In late 2019, Tenth Avenue North released a music video for the title track of their sixth studio project, No Shame. The concept of “choose your own journey” for a music video is the first of its kind on YouTube. The way it works is when the video gets to a certain spot, it divides into different options. The viewer can then choose whatever way he or she wants the video to play out. Some options include following the guys on scooters through the streets of Nashville, smelling flowers, performing on stage, or partying on their tour bus.
Recently, I interviewed the trio–Mike Donehey, Jeff Owen, and Ruben Juarez III–during their No Shame Fall Tour stop in Maryland. We discussed the music video, as well as some random tour tidbits. Check out the transcript from my short interview below.
I just want to speak a little bit about the video. Who directed it and what sort of vibe was the band aiming for?
Mike: It's the first-ever of its kind: a "choose your own journey" music video. When the video gets to a certain spot, then it divides into several options.
Jeff: So, you can pick whatever way you want us to go.
Mike: It was Josh at our label who actually had that idea. Debbie Ewing directed the video and she tours with us and does a lot of our media content.
The idea, at first, was just kind of fun, but then we thought, "This would be awesome; nobody has ever done this." I got thinking about our whole record and its title being No Shame. It’s really about what we’ve been learning as a band for the last two years about emotional health. A lot of the time, we're told that certain emotions are bad and that we shouldn't have them.
For instance, I was walking off the bus one night while we were touring with MercyMe. There was this guy that was out on tour with us. I come off the bus after a conversation about emotional health and he comes up next to me. "Hey Mike," he says. "How are you feeling today," he asked. I replied, "Thank you for asking; I feel sad and lonely." Well, what did he say?
The guy replies, "You shouldn’t feel that way; it’s going to be a great day, Mike. You know, we're going to have a great concert." I react, "Wait a second, I've been away from my wife and kids for four days. If I didn’t feel sad and lonely, something would be wrong with me."
See, sadness, loneliness, even shame actually start as a gift. Then, we have to take that emotion and make a choice. Like, if you feel lonely, are you going to choose isolation? Or, are you going to choose to reach out to your community. Shame is, like, something's wrong. So, you have to go, "okay, what is it? Maybe, I need to choose to ask for forgiveness or chose to stop holding a grudge." You see, even our emotions are indicators of which journey we going to choose. The emotion isn’t wrong. It's all about where we go, where we travel, from that emotion. So, yeah, choose your own journey is a really silly-hearted video. However, at its core, it’s a message about emotional health.
How many takes did you have to accomplish to bring the video components together?
Ruben: We did like five different themes. Well, at least when we started out.
Mike: Do you remember that we do a whole day at a fair?
Ruben: And, then we axed some of them.
Mike: Well, we axed all of those. We had a Ferris wheel, a carousel, and a helicopter ride. But, then there were all of these minions, which are characters from the movie, Despicable Me, in the background that we were not allowed to use. So, I don’t know, like ten total themes? I don’t know. There was a lot.
How did the band hook up with The Young Escape's McKenna Johns, who is featured on the track?
Jeff: We’ve been friends with The Young Escape for a long time. We met them at a festival in California two or three years ago. [We invited them to just write in Nashville. We introduced them to a couple of record labels and they ended up getting signed. We've been able to see them grow. McKenna has a great voice and we were like, "Mike, this song needs a girl singer."
Mike: I had to talk them into it. At the time, they were like, "No, it doesn’t need a girl singer; it’s great just the way it is." I’m telling you, it would take it like, way up there.
Jeff: After we recorded it, we all agreed, "Like wow, we guess Mike was right."
What was your heart behind the album as a whole? Not just the single.
Mike: Shame can be healthy if it leads to knowing you’re not God, and that you need help. There is a lot about shame that can lead you to healthy choices. If you do not listen to that beginning stage of shame, it turns into toxic shame. Toxic shame is that voice that says, "Hey, you’re unredeemable." Like, there is no hope for you. Really, the album could've been called No Toxic Shame. But, that really doesn’t have the same ring to it.
What is your favorite song off the album that you like to perform?
Ruben: My three favorite songs off the album are, "Paranoia," "Reaching," and "Call My Name." We haven’t played two of them live. So, probably one of those.
Jeff: My favorite song to play is "Greater Than All of My Regrets." I’m sure by the spring of 2020, it will be different.
Mike: Mine is "Paranoia," for sure. I’m right there with Ruben. That song just rocks.
I know our time is short. And, I appreciate the three of you taking any time to sit down with NRT and share your heart about any facet of your music ministry. We appreciate you immensely and thanks again for your time.
You can stream No Shame on Spotify or purchase the album on iTunes.
Joshua Galla is an avid hip-hop head always hip to the latest releases while enjoying the classics. Music is his passion and escape from the mundane.
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