The lead singer of FIREFLIGHT, Dawn Michele, talks about 'Innova' and the "Christian rock band" label
When Fireflight formed in Miami 16 years ago their strategy seemed quite simple, try and make a mark in the crowded field of rock music. The hard rockers have certainly been successful in doing that. All four of their albums for Flicker Records, 'The Healing Of Harms' (2006), 'Unbreakable' (2008), 'For Those Who Wait' (2010) and 'Now' (2012) charted with one ('Unbreakable') appearing on some rock fans' Internet lists as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Then came a lengthy hiatus. It was three years before the 'Innova' album was released independently on 5th May 2015. 'Innova' has been well received. Christian Music Review stated,"The messages on this album are inspiring and uplifting and take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions," Indie Vision Music wrote about the "high octane songs balanced with wonderfully intimate ballads" while CCM magazine enthused, "Longtime listeners and newcomers alike are sure to latch on to Fireflight's themes of perseverance and rejuvenation, alongside its standard hard rock stylings (now enhanced by electronic and stadium-ready pop elements) to further reinforce this fresh and fruitful new chapter." Fireflight's lead singer Dawn Michele has given interviews with Cryptic Rock, New Release Today and Jesus Freak Hideout. Here are some of the things she said.
On becoming independent artists
"We loved our being a part of our label family. But recently we felt a shift in the music industry leading to a new path for bands. It's a little scary to leave the safety of our label, but we are excited about this new era of Fireflight music."
On surviving 15 years in the music industry
"It has been pretty crazy, but mostly just gave us really hard work. As you mentioned, we have been together for about 15 years now. Throughout our career, we had lots of opportunities, kind of 'overnight success stories'. More often than not, when you see lots of success it seems like they just formed over night, but truly these people have been working at it for their entire lives. That is kind of what we have been doing; we have just been working on it ever since we started. We have all just been super committed and I think that is really what has kept us around; just by not giving up on things when things got hard and continuing to work, be loyal and to put our whole heart into it."
On being labelled a "Christian rock band"
"It does not bother us at all, we are all Christians in the band. We really feel like the purpose of our music is to be an encouragement to people. Our greatest purpose is for all people to know that God loves them no matter who they are, what they have been through, or where they are coming from. Because of that, it has not bothered us that we are labelled as a Christian band. Truly, what I think we have learned through the years is that God is in everything and there is so much power in every aspect of life. The more we try to put things in categories and put things into a box, we kind of limit ourselves in a lot of ways. I think that we most of all want it to be about love, showing that unconditional love of God, and letting them know that we believe that he believes in them. . . In the very beginning of our career, because we had been labelled as a Christian band, there were a lot of people that would just never give us a chance, which is kind of sad. Then there are the other people that say, 'You guys are amazing, I cannot believe that you are supposed to be a Christian band.' I guess in some ways you just have to overcome odds, and from that perspective, that sometimes can be kind of a cool thing to have something to stand up under and come up as underdogs."
On bringing in electronic and pop sounds into Fireflight's hard rock
"Traditionally, we would write our riffs and really let it grow from there. That is a pretty strict form to start your song off in. With these new songs, we started with a track instead and it kind of opened it up to where we were able to augment it with the guitars. Also, we have had some lineup changes. I think it was just a natural progression for us. Justin (Cox) was our lead guitarist for so many years and a key writer. He decided to retire from music to stay home with his family, so as we changed our lineup, we changed our writers, and naturally the sound with all of that as well."
On the song "Light Inside"
"Our band, we have always tried to be really relational with our fans. We have always adhered to maintaining our own social media networks; we are the ones who answer all the messages. For years and years our fans have written us and our music has always catered to those who are hurting. I think it is just a natural progression. We just talked about the things that we were going through, the things that we saw people going through, such as friends and family, and just how God was giving us power to overcome, no matter how bad the situation was. The people who listened to our music, a lot of them were people who were struggling, and so naturally, when they communicated with us, they were telling us their stories and ambitions. One thing I hear over and over from people is their great desire to be on stage. They ask, 'How can I be in a band? How did your band get successful?' At the end of the day, I feel like there is this great hunger in our society that people just want to be famous. They do not necessarily even want to be talented, they just want to be famous. I think it is a sad hole we have in our hearts where everyone is hoping they can get everyone to love them. If everyone loved them, then they would finally be good enough is what they believe. For this song, it is my feeling that God created each and every one of us to be ourselves, and not try and become what other people want us to be. Not to hope that everyone else will approve of us, just be ourselves and fill the puzzle piece we are designed to fill here on earth. We all have roles, gifts and talents that we can use in our lives accordingly. This song points toward the stars, because everyone wants to be a star, but it draws to the physical illusion of the stars in the sky. The lyric 'Shine where you are' is saying you do not have to go up and be on stage, you can be your best self where you are. The hope is people will listen to the song and feel an overwhelming love for who they are and not feel they need to be someone else."
On the song "Here And Now"
"This is one of my favourite songs from the album, and it is my husband's favourite. I wrote this song with our friend Geoff Duncan. This whole album was a transition for us in a lot of different ways, coming to a new place in life and as a band, going independent and everything. We were going through really big changes. For this song, I wanted to capture that feeling we go through in a tough season or in struggling for a while, looking for meaning or looking for a way out of a situation or wondering if you are ever going to reach your dream after a lot of work. The song is about finding more than getting what you want, it's understanding how God has been changing you through that moment of letting go and moving forward with what God's been trying to teach you. The process. Sometimes our circumstances don't even change, but God changes us. For me, I get so distracted by what's in front of my face: bills, sickness or some other distraction. God is so much bigger and greater than our experience on earth, and he's always working for us.
"We cry out 'God, where are you? When are you going to make these changes in my life and make me happy so I can get what I want?' In those moments we totally miss what God has been doing in our lives. For me, a big part of my journey in life is overcoming fear, which has been my biggest struggle. I tend to get completely bogged down by my insecurities and fear of change. I feel like a failure in my own life. In the song, the perspective is someone who is feeling trapped and coming to realize that we're not trapped because God is infinite and has so many possibilities for us. When we feel like saying, 'God where are you?' the truth is God has always been right by your side. Often we try to fix our problems in our own ways and we are looking for that so strongly that we don't see how God is working in his ways. The song says, 'It's more than how you've changed things, it's how you're changing me.' So often in my own life I ask God to get me out of things, and he doesn't. God doesn't just want to take us away from things, but wants us to get stronger under those tests. The most important thing is to stop being so distracted and realize that it's as simple as drawing closer to God, sitting on his lap and listening to what he has to say, seeking him for guidance. He will reveal things beyond our understanding and really show us a life that's so much bigger than the small, petty things we fight for."
On different genres of music
"I like every genre. As far as musical styling, I love all music. I will go through periods of time where I will listen to one CD in my car on repeat forever. Then other times, I will turn all my CDs off and listen to Top 40 on the radio. I love to hear what people are connecting with right now; what is really resonating with them, giving them joy, power and comforting them in their sorrow. The last couple of years, Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories' (2013) has been a big one for me. I started off liking rock when I started listening with my cousin, he had CDs my parents would not let in the house. We would listen to Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Aerosmith. That is when I really fell in love with rock music. I grew up on a farm listening to country music. I grew up in a rural town in a swamp area in Central Florida called Green Swamp (laughs). I really have an appreciation for all kinds of music. Coldplay is another one. Also, listening to Taylor Swift."