Ashes Remain: Still at the crossroads of pop and hard rock

Friday 27th April 2018

Tony Cummings spoke to the vocalist Josh Smith from the Baltimore-based band ASHES REMAIN

Continued from page 1

Ashes Remain:  Still at the crossroads of pop and hard rock

Josh: The last song on the album is called "All I Need" and it's deeply personal to me because it is a love letter to my wife. It is written intentionally. It is a song you can worship to. It is a song you can identify with God and I'm great with that because I want people to have that freedom, but when I sing it, it just reminds me of my wife. My wife and I are going on eight years, we have two kids and, like in any marriage, there have been rocky times and plenty of times where we could have given up and walked away. But I'm so privileged God has given me her as a partner to do life with and she never gives up on me and I never give up on her. So, my order is that I start with my faith; God is first, and she is right there on the hem. She is a blessing, she's a partner and I couldn't do it without her. So, that song is very, very personal to me.

There's another song, the first one on the album, called "Rise". The world is crazy and it just gets crazier and every generation probably feels this way - "This is the worst the world has ever been," "the darkest the world's ever been" - so I don't think it's a new sentiment. But every time we play that song, it is a reminder to me that if we just claimed our relationship with God, if we cling to Jesus, we really can rise above the noise. All the social media posts and all of the political posts, it just comes back to, "are we walking with him?" We can't change everything, but we can change our relationship with God, for better or for worse. That song is a good reminder to me of why we're doing this. We want people to know that if you have that relationship with God, you've done it. You've got the most important thing in the world and you can kind of let all the other stuff fade away.

Tony: Thinking about your reply and what you have just said about "Rise", one of the buzzwords which we're beginning to hear a lot more in churches in the UK is "revival". Do you think music is spearheading something fresh in the churches?

Josh: Well, let me say it this way, I believe that we don't fully understand the power in music. I won't say that the person, the singer or the guitar player, is the power and I think you agree with that. I do think that there is an anointing. When I say God tells me to write these songs, it's not that there is a burning bush and the lyrics just jump onto the page; I feel a push from God to say what's on my heart because I believe he's planted it there. So, at that level, absolutely. Why in the world would I write a song called "Here For A Reason" if I didn't believe that there are people who needed to hear it. I told you that I have two kids, and the thing that fascinated me, and it's been a complete life changer, was watching my children before they were born, in their momma's belly, moving to music and watching them react to it in an instant. So that speaks to me. There is something happening that is beyond the entertainment, that is beyond the catchier, hooky song. It evokes reaction from people at the most base-level and so, yes, I do think that music is part of the plan. I don't know what part we play, as musician and songwriters, but I'm happy to be on the team.

I'm really excited you're talking about this because, if I may say, my church has been in a week of prayer and fasting. What I've been reminded of, during this week, is we're supposed to expect the unbelievable and I have specifically, personally been begging God for exactly what you're saying. I thank God for great revival. Maybe that's something that should have been in the forefront on my heart for years, but this week has been very powerful for me in just realising we're not a business, as a church or a band, we're a ministry. If we don't expect God to do crazy things, then we should shut the doors. So I'm excited to hear that's what's been going on over there as well.

Tony: Tell me about the song "Six Feet Down".

Josh: I wrote that song. It was meant for our last album, on the previous label and they just weren't a fan. So we held onto the demo and here it is seven years later, when we finally made an album. It's important to me because it is a song for heroes. I'm talking about military, first-responders. I never served in the military, but a lot of my family have, so I've always been around it, and in fact I wear my dad's dog tag everywhere I go. I am fascinated with the level of bravery people show even knowing it could end their life. That song really resonates with me because I think we owe a lot to those people, in countries all over the world. They are people who protect us and it's amazing to me.

Tony: As soon as you use the word 'patriotic', people accuse you of being xenophobic, simply because you're proud of your country and the brave people who fight for your country. It's a strange world we're living in, isn't it?

Josh: It is a strange word and people on either side, left or right, people take way too hard of a stance. I don't like war, let's be clear, I wish there was never a war and I don't think every war is justified. I will not protest the brave men and women who willingly do their part. They didn't make the call. Whether our country should be involved in this or that, the only thought I have is that these people are so brave. To them it's a calling and a service that they do for us. We can agree or disagree about why they should be there. I'm sure there are wars we shouldn't be in. I'm sure we've made mistakes as a country and I'm sure every country can say the same on some level. I don't think "Oh, yay, America! We're the best!" I just think that every soldier, all around the world, every ambulance driver, every police officer, everyone has stepped up and said "I'll do this", "I'll do this for people who I don't even know," and so that song is very important to me for that reason.

Tony: But of course the great thing about the Kingdom is that very often we are wimps until we become Christians and then Holy Spirit imparted courage begins to come to us.

Josh: Absolutely. I think anytime you step out of what is comfortable for the sake of God's call, that's a mark of true bravery. I believe that completely.

Tony: Finally, tell me about the unusual track "Captain".

Josh: Oh, man! I'm totally aware of how odd it is. It's legitimately a song written for anyone struggling with any addiction. The chorus talks about drowning in a bottle. It's not just for alcoholics. I believe true freedom from addiction, I've got a family full of addicts, is only found in the power through God. Even Alcoholics Anonymous, they call it a higher power. I just don't think, if you're a person who is addicted, I don't think you get out of that alone. This is a song saying "Hey, we know where you're at, here's your answer, here is the only answer. You need the power of God, you need the Holy Spirit, you need something beyond mankind to break those chains. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.

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