Emily, Jeff, and Johnny formed the band For All Seasons in 2010 and have been able to combine pop and worship together in a unique way in all of their songs. The band has played at summer camps, churches, and just recently was on The Roadshow Futures Tour with Josh Wilson, Peabod, and Leanna Crawford. I got to talk to the lead singer of For All Seasons, Emily, about that tour, and learned more about their new EP project & Side A.
We got started at the college that we all attended. Jeff, Johnny, and I all went to Biola University which is in Los Angeles. They had open auditions for chapel bands because it's a Christian University. We all randomly got connected to one another through mutual friends or through lists that they provided for meeting different musicians. We auditioned during our freshman year, and then ended up leading worship on campus for three years. That was really just extracurricular. None of us went to school for music or anything. It was just something that we were passionate about, in addition to what we were getting our degrees in.
When we were getting ready to graduate, we were actually playing more outside of school than in school. Different youth groups and churches had asked us to come out and lead for different things. We hadn't really started writing our own music yet, but we knew that music was something that we were passionate about, and people were really affirming of it saying, "Hey, this is something that God is really blessing you guys in. You should stay together and see what happens."
So the plan was to stay together while still pursuing our other vocations.
But then shortly after graduating, we got a call from the campus in Central California, and they asked us to come and lead worship for two months straight. Here's an opportunity to jump headfirst into this, and we really felt like God was saying "You should do it." Granted, it was not the safe decision, it was not the American Dream decision, because we were leaving masters degrees and safe jobs. If we didn't do it, we didn't want to look back 10 years later and be like "I wonder what God could have done with that."
So since fall of 2010, we've been doing music full time.
How did you come up with the band name For All Seasons?
When we first started playing at camps, we actually had a different name. We had become a band so quickly that we kind of jumped into a name really quickly. Over the first few years, we really didn't love our band name. What was really unique is that we had already been playing together as a band full time for two plus years. When we knew we wanted to change the name, it allowed us to sit down and say "What has the last few years of our ministry looked like, what are we actually passionate about, what is naturally coming out of our mouths when we talk about worship, whether it's onstage or offstage?" This idea of seasons, and choosing to worship God in every season was really relevant to us at the time, and it still is to this day.
A big reason was because we were with youth, and we would see season after season, in the summer camps and winter camps, you'd have students during the summer, and they'd be so passionate about God, because that's all we were talking about for the whole week. Then we see them the next year, and they would be like "Oh you know, I really fell off the wagon, and I really didn't follow Jesus. I would rather hang out with my friends and party."
So just this idea of teaching students that whatever season you're in, whether it's a really great season of blessing and joy and celebration, or a really hard season of feeling distant and alone and depressed, we have to choose to worship God. Not because of the season we're in but because of who He is. So this idea of worship, not just through song, but with our lives, is for every season of life. Not just for when it's convenient, and not just for when we feel like we need God. Because God is the same, and doesn't change. So our worship has to match that.
Who are your musical influences?
Musically, the three of us have very different influences. Like Johnny loves pop music, anything that has a really great beat and hook. If you sit him down and say, "Tell me the lyrics to a For All Seasons song," he probably couldn't tell you. His brain is so wired to just hear the music, and what the song makes you feel, and pop music is all about that. You can feel that influence in the way that he drums, and the parts that he chooses to play. Jeff is really influenced by indie, and a lot of rock. One of his favorite bands is Explosions In The Sky, which is an experimental band. There's no lyrics in any of their songs, but he pulls a lot of influence guitar wise from them. Him and I both really love more indie bands, like Death Cab for Cutie and lyrically where they sit. Even when we look at worship music, bands that are able to paint a really beautiful picture lyrically, while also retaining a very strong grasp of truth is huge for us. There are a lot of Hillsong songs that have done that well, and we've been super inspired by them. When we were in college I remember us playing their stuff.
Over the years with all of our different influences, we've had to learn how those influences mash together. There's a way that we can bring together pop, indie, congregational worship, and then at the same time a little bit of soul. It's just a giant melting pot!
You guys recently released a new EP called & Side A. What was the inspiration behind that project?
As we were approaching 2019, it had been just about a year since we released the Clarity project. We were pretty amped to release something new. We just wanted to release new music, so we sat down as a band. We got really inspired and fascinated by the streaming platform, so we said, "Why don't we take a crack at releasing a song a month, and they would be part of a larger project called '&,' and we could center the whole project on our name, and really bring the message of what For All Seasons means in an actual project." Obviously it was something that we talked about here and there, but to have a whole year where we talk about God being deserving of worship in every season, this is what that can look like. These are what songs or prayers in specific seasons of life can look like.
So we decided to dedicate a whole year to 12 months of 12 songs.
