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Downhere Interview

Wide-Eyed and Mystified, Downhere's CD released on May 23, is easily the rock ensemble's best CD to date. While the band has always been long on musical talent, it has been starving for quality marketing support. The lack of marketing aplomb should now be addressed as they said goodbye to Word Records in 2005 and hello to Seattle-based Centricity Records. Downhere has leaned heavily on the direction of A&R guru John Mays in setting the tone for Wide-Eyed and Mystified

While driving through Chicago, Jason Germain, Marc Martel and Glenn Lavender, three of Downhere's four members, took time out to speak to me about the new album. While most of us were busy buying Christmas presents last December, the band was sequestered in Nashville studios putting their imprint on another sensational CD. 

Martel and Germain have been the band's primary songwriters since the members met at a small prairie college in western Canada several years ago. Martel spoke to me about the inspiration behind the CD title. "It is a line that comes from the first song on the album. The name of the track is called "The More." The song talks about the gospel and how it struck us the first time we were confronted with it. The sentiment being we were in awe and in wonder." He described the song as being, "Fun and whimsical."  The inspiration for "The More" comes from the Apostle Peter's writings and his emphasis on growing in our faith. The song says, "The more you show me, the more you grow me/the more your glory becomes all there is," said Martel.

Fans of Kevin Max are going to love "The More." It possesses an alternative rock sound with shades of The Smiths. Martel said, "I believe faith is like a muscle" and musically "The More" becomes a fine metaphor for faith with strong but not overwhelming riffs by Germain and the talented bassist Lavender. Martel remains one of the most underrated vocalists on the music scene today. It is only a matter of time before he will be able to write his own ticket in the general market music industry. 

"The More" and "A Better Way" were the first two songs released to radio in March. The former played on Rock stations and the later made its debut on AC. The album boasts a bevy of outstanding future hits.

Lavender said, "Fans of our first album will be happy to hear the piano is back (with more emphasis)." Accompanying that piano sound are some ballads such as "A Better Way," "I Will Follow Your Voice" and the beautiful tapestry "Unbelievable." Germain said, "I write on the piano and it just feels natural (to write ballads). I love songs that are up tempo and rock and roll but my vocal style doesn't lend itself to writing with an electric guitar. My vocals just can't cut over top of it. When you write you want to be moved by the thing that you are writing to. When I am writing with an electric guitar and I am singing I just can't push it over the top because I don't have the range like Marc does. I think my nature is a little more subdued and classical so that is where I go."

"A Better Way" is a song that originally started out as a love song written for Germain's wife Heather. He recalled her saying selflessly, 'It is really nice and I appreciate the heart behind why you wrote the song but I think there is a better song in there. There is a more important song than a love song to me. I think you need to rewrite it.' 

Germain continued, "I think the song "A Better Way" is the song that I have been trying to write for a long, long time. It's the Gospel. It's a love song. It has all that I want to say. I don't think that I will (ever) write another song that has that." 

At the time he was reworking the original piece, Germain was going through an Old Testament study. "I was trying to understand the heart of God and how my story intercepts it. The song talks about how God's plan couldn't be worked out in a more poetic and beautiful way than the way He did it. (The song) talks about my response to His love. The title comes from the fact His love couldn't be expressed in   "A Better Way."

The band did a three day gig in May at the Friendship Festival staged in the North African city of Marrakech Morocco. Although Downhere was one of several bands that participated in the cultural event, they were the only rock ensemble. The Moroccans speak both French and Arabic. The fact that Martel is completely fluent in French endeared the band to the estimated three day crowd of a quarter of a million people. 

Martel said the biggest difference in being at a smaller label versus a bigger one is the allocation of staff to look after the band's publicity and marketing needs. "Everybody involved with the label takes much more ownership over the artists compared to a bigger label which will have twenty or so artists. This label has three artists (Downhere, Circleslide and Jaime Jamgochian) and everyone they hire becomes an integral part of promoting us." They also responded to John Mays' challenge to raise the bar. Songs that would have appeared on previous albums just as they were submitted were sent back for rewrites.

Behind the words you sense the members of Downhere are finally home. They have found a place where they can relax and enjoy the atmosphere created by the management of their new label. "We go to John's house and watch episodes of 24 together. We also go on retreats together. I think it is turning out to be a cool family type of environment," said Lavender. 

Turning his attention to the production of Downhere Interview

Wide-Eyed And Mystified, Downhere's CD released on May 23, is easily the rock ensemble's best CD to date. While the band has always been long on musical talent, it has been starving for quality marketing support. The lack of marketing aplomb should now be addressed as they said goodbye to Word Records in 2005 and hello to Seattle-based Centricity Records. Downhere has leaned heavily on the direction of A&R guru John Mays in setting the tone for _Wide-Eyed And Mystified_. 

While driving through Chicago, Jason Germain, Marc Martel and Glenn Lavender, three of Downhere's four members, took time out to speak to me about the new album. While most of us were busy buying Christmas presents last December, the band was sequestered in Nashville studios putting their imprint on another sensational CD. 

