Monday, November 18, 2013

The Long Way Around Pt. 1

Late last year I wrote a a song called "Long Way 'Round". However, originally I wasn't quite sure what it was about until spring of this year. So the next few thoughts/stories will shed some light on it.

I feel like God gives us fantastic dreams and ideas - avenues of creativity - that for me, are birthed within us so quickly, but He says, " Now...with that, there is no easy way to get must take the long way around..."
I feel like for me, I have always had to take the long way around to get in the right direction - there are no shortcuts.

This brings me to certain recent musical turning points - which happen to be tied in to South Carolina....of all things.

So, I was in South Carolina last weekend, at a church-ran venue/coffeehouse called The Warehouse. This time I got to visit very little, but was happy to be greeted nonetheless by new and old friends, a surprise birthday party during my concert where everyone did the 'chicken-dance' to some form of well as a sweet lady with downs syndrome who jumped up on stage with me and sang and clapped with me on my last 4 songs! It was a beautiful moment!
It was the third and last time performing this year (once in Feb., once in June), and I had a blast as always - definitely looking forward to seeing everyone again next year!

The Warehouse, to be precise, is located in the 'upstate' in the little town of Inman, practically a suburb of Spartanburg. For the upstate, there is literally no shortcut eastward around the Appalachias, at least they are usually not short - from Chattanooga I usually go all the way down to Atlanta and then up I-85, or up to I-40 which takes you through Knoxville and Asheville then back down.

I've had people ask "why there....what's in SC?"
To be honest I didn't know what to expect at first, but I can tell you - it's a gem - always a warm welcome, appreciation for music, and I haven't met a South Carolinian yet who can't sing - and most of them very well. Even back in 2011 I ventured to Laurens, SC in the upstate to places such as Northside Church and The Scarlet Chord Cafe, and I was welcomed with open arms and strong encouragement for my music -- turning points in my musical journey. I wouldn't actually be doing what I do today if it wasn't for Brett (seminar-giving, youth-leading all-in-one worship leader) and Pastor Ronnie (the bowhunting-pastor), as well as Phil (cafe owner) for taking risks and allowing me to come share my music.

Inman and The Warehouse was also a turning point when I first came to perform early this year. I didn't know what to expect, but was met by strong - and unlikely - support for my music  and what I was doing. Among those who encouraged me deeply were Jim Dover and his family and his fellow clan of Californians including the Christopherson family who had relocated themselves to the upstate from Sacramento, among others to name a few. Jim and his family welcomed me into their home, and we spent the day talking about life and music. Jim's wife Sonja loves photography, so naturally I was grateful when she snapped a bunch of me playing that weekend :-) Jim and his son Mike even joined me for one of my shows the following evening in Feb in the upstate. Jim, a humble guitar veteran, and Mike a young eager drummer easily jumped into the songs with me. I love doing those spontaneous things! Most people would be afraid of it, but I love taking risks.

The Christophersons (transplanted Californians and a family of musicians/worship leaders) hosted me back in June. We had a lot in common and shared many stories of music - especially when it came to worship leading and music in the church. Jackie, the mom had been to Africa to lead music this year, the others led in various churches, and the daughter Lindsey has a powerhouse voice - a highschooler but with the depth of Celine Dion - it was amazing hanging with them as well and getting to know them this year! Lindsey even joined me on a song this past weekend, and it was a lot of fun.

When I went to SC I felt clarity for the musical directions God was taking me, and He showed me that things aren't always what you'd expect them to be.
"Have faith and live it out in the most unlikely places..." I felt like He was saying. also "Don't disclude anyone...don't set up certain expectations in your heart...."
So I guess I have learned to expect the unexpected.

cont in Pt 2.....,

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Family Band

This week I had a photoshoot by a friend of mine (local photographer Chris Schniering in Chattanooga), and we decided to go with the family 4 - as band pictures. 
 For those of you who don't know my band, I would like to talk about them and show my appreciation briefly!

