Archive for the ‘Featured Musician’ Category

Featured Musician: Sam Fisher

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Musician:Sam Fisher


Twitter: SamFisherJr.

Life is Music: Tell us about yourself.

Sam Fisher:
I’m a second generation musician to a horn player and gospel singer. I’ve been involved in music in some form or another for most of my life. I’m currently living in Durham NC with my wife Natasha and my daughter Emma (5). We are expecting our second
daughter Addison this month. I am one of the worship leaders at The Summit Church
here in RDU. During the week, I work for Yep Roc Music Group and independent
record label.

LiM:When did you first get involved in the music industry? How are you currently involved in the music industry?

My first instrument was the saxophone back when I was 10 years old. From there
I learn some piano, finally settling on the guitar in college. I began touring in 1994
while still in college releasing my first record in 1995. Since that time, I’ve released
eight other records selling over 30,000 units worldwide. Ive got a collaboration with a
trip hop group (fleau pronounced “flow”) that I’ll be releasing late fall. A fourth Sam
Fisher album is in the very early stages of development and could be release mid 2011.

I’ve also begun the transition to “the other side of the desk” by founding a label
administration and event production company called Lucas Gambit. We’ll provide
assistance to newly formed labels in the areas of accounting, distribution and project
management. Lucas Gambit’s event company specializes in concert and festival
production that provides turn-key solutions for companies looking to produce music
events. We’ve also spun off a non-profit organization called Remix 919 that provides
financial assistance for music instruction (lessons, instruments, etc) for under-privileged
youth in RDU.

LiM: What instruments do you play? List your gear.

I play electric and acoustic guitar and bass guitar. I’ve got a pretty basic electric rig
because Im a bit of a minimalist believing that great tone begins and ends with the guitar
and the amp. Ive got a vintage American Fender Mustang that’s been modified with
humbucker pickups in the neck and bridge. My second electric is a Fender Stratocaster
reissue. I play through Rivera Chubster 40 tube amp. For pedals I have an OCD
overdrive, Deluxe Memory Boy, a modified Russian Big Muff and a Robert Keely Boss
Blues driver.

LiM: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Growing up I listen to all of the R&B greats, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Marvin
Gaye, Bill Withers as well as gospel legends Larnelle Harris and Commissioned. Of
the current generation of artists, I’m all over the map drawing inspiration from Israel
Houghton, Switchfoot, Phil Wickham, and Fred Hammond. On the mainstream side,
I lean more adult alternative pop (Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Seal) and R&B crossover
(John Legend, D’Angelo).

LiM: You have just recorded a new album entitled “From Age to Age”. Can you give us
some insight into the concept of this album?

“From Age to Age” is inspired by Psalm 145:3-7 that basically proclaims that the Lord
is great and is to be praised from generation to generation. As a father and a Christian,
I personally believe that I am called to declare God’s greatness to the next generation,
my children included. Knowing that my career is in its later years, I want to take every
opportunity to proclaim the glory of God including my music.

On a personal note, the album almost chronicles my surrender to God and the Jesus’
call to “deny myself and follow Him”. The songs follow the path of the call, revelation
and complete surrender to this call. After spending the better part of my 15 year career
releasing music that glorified me, Im announcing to this generation and the generations to
follow that I live, breathe and sing to glorify the risen savior Jesus Christ.

LiM: Where did you record this album and who helped with creating the album?

I reached out to an old, dear friend of mine Dan Hannon who is best known for his work
with Manchester Orchestra (Columbia) and Aaron Shust (Brash). He and I go way
back to our touring days, so when I called and explained the vision of the album and the
church he didn’t hesitate to helm the project and produce it.

I leaned heavily on another great friend and songwriter Jonathan Welch who is the Multi-
Site Worship Director at Summit. Welch is a multi-instrumentalist who just so happens
to have a Masters of Divinity so he brought a great deal to the table in crafting these
tunes. We also co-wrote a tune with Centricity artist Matt Papa who recently joined
Summit as a worship leader.

LiM: I’m always intrigued by the musician’s choice for the first track of an
album. Why did you choose to start this album with “Taking Up My Cross”?

I wanted the disc to mirror my journey to complete surrender to God. The opening line
of the song says: “when You call, You bid me come and die that I might find true life
only in you”. “Taking Up My Cross” is my declaration that Im all in. The album is
basically bookended by Taking Up My Cross and another tune “All I Seek” in which
the last words the listener will hear me sing are: “my one desire: to dwell in Your house

LiM: This album is being released under Summit Worship. Tell us about Summit Worship
and how you came to the decision to release the album under Summit Worship.

Summit Worship’s vision is to raise up a new crop of worship leaders and songwriters
who contribute expositional worship music that engages culture. We want to faithfully
speak the truth while keeping the songs congregational. Summit has a wealth of talented
singer-songwriters and worship leaders who basically didn’t have a platform to release
music. My prayer is that this record will be the catalyst for building that platform as all
of the proceeds will fund future projects and artist development at Summit.

LiM: Is there a tour planned to promote this album? If someone would like to book you for
an event, who should they contact?

There are conversations taking place concerning a tour but they are in the early stages. If they would like to book me, they can contact:

LiM: It’s fun to learn what other musicians are listening to. What are the last 5 albums
that you’ve purchased?

