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U2 plays impromptu song with blind guitarist

posted by Chad Bonham

If you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s a pretty amazing thing that happened last night in Nashville. U2 was wrapping up its concert there when Bono noticed a man on the front holding up a sign that said, “I’m blind but I can play the guitar.”

Bono brought the man to the stage, asked him what he wanted to play (“All I Want Is You”) and this is what happened:

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Pretty amazing stuff. Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.

Owl City’s Adam Young still surprised by success

posted by Chad Bonham

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With nearly 50 concert dates between July and October, internet sensation turned platinum-selling artist Owl City is doing its best to put the follow-up project in the forefront of music fans’ minds. All Things Bright and Beautiful released less than three weeks ago when it debuted at #6 on the Billboard album chart.

It’s a far cry from where front man, founder and driving creative force Adam Young was just two and half years ago when the Minnesota native rushed home from his job at Coca-Cola to record the ideas that had bounced around his head all day long.

And Young is still trying to make sense of it all.

“Where I am right now is so far out from anything I ever imagined,” Young told Whole Notes this week. “It’s so far out of my imagination’s reach. Needless to say, never did I think that things would happen and people would start to connect with what I was doing in such a great way. I’m just trying to hang on for dear life and really take in everything in the crazy whirlwind because it’s such a huge blessing.”

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with Young where he talks about his steadfast Christian faith, how God inspires his music, what’s different about the new record, how he deals with critics and naysayers, and much more.

Former Skillet guitarist Ben Kasica writes letter to fans, announces latest plans

posted by Chad Bonham

Earlier this year, guitarist Ben Kasica left two-time GRAMMY winning band Skillet to pursue new opportunities elsewhere. Through his publicist, Kasica shared the following letter to both fans and industry friends:

Dear Friends,

Many of you know after 10 years of playing with Skillet, I’ve chosen to move on. Many people have questioned why I would leave a band ‘at the top’ to pursue ‘smaller’ things. Here is my answer.

When I was 16, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – to play guitar in my favorite band Skillet. I had been a fan since I was 12, attending loads of concerts, “moshing,” proudly wearing Skillet t-shirts, etc. I never thought I would ever actually be in the band. I was just a normal kid that loved God and believed He had the best for me. But, through a good friend, I got a call for an audition and somehow really believed in my heart it was going to work out. Two weeks later, I was on the road touring and playing in the band. Ten years, almost two million records, countless amazing fans and a myriad of priceless memories later, I’m here writing this memo.

Skillet (L to R): Korey Cooper, former guitarist Ben Kasica, John Cooper and Jen Ledger.

I grew up on Christian music and it maintains a special and unique place in my heart for the way it inspired and shaped me as a child and for how it has contributed to my maturity as a young adult growing up in the business. I often think back to when I was a 12-year old kid, lying in bed with my headphones blaring, dreaming about being a rock star. I think every kid has moments when they dream big dreams like these. The trouble is, most don’t really know how to ever achieve those dreams, even if they know a sense of calling from God. This next phase of life for me is committed to seeing others’ dreams become reality and encouraging people along in their destiny in God.

I recently formed a company called Skies Fall Media Group. The name ‘Skies Fall’ was inspired by the imagery of the Kingdom of Heaven coming down to the earth. The mission of the company is to facilitate a wide range of creative business development in the world of the arts and media. Initially forged as a small recording and production company in 2005, the company was expanded in 2008 to take on artist development, publishing and management and become an artist-centric independent record label, Skies Fall Records. Coinciding with the record company, we operate a full-service recording studio where we are writing and producing music with our clients.

To artists, I hope to be an encouragement to you to continue in your heavenly calling and that you would know refreshment in your work; that you would be reminded of when you were a young musician dreaming of doing music, when you were on a mission to make a difference in this world, speaking the most powerful language in the world through music; that the long drives and early mornings and the absence of normal church-life would be met by a renewed desire to live out the mandate of God on your lives; that you might actually live in the fullest measure of who God created you to be.

Pope Benedict XVI met with artists in the Sistine Chapel recently and said, “You are the custodians of beauty…you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity!”

I hope that together we can make a difference in the world, that we can communicate the heart of God through creativity and inspiration. I hope that together we can set precedents in business, the arts and media worthy of being modeled by the world. I hope that our success not be gauged solely by sales and numbers, but by our honor for each other, by our excellence in our spheres of influence and by the measure we allow the Spirit of God to lead us. I’m privileged and excited to join you in these endeavors.

Sincerely yours,

Ben Kasica
Skies Fall Media Group

Best wishes to Kasica and his new venture. You can follow Skies Fall Media Group by clicking here.

Join us tomorrow for a sneak preview of the Whole Notes interview with Owl City’s Adam Young. We’ll have the full transcript next week.

Interview with Royal Tailor’s Tauren Wells (Part 2)

posted by Chad Bonham

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Here’s part two of Whole Notes’ interview with Royal Tailor lead singer Tauren Wells:

Bonham: As a band that feels called to engage the culture, it seems like the song “Control” is directly linked to that message. Does that counter culture message bear more weight coming from a band like Royal Tailor that’s comprised of younger guys with a youth-friendly sound?

