Thursday, August 21, 2014

Meet Alan Powell of Anthem Lights and The Song

Anyone who is around the younger crowd, especially girls, has probably heard of the group Anthem Lights. I had the privilege of meeting lead singer Alan Powell at ICRS in June and talking to him about their music as well as the latest project that is near and dear to his heart: the movie The Song, releasing in theaters September 26. Alan plays the lead character, Jedi King. Here's the blurb about the movie:

Aspiring singer—‐songwriter Jed King is struggling to catch a break and escape the long shadow of his famous father when he reluctantly agrees to a gig at a local vineyard harvest festival. Jed meets the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose, and a romance quickly blooms. Soon after their wedding, Jed writes Rose “The Song,” which becomes a breakout hit. Suddenly thrust into a life of stardom and a world of temptation, his life and marriage begin to fall apart.

THE SONG was filmed on location in Nashville and Kentucky – known for American music and family. Both figure heavily in the film. Music is more than a score in THE SONG, it is the backdrop from which the story unfolds. Viewers who love American music, indie singer-songwriters or dream of the allure of the road, will especially love THE SONG.

Produced by a top-notch group of story tellers who believe in love, faith and family, THE SONG is opening nation-wide including resources to strengthen couples and families.


Here is my interview with Alan Powell:

It's great to meet you, and I know my daughter and her friend were particularly excited I had this interview scheduled! I understand you are a "preacher's kid." Did you have all the "PK" issues growing up, either the rebelliousness or the spoiled "do no wrong" issues?

I didn't. My parents are great and made sure I was pretty grounded. I'm just used to people paying attention to what I'm doing, for good or for bad. I'm not saying that's a good thing. People have always asked what I was doing and why I was doing it. That did prepare me for being an artist and now an actor. There's a lot of that. to realize there's a responsibility, that people are watching you, where are you leading them? I grew up with it, so that was pretty valuable. But my parents are great, and they weren't just teaching me the rules but the "why" for the rules. I think that's the difference. Kids who just know, "Don't touch the fire! Don't touch the fire!" They're going to touch the fire. But if you tell them why you don't touch the fire, then they may n ot touch it. That's a very elementary example, but I credit my parents. They're awesome people and they're more vested in God than the ministry, which is also a big delineation which is important.

Did you grow up always wanting to do music?

My sisters and I used to travel and sing Southern gospel, all the way through high school and even into college. I didn't like that kind of music, so I moved away from it and was actually studying to be a New Testament professor in college and fell in love with Greek and New Testament Greek. I was walking down that path and God used some very specific people in my life to tell me "I know you've moved away from it but you've got a thing over here in this music and I'd love to work with you." That opened the door, which eventually took me to L.A. I was there for a couple of years. As far as I can see, I've always had a passion for films, so when I was in L.A. I got an agent and met with some managers, and I would share with them my faith and what that means as far as what I will do and what I won't do. The response was always positive – "oh, that's so great! It's so refreshing to hear something like that." Than the very next day they'd send me on an audition where I would read the lines they would want me to read and ask "Didn't we just talk about this?" I can't tell you how many times I would leave an audition room , not even going into read, and call the newest manger and say, "Maybe I wasn't clear." Eventually, I decided that I can't act because I'm not willing to walk down those roads that someone has to do to act. Eventually, music took me to Nashville. I was in Nashville doing music and I got an email about The Song.

Anthem Lights does covers of other artists' songs, right? Do you sing any original material?

We do both. When we first got started we did the traditional form of marketing, basically playing everywhere all the time. We did 150+ shows a year for two years. I had one child at the time, and we were just gone way too much. We just decided that we were either going to stop or we were going to find a new way to garner an audience. We had done one cover on YouTube at that point, and it was doing really well. People were responding well to it. So we thought, what if we make this a thing? What if, instead of going on the road and leaving our families, we attempt to build an audience online? One of the strongest ways that we have been able to do that is through covers, singing other people's songs. The goal of that is just to garner an audience so we can introduce the original material, which is the message that we believe and that we want to infiltrate to those new fans and to those listening now because of those covers. So that's a large, large part of what we do and what has allowed us to continue doing that.

Is that a hard thing? Do you have to get permission to record?

No, it's a lot of legal stuff, but essentially, the short answer is no, it's not hard. If someone has recorded a song initially, anyone has license to record it. We just have to pay the publisher's fee and we pay the songwriter ten cents every time we sell one of them, and everybody's happy! A lot of legal stuff and we pay Bill to take care of it for us.

You don't do concerts anymore, then?

We do. We just don't do them nearly as often. We probably play three shows a month, which is much more manageable. I'm not kidding when I say we played over 150 shows a year. There are only 365 days in a year and there's travel time between those shows. So you're looking at being gone two-thirds of the year. And this is a schedule that most of the artists you know, that you hear on the radio, are forced to maintain. It's just really difficult.

I don't see how they do it. When they're on stage, it looks like this glamorous life, but it's not.

It is not at all. Not at all. They sleep in beds that are about as soft as this (he raps the table) on a bus moving 80 miles an hour. It's a calling and what they do impacts lives, and I respect that, for sure. But it's very, very difficult, no doubt. I drew from that experience in this movie. It's about a musician who's touring and gone, and all those things. I've been there.

