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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.

Interview with Royal Tailor’s Tauren Wells (Part 1)

posted by Chad Bonham

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TUESDAY CONVERSATION: Tauren Wells of Royal Tailor

Every once in a while, an artist comes along that shakes things up and challenges the status quo within the Christian industry. You don’t have to go too deep into Royal Tailor’s debut album Black & White to figure out the Houston-based band is one of those artists.

Whole Notes had a chance to talk to lead singer Tauren Wells about its unique sound, it’s vision for today’s students and how growing up in the church shaped the band members as individuals. Check it out in part one of this interview:

Bonham: How did the band come together to develop such a uniquely diverse sound?

Wells: It’s just all of us being who we are and coming together and making something that we’re proud of. What I really love about our band is that we didn’t go into the studio and think, “I wonder what secular band we could be a Christian version of.” We believe that believers can create the template and they can make something new or as original as possible. I think we’re blessed and God has given us favor to do that. We all grew up listening to a lot of different stuff. In this band, you’ve got everything from bluegrass to black gospel. You never know what somebody’s going to answer when people ask what the influences are because they’re so varied. We just are who we are and we do what we do.

Bonham: It feels like you guys put a bunch of stuff in a blender until something unique came out.

Wells: It’s a very tasty smoothie.

Bonham: Were you aware of the fact that you guys were mixing together a compilation of sounds that was fairly unique to the Christian market?

Wells: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Bonham: So are you guys all from Christian upbringings?

Wells: Yep, we all grew up in church. We all grew up loving God, going to church. Blake’s mom is actually the music minister at her church. We all went to Bible college. Blake, DJ and I went to Indiana Bible College and Jarrod went to Gateway College of Evangelism.

Bonham: I always enjoy talking to people who grew up in church and aren’t bitter about it.

Wells: No, I’m very thankful. It’s the church that kept me. I had a very influential student pastor, David Morehead, who really inspired me and made me realize that there’s a calling on my life and to embrace that and to chase my dreams. God has really shown us favor and allowed us some really incredible opportunities. There’s no regret here. We’re thankful for the church and we love the church.

Bonham: There have been a lot of comparisons made between the band and some other artists out there. You do share some of the same sensibilities with Maroon 5. Your vocals at time bear an uncanny resemblance to Michael Jackson. Are you humbled by those comparisons or do they frustrate and maybe annoy you?

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

Wells: We’re very humbled by it. We’ve been given some great comparisons to other artists that our sound evokes. One thing I think that’s kind of funny about it is if you asked any of the people we were compared to if we sounded like them, they would probably say “no.” It’s like this. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience. Someone will come up to you and they’ll be like, “You look just like my brother!” Then you see the picture and you’re like, “Oh, we’re both humans.” It’s kind of like that. The biggest thing is when we get compared to Backstreet Boys. To me, that’s a stretch, mainly because we’re not a choreographed dance band and we all play instruments.

Bonham: Do you think the varied comparisons pop up because of how diverse the band is from one song to the next?

Wells: Yeah, and I think that’s cool because (listeners) can identify with it and really appreciate what we’re doing.

Bonham: Having read your blog, it seems pretty obvious that you see this as a calling. How does that translate into your performances and your lifestyle away from the stage?

Wells: Well, we believe that student culture and culture as a whole has suffered from the symptoms of a visionless life. We are dealing with a myriad of issues that are all coming from two core dilemmas. One, it’s visionlessness as far as getting a true glimpse of who Jesus is and what He’s about. The second thing is getting a vision of who we are in Christ and what that means for our lives. If we can give people a vision of those two things, who Jesus is and who they are, then we can effectively create change in the world. In everything that we do in live performance and message in between songs and story thread videos and small group resources and student ministry resources, everything that we do is geared towards showing people who Jesus is and who they are in Him and inspiring them to connect the dots between the two so that they can be an effective world changer for the cause of Christ in their own unique way. They can use expressive art or science or whatever they want to communicate Christ to the culture.

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

Click here for part two of Whole Notes’ interview with Royal Tailor lead singer Tauren Wells.

WN Music News: June 27, 2011

posted by Chad Bonham

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Dara Maclean drops “Suitcases” ahead of debut release

Her debut album doesn’t even release for three weeks, but new artist Dara Maclean is already making a significant mark on the music scene with the hit single “Suitcases.” It’s just a taste of what listeners can expect from the July 12th Fervent Records release of You Got My Attention, produced by Dove Award-winner and Christian music veteran Ian Eskelin.

Maclean wrote or co-wrote all 12 of the tracks on the album and will be taking her soulful pop style on the road for over 100 shows through the spring of next year. The Fort Worth, Texas, native has been singing at the age of eight and has since led worship and been actively involved in youth ministry.

Check out a video of “Suitcases” below:

To keep up with Maclean’s music and tour dates, visit her website here.

Norman Hutchins looks forward to seventh solo album

Tomorrow marks the release of If You Didn’t Know, Now You Know, the seventh album for gospel artist and preacher Norman Hutchins. The project continues to share pieces of Hutchins’ engaging story, which includes a past bout with blindness and issues with his estranged father.

