Tag Archives: the myriad

The BSW Raven Awards:: Where Everyone Wins!

24 Apr

Now that GMA Week is over and the Dove Awards have been handed out, I can finally announce the winners of the Backseat Writer 1st Annual Raven Awards.  Here’s the thing with the Raven Awards, if you’re nominated, you win!  Of course, our winners don’t get a cool looking-trophy (maybe next year). Heck, half of ‘em won’t even know they won a Raven Award…but that’s not really the point.

The point, dear friends, is to nominate songs that have impacted my life and the lives of those around me throughout the past year.  Whether these are artists who are making it big or who are rockin’ the indie scene, they have all been meaningful to me.

Originally, I thought it would be funny to have my own awards to rival the Doves…and what’s the opposite of a white bird of peace?  The black bird of death!  Then I thought to myself, that’s not really the message I want to send.   But then I realized why ravens are among my favorite birds.  The book of Kings speaks of the prophet Elijah’s flight into the desert when he was fleeing for his life from Queen Jezebel, who promised to kill him.  While sitting under a broom tree, God provided His messenger with food delivered to him by ravens.  In this instance, ravens were used by God to bring life to His Child, who was in a very dark place (read my post “Fed by the Ravens”).  To me, being fed by ravens is be given a message from God Himself, delivered by a third party.

Thus, these are my “Ravens.”  Feel free to nominate anyone you think deserves a BSW Raven Awards in the comments section. You can share how this artist or song has impacted you.  Sorry, I just don’t have the energy to put links to everyone–do a Backseat Writer site–chances are that I’ve written about these artists. Oh, and we definitely needed some side art; I’m not favoring the artists whose pictures appear on this post!

(Artist pics from top to bottom:: Seabird, Tara Leigh Cobble, Josh Wilson, This Beautiful Republic)

Song of the Year

“Cinderella”—Steven Curtis Chapman
“For the Life of Me”-This Beautiful Republic
“Learning How to Die”—Jon Foreman
“Don’t Wash Your Hands of Me”—Alli Rogers
“Britney”—Bebo Norman
“Savior, Please”—Josh Wilson
“Listen Up”—Brandon Heath
“Hold My Heart”—Tenth Avenue North
“Still Young”-Shirock

Male Vocalist of the Year

Bebo Norman
Jon Foreman
Josh Wilson
Brandon Heath
Fernando Ortega

Female Vocalist of the Year

Alli Rogers
Francesca Battistelli
Dawn Richardson (Fireflight)
Tara Leigh Cobble

Band of the Year

This Beautiful Republic
The Myriad

Album of the Year

Til We See The Shore—Seabird
Limbs & Branches—Jon Foreman
Empty and Beautiful—Matt Maher
Perceptions—This Beautiful Republic
Bebo Norman—Bebo Norman
Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup—Josh Wilson

If any of our winners want the world to know about his or her or their amazing award, please feel free to use this cool award jpg I designed!  It’s not a statue, but it’s pretty darn close. Congrats to all our award winners!

Take 5 with Lori Lenz of Biscuit PR

21 Apr

Even though she’s only been a full-time publicist for seven years, Lori Lenz, founder of Biscuit PR, has done it all!  A resident of the Music City, Lori divides her time between working with FrontGate Media (CreationFest, ConversantLife.com),  projects like talking about the movie To Save a Life (due out this fall), and even grassroots promotion for the Jonas Brothers movie.  In the past, Lori has been a part of movie campaigns for Charlotte’s Web, Ratatouille, Amazing Grace: The William Wilberforce Story as well as a publicist for bands such as The Myriad (read BSW’s interview), Farewell Flight, Lovedrug, and The Smoking Popes.

A neighbor's dog inspired the name & logo for Biscuit PR.

When she’s not working, she serves on the board of the non-profit Faceless International, a group that seeks to end human trafficking through action and education.  Working with Lori is a pleasure, not only because she has a lot of different types of media to promote, but because she’s always available for a little back-and-forth e-mail banter as well (off-the-clock, of course!)  Therefore, I knew that Lori would be a perfect candidate for a perfectly candid Take 5.