Hmmm…let’s see. In no particular order:
Jesus Culture-“We Cry Out”
Switchfoot-“Hello Hurricane”
30 Seconds to Mars-“This is War”
The Raconteurs-“Consoler of the Lonely”
Incognito-“Tales from the Beach”

Big thanks to Sam for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. If you live in the RDU area, you should make your way to The Summit Church on Friday Sept. 17th for the release show of “From Age to Age”. Click Here for more information.


Featured Musician: Josh Via

Musician: Josh Via


Twitter: joshvia

Life is Music (LiM): Tell us what you do for a living.

Josh Via (JV): In a nutshell I get to proclaim the Gospel through word and song and I get to help lead people to the throne of God through the median of musical worship.  I get to write songs to and about my great God.  And I get to travel to places both far and near to spread the great news that Jesus saves.

More specifically, I am connected to Journey Church here in Raleigh, NC as the worship pastor and an artist-in-residence.  Journey has been such a life-line for Tasha and me.  We began praying almost two years ago to find a church where we could serve regularly in a worship leading role, but where we also had the freedom to travel, leading worship for camps, conferences, churches, events, etc.—essentially being sent out from a home church.  And we found all of that and more in Journey Church.  Through some God-ordained circumstances, we moved from Charlotte to Raleigh back in October 2009 to make Journey our home.

We continue to travel about two weekends out of the month as Josh & Tasha Via Ministries, a non-profit ministry we founded almost 4 years ago.  And I say “we” a lot because it really is a team effort.  Tasha plays the violin along side me in most cases, and is very much both the beauty and the brains of this ministry.  She takes care of the bookings, accounting, and gives a ton a spiritual guidance and direction along the way. We came under the umbrella of my dad’s ministry, Rick Via World Reach Ministries, based out of Roanoke, VA to initially begin helping new church plants get their worship ministries off the ground.  Since then, the Lord has allowed us to continue to expand our ministry in various ways a little each year, and we’re incredibly grateful for that. (By the way, Tasha has a killer blog.  Check it out.)

LiM: List your gear. (you can also include what you use to record at home).

JV: Up until about 5 years ago, I was pretty much an acoustic guitar player solely.  But during my stint in Charlotte playing with a bunch of killer musicians, I branched out and began trying to hone in my skills a little better on the electric guitar as well.   The picture here is pretty much all the gear that I typically use on any given weekend.  My primary acoustic guitar is a Taylor 410-CE.  My electric is a Fender Telecaster (Nashville Tele).  My modest pedal board that sits on the PedalTrain Pro rack consists of 3 overdrives, Blues Driver Keeley mod, SD-1 Cheeseblocks mod, and Fulltone GT-500.  My two delays are the TC electronics Nova Delay that is great for live settings with 9 presets, and the Line 6 DL4.  I’ve also got the Electro-Harmonix Holy Stain reverb pedal and a little LPB-1 gain boost in front of the SD-1.  For my acoustic I’ve got the industry standard L.R. Baggs para-acoustic d.i. and in front of that I’ve got an Aphex Big Bottom that adds some nice crispness to the tone.  I’ve got everything running through the Boss Tuner and volume pedal and then into the Morley AB switcher box so that I can simply and easily use 1 tuner and 1 cable for both guitars.

My primary amp right now is a 1964 Fender Pro Reverb passed down to me from Tasha’s grandpa from Denver, CO about a year ago.  He had it in his closet for years and was recently moved to a nursing home and wanted me to have it.  With some TLC from Paul Gussler of Oldfield amps in Charlotte, this puppy is sounding really nice.  I’ve also got a Fender Blues Deluxe that I sometimes play, but recently we’ve been running Tasha’s violin through it, and it sounds great.  When she’s not playing through the amp, she also uses an L.R. Baggs d.i. along with a volume pedal and the new Cathedral reverb pedal by Electro-Harmonix that sounds really, really nice.

For demo recording at home, I’ve got a little Tascam 2488 that is all-the-time offered in Musician’s Friend mag.  I got it about 5 years ago with the package deal of speakers, mics, cables, etc. It’s been such a great tool for getting quick, great-sounding demos.  It was just a good move for me because I’m not very savvy with ProTools or any software-based recording systems. For me, I like the old-fashioned faders, knobs and switches, especially since I’m not trying to record my own albums … just demos.

LiM: Who would you consider to be some of your greatest musical/vocal influences?

JV: You know, as a kid, I guess I would say that I was pretty sheltered and naïve when it came to music…  Not because my Baptist parents were overly-strict or overbearing.  Not at all.  I guess I just naturally gravitated toward the type of music that they listened to in our home.  So, I grew up on guys like Keith Green, Larry Norman, Matthew Ward and the Second Chapter of Acts, Lenny LeBlanc, Randy Stonehill and all those dudes that got saved out of the Jesus Movement.  Since my mom and dad were essentially saved during that era as well, that’s what filled our home most days.  I can remember my dad getting a new worship cassette tape in the mail every month from Maranatha! Music and that’s the kind of stuff that permeated our home.  Maybe that’s how I ended up in worship music.  Who knows.  Later in college, I picked up other interests and was drawn heavily to the indie rock scene, especially emo—bands like Brandtson, The Appleseed Cast, Cool Hand Luke, Elliot and others.  In the last 5 years bands and artists like Wilco, Pete Yorn, Sufjan Stevens and others have peppered my tastes a good bit and perhaps have helped to shape, in some minute way, my creative thinking.

