the band got re-acquainted with Chad Johnson, the former head A&R at Tooth & Nail Records. Johnson laid out a very bold, very blunt offer. Walk away from a lucrative record deal, and join his Come&Live!” venture, a new record label where all the music is released through a free/pay what you want model.
While most bands would have slammed the door in Johnson’s face, and grabbed the biggest signing bonus possible, So Long Forgotten found the idea to be right in line with their mission. “Our band has always put servanthood first,” Micah says. “So many bands just exist to feed the Christian subculture monster. Instead of being a light in a dark place, Christianity becomes their genre. I think “Christian” is a much better noun than an adjective. Come&Live! pushes us to be ‘noun Christians.’ We’re not going to make a lot of money at this. It’s humbling, and it forces us to be out there where God can use this band.”
When So Long Forgotten returned to the studio for their Come&Live! debut, their longtime producers noticed a big step forward in maturity. The songwriting went in a whole new direction as Micah penned lyrics to a story that took shape over 11 songs and became the new album Things We Can See and Things We Cannot.
“A lot of this album came from realizing what being a follower of Christ really means for this life now,” Micah says. “The band was really wrestling with what it meant to advance the kingdom of heaven that Jesus talked so much about. The title came from realizing the importance of the physical and the spiritual world.”
Micah admits that the new album is in layers that unfold with multiple listens, which stands in direct opposition to profit-driven record labels, hoping to score big with an out-of-the-box hit. This time, the price of art was paid through giving up a traditional record deal. But with that price, So Long Forgotten accomplished something most artists will never reach… the freedom and inspiration to create and share, without compromise, the album they envisioned.