Why did you decide on a career in publicity?

I didn’t.  It just sort of happened.

What is unique about publicity in the Christian music industry as opposed to other areas of promotion?

I think that most of the people I work with I would actually consider my friends.  And unlike most of my friends who do regular music/film publicity, I rarely have to deal with “damage control” press and I’ve never bailed a band out of jail.

How do you go about promoting an artist that you don’t like personally or musically?

Typically I don’t take on artists that I don’t personally/musically like. I have had to in the past, and I really just do the same thing.  There are a few writers who I will immediately tell that they need to write about the project based on the merit of the project, not its coolness.  I hope my media list can tell that I am very picky about who I choose to work with!

What’s on your desk at this moment? (Don’t clean it to answer this question!)

Honestly?   Wow…a French Press of Drews Brews Ridgetop Roast Coffee, Lonely Planet Guide on Ukraine for a Faceless International trip next month, my iPod, some flowers that I bought myself, Paste Magazine, The Week, receipts to add to my taxes box, a Ben Clark CD, a Fleet Foxes CD, a list of people who write for Variety, an extra hard drive and a spool of blank CDs to back up my iTunes….I need to clean my desk obviously.

What is one misconception that people have about your job that drives you crazy?

Publicists don’t do publishing and they don’t book concerts.  This one fact boggles many.  If you want a concert booked, call a booking agent.  If you need publishing, go to a publisher.  If you want publicity, go to a publicist.  🙂

Amy’s Favorite Things (Take that, Oprah!)

13 Dec

By Amy Sondova Every year, Oprah Winfrey features a few of her favorite things on her daytime talk show (“Oprah’s Favorite Things“) and then adorns the audience with each and every one of her favorite things.  Well, I’m not Oprah, and therefore, cannot give all Backseat Writer’s readers samples of everything that I adore.  But I can tell you where to get ‘em.   Without further adieu, I bring you “Amy’s Favorite Things,” which I hope will help you as you finish shopping foryour favorite people this holiday season (and beyond.   These are timeless suggestions).

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

*Etsy.com—Have you visited this site?  It’s a entire craft show right on your computer screen with everything from Scrabble tile pendants to handcrafted shoes!  There are a plethora of cool things for guys and gals alike.  Don’t believe me, guys?  Check out some of the screen printed messenger bags and t-shirts.  There’s something for everyone, and unique is the bottom line.

*Music—Every year almost everyone on my Christmas list can expect to get a CD or two.  This year there are a few artists who are hot on my list—debut artist Josh Wilson and music veteran Bebo Norman.  Besides being two of the nicest and most open guys I’ve ever interviewed, they’re also great singer/songwriters who released albums this year.  Bebo Norman’s self-titled release, Josh Wilson’s Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup, and Jon Foreman’s Limbs and Branches are must-haves!  But perhaps you’re looking for something a little rockier, then look no further than Seabird’s ‘Til We See the Shore or This Beautiful Republic’s sophomore album, Perceptions.   If you want to support indie artists, then get lost in the vocals of Tara Leigh Cobble’s Playing Favorites or Justin McRoberts’ latest project, Deconstruction.  And here are a few more recommendations: Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie; What If We – Brandon Heath; The Nashville EP and the Bee Sides – Relient K;  Opposite Way – Leeland;  With Arrows, With Poise – The Myriad;  anything by Caedmon’s Call, Fernando Ortega, Phil Keaggy.

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

*Sock Monkeys & socks—Is it just me or are you always running out of socks, too?  Whether getting lost in the wash, stolen by a shih tzu who shall remain nameless (Maddy!), or developing ginormous holes, pairs of socks seem to lose their mate after a month or two.  Therefore, I wear a lot of mismatched socks–argyle, plaid, and all patterns funky are worn together and I become a candidate for “What Not to Wear”.  Besides becoming a fashion mishap, there are are only things to do with those single socks.  You could make sock

monkeys, of course! You don’t even have to limit yourself to monkeys, there are patterns for all kinds of creatures online (sock monster, sock owl).  Then you can sell your creations at etsy.com.  Or you could just buy a conventional sock monkey at sockmonkey.com.