Martel and Germain have been the band's primary songwriters since the members met at a small prairie college in western Canada several years ago. Martel spoke to me about the inspiration behind the CD title. "It is a line that comes from the first song on the album. The name of the track is called "The More." The song talks about the gospel and how it struck us the first time we were confronted with it. The sentiment being we were in awe and in wonder." He described the song as being, "Fun and whimsical."  The inspiration for "The More" comes from the Apostle Peter's writings and his emphasis on growing in our faith. The song says, "The more you show me, the more you grow me/the more your glory becomes all there is," said Martel.

Fans of Kevin Max are going to love "The More." It possesses an alternative rock sound with shades of The Smiths. Martel said, "I believe faith is like a muscle" and musically "The More" becomes a fine metaphor for faith with strong but not overwhelming riffs by Germain and the talented bassist Lavender. Martel remains one of the most underrated vocalists on the music scene today. It is only a matter of time before he will be able to write his own ticket in the general market music industry. 

"The More" and "A Better Way" were the first two songs released to radio in March. The former played on Rock stations and the later made its debut on AC. The album boasts a bevy of outstanding future hits.

Lavender said, "Fans of our first album will be happy to hear the piano is back (with more emphasis)." Accompanying that piano sound are some ballads such as "A Better Way," "I Will Follow Your Voice" and the beautiful tapestry "Unbelievable." Germain said, "I write on the piano and it just feels natural (to write ballads). I love songs that are up tempo and rock and roll but my vocal style doesn't lend itself to writing with an electric guitar. My vocals just can't cut over top of it. When you write you want to be moved by the thing that you are writing to. When I am writing with an electric guitar and I am singing I just can't push it over the top because I don't have the range like Marc does. I think my nature is a little more subdued and classical so that is where I go."

"A Better Way" is a song that originally started out as a love song written for Germain's wife Heather. He recalled her saying selflessly, 'It is really nice and I appreciate the heart behind why you wrote the song but I think there is a better song in there. I there is a more important song than a love song to me. I think you need to rewrite it.' 

Germain continued, "I think the song "A Better Way" is the song that I have been trying to write for a long, long time. It's the Gospel. It's a love song. It has all that I want to say. I don't think that I will (ever) write another song that has that." 

At the time he was reworking the original piece, Germain was going through an Old Testament study. "I was trying to understand the heart of God and how my story intercepts it. The song talks about how God's plan couldn't be worked out in a more poetic and beautiful way than the way He did it. (The song) talks about my response to His love. The title comes from the fact His love couldn't be expressed in   "A Better Way."

The band did a three day gig in May at the Friendship Festival staged in the North African city of Marrakech Morocco. Although Downhere was one of several bands that participated in the cultural event, they were the only rock ensemble. The Moroccans speak both French and Arabic. The fact that Martel is completely fluent in French endeared the band to the estimated three day crowd of a quarter of a million people. 

Martel said the biggest difference in being at a smaller label versus a bigger one is the allocation of staff to look after the band's publicity and marketing needs. "Everybody involved with the label takes much more ownership over the artists compared to a bigger label which will have twenty or so artists. This label has three artists (Downhere, Circleslide and Jaime Jamgochian) and everyone they hire becomes an integral part of promoting us." They also responded to John Mays' challenge to raise the bar. Songs that would have appeared on previous albums just as they were submitted were sent back for rewrites.

Behind the words you sense the members of Downhere are finally home. They have found a place where they can relax and enjoy the atmosphere created by the management of their new label. "We go to John's house and watch episodes of 24 together. We also go on retreats together. I think it is turning out to be a cool family type of environment," said Lavender. 

Turning his attention to the production of Wide-Eyed and Mystified Lavender said, "We also need to give a lot of credit to a guy named Tom Laune. He did the engineering, breakdowns and mixing for the songs that we produced ourselves." Two outstanding producers Greg Collins and Mark Heimermann have their fingerprints all over this album. Of Collins Lavender said, "He came to Nashville and worked with us for most of the month of December. He mixed a couple of tunes for U2 on their last album. He was nominated for an award for work he did on the Gwen Stefani album." If that isn't enough high octane production talent Heimermann has worked with ZZ Top and Michael W Smith. "When you look at who he has worked with it is a who's who of the music industry," said Lavender. Both "The More" and "A Better Way" were produced by Heimermann. 

The band's maturity shows up in the approach they took to creating the tunes for Wide-Eyed and Mystified. "With the last CD we tried to take on a prophetic voice.  I think the way we handled it on the last album was more of a finger pointing kind of way saying, 'Hey this is what we are doing wrong. Let's try to do better. I think over the last three years we have learned to lead with our own example instead of pointing out wrongs. It is much more effective for people to follow. On this album we are presenting life from Christ's point of view and the difference he makes instead of saying you guys need to wake up," said Martel. 

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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