A few months ago, the Atlanta-based band Smalltown Poets holed up in a Portland Oregon basement, on a rainy day, to write together. Encouraged by the fruits of their efforts, they continued into the next few days, hammering away at song ideas that took them into uncharted waters, in terms of content, stylings and, at times, even genres.
Their new single "Try" is the first glimpse into the results of those writing sessions, and points to the ongoing evolution of the multi-Grammy nominated band. The song was born of a strange experience for one of the Poets. To hear keyboardist Danny Stephens' version of the story, Mick Jagger might soon come to him in a dream, demanding songwriting credit. After all, he supposedly appeared similarly to Stephens, crooning what is now the "hook" of the band's new featured song.
"I know it sounds kind of crazy," says Stephens. "But in my dream I was in a small restaurant, and nearby there was someone singing karaoke, belting out the very melody and lyrics you hear in our new single. I looked over to find it was Mick Jagger singing. I woke up and recalled exactly how the song had gone, wrote it down, developed the song with the other guys during those writing sessions and we recorded it." As it turned out, this musical number hadn't existed before Stephens' vision; a new song had been born.
Appropriately, the song is a lively throwback to music of a bygone era, opening with a head-bobbing drum groove that makes you want to drive to the skating rink, electric piano tones that would make Billy Preston proud, disco bass, vocals ala ELO, and a punchy guitar solo to remind us that rock and roll is still alive. Frontman Michael Johnston's soaring vocals, as ever, fall upon the ear like a warm hug. Put it all together and you have something that evokes the classics, is modern, and yet timeless. That was the Poets' goal. "We want to make music that stands the test of time, but never sounds dated," says Michael. "We're hopeful that we've done that with this song."
Noah Stephens (who also tours as second guitarist with the band) produced the new track as well as three alternate mixes: the Acoustic Mix, the Dream Pop Mix, and the Rock Mix. The entire singles package will be available Wednesday September 25th, across all digital music platforms.
The band also gives assurances that this is just the beginning. "We wrote a bunch of songs that week in Oregon, and have been writing more since," proclaims Johnston. "More recorded music in on the way, and we're diving into some new sounds and themes, as we continue to grow as musicians and songwriters, while continuing to write from the foundations of our faith."
Formed in 1996, Smalltown Poets is made up of high school friends Michael Johnston, Danny Stephens and Byron Goggin, along with (then) Nashville musicians Kevin Breuner and Miguel DeJesus. Quickly, the band received accolades from both critics and fans alike, with numerous Top 5 radio hits, including the song "If You Let Me Love You" that went to #1 on the Billboard CHR radio charts, and "Monkey's Paw" hitting #1 on Christian Rock Radio. Now, after 8 studio albums, 2 Grammy nominations, 7 Dove Award nominations, a Billboard Music Video Award, and hundreds of concert performances across the United States and internationally, new original music continues to strengthen their bonds to one another.
"Smalltown Poets is a brotherhood and we are thrilled for the opportunity to do music together," Michael continues. "We're better husbands, dads, friends and musicians because of one another. We are more than Smalltown Poets the band now; we are Smalltown Poets the family. We hope this deeper, richer purpose is apparent in the recording process, and as we share the music with new friends and longtime fans on the road."
Smalltown Poets is, even now, hard at work on more recordings to be released soon, so stay tuned. Says Stephens, "We're trying to get new music out there even more often, but...you can't always get what you want..." (begins singing) "and we try, and we try, and we try, and we try..."