*Digital Cameras—The first time I got my hands on a digital camera, I took pictures of everything in sight, and I haven’t stopped.  My first pictures weren’t that great; then again, my camera wasn’t that great.  Yet I treasure the images of my grandmother’s last Christmas with our family.  Buy yourself a camera to capture the moments that truly matter, and then buy one for someone else.  Check around for the best prices and give yourself a gift that goes far beyond an electronic device.  I highly recommend Canon cameras, but if you want to go a little cheaper, Olympus makes great cameras as well.

*Anything handcrafted by you—Maybe you’re not into making sock monkeys, but there are tons of other projects in which to immerse yourself.  Try your hand at crocheting or knitting (you can even use a knitting loom like the Knifty Knitter) and make everyone scarves, hats, and SOCKS!  (See what a valuable gift socks can be?)  You could paint a thoughtful picture or make a collage.  If you’re not crafty, melt chocolate wafers and dip some pretzels; chocolate-covered pretzels make great gifts!  If all else fails, just make your dad an ashtray like you did in kindergarten—he’ll still think it’s cute (hopefully!)

Psych - Season 2

Psych - Season 2

*Amazon.com—Free shipping on orders over $25 and books, music, and DVD’s galore.  Every year Amazon is adding to its inventory.  I check back every day to see what’s on sale so I can nab Psych Seasons 1 & 2, Bones Seasons 1-3, books like The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen, The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, the chick-lit novels of my fave fictionista, Christa Banister and those aforementioned CD’s at discounted prices.

*Ebay.com—Whatever you can’t find on Amazon.com, you can find on Ebay.  There are literally millions of treasures on this site from low, low prices on video games to truly bizarre items like vintage hand towels.  But whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it on Ebay.  You can also find a bunch of stuff you weren’t looking for, too.

*Michael’s, A.C. Moore, Joann’s—Craft stores are slashing their prices, and signing up for their e-mail newsletters allows customers to get even more coupons (especially if you don’t get them in your local newspaper).  Remember that camera I told you to buy?  You can get beautiful frames for those pics on sale at any of these stores for 40-50% off during the holiday season.  Plus, custom framing is 60% off (I say buy a frame and do-it-yourself!)  Not only that, but you can find deals on Christmas décor, craft kits for the kids, and nice gifts like candle holders and scented candles for your co-workers.  Even if you aren’t crafty, craft stores are a great place to shop for gifts.

Even though Black Friday has come and gone, you can still save money and give great presents to your loved ones…and those people you don’t really like that you still have to buy for.  We know Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but if you’re like me, you sure do like to get them (hey, I’m being honest here).  Plus, great presents show cleverness and creativity that has little to do with price and everything to do with thoughtfulness.  Our mere trinkets can never compare to the gift of God’s Son wrapped in humanity, so as we give to one another let us remember the greatest gift that mankind was ever given.

Click here to see all my my favorite things!

Event Review :: Revelation Generation Music Festival

3 Sep

By Amy Sondova Despite the threat of rain and the stifling humidity, crowds flocked to Revelation Generation, a Christian music festival featuring Chris Tomlin, Leeland, Kutless, As I Lay Dying, TobyMac, and Phil Keaggy among others.  The annual Labor Day weekend event boasts three stages named after major cities–Nashville, New York, and Philadelphia–as well as inflatables, a large picnic area, a skate park (for professionals only), food vendors, on a large farm.

Sixpence None the Richers Leigh Nash sings to an excited crowd.

Sixpence None the Richer's Leigh Nash sings to an excited crowd.

As in all music-minded festivals, the highlight of this festival was the music itself featuring everyone from Sixpence None the Richer, Matt Wertz, and even the Newsboys.  While the New York stage hosted some of the edgier bands like Norma Jean, The Myriad, and As I Lay Dying, Nashville broke it down with singer/songwriters like Phil Keaggy and Bethany Dillon.  The New York Stage functioned as a happy medium with the Robbie Seay Band, Kutless, and TobyMac.