Much of the album came from his recent experiences leading worship in the church.

“While we were singing, God dropped these lyrics in the atmosphere,” Hutchins said in his latest bio. “We would start out with a familiar song that everybody knew and somehow in the midst of singing I would hear another melody. Words would just begin to drop in the atmosphere and I would look at the keyboard player and tell him to follow me.”

To keep up with Hutchins’ music and ministry, visit his official website here.

Upcoming album releases (June 28):

Relient K – K Is For Karaoke EP (Gotee Records/Digital Release)
Planetshakers – Nothing Is Impossible (Integrity Music/Digital Release)
Falling Up – Your Sparkling Death Cometh (Independent/Digital Release)
Darlene Zschech – You Are Love (Fair Trade Services)
Norman Hutchins – If You Didn’t Know…Now You Know (Impact)
Various Artists – iWorship Resource System DVD (iWorship)

Upcoming album releases (June 30):

Various ArtistsSka Lives Vol. 2 (IVM)

Join Whole Notes tomorrow for a conversation with Tauren Wells, lead singer of Royal Tailor.

Interview with Blindside’s Simon Grenehed (Part 2)

posted by Chad Bonham

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FRIDAY FEATURE: Simon Grenehed of Blindside, Part 2

Here’s the second part of Whole Notes’ interview with Blindside guitarist Simon Grenehed:

Bonham: Do you recognize those young guys from 15 years ago that were on the scene, hitting it hard and playing the small venues? Are you guys the same or is there a different purpose behind what the band does now?

Grenehed: We were formed by those years. There’s something that happens when we get in a room together. That’s not going to change. But also, you become different individuals the older you get. The last couple of years playing outside of the States, we’ve been trying to figure out our own sound and style as well, which has just come from playing in different types of settings. We’re super excited about the live shows because of the new material. We just started playing a couple of those songs live and we’re really excited about how they’re coming out.

Bonham: As one of a few bands that went from the Christian independent rock scene and then found success in the general market, how comfortable have you been bouncing back and forth between the various venues in which you find yourself performing?

Blindside

Grenehed: The whole Christian scene is something we were unaware of when we started the band. It was something we got to know when we came over to the States. That was never our main focus. We were just playing and didn’t have too many goals. When things happened in different directions, we just kind of flowed with it. But I do think that we don’t have any problem playing in front of whoever is in the room or whatever kind of crowd. We learned when we opened for a lot of bands that we’re out to conquer the audience. They don’t know who you are when you start out. But we do feel comfortable just being in all those places. For us, it can be something really powerful when you play in a Christian venue and everybody is focused on the same thing. But also, I think you can get into that same mode when you play anywhere else. We have a couple songs where for some reason they’re not about a band on a stage. It’s about everybody in the room. It connects to a feeling or a melody that people can meditate on in whatever form like want to and express it in their own way.

Bonham: Do you feel like bands such as yourself, P.O.D. and Switchfoot have more responsibility because of your ability to connect with a mainstream audience better than other Christian bands have been able to do?

Grenehed: No. (Laughs) We are who we are. As far as being in whatever venue in front of different people, if you stay true to that and your core and what the band is about, people feel it if it’s real. I think that’s what will show in the end. It’s not about what you say on stage. For us, it’s been going out with bands that don’t necessarily have the same faith as us. It’s so much about relationships. If you’re spreading the word in any way, it’s going to be through who you are off the stage as well.

Bonham: What’s going on in Stockholm these days within the church there and how have you guys plugged back into that community?

Grenehed: I don’t know man. It’s funny because every time we talk to people in the States they’re like, “Yeah, I heard about all the things going on in Sweden!” We’re like, “Where did you go?” Sweden is a very secularized country. I think it’s like four percent or less Christian. But there are some amazing movements going on. For us, it’s more staying within whatever church or community where we already are and really working there.

Bonham: What is the game plan for how you’re going to tackle this new project with touring and promotions, especially considering the new reality within the music industry where record sales are harder to come by?

Grenehed: That’s exactly why we didn’t rush it and go do things the old fashioned way. That’s why we did the web campaign and released the songs streaming one at a time. We just tried to figure out different ways we could do things in an innovative way. Now that the record is out, we’re going to focus on touring and getting the music out there. Of course we’re very excited about getting back to the States. We have a tour that’s staring in September and we’re playing Cornerstone Festival as well. We’re ready to get back on it. It’s always hard. It depends on the kind of feedback you get from the fans. We really understand that we have to start at zero and go from there. Everything isn’t planned out yet. We’re going to take the information we have so far and see what we should do next.

Bonham: You guys have been one of the better bands for embracing video. Will that continue with this record?

Grenehed: We definitely believe in having something visual out there. We’re going to try to focus on that and get some video material out so people can see what the old men look like nowadays (laughs).

For special content, check out Blindside’s album site here or hit up the official band site here.

Click here for Part 1 of this interview. Join us next week for Monday Music News plus an interview with Royal Tailor and a review of Peter Furler’s debut solo project.

 

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