But when we reached the halfway point in the year after releasing six songs, we decided to pause the project. Just to do some internal work with how we can get these songs to reach more people. It really was the guinea pig project of releasing a song every month. Realizing that maybe we've been releasing them too quickly, and maybe we should release songs every six to eight months. We decided to bundle those six songs together as the first half of the project, and then let people know that this is just the first half. There will be a second half coming.
The second half will take another six months of writing songs that express what it means to worship God in a specific season, and then, along with those six songs, just like we did with these last six, there will be music videos, podcasts, and some posts on our social media that further explains what it means to worship God in this season.
What's been the greatest challenge you've faced in the music industry?
Lack of community.
The biggest reason is because we're on the road, our friends just assume that we're gone all the time. Being here in California, not being in Nashville, is unique because being a full time musician in the capacity that we are is very foreign here. There's just not a lot of people in full time music, especially in Orange County, where we are in California. We'll visit Nashville and there's tons of people that are walking around on a Tuesday afternoon at noon, because they play at night. So we had to learn how to really prioritize our friendships and our families, and not become isolated. With that sometimes you miss big events, birthdays, and weddings. There definitely is a sacrifice involved in that. It's that sacrifice that's difficult, but we've been learning along the way how to prioritize things well.
Another challenge would be fighting against falling prey to what everyone else wants you to do. For some people that may not be such a big thing, but for us, we really value the opinions of others. Most of the time it's in a healthy way. We know that there are other people that are more knowledgeable, or have more wisdom than us so we want to learn from them. But through the process, not allowing that to completely change who we are, and not becoming discouraged by the fact that other artists are getting opportunities that we aren't getting. Social media can make it look like people's lives are amazing, and they're getting every opportunity in the world. That's just not true. Lives are difficult, and things are going on behind the scenes. We have to really protect our hearts and our minds from being attached to our phones and thinking, "Why is it working for everyone else and it's not working for us? Maybe we should change ourselves, maybe we should do things this way so it will work." But no, we have to stay true to who God has made us, and what God is calling us to, and just trust that He will use it in the way that he wants to use it.
You guys recently went on The Roadshow Futures Tour. What's road life like?
This tour was our first tour on a bus. For the last nine years, we've just done stuff on our own, and driven ourselves. Even during the Jordan Feliz tour we were on last year, we followed behind the bus in our Sprinter van. So we've just been used to that. So this tour was different for us, in the sense that you got on the bus at night, you got your bunk, you fall asleep, and then you wake up in the next place. It was a game changer for sure, compared to driving ourselves through the night. But road life is fun! Every group that we've been able to tour with, whether it's for a short amount of time, or for a longer amount of time, everyone has been so kind.
Our hope is always to find ways to encourage people, and love people that are on the tour, because just in the same way that we're missing our families, and are away from home, they are too. It's a unique thing that you can find this group of people that understand the sacrifice, and the difficulties involved in doing this. But sin and ugliness can creep in, so we try to fight against that, and be a team as much as possible, and just love each other well, and support each other, and pray for one another.
In a lot of ways, road life is really fun when you're connected with a group that is amazing, and "The Roadshow Futures Tour" was definitely that for us. But it is a weird thing because you're constantly on the go, and sometimes you forget where you are. That's the difference with bus touring and van touring I feel like. When we would drive ourselves, we always knew where we were. I could point on a map and be like, "This is the area of this state that we're in right now." But being on the bus it's like, "Uh, I think we're in the north part... maybe?" It's super fun being able to meet different people, and visiting different areas of the country. It's definitely something that we don't want to take for granted, and we try to really explore new areas, and see different parts of the country to the fullest extent. It's for sure something really unique that we get to do.
How can we be praying for you guys?
Going back to that idea of being true to who we are, and hearing God's voice in the midst of there being so many other voices. When I say "other voices," most of it is culture. Like culture says "This is what it means to be successful," or "This is what it means to be a band that matters," or whatever. It's just easy to listen to all those things.
Coming up on 10 years of being full time, I think there has been a lot of reflection for us, of what things in our ministry really matter. When it comes to releasing our music, touring, sacrificing our time, and giving up our time, we want to do it for stuff that matters. We don't want to get to a point years down the road where we've been chasing something that on the surface looks like it's God honoring, but really under the surface, it was about us. That happens so quickly, you don't even realize it. It seems like you're following God, and you want His glory, but pride creeps in so quickly.
So pray against that, and that as a team we would be more in love with Jesus, and that our biggest goal would be to follow Him, and trust that all the other details He'll take care of.
Do you have any new music on the horizon for 2020?
Definitely! We don't have release dates or anything, but we've been in a writing season, and there's definitely new music that will be coming out within the first half of the year. Hopefully there will be some more in the second half of the year too!
Grace Chaves is a fan of all things Christian music, and is one of NRT's youngest writers. She's homeschooled, and loves concerts, Jesus, and songwriting.
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