The festival’s speakers included the indelible actor Stephen Baldwin, who is most famous for his roles in movies, BioDome and The Usual Suspects among others.  Since becoming a Christian several years ago, Baldwin has written several books including the biographical The Unusual Suspect and his latest book, The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips.

I missed Friday evening’s entertainment, which meant forfeiting a chance to see Leeland, Chris Tomlin, and Mandisa.  However, Saturday provided me with plenty of opportunities to listen, photograph, and experience the energy of some of the artists.

Matt Wertz was one of the best new talents to be found under this summers sun.

Matt Wertz was one of the best new talents to be found under this summer's sun.

After navigating country roads (and getting lost), I made it to the festival in time to catch the last half of The Myriad’s set.  While I didn’t actually get close enough to the stage to take any pictures, I can assure you that they sounded just as good live as they do on their debut album.  Deciding to take a look around the merchandise tent, I headed across the enormous festival campus.  On my trek, I spied Stephen Baldwin out of the corner of my eye, so I did what any true fan of The Usual Suspects would do—I went over and asked him for a picture (for Backseat Writer, of course!  I was only thinking of you all!)

The merch/ministry area was disappointing.  Not only was the tent crowded with tons of sweaty people, but there were at least four booths featuring pro-life merchandise!  It’s an important message; however, it seems to be a little overdone.  Besides, the commercialized Jesus junk (A Bread Crumb and Fish t-shirt anyone?), the tent had a couple of good organizations like To Write Love On Her Arms (which was surrounded by throngs of teens buying TWLOHA shirts!)  The band merch tent was half-empty and hard to navigate, but I have to give the Robbie Seay Band credit for having the best table display.

Stephen Baldwin strikes a pose as I play paparazzi.

Stephen Baldwin strikes a pose as I play paparazzi.

While eating lunch, I heard rumblings of Norma Jean in the distance, which was a little hard for my taste, but the guys had incredible stage presence.  Finally, I had a chance to check out (and photograph) some of the artists at Revelation Generation.

Not only did I get a chance to listen to the Robbie Seay Band, Kutless, and Skillet, I had a chance to check-out Matt Wertz’s live set, which was excellent.  Running about the indie circuit for years, Wertz played songs from his upcoming major label release Under the Summer Sun.

Sixpence None the Richer played during Stephen Baldwin’s talk, so I was conflicted.  However, I managed to catch both Baldwin and Leigh Nash, much preferring Nash’s ethereal vocals over Baldwin’s forceful (bordering on obnoxious) message.

Phil Keaggy moves so fast that its almost impossible to catch him on digital imagery.  That and the lighting was poor.

Phil Keaggy moves so fast that it's almost impossible to catch him on digital imagery. That and the lighting was poor.

Then I caught the jewel of the festival, the man I really wanted to see—Phil Keaggy.  Having seen him perform once before, I knew he was not to be missed, and wow, was I right!  With ease, Keaggy masterfully strums and finger picks and uses pedals and melodic loops to create a piece of music that amazes the audience.  It seems that Keaggy’s made close to 50 albums because he savors the opportunity to play guitar and sing.  He’s having such a grand time on stage, it’s impossible not to join in his fun.

All in all, Revelation Generation is a good festival, whose attendance is growing every year.  However, the high prices by food vendors (and the inability of attendees to bring in so much as a bottle of water) put a bit of a damper on the fun.  Also, including more female and indie artists would add more flair to the festival.

Even more photographs from Revelation Generation…

The Myriad: Musical and Spiritual Archery

22 May

By Amy Sondova Like a stealthy archer ready to take a clean shot with an arrow at the right moment, so was The Myriad with the creation of their latest album With Arrows, With Poise (KOCH). After winning the MTV2 “Dew Circuit Breakout” in December, the band’s May release was food for a public ravenous for more of The Myriad.