LiM: Tell us about the “All That Glitters” album that was released last year.

JV: ATG was a concept that my dad had for a while as a tool to help get the Gospel into people’s hands that would be non-threatening and hopefully not end up in a trashcan somewhere like most Gospel tracts and pamphlets.  I’d like to think that it’s a pretty unique and unorthodox (not a theological reference) way of getting the Gospel to people.  The CD includes 6 song tracks and 7 spoken word tracts all weaved and intertwined together so that it takes the listener on a bit of a journey—hopefully toward a relationship with Christ.  My dad, who is a gifted preacher/teacher and passionate about helping people come to faith in Christ, did all of the spoken word tracks while I was responsible for the musical side of things.  You can check out for more information.

LiM: You also just released “The First, The Last” this past April. What is the concept behind this album?

JV: Honestly, there really was no great deal of thinking or over-araching concept or goal involved in this album.  Basically, when we set out to record the 6 tracks for ATG last summer, we got in the studio and realized we had enough material for a full-length album. So, we initially tracked 8 tunes for ATG and chose 6 for that project.  Then tracked 4 more over the next few months to top off the record.  Thematically, salvation/redemption is a big idea since half the songs were on ATG, an evangelistic project at its core.  And then, the others we chose just seemed to fit pretty well with that one big idea.  I’ve always loved “When God Ran” since I was a kid and initially wanted it to be on ATG, but cut it later on for lack of coherence with the rest of the project.  Then brought it back for TFTL.  “People of the Light” was a last-minute addition, but one that I’ve received the most positive feedback from.  It’s just me and Tasha and Scott Spruill on light keys and textures.  I wrote it just days before the final mixes were completed as God had been dealing with my own heart about growing a backbone and making a fresh stand for Christ.  I’m thankful it made the album in time.

LiM: “The First, The Last” has a good combination of hymns and original songs. Where do you find the inspiration to write your original songs?

JV: It sounds trite and unoriginal, but honestly it mostly comes through my early morning times with Jesus in His Word.  That’s primarily where I receive the most inspiration for tunes.  Other times, it comes through hanging out with other writers who are passionate followers of Christ and who seem to always have a new song in their heart.  My buddy, Andy Cherry, from Charlotte is one of those guys.  He’s phenomenally gifted and the Lord is using him in a big way in that area.

LiM: I like the arrangements on “The First, The Last”. Do you arrange your songs, or do you get help from others? (If other people help you out, here’s your chance to give some shout outs).

JV: Once again, I have to give a lot of credit to Andy.  He’s an amazing arranger.  He just hears that stuff in his head that other people can’t hear.  And in all honestly, all the dudes on this record (Scott Spruill, Tim Morrison, and Stuart Clark) helped tremendously with great ideas for the arrangements.  Most of the time I would come to a rehearsal with a pretty good idea of how I wanted it to sound, and many times they bought in right away.  Other times, they would suggest another route and I would like that better.  (A perfect example is the album title track “The First, The Last” – Originally I wrote it in 6/8 time with a bunch of convoluted lyrics and some dumb melodies that included a completely unnecessary Flat 7.  The guys looked at me like, “Seriously?!” And about an hour later, we had the framework for the updated and much better edition of the “The First, the Last.”) TFTL was definitely a collaborative effort, for sure.

LiM: What are the last 5 albums that you have listened to?


Thad Cockrell – “To Be Loved”

Johann Johannsson – “Fordlandia”

Jonsi and Alex – “Riceboy Sleeps”

Paper Tongues – self-titled

Phil Joel – “Deliberate Kids” (Ha! I’m a dad!)

LiM: As a musician, what do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?

JV: I’d love to continue writing, creating and recording with the hopes of taking more baby steps toward becoming a better artist, writer, musician, worship leader and toward making better records.  I’ve said before that “getting signed” has never been my goal.  And that’s the truth.  I could care less about notoriety or recognition. But, I would be lying if I said that it never crosses my mind, especially in the sense that I would love to think that maybe God might see fit to one day give our music a wider audience with which to both reach people with the Gospel and to encourage and edify His people in local communities of believers.

LiM: You have a wife that plays the violin and three children, any chance there will be a Josh Via Family Band in the future?

JV: That’s without question.  I’ve already mentioned a little bit about Tasha. She is vitally connected to our music ministry.  I can honestly say I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without her.  Areyna, our oldest and only daughter (so far), just turned five.  She is showing a lot of interest in singing, in piano, and in violin, although her primary insterest at this point involves dresses and make-up! Ezekiel, our 4-year-old son, has music flowing through his veins.  He of course gravitates toward guitar, but shows an interest (and that’s an understatement) in any and every instrument he finds.  He has the best vocal pitch of any 4-year-old I’ve ever met, and is constantly studying what happens on stage at our rehearsals.  He then comes home and mimicks everything he just saw.  His memory for music is impeccable—all the way from melodies, to lyrics, to … you name it.  I guess I’m a little biased, but it’s true.  Micaiah just turned 10 months and it’s still too early to tell, but I can almost guarantee music is in his blood.  So … yes, the Josh Via Family Band is very much in the works!

