Music has diverged into two paths, it seems, of late: the electronic/dance-inspired pop songs that dominate the airwaves, and the raw, organic, folk-inspired tunes. Put Hollis Creek Revival into that second camp, as the group of gents from Alabama seeks a wholly organic, authentic experience from top to bottom.
While the songs from their latest record--the Jason Hoard-produced project In The River--portray an authenticity and rawness in terms of both instrumentation and songwriting, the Southern indies parlay that into their ministry as well, spreading a love of Jesus and a love of music around the country, and even deep into South America.
To find out more about this passionate, driven and increasingly sought-after band, I tossed some questions at Hollis Creek Revival frontman Brandon Kelley.
You all met at church. Were you on the worship team? How did that interaction go, and what did your growth together as friends and musicians look like?
Yeah, we met in Dothan, Alabama, at a plant church, and musicians in the community came together to help get the worship team off the ground. There was a natural camaraderie between us in our style of music and faith. There isn't another group of guys I'd rather collaborate with, so when it came time to form this band it was an easy decision.
Brandon, why did you decide to go from being a solo artist to a band?
Well even as a solo artist I always considered the guys who toured with me to be part of a "band" or our band. The guys in Hollis Creek Revival have toured with me a lot already, so the move to becoming a "band" was really quite easy. The only drawback is now I have to carry my own gear sometimes!
Tell us about Hollis Kelley, your grandfather and namesake of this band. What did he mean to you as a man, a Christian, an artist even, and what kind of guy was he?
My grandfather was the patriarch of our family. He was a pastor and would always read the scripture to me when I was young. He had a very sweet spirit and demeanor. He was an amazing husband, pastor, father, and man of God. I wanted to honor his legacy by naming the band after him.
In The River is really two different albums, as you'd deployed different recording techniques on your A side and B-sides. Talk about that decision.
I just wanted to do something different. The A side/B side was kind of a way to separate my thoughts on the record. On the A side, production was more modern, the songs are more of a look into our journey through life and all of God's creation. On the back half the songs get a little deeper and reveal an intimate conversation between God and us.
What did you learn most from the process of getting this record out?
Making a record is always the fun part! Listening to it one million times before anyone else has even heard it gets interesting. Sometimes you are already over the songs and they haven't even been released yet. We've had to sit on the record for around a year or so since its completion. So we've been chomping at the bit to actually be able to share it with everyone and get on the road and play. So patience... patience is the lesson we learned!
Describe your live show to someone who's never experienced it.
Fun for all ages! Seriously, we have a great time playing live and connecting with the audience. Being able to share the songs and some of the stories behind them is what I enjoy most. It's a little different every time and that makes the show unique for the crowd on any given night.
Explain the power of the banjo, and why it's so loved this day in age, in your opinion.
I believe the banjo is a representation of going back to the authenticity of music. It helps you connect with the song more than over-processed guitar pedals. We don't like being over-processed... Consider us gluten free, organic and unpasteurized.
What was it like working with Third Day's Jason Hoard, and how was that connection made?
Jason was amazing! We had so much fun working with him. A friend told me about him and said we should meet him. About five minutes into the first meeting I looked at my friend and said, "This is the guy," and he said, "I told you." He is the type of guy that you meet and instantly feel like you've been friends for years. He immediately knew what we were going for and captured exactly what we wanted. He is an incredible talent and elevated everyone to make the best record we could.
What are you trying to communicate--what are you trying to make people FEEL--as a result of the music you're making?
My songwriting style has always been a conversation between God and me. People tell me all the time, "Man, that sounds like a love song," and I say, "Thanks, because that's exactly what it is!" I want people to feel as though they are standing in front God and the words that are being said are for him alone. It's Matthew 6:6.
What gets you most excited about what you're doing these days? What have been some of the biggest victories and dreams God has given you?
What's really exciting is the purpose behind this record. We recorded it for the simple purpose of giving all of the money away. We were able to raise all of the money organically without a label or investors. We don't have any money to pay back so it can all go directly to the project. What looked like an impossible amount of money to raise God was able to provide for us and show us He is able.
We have partnered with a non-profit called The Something Project. All of the proceeds from this record are going to start music schools in Central and South America. We will work with our missionary friends already in the field and provide instruments, curriculum, and instructors to bring the Gospel to every child we can. We believe every child deserves the experience God's love through the gift of music.
What do you believe you bring to the table, musically speaking, that is needed in Christian music (or music in general)?
We believe we bring a new dynamic to the music industry by using our music for a much bigger purpose. There are a lot of great songs out there that inspire people on their walks with God, even songs that move people to accept Christ into their lives. With our music we want to inspire people to make a difference in their life and the lives of others around the world.
What's next for you? How can people be praying for you?
We are going to tour most of the rest of this year starting in August. We have a big golf tournament/concert fundraiser for the charity in October. We are considering releasing a second single in the fall... not sure yet.
We would ask for people to remember us in prayer as we strive to reach our goals with the music schools and our mission's work. We know we have a purpose and have been called; it is up to us to walk humbly through the doors that God opens.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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