Late on Saturday afternoon June 22nd, 2013 at the WFRN Friend Fest, I was walking in the grassy area back stage looking for former Newsboy Phil Joel, who I had inadvertently lost in the process of interviewing him. (I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Beth, how does this stuff always seem to happen to you?’ I don’t know. It just does. Perhaps I may have offended Mr. Joel when I jokingly asked him if he used to be a member of the band Finding Favour because of his accent. Technically, if this did happen to be the case, it would be Allen from Finding Favour’s fault because it was his idea and he sort of put me up to it. Granted, it was epically funny, but technically…not my fault.)
Anyways, directly to my left, I see a guy walk out from between two tour buses parked nearby heading towards the stage. He was wearing a hat, but I was quickly able to ascertain this guy was definitely not Phil Joel (read: no flowing locks of blonde curly hair.)
Upon closer inspection, I realized that (holy cow!) the guy in the hat walking right next to me was none other than Mr. tobyMac!
So, I did what any other respectable, well-spoken, award-winning journalist and Christian music blogger would do in a similar situation…I said the very first thing that popped into my head.
“Hey! You’re tobyMac!”
I know, genius, right?
“Yeah, I am,” tobyMac said, laughing and extending his hand.
I introduced myself, and realized I had about 15 seconds to pump Mr. Mac for a quote about Finding Favour, a band I had interviewed earlier in the afternoon that is signed to his Gotee Records label.
As I started talking, I turned to walk backwards so I could face tobyMac. Since I can barely walk without tripping while moving face forward, this proved not to be one of my better ideas.
“Uh, you might want to watch out there—“ said tobyMac, nodding in the general vicinity behind me.
“Huh?” I replied, turned around, and walked head first into the loading dock ramp behind the stage.
I was seeing stars alright, and I’m not referring to tobyMac.
“That’s gonna leave a mark,” he said, inspecting my forehead.
Indeed, it did. (Granted, it also gave me the perfect opportunity for the next 3 days to tell everyone who commented on the jumbo-sized lump on my head how I, for lack of better choice of words, ran into tobyMac over the weekend.)
“Yeah, so about Finding Favour,” Mr. Mac said once it was established that one big knock on my hard head wasn’t going to deter me from my primary objective of getting him to talk about Finding Favour, “they wrote the song Slip on By. I walked in the studio, and I was moved; moved so much that I wanted to live differently. That’s the kind of song these guys are delivering. They’re a band with heart that I really believe in.”
Even after sustaining a semi-traumatic head injury, I was pretty confident that with an endorsement like this from a musical guru like tobyMac, anything I would have to say about Finding Favour on my blog would be kind of a moot point.
Not that that’s going to stop me from trying!
Just a few hours earlier, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to interview Finding Favour due to a series of unfortunate circumstances that led to having to cancel our scheduled morning appointment.
Truth be told, I wasn’t even entirely sure I wanted to interview Finding Favour.
Even though the band’s publicist assured me that the band is, and this is a direct quote, “the nicest bunch of guys ever!”, a publicist telling me that (at least in my mind) is roughly equivalent to being told by my dentist that having my wisdom teeth removed “won’t hurt a bit” (for the record, it did hurt. A lot.)
Sometimes, publicists and dentists tell the truth and sometimes, they just have a job to do. You never really know which situation you’re in until it’s over.
What I did know is this: Finding Favour is composed of four guys from Georgia, Blake NeeSmith on lead vocals and guitar, Allen Dukes on vocals and guitar, Dustin Daniels on vocals and guitar, and Josh Duckworth on drums.
That in itself isn’t too intimidating, but the rest of what I knew from my research was on the intimidating side. The band has a stellar pedigree, from having tobyMac as one of their biggest fans and supporters, to working with legendary producer Christopher Stevens, who has worked with (no surprise!) tobyMac, Sanctus Real, and Mandisa. (The band also works with that previously mentioned publicist, who, in my opinion, is a rock star in her own right; but, I’m not naming any names. She knows who she is!)
The band’s music, I knew from my own personal experience, is so good it made my own family and friends turn into a band of thieves. (To read that whole story, click here).
Then, there’s Finding Favour’s image. If you aren’t familiar with how the band is styled for the cover of their EP, I would suggest you go google Finding Favour now and click on images. They have this ultra-cool urban cowboy meets modern hipster look going on, and as if that wasn’t intimidating enough, I was embarrassingly envious of their very fabulous hair.
I mean, really, it’s just not fair for a bunch of guys to have hair that looks that good in pictures all the time.