Thanks to Josh for taking a lot of time into putting these responses together. Go out and buy “The First, The Last”. It’s available on both iTunes and AmazonMP3 .

Featured Musician: Mike Passaro

May 11, 2010 2 comments


Twitter: mikepassaro

Life is Music (LiM): What Instruments do you play?

Mike Passaro (MP): Acoustic guitar, rhythm electric, and drums.

LiM: List Your Gear.

MP: In drum world, I play a 4 pieceTaye TourPro birch kit. I use a standard 22×18 kick with a 10×8.5 rack tom and a 16×16 tom on the bottom. I go back and forth on snare between a Taye Stainless 14×5 and the TourPro birch 14×6.5 drum. I also have a 8×8 rack tom that I use for small sets or small rooms. Sometimes I’ll convert the 16×16 into a bass drum and use the 8×8 and 10×8.5 for a tighter sound…

I’m playing a 21″ K Constantinople Big Band Ride, 18″ 2002 Paiste Crash, 16″ Zildjian K Dark Custom Crash, and 14″ K Constantinople hats.

In acoustic guitar world, my primary guitars are a Gibson J45 and a Breadlove Focus (both have lr baggs pickups) played through my Avalon U5 preamp. I also have a Takamine EAN10c and a Guild D25.

Electric world is newer to me, but I play either an American Tele (thanks James) or Epiphone Sheraton II w/Bigsby through a Fender Blues Jr. My pedal board is a work in progress (props to PedalTrain). My current signal chain is MXR Custom Comp, Fulldrive, VP jr, DD-20, Danelectro Tremolo, to the MXR Carbon Copy.

LiM: So you play drums and guitar…which would you consider to be your strength? Why?

MP: I actually think both instruments are connected more than people think. They are both rhythm, deep pocket type instruments. You can create groove with both. You can push dynamics and mood with both. So, I’m either good at both or should find a different craft!

LiM: What do you consider to be your weaknesses as a musician?

MP: Thinking melodically. I’ve spent almost all of my musical life thinking in terms of rhythms and feel. mood. groove. I could listen to four minutes of steady pocket drumming, so that causes me to spend less time on melody, hook lines, and vocals…

LiM: How did you get involved with music?

MP: Music got involved with me. My dad was a musician in his earlier days (went to Nashville and made a record). He also had 5 kids (I’m number 2). Lots of instruments around the house, and lots of curious minds and fingers makes for a musical childhood…

LiM: Who would you consider to be your musical influences?

MP: Geeze. No one wins with this question. I leave things out. You only get a short list. Early musical life: classic rock (Zeppelin, Boston, Eagles, Journey, Queen, Beatles). Recent: Steve Smith, Joel Cameron, Steve Jordan, Jeremy Lutito, Chris McHue, MATT CHAMBERLAIN.

LiM: Tell us the last 10 albums you’ve purchased?


Andrew Peterson // “Resurrection Letters Vol. 2”

Derek Webb // “Stockholm Syndrome”

John Mayer // “Battle Studies”

Carrie Underwood // “Play On”

Keith Urban // “Defying Gravity”

Jeremy Riddle // “Full Attention”

Landon Pigg // “the Boy who Never”

Needtobreathe // “The Outsiders”

Patty Griffin // “Downtown Church”

Robbie Seay Band // “Miracle”

LiM: Describe one of your most memorable moments as a musician?

MP: I have so many great moments. Playing overseas, playing live shows with great people. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities! Favorites for me, though, are about firsts. (one of) My favorite live moment was probably my first Shelly Moore Band show. We had booked a show at the Vineyard Cafe in Raleigh, had some songs, but never really knew if anyone was actually going to show up. The place was packed. Three sets. Standing room only.

My favorite studio moment was making the first Shelly Moore Band record. It’s hard to explain how exciting it is to hear musical ideas take on life and energy.

LiM: What recording projects have you been a part of in the past?

Beloved // Live Worship Record 2003 // acoustic guitar

SMB // Self-titled 2004 // acoustic guitar, perc

Life is Precious // SMB had a cut on the compliation 2006 // acoustic guitar

Hope & Decay // SMB studio project #2 2007 // acoustic guitar, engineer

a Hymn Project // SMB hymns 2008 // acoustic & electric guitars, bgvs, co-producer, engineer

Jess  Ray // Jess Ray And The Rag Tag Army 2009 // producer, acoustic guitars, programming, engineer, arranging

On the Incarnation // Daniel Renstrom // drums, acoustic guitars, arranging

LiM: Do you have any recording projects in the works?

MP: We’re in pre-production on:
Daniel Renstrom record (possibly “on the resurrection”)
SMB studio record #3
SMB hymn project vol. 2

A special thanks to Mike for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview.

Featured Musician: J. Patrick Downing

August 31, 2009 2 comments


Twitter: JPatrickDowningPat1

Life is Music (LiM): What Instruments do you play?