And the temptations that come because they are away from their families so much. Some of them take their families with them.

But you can't do that every time. And Jed in the film asks Rose to come with him on multiple occasions and he's attempting to do everything he can to hold this thing together and it goes awry, if you will. But I drew from those similarities and conversations I've had with my wife and frustrations and ongoing issues we've had and what that does to a relationship. It was very, very exciting for me to be able to use those experiences to help encourage other people to prioritize their marriage in the way that they should.

Tell me about your family.

I am married and my oldest daughter, who I mentioned earlier, is almost four now. That's crazy to think about. And our youngest is fifteen months.

That's really hard, too, for the wife, being home with the baby.

That's the thing, too. That's what I love about the film from a marriage perspective. There are two sides to the story. There is the struggle that Jed certainly has, which is being gone and he's trying to get his wife out there. She won't come and he's out there doing what he feels like he's supposed to do to provide for the family. Then he comes home and there's the flip side of the story, which is "I've been there taking care of the child, taking care of the house, I haven't talked to you enough." Things that those of us who travel a lot – we get it! Those are conversations we've had and still do. I'd be lying if I didn't say that even to this day, when it's a week like this and I'm gone all week, when I'm not drawing from things I've learned from The Song, when I see her again, it would be easy to walk in and pretend like I haven't been gone. There's a settling in time. I still learn from this film in that regard, and I think people will as well.

Will there be other products besides the film?

The film is the flagship item and it will be supplemented with resources hosted by Kyle Idleman. There will be a DVD Bible Study with scenes from the film and teaching by Kyle Idleman from the Song of Solomon and briefly on Ecclesiastes. And it's not just for couples. It's for anyone interested in ever getting married, too. It does teach how to do the romance and the relationship up to marriage itself.

And there is a book coming out?

Yes, a novelization. We've been talking with the author, Chris Fabry, and he's been coming up with some back story. The theatrical release is September 26, and his book will come out between that release and the DVD release.

That sounds great. I can see his style of writing fitting the story.

That's what we've heard from many people. I'm excited to see what he does.

What's next on the horizon for you?

Between now and September I've cleared a lot of my schedule for this. I believe in this project, and I want to give it as much of a chance as we can and that means a lot of my time. Musically, I'm always creating content and doing video. I do have a few shows. It's fun for me to bounce back and forth between the film and my music. I feel very, very blessed, honestly, that I wake up in the morning and have the opportunity to provide for the family that I love so much doing things that I love, which right now is promoting a film that I'm passionate about and doing music that some people are enjoying.

So now for the awkward question. You're a Christian. This is not the secular world. But there are a lot of young girls who get all excited about you and Anthem Lights. I think about how girls used to act when they'd pass out and throw themselves at the Beatles.

That's a very stark contrast! (He laughs and shakes his head.) "You know, like the Beatles!"

Anyway, I know some girls who thought it was so cool that I was going to meet you. They aren't over the top, but girls do get crushes on celebrities. And you are a married man. Yet men have egos and like having women fawn over them and think that they are handsome and sexy, for lack of a better word. And it's got to be hard for your wife, too. How do you handle that as a Christian and not go the wrong direction and handle it appropriately?

Great question. It's interesting. No one had ever asked that before but in the last couple of months, I've gotten it a few times. I'm curious to know if something's changing about the brand that all of a sudden people are interested about it.

No, I just see the teen girls respond and I know how the secular world encourages it. And we're more aware not of the potential since several Christian musicians have been caught up in affairs.

That's true. And the secular world does play into it. Ultimately, it's a matter of perspective. It's really something God has been teaching me in life across the board recently. I mean, it's part of the gig, and I think that's totally okay, if I can be really blunt and honest. Part of the reason that I'm Jed in The Song is the appearance. That's what you need for Jed. And I had nothing to do that. I don't really understand physical appearance compliments. I just say, "Listen, I just showed up. I've got a mom and a dad and I look like a combination of them." I mean, I appreciate it but I had nothing to do with it! So it's understanding who you are.

Does your family keep you grounded and tell you you're not "all that?"

Yeah, they don't care! But from the stage every night, when I'm sharing between particular songs, I say, "We're not here because of us. We didn't come here so you would think these guys are awesome with a cool leather jacket. My wife thinks I'm cool, so I'm good." And I really mean that. Like I said, God has been teaching me some perspective. I appreciate the fans. I appreciate their admiration, for lack of a better term. I'm hoping that that turns into a response to the music or a response to the film. But I'm okay if the reason you came to the show is some sort of adoration in your mind. Whatever got you there. But if that's what you leave with, then I haven't done my job. So how I deal with it is just a matter of perspective. I love my wife and that goes so much deeper than physical. Don't get me wrong, she's HOT! But she's the mother of my children and the lady I'm going to do life with. I've been married for almost nine years now and I feel kinda like an old man at 29.

Oh my! You're only 29! (I shake my head and laugh, feeling very old!)

I am. I don't want to act like oh, that's not an issue for me because that's not true for anyone. The first step is denying that it's an issue. But my response is just perspective. They're gonna do what they're gonna do. I just have to ask daily that God will continue to help me see the world the way He sees the world. So that's what we do.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, Alan. It's great to meet you. I look forward to seeing the movie The Song!

Thank you. It's been a pleasure!


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