First off there's Matt Gilbert my brother and partner in crime (music) ;-) He's been with me since I first picked up a guitar, we've written music together since we were kids and performed with me on almost every stage I can remember.... I don't know where I'd be without him!  He is much more of a musician than I'll ever be, he can play every instrument including bass, keys, guitars, drums, almost anything with strings and has a voice to be reckoned with - a much bigger range than any singer I've ever heard.  He is amazing, and I wanted to take the time to say thank-you to him for helping me so much on stage and creating music over the years - honestly he does it on his own very well and I am honored he has always been there to help me out :)

Next I wanted to give a shout-out to Casey Bryant, my newfound brother-in-law, who we just threw into the fire of it all just last year!  He and Sarah (my sister) got married last year, and upon hearing him play a bit I excitedly invited him to be a part of the 'real family' lol! I consider anyone I've every played with somewhat family, but I love the opportunity to play with my relations and siblings.  So he has owned and refined his guitar sound, and really grown as a guitar player this past year - he can definitely tell me what I'm doing wrong now, especially with tone and effects lol! I just really want to say thank-you to him for being so open to trying new things, and going new places.

Not pictured is my cousin Ben Phillips.  He has helped me out on countless records, and toured relentlessly with me and my brother Matt back in the day - since we were earliteens.  He is the best drummer, and the tightest I have ever performed with, and I love playing with him!  Just also wanted to say thank-you to him for helping me so much over the years and for going on adventures across the country - even to the point of living out of our van for a year with me and my brother and my wife (Jen) back in '09! We shared some crazy times, and some heartfelt music together, and for all of it I appreciate him! 

Also wanted to say thank-you to my newest member (pictured) my sister Sarah Bryant!  She has an amazing voice, and has joined us with that gift here and there over the years.  But I had always felt she was a shadow in the spotlight - not many people have heard her enough yet.  So I asked her to join us this year to be a part of it all, and hopefully give her more experience to sing more on her own!  She has also done a brave thing of taking on the keyboard parts in our latest tunes - she had always studied music as a child, and had professional voice/opera scholarships - but I really appreciate her jumping in on something a bit out of her element!

Others I'd like to say thank-you to are Carey Bryant and Jake Ketterer, both as good as brothers in my book!  Carey (Casey's brother) has just started working with us on drums for our new material.  And Jake and I go way back, he practically propelled me into music when I first moved out on my own. Jake has drummed with me on lots of occasions.   I don't know where I'd be without both of them!

Again, want to say thank-you for all my 'family' of musicians, and I look forward to doing more music and ministry in the days to come!!!

peace, & blessings,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Camping in November

So this last weekend I was in West Virginia, in the outskirts of Huntington at a camp called Howell's Mill Christian Assembly.  I had the privilege of being there for their middle school summer camp this year, and I must say, if you haven't ever done anything like that before - you're in for a blast! 

There's nothing like planning songs for their weekend retreat, only to come in and hear them all shout "JOSH!!!", and "can we do this song?!!..." etc... gotta stay on your toes!
There is nothing like middle-school enthusiasm! They all wanted to be on stage with me the last day... so without a doubt close to 40 kids joined me for the last day of worship songs -- all clapping and singing and what I like to call 'spinning'.

It was great sharing my heart with them and music. One kid asked me a question during the trip that made me stop in my tracks - "what's the first scripture that comes to your head, verse and chapter included...go!" And I must admit I was caught a little off guard... Then our attention was captured elsewhere and we continued on through the day, not following through the conversation.

That would be something I regret, I would like to have more of an answer, not necessarily memmorized or better yet written on my heart so that in times I could recall at will. Granted, that kid was just having fun in the moment, but it made me think about what I would have said or done in other situations if - and when - I am asked about my faith.  No, I don't mean we should always have a mechanical answer to the world's questions, but rather I should always be ready to share my heart - all the important stuff - when necessary.

peace, & blessings,