Patrick Downing (PD):

  • Guitar
  • Bass
  • Piano
  • Nintendo
  • Glockenspeil
  • Mandolin

LiM: List your Gear.
PD: Guitars

  • Fender Baja Telecaster
  • Fender Fat Strat
  • Fender Classic Player Jaguar
  • Gibson Standard SG
  • Epiphone Sheraton II
  • Yamaha 12 String Acoustic

Amps (I love Fender Amps)

  • Fender Hot Rod Deville 4X10
  • Fender NOS Blues Junior
  • Fender Pro Junior
  • Fender Stage 185
  • ’73 Fender Twin

We are all pedal fanatics. There are just too many to list.

LiM: Who are bands/artists you have played with in the past and present?

PD: Silver

Dakota Darling

Shelly Moore Band

Daniel Renstrom


Chad Lister

The Mirrors

I also play a ton with churches…mostly Visio Dei and Providence Baptist Church here in Raleigh…

LiM: Tell Me a little more about Silver. How did you guys form and what does the future hold for you guys?

PD: Silver is about a year old. Brent (drummer) and I had played some music in college, but all of that pretty much stopped when he moved to Asheville after college. He moved back to Raleigh at the end of August, 2008 and we started playing again. We pretty quickly hooked up with John (bass). All three of us play at Visio Dei and it just seemed natural that we should play together outside of church. We were all dying to play some music so, I am glad that it worked out.

As far as the future, it’s hard to tell. We put out an EP in March of this year called +/- and have been fortunate enough to garner some attention with it and had some success in that some people with some influence are asking us for more. So, currently we are just doing some writing and trying to get some demo’s done for pre-production. We are going to be going into the studio this fall to cut some more tracks. So, we shall see!!

LiM: You guys have an EP out called “+/-“. Why did you decide to name it “+/-“. What else would you want the listener of this EP to know?

PD: The title “+/-“ came about at the very END of the recording process. As a band, we found ourselves writing what we perceived to be two very different kinds of songs. I love music that is uplifting and has a positive message. So a lot of the songs that I write are in that vein. But the reality is that we all struggle with things and everything in life is not as it was meant to be. So I end up writing songs about that too. I don’t want to glorify the negative stuff or anything. I just think that we should be honest with ourselves and not act like everything is perfect. SO. Basically, half of the songs on the EP are positive and uplifting and half of them are not so much. So since the EP is split into two parts (positive and negative) we felt like the title “+/-” worked really well. The lyrical content as well as the mood of the music on each half reflect that dichotomy as well.

I guess something else that I would want listeners to know about the EP is the fact that I love the song Beautiful Things. It is the first song on the EP and it’s one of my favorite songs that we have done as a band. It is just about how people (including myself sometimes…if I am honest) forget about the beauty that is all around us. We forget that all of creation shows us the glory of the Lord. So many people are looking for beauty and fulfillment in so many things that they live their whole lives and don’t notice the simple things around them that show them what real beauty is. So, I love this tune. Hope you guys do as well.

LiM: After listening to several of the tracks of the Silver album, I have come to realize that there is a very committed relationship between a Guitar Player and the Delay Pedal. Can you expound more on this relationship?

PD: HA! Yes. I do indeed love the delay pedal. Or pedals, as it were. Seems like all of my guitar wielding accomplices (James Childs, Ben Davis, Tyler Mount, etc….) love the delay pedals. So since we are constantly talking about them, we are constantly getting new ones. It’s a vicious cycle really. I love delay pedals for two reasons:

1) Delay pedals are awesome. I am really into music with lots of ambiance and atmosphere. And delay pedals provide instant forms of both. So, when I am doing lead stuff either at church or in one of the groups I play with, delay pedals provide lots of color and texture to whatever song we are playing. It’s a specific sound that seems to be popular right now and, I think, for good reason. It rocks.

2) Delay pedals take up space. This is crucial in Silver. As a three piece band, we are limited to how much sound we can make at any given time. So adding delay to whatever guitar part I am playing is HUGE (literally). It makes the part a lot bigger and makes it take up a lot more musical space. The goal is to make three people sound like five.

LiM: Give us 10 songs that some of your favorite guitar licks in them.

PD: Oh man. This is hard. Let me throw out there right away that my absolute favorite guitar play ever is Jimmy Page. My uncle Carl got me hooked on Led Zep when I was 10 or so. I have never looked back. The played ALL styles amazingly well. So, that said….

1. Led Zep – Whole Lotta Love – this is a simple guitar riff that has influences countless songs since it was recorded….
2. The Allman Brothers – Jessica – I grew up listening to this stuff. Love the ways those dudes play
3. Led Zep – Black Dog – just listen to it….
4. Muse – Knights of Cedonia….
5. U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday – the Edge finally rocks out…
6. Muse – Plug in Baby
7. Coldplay – 42 – I feel like this song was a big step in creativity for these guys and it has some great guitar work
8. U2 – The Fly
9. Collective Soul – Tremble for My Beloved – its confession time, I am a Collective Soul nut….Ross Childress is amazing!!
10. Led Zep – The Ocean….i mean….unbelievable…this song is in 15/8…

LiM:  Can you give us a glimpse of how you write music/lyrics for Silver?