Working in reverse, The Myriad actually came up with the title for the album before actually crafting the songs. The band composed of Jeremy Richardson (lead vocals, guitar), John Roger Schofield (bass), Steven Tracy (guitar, keys), Jonathan Young (guitar, cello bow), and Randy Miller (drums) went into the studio with the concept of artistic storytelling through music in their minds. After a year of unexpected ups and down, the recording was a pivotal moment for The Myriad.

“It felt like we needed to take a moment and decide what it was that we needed to do. We identified with the archery metaphor—where everything must be very precise and accurate. You have one moment to take that shot and you’re doing it with poise in-between your own heartbeats and breaths. It was that idea; this is the moment that we really have to capitalize on, this is what we have to do. That set the tone for the whole album,” passionately shares Steven Tracy.

“A Clean Shot”, the first single and music video from the album, was also the song The Myriad sang live in the TRL studios in the heart of New York City’s Times Square upon winning MTV2’s contest. “The weird part is that there was this giant screen in Times Square right behind us, so as I’m playing, sometimes I’d turn around and see myself on this huge screen outside the studio and everyone’s watching it. That’s when it became real,” shares Steven.

The first time the band arrived in New York City (after driving all night) Steven and band mate Jonathan Young were so excited, they couldn’t sleep. In the early morning hours while the rest of the band slept, the two walked around Central Park. “New York City is like Christmastime on the sun,” laughs Steven. Mentioning that he loves the smell of hot roasted peanuts, Jonathan says, “We love New York City. It’s a town that can treat you really well or spit you out if it doesn’t want you there.” It seems that New York City is treating these Seattle natives just fine.

Describing “A Clean Shot” as the pop song of the album, Steven says that it was a happy coincidence it fell into the archery theme. Even though the band can’t actually use a bow and arrow, Steven and Jonathan noted Robin Hood as their favorite archer, suggesting that Cary Elwes’ portrayal in the spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights is far superior to Kevin Costner’s movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. “He started with a pseudo-British accent and was in a Kevin Costner accent by the end of the movie,” notes Steven.

Archery wasn’t the only things on the minds of the The Myriad as they recorded; they were also deeply enthralled with the mystery of God and the supernatural. The piano-driven melody “Forget What You Came For” is a song urging to abandon their personal agendas as they come before God. “It’s sort of a call to clear your mind and wait and see what comes of it, letting God reveal Himself to you in a new way,” says Steven, then adding, “If we really allow ourselves to ponder the complexity of God and the mystery of God, it brings us into a different level of fear and awe.”

Choosing to go on the wildly popular ghost tour, the minds of the band members began spinning as they visited the battlefields in Gettysburg, PA. Creatively considering the unseen spiritual reality through the song “Holiest of Thieves,” Steven explains, “A lot of times we create scenarios as a band and think, ‘What if aliens are actually angels? And what if they’re visiting us and it’s a supernatural thing we don’t understand?’”

“The album has this theme of the supernatural—what we don’t know. We allow ourselves to have that question mark. It’s allowing ourselves to say, ‘God, you’re a mysterious God and I can’t figure You out. I want a God that’s bigger than I can imagine,” elaborates Steven, who uses the beginning lyrics from “A Thousand Winters Melting” as an example. “Maybe the streets are full of angels dancing by my side. It’s cool to let your imagination go. There’s no black and white in how this all plays out.”

Not only did the band explore unearthly realms, The Myriad crafted an album that went beyond just guitar, bass, and drums. “This particular album was heavily influenced by film, movie scores, and soundtracks. The album ended up being dramatic and theatrical with big, epic moments in songs. It definitely has a theatrical flair,” shares Steven. The biggest change for the band was incorporating more keyboards into their songs.

Jonathan also used a cello bow on his guitar explaining, “I saw some old footage of Jimmy Page (co-founder of Led Zeppelin) doing it, so I thought I’d try it out.”

The album swells and pulls back at the proper moments to induce a magnified emotional impact. Then again, the band did have three to four versions of each song they worked on while in the studio in order to achieve the musical mastery brought forth in With Arrows, With Poise.

