Tony Cummings reports on the "new" purveyor of stadium rock ASHES REMAIN
Despite the ongoing financial crisis, the US Christian record companies are at last seeing sense and beginning to return to what should be one of their primary objectives - launching new artists. Of course in this era of the independent artist, "new" doesn't mean what it once did so it's no surprise to learn that Baltimore's Ashes Remain, whose debut national release 'What I've Become' was recently released Stateside by Fair Trade Services, have actually been together for 10 years! 'What I've Become' is a particularly striking set of powerful stadium rock and five songs have been selected for Cross Rhythms airplay including the current turntable hit "End Of Me".
The band's lead singer Josh Smith was interviewed by Mark Webb and asked about the group's origins. "I moved to Maryland in 2002. I am originally from Florida. But, before I moved up here, I worked at a camp in Maryland for four summers. That is where I met our rhythm guitar player Ryan Nalepa. He and I really believed that we were supposed to do something in music together. We committed to pray about it daily. I was looking for God to open a door for me in Maryland. One year after the camp was over, I moved back home. A couple months later I got a call from a church up here [Maryland] that was looking for a full time worship leader. It was about 10 minutes from where Ryan lived. We kind of took that as a green light from God, and just got things underway."
Over the next few years God brought into the path of Smith and Nalepa guitarist Rob Tahan, bass player Jonathan Hively and drummer Ben Kirk. Around 2004 Ashes Remain hit the road in their converted 1987 Ford school bus performing in over 25 States across the nation. Their debut album 'Lose The Alibis' was followed with two more albums and the group opened for such acts as Jeremy Camp, Collective Soul and Downhere. Finally Ashes Remain were signed to Fair Trade Services who had just changed their name from INO. The band were placed with hitmaker producer Rob Hawkins (Disciple, Fireflight).
Explained Josh to Fuel Radio FM, "We first worked with Hawkins on a two-song demo deal during our songwriting phase for the project. We were connected with him through the relationships we had established in the industry. Working with him on the album stretched us quite a bit. I think it's going to be tough on any band that has 'self produced' themselves for a decade and three projects. But as he (Hawkins) put it, 'it takes pressure to make a diamond'. I think what Rob really did was to find our best attributes and highlight them, as well as trimming some of our bad habits down. In the end, the record is still very us. . . just a refined version of us. I believe a producer has to be like an extension of the band and a healthy outside opinion at the same time. They have to challenge you as an artist, and you can't be afraid to push back at them. If it's done right, you should come out with a project that is better than either one of you could make on your own."
The first single from 'What I've Become' is the powerful song "Everything Good". Josh spoke about its genesis. "We wrote that song in a grocery store parking lot with a guy named Paul Alan. We were just sitting around talking about the different stories in the Bible, like Paul being in prison and literally singing praises from behind prison bars. It's talking about how so many times in our faith in America, we run into people where life isn't perfect. Things aren't going their way and they think that God is out to get them. In the Bible, we see the opposite of that so many times. God leads us through valleys and tragedies to make us who he wants us to be. That was kind of the thought behind that song. Even though the world is falling apart around you, instead of blaming God, just realize he is God and taking you through that journey."
Another powerful song on the album is "I'll Be Right Here". The song echoed the band's intention to make themselves available to their fans. Said drummer Ben Kirk, "It's something we take very seriously. We can't be off our game so to speak just because we are busy or have something else on our mind, we feel called to be available to our fans. Connecting with a kid who was one conversation away from attempting suicide has a way of reminding you that you never know what that person's going through that night."