PD: Well….hard to say. I am much much more of a music guy than a lyrics guy. To be honest it usually starts with some sort of drums and bass groove. And then I try to put a good melody on top of it. In general, I try to keep it simple. This could get complicated but, songs that are too simple suck. However, I think that being complex for the sake of being complex is just plain stupid. That said, understanding how to be complex is a great thing. The goal is to take something that could be complex and make it simple. That always translates better for people who don’t play music or understand it (which is most people).

Anyway, that’s usually how I think about the music. Lyrics are harder for me. I have to figure out what I want to say, which can take a while. And then I have to figure out how to say it. I feel like this just comes to a lot of songwriters, but I really have to work hard at it. As far as content, I try to write about lots of things but I feel like I end up saying the same thing a lot. I think that people just need hope. And I try to point that out in my songs. And I try to maybe steer them in the direction that I think will give it to them.

LiM: How did you get started playing guitar?

PD: Well, I took piano lessons for like 5 years before I played the guitar. So that provided some good background. But when I was about 11 or 12, my dad started teaching me how to play his guitar (he has a SICK Guild from the late 60’s or early 70’s…it’s awesome). He taught me all the basics really. Both chords and lead stuff. One good thing I learned from him was to play lots of chords that are a little more obscure. He listened to lots of stuff like Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Those cats played all kinds of whacked out chords!

But in retrospect, one of the more valuable things he taught me was to pick stuff out by ear. I used to ask him to teach me a certain song and he would sit down and “pick it out” and then teach it to me. But I can remember specifically asking him to teach me how to play Time off of Hootie and the Blowfish’s record called Cracked Rear View. But he said “Nope. You go pick it out and then show me how to play it”. If you know that song, it is a really simple guitar riff, but man, it took me hours. I eventually got it and came back and showed it to him. We were all so proud. HA! But learning how to play by ear was a huge plus.

LiM: If you came across someone who had never listened to any kind of music, what would be the first album you would recommend for this person to listen to?

PD: They should immediately go buy and listen to August and Everything After by the Counting Crows. If you are reading this and don’t know about this album you should go and do the same. It is amazing. They somehow managed to take huge rock songs, quiet folksy songs and slow groovy songs and make them all amazingly emotional. And they somehow made them one amazingly cohesive record and not just a collection of songs. Incredible. This record should get anyone started in the right direction.

LiM: What are 5 of the best concerts you have ever been to?
PD: More hard questions!! I am trying to remember ones that I have been to….In no particular order….

  • U2 – saw them on the All That you Can’t Leave Behind Tour in DC….amazing show
  • Coldplay – call me cheesy but I saw them like two weeks ago in Raleigh on the Viva La Vida Tour….they are sooo good..
  • Ryan Adams – caught him in Charleston about two years ago. The guy is so talented…
  • Radiohead – I saw them on their last tour…Johhny Greenwood is just mindblowingly creative
  • Collective Soul – more of my secret obsession. These cats put on an amazing show. they are really tight and play hit after hit after hit….


Featured Musician: Rich Biagini

August 17, 2009 1 comment


Musician: Rich Biagini

Twitter: rbiagini

Instruments: Keys and Guitar

LiM (Life is Music): What Instruments do you play?
RB (Rich Biagini): I have always been one of those people that can pick up an instrument and play it.  Please don’t take that as pretentious in any way!  I am kind of a “jack of all trades, master of none” if you will.  I had years of formal training in saxophone and voice and that has made the transition to other instruments a bit easier.  I have played guitar for a number of years as well and this is how I got my start here in Wilmington.  Funny though, after being asked to play keys at PC3 once I am only known for playing keys.  Does anyone even know that I play the guitar?  Seriously.  I really do.

LiM: List your Gear.
RB: I have lots of random stuff laying around the house.  Here are some highlights…

Yamaha Motif ES- Keyboard
Fender Telecaster- E/G
Tacoma C1C Chief- A/G
Marshal 8040

I also have the pleasure of playing a Hammond C3 and Nord Electro on a regular basis.

LiM: Has there ever been an urge to purchase a Keytar? If so, why haven’t you?
RB: Absolutely not.  This is why… .  Next question?

LiM: What would you say are some of your strengths as a musician?
RB: I think that I am very comfortable speaking the language of music.  Playing live is like having a “conversation” with the other players- sometimes you get to speak, but a good conversation involves lots of listening.  Perhaps, it is from years of playing in bands that were heavy on improvising, but I believe one of my biggest strengths is being able to listen to what is happening and find the right place for me.

LiM: What would you say are some of your weaknesses?
RB: I have not had any formal training on keys and I think that a lack of proper technique makes playing certain styles more difficult.

LiM: As a keyboard player, how do you create the sounds to compliment the song?
RB: In my opinion, my role as a keyboardist is to compliment the song by adding subtle textures and layers.  As a general rule, I don’t want people to notice that I’m there… I want them to notice when I am not.  Sonically, I try not to clash with the other instruments.

LiM: I hear that people refer to you as “Old Junes”, what does this mean and how did you get this nickname?
RB: I am big on nicknames… I like to give one to all of my friends, don’t I “Wallace“?  Old Junes is a nickname I gave myself actually one day while eating at Zaxby’s with Duane Mixon and Brooks Joyce.  It just came out, we all had a good laugh and it stuck.  I am a “Junior” and that’s where Junes came from… other than that it has no special or hidden meaning.

LiM: Do you have any negative feelings toward lead guitar players who always take the melody lines in songs?
RB: Nah, you’ve got to know your place in a song and like it or not much of today’s music is guitar driven.  I am very comfortable taking a secondary role.

LiM: Are there any high hopes that your kids will be as musically gifted as yourself?
RB: Sure, I’d love it if they were in to music as much as I am.  It would be great to be able to share that passion with them.  For me, music has opened many doors.  It has also been a great way to connect with people.  But, I think that can be true of any passion that you have.  I am sure that people who play sports would say the same thing.  So, I guess ultimately I just want them to find something that they love and then pursue it with excellence.

LiM: So you’re a Beatle’s fan? What would you say is your favorite Beatle’s album and why?
RB: Without question- Abbey Road.  It may be because it was the first album I ever listened to by them.  Nothing can ever replace your first love.  Abbey Road just has a special place in my heart I guess.

LiM: 10 of your favorite albums.
RB: This is a tough one because it seems to change all of the time.  Anyway here goes, in no particular order…

1. Neil Young Harvest
2. Counting Crows August & Everything After
3. The Beatles Abbey Road
4. Ray Charles Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music
5. Ryan Adams Heartbreaker
6. Stevie Wonder Talking Book
7. The Band The Band
8. Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
9. Death Cab For Cutie Plans
10. The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

LiM: Tell the readers one of your most memorable moments as a musician.
RB: Playing on the ShoutFest Tour was a definite highlight.  This tour was a big confidence builder and being out there felt right.  Yeah, I could do that for a living.

LiM: I noticed that at PC3, the camera guys love to get your hands in action on the keys…are there any
special workouts you do to keep those hands looking good on the big screen?

RB: I do finger lifts which work the ubulus muscle which connects to the upper dorcinus…. its boring, but its my life.

LiM: Many thanks to Rich Biagini for taking the time out of his schedule for this interview.

Featured Musician: Dave Phillippi

August 3, 2009 4 comments

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Musician: Dave Phillippi

Twitter: davephillippi

Instruments: Bass and Guitar


LiM (Life is Music): Can you list your gear?

DP (Dave Phillippi):

Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray 5
Lakland Skyline Hollowbody Fretless

Bass Amps and Cabs:
Eden WT-800 Bass Head
Ampeg 4×10 Cab (Anniversary Edition)
Hartke 2×15 Cab

Gibson Les Paul Studio
Yamaha Acoustic (I have no idea the model, I have had it since my freshman year of college)

Guitar Amp:
Gibson Blues Jr. 1×10

Pedals/Rack Gear:
Korg Rackmount Tuner
Hand built Big Muff Clone fuzz pedal
Boss OC-2 octave pedal
Boss SYB-3 bass synth pedal
Boss CE-3 chorus ensemble
Electro Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai delay/echo pedal
Boss RC-2 loop station

Digital gear:
Reason 2.5
M-Audio Oxygen 8 midi controller/keyboard
Pro-Tools 7.4
Ableton Live 7

LiM: What Recordings have you been a part of or are currently working on?

DP: Well, I have been a part of a number of recordings for the bands I was in during high school and college. I have worked on two albums (“Letting Go” and “Broken and Redeemed”) for Matt Blair, a worship leader and friend. I have been apart of two live albums for my church, Port City Community Church and have recently had the privilege of doing a bit of studio work for Lee Hester and his studio, Logan Manor Studio . That has been a huge learning experience, for sure.

LiM: What bands/artists have you been a part of or worked with now and in the past?

DP: Zamzummin (high school band with a terrible name)
Casting Shadows (college band)
Mob Boss (college band)
Matt Blair (worship leader)
Jon Senna (singer/songwriter)
Kali Jones (singer/songwriter – recording only)
Hello Vertigo (band – recording only)
Shawn Rehm (country artist – recording only)
Port City Community Church (worship band)

LiM: Who are your Musical Influences?

DP: Umm… that’s a good question. I would say Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Counting Crows, Steely Dan, Hootie and the Blowfish (they are the reason I wanted to play bass), At The Drive In, Thrice, and Stavesacre. This list really just scratches the surface. I tend to be a sucker for a great song, not just a great bass player or musician, so a lot of my influences are based off of artists that changed the way I looked at song-writing or music in general. For instance, At The Drive In opened my eyes to the fact that music can be bombastic and crazy, but still a piece of art. Amazing, amazing band (R.I.P).

LiM: What are 10 songs that have some of your favorite bass lines?


I Want You Back Amazon “I Want You Back” – The Jackson Five (What other song belongs at No. 1?)

What's Going On What's Going On “What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye (James Jamerson at his finest)
At The Moment At The Moment “At The Moment” – Stavesacre (The first song I ever heard with the bass line as the melody.)
Stare at the Sun (iTunes) Stare at the Sun (AmazonMP3) “Stare At The Sun” – Thrice (The shear complexity of this line is amazing.)
Ghost Train (iTunes) Ghost Train (AmazonMP3) “Ghost Train” – Counting Crows (The groove in this song is unbelievable.)
Omaha(iTunes) Omaha(AmazonMP3)Omaha” – Counting Crows (I could probably list this whole album.)
I Will Posses Your Heart(iTunes) I Will Posses Your Heart(AmazonMP3) “I Will Possess Your Heart”- Death Cab For Cutie (Just a great pop line.)
What Sarah Said(iTunes) What Sarah Said(AmazonMP3) “What Sarah Said” – Death Cab For Cutie (The way the line plays off the piano is great.)
Vultures(iTunes) Vultures(AmazonMP3) “Vultures” – John Mayer Trio (Pino Palladino… enough said)
Crawl(iTunes) Crawl(AmazonMP3) “Crawl” – Kings of Leon (Just dirty, rock and roll.)

LiM: Can you describe the relationship between a bass player and drummer?

DP: The bass player really is the bridge between the drummer and the melody instrument (guitar, piano, etc.). It is both a melody and a rhythm instrument and has to compliment both.  As far as the relationship with a drummer, that is a vital connection. They are dependent upon one another to gel the song together and provide a foundation for the melody instruments. They must be locked into the groove and pulse of the song together, not independently playing their own parts. They are essentially brothers in the musical world. I hope that answered your question…

LiM: I know that you work with the youth musicians at PC3…what are some of the pains and rewards that go along with your position at PC3?

DP: Well, I actually only have 1 musician who would be considered a “youth”. At Port City, we expect all of our musicians to play in any environment and do our best to prepare them to achieve that goal. So I have adults and college age kids who serve in the bands I direct as well. I think that is really one of the greatest rewards; to see that everyone is together as a worship community. There is really no difference between the guys who play for the student ministries and the people who play for “big church”. We are just one community of musicians who are using our talents to help lead God’s people in worship of Him.

The only “pain” in my position is that I am essentially a pastor to the people who serve with me and have the responsibility to watch out for their spiritual development as well as their musical development. I consider this a great honor, but I definitely am burdened for them as we all grow. Not a “pain” but definitely a great responsibility.

LiM: What is one of your most memorable moments as a musician?

DP: Probably playing with Matt Blair on the ShoutFest tour. It was my first time on the road, so that was very exciting, and we met a ton of great people. It also provided me with validation that I am capable of playing at the level of some professionals out there. Now granted, it was only three days but it was an amazing experience.

LiM: How did you get started playing music and what keeps you wanting to grow more as a musician?

DP: I really started playing out of nowhere. My family and I were always huge lovers of music, but no one really played an instrument. When I was 15, all my friends started playing guitar and drums, so I decided randomly that I wanted to play bass. I had never really paid attention to any bass players or even knew what it really meant to play bass. After some persistence, I was given my first bass for Christmas that year and I haven’t stopped playing since.

Music itself keeps me wanting to grow. I love the impact it has on me and I keep creating to share that impact with others. It is always the chase to feel that rush that good music creates. I am also fortunate enough to have amazing musicians as close friends and they constantly spur me on.

LiM: I know that you’re wife is expecting…no matter if it’s a boy or a girl, what is the first album you would want your child to hear?

DP: Man, that is a fantastic question. Probably, August and Everything After by Counting Crows August and Everything After(iTunes) August and Everything After(AmazonMP3). I can’t think of another album that has had the massive effect on my musical life as that album. Now, my wife could have a different opinion…

LiM: When it comes to rehearsal or playing live on stage, what are some things you focus on?

DP: I always want to play the appropriate part. I am not a flashy or technical player, so I try to simply build a foundation and work with what the song requires. I just want to complement, not become the focal point.

LiM: What would you say are some of your strengths as a musician?

DP: I like to thing that I play well with other musicians. I have always tried to be the best band-mate possible, whether personally or musically.

LiM: What would you say are some of your weaknesses?

DP: I really have very little knowledge of music theory, so that can hinder my ability to write bass lines or just improvise.

LiM: When it comes to writing a song with other musicians, what is your approach when creating a bass line?

DP: Stay out of the way, unless I have something to add to the musical conversation. Keep it simple.

LiM: When it comes to “Tone”, what do you look for in a bass line?

DP: The best piece of advice I ever received was that tone is in the hands. I want to hear the instrument, not the person playing the instrument. Although this is what I like to hear, it has always been a constant battle for me because I am very heavy handed and have bad technique. However, tone, like beauty, is very subjective and means very different things to everyone and in every situation.


Featured Musician: James Childs

July 20, 2009 1 comment


Musician: James Childs

Website: (( all things audible ))

Twitter: jameschilds

LiM(Life is Music): What Instruments do you play?

James:Mainly guitar and bass and then I can fake it on a few other things
such as mandolin and some keys.

LiM: List you gear.

James: I have too much, but I justify it by thinking that it’ll be good to
have for the studio one day.

Fender Telecaster
Fender Stratocaster
Epiphone Sheraton
Epiphone Casino
Fender Jazz Bass
Epiphone Mandolin
Crafter Acoustic Guitar

90’s British Vox AC15

Budda Wah
RC Booster
volume pedal
Fuzz Factory
DOD 250
Deluxe Memory Man
DL4 delay
DD-20 delay
Boss TR-2 tremolo

My main methodology is a few different overdrive options into a few delay options with tremolo added for texture.

LiM: What are 10 of your favorite records?

James: Hmm, how bout 22 of my favorite records, in chronological order..