Used to playing in general market clubs, The Myriad is carving out a little niche of their own in the music industry, one that encompasses excellence in musical art for both Christian and non-Christian audiences. While the band has also toured with David Crowder Band, Third Day, and Eisley, they have been more closely compared to Radiohead, mewithoutyou, The Who, and Coldplay.

“We just try to speak to the world. We’re not speaking to any particular group of people, whether it be lyrically or just hanging out. When Jesus Christ came down, He was hanging with everyone. It didn’t matter what your economic status, your background, whether you were part of the government or not, whether you were a Pharisee or a Sadducee, He just wanted to hang with people because He loved them,” says Jonathan.

In fact, the band itself marvels how God can be so powerfully praised through a secular song, “The first time I listened to ‘OK, Computer’ (Radiohead) I felt like I was sitting in the throne room of heaven. God revealed Himself to me in a way that I have never experienced before,” shares Steven. “Of course, the band probably didn’t have that agenda for the listener, but God is bigger than what we set out to do, something for which I am immensely grateful.”

Generally frustrated with the market distinction between Christian and secular music, Jonathan says, “I love go to into museums, whether the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) in Boston or the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC). When you look at a piece of art, like a painting or a sculpture, you’re mesmerized that this kind of beauty can exist in this life. Most people don’t say, ‘I wonder if he’s a Christian’ or ‘I wonder what his belief system is.’ They’re just enjoying that piece of work right there as it is. It makes me wonder why in music there’s a different set of guidelines.” He sighs and goes on to say that it’s human nature to nomenclature everything and urges people to utilize their critical thinking skills.

Whether sharing the stage with Third Day or Mutemath, The Myriad lets their lives and lyrics do the speaking, as well as their personal interactions with fans. “People ask us, ‘How does your faith play into your music?’ For us, it’s like, how does it not? We’re believers and we’re just making the best art that we know how to make, and of course, our beliefs are going to come out in different ways. It may not be the conventional ways,” elaborates Steven. “We just want to make good music. Our responsibility is to make the best art that God has gifted us to make. His glory will shine through that sort of thing.”

Print copy of interview.

Maybe MySpace Isn’t *THAT* Bad…

19 Dec

Even though I much prefer Facebook over its competitor, MySpace, I’ve found myself hanging out on MySpace lately. Here’s why:


1. I like to check out bands and on MySpace, you can easily listen to their songs. Some debut bands I’ve been enjoying on MySpace include The Myriad and Fort Pastor. Plus, David Klinkenberg has this fantastic song called “Toss the Feathers”, which I can only listen to on his MySpace profile.

2. Some old pals have been sending me messages on MySpace. In order to write back, I have to actually be on MySpace. And of course I want to write back because they’re my old friends and it’s exciting to hear from them again.

3. I like to read the profiles of fictional characters. That’s right Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster from the USA Network show, “Psych“, have MySpace Profiles. Not only did I ask them to be my buddies, they’re numbers two and three on my “Top Friends” list. Because you should always put fake characters in front of people you know in real life.

Yeah, and I also like to read their blogs. The scariest part is that I’m not the only one. Seriously, there are people who leave comments for these guys. Like the other day it was Shawn’s 31st birthday–hundreds of people wished him a happy birthday. He’s not real! Yet Shawn and Gus have over 5000 friends! I’m not sure if it’s sad or scary. I’ll go with funny.

“Hope is a thing with feathers”

AS AN ASIDE: One of the reasons I like David Klinkenberg’s song “Toss the Feathers” so much is because I rather enjoy feathers, so much so that I have a cockatiel, who has feathers. I believe it started in college with my one English lit professor. I had a black sweater that had frilly feathers around the neckline and sleeves. Whenever I wore it she would say to me, “Emily Dickinson said, ‘Hope is a thing with feathers.'” By the end of my undergraduate schooling, I’d quote Emily D. at her when I saw her coming. Now when I see feathers, I think of hope…Emily Dickinson…and my English lit professor, who resembles author Ann Lamott. I can still see her leaning against the wall of the liberal studies building wearing a long black dress and smoking a cigarette. Man, I miss college.

Here’s Emily Dickinson’s poem about hope & feathers:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

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