Wells: I think so. I think people, especially students, look to us as purveyors of the culture because we know what’s going on. We have an insight. We know what’s cool and what’s not. That’s a unique place in life. That’s why I count it such a privilege to be put on a stage at this time because you only have this window for so long. So we’re going to capitalize on this moment that God has called us to and hopefully we can inspire a generation of students to rise out of the ashes of mediocrity and to be the cultural innovators that God has called them to be.

Bonham: With references to Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Katy Perry, were the lyrics of that song meant to be provocative?

Royal Tailor (L to R: DJ Cox, Tauren Wells, Blake Hubbard, Jarrod Ingram)

Wells: No, it wasn’t really a hit at them. What we’re trying to do with “Control” is—this is what happened. We were listening to Top 40 radio on our way into a writing session for this record. A song came on and it was like, “Take your clothes off. Take your clothes off. Take your clothes off.” Literally, those were the lyrics, and then even the messages of other artists like Brittany Spears, “Sin Is The New Thing.” Hearing all these messages, what we realized was that even outside of their message is how unapologetic they are about bringing their message to the front of people’s minds. It seems like the attitude of the church has become, “Well, we’re going to take our ball and go home and write worship songs.” Do we need those songs? Do we need songs that edify the church? Absolutely! But at the same time, I don’t think that we should be unapologetic about our Gospel or unapologetic about things happening that we disagree with in culture. That’s what Jesus did. He confronted people, cities, Pharisees. It was the church. It was sinners. It was everybody. He spoke the truth to them, and that’s what we’re trying to convey with our music—the truth of who Jesus is and the truth of who people are and how we live our lives and navigate our lives according to that truth.

Bonham: Were you aware of Katy Perry’s background as a Christian artist when you put that line in the song that references “Teenage Dream?”

Wells: Yes.

Bonham: I just found that line to be particularly interesting as it speaks, somewhat, to her story and to the story of any young person who might aspire to achieve fame or popularity.

Wells: Yep, that’s exactly what we were trying to do with that. It is by no means a shot at Katy Perry or any of those artists. If the opportunity was there, we would be friends with those people. Our heart breaks for them and we want them to realize the gravity of what it is that they are doing. They have tremendous influence. They have a tremendous voice to speak to people and when they speak, people listen. If there was any way to get them to say more positive things to inspire people, especially from a biblical viewpoint, then that would literally change the world—literally.

Bonham: How did you guys get discovered?

Wells: It was very much playing shows. We played over 300 shows in two years. One of those shows was at the Moorings’ church. Leeland and Jack Mooring’s parents pastor in Baytown, Texas. So we played a show there and Leeland was actually there. He heard us play and we exchanged numbers and developed somewhat of a friendship over that next year. GMA week came up and Leeland asked if we were going and I told him we weren’t able to go. And he said, “Alright, let me call you right back.” He called me back and he said, “You can’t say know to this. We want you to come to GMA week. We’re going to pay for your hotels and introduce you to people.” We went there. They put us up. They showed us around town and introduced us to tons of people. They invited us to their listening party for their label, Provident Label Group, and at that listening party, they introduced us to Jason MacArthur, the vice president of A&R and he got our demo and lived with our music for a little while and really liked it and we started talking and now here we are.

Bonham: Even before you told me that story, your voice and the way you speak reminded me a lot of Leeland.

Wells: Well that’s very cool. I take that as an honor. We really look up to Leeland and the rest of the guys as artists and definitely as followers of Christ. You’re not going to get better guys than Jack and Leeland and Mike.

Bonham: What are some exciting things that have already happened with the album and what are your expectations going forward?

Wells: It’s been a great response so far. Our single “Hold Me Together” is climbing up both AC and CHR charts. It’s resonating with a lot of people. I think it’s ministering to a lot of people that are going through some situations in their lives. We have many records being sold. We feel like the first week was incredible especially since we’re a new act. We don’t feel like anybody really knows about us yet. Everything’s going great. We have a good touring lineup set up through the spring of next year. Everything’s looking and we’re appreciating the journey and trying to soak it all in.

Bonham: Were you aware of the vacuum that exists within certain stylistic elements of the CHR and Adult Contemporary radio markets and are you happy to be filling that gap and helping diversify the industry?

Wells: Yep. That’s exactly what’s happening and I think that’s what has to happen if the church is going to be the influence in the world that we’re called to be. We’ve got to embrace all different races, styles and sounds. That’s what makes a culture beautiful is when it’s a mosaic, when it’s all of us coming together and being ourselves and being what God’s created us to be. We’re just fortunate to be a part of an industry that has a great mission.

Bonham: Do you feel like you’re part of a new era within the industry?

Wells: I think it’s a resurgence, not to say that the Christian industry has been dead, but I think maybe we’re expanding the target audience. It is now something that’s going to be for everyone of all ages.

To follow Royal Tailor, check the official band site here.

In case you missed part one of this interview, check it out by clicking here.

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