For sure, before I ever even met Finding Favour, I was willing to bet the farm that these guys will be the next BIG thing in Christian music—they’ve got the entire package, from an appealing style and charming stage presence (Southern accents? Is that really necessary in addition to everything else they’ve got going on in their favour? 🙂 ) to a dynamic, robust sound that crosses musical genres and appeals to every generation.
Yet, after meeting Finding Favour, I’m no longer willing to just bet the farm that these guys are going to make it big.
In fact, I’m praying in earnest that they’ll make it big.
Finding Favour truly has a message that needs to be heard, and for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, I believe they have exactly what it takes to go out there and share it with the masses.
When Blake, Allen, and Dustin arrived at my air-conditioned RV oasis for our rescheduled interview that afternoon, at first glance I thought there must have been some mistake.
Gone was the urban cowboy meets modern hipster cover model look, replaced by simplistic dark t-shirts and faded denim.
The collective hair of the band was, thankfully, normal looking guy hair.
The guys looked tired, but surprisingly happy.
I started out by telling them how I came to be acquainted with their music (to read the full story, click here).
Immediately, Blake’s eyes brightened. “You wrote that? I remember reading that! I normally don’t read those reviews, but I really liked that one. I enjoyed how you told a story and made it interesting. That’s just like how you write a good song, by telling a story,” he said.
I had never thought about it that way, but it made sense to me.
Next, the band talked about how they got their start. All of the members grew up in the south in Christian homes. Blake travelled and sang southern gospel music with his family as a youngster and Allen attended a small church, where he actively participated in mission trips and worked towards becoming a leader in the church. Dustin grew up a little further south than the others, spending 13 years in Chile with his missionary parents before returning to the US after graduating from high school. Josh, the band’s drummer, started playing on his first drum kit at 6 years old, and began playing for worship for his father’s worship team when he was 9.
From these similar but diverse places, the Lord started leading the Finding Favour guys together to the same place; first, Blake and Allen met at a local church and began collaborating on songs and ideas for a band. Then, when Dustin returned to the US from Chile, lo and behold he ended up at the same church as Blake and Allen, and soon after joined the band on the bass. The last to join the band was Josh, who had previously freelanced as a musician for other bands in Nashville.
“When we started out, we asked ourselves a lot of questions,” said the amiable Blake of the band’s roots. “What kind of band do we want to be? Do we want to be a cool band with cool lyrics and a cool vibe, or do we want to write lyrics that come from the heart of God?”
“We really feel called to be musical missionaries,” interjected the affable Allen, and Blake and Dustin nodded in agreement.
“Our music comes from experiences we’ve had in our lives, from people we’ve met,” said Blake. “We want to be able to share our faith, share that we’ve been lucky enough to have the people around us say ‘Hey, you don’t have to be perfect to be loved.’ We want to share with others that our relationship with Christ didn’t just happen in a day. It takes time to grow and find that genuine relationship with Him.”
The more time I spent with Finding Favour that Saturday afternoon, the more I came to see how central the word genuine is to everything they’re about as a band.
“We want to write songs that reflect God’s heart,” reflects Blake. “That’s really who we want to be. There’s nothing that we can do to encourage people that will encourage them in the same way they will be encouraged when it comes from His heart.”
The band’s debut single, the song ‘Slip on By’, has been touching listeners since it was released earlier this spring with its compelling, heartfelt lyrics paired with Blake’s stirring vocals.
The idea for the song originally came from a conversation Blake had with his grandfather on a fishing trip. “Grandpa and I were sitting in the boat and he had tears in his eyes,” said Blake gently. “He said ‘Son, I lost my wife when she was only 53. I lost my son at a young age. Looking back now I wish there was so many things I would have done differently. More than anything I wish I could hold my wife. I wish I could tell my son just how much I love him. But I can’t do anything about that now. What I can do is tell you to love your family with all your heart. Tell your friends about Jesus Christ because we’re not promised tomorrow. We’re not promised our next breath. What we have is right now. Don’t let a single moment slip on by.’”
Listening to Blake tell this story, I am struck by both how sincere and genuine he is. The same can be said for his friends Allen, Dustin, and Josh, who had since joined the fun.
I really had these guys pegged all wrong, I thought to myself.
They aren’t about making a fashion statement, or sporting fabulous hair.
Yes, they are sort of about the music, but it occurs to me that the song ‘Slip on By’ is more than just a song to this quartet from Georgia.
This is actually how they are striving to live their lives, from moment to moment, day-to-day.
This is how they can look tired, and still be smiling and happy as a clam at high tide.
Finding Favour is living the dream and not about to let a single moment slip on by.
In the process, I have a feeling these guys are going to shake the world. 🙂
Oh, and in case anyone wondered…I did eventually find Phil Joel, and he’s totally fine. (He thought the whole “Finding Favour accent thing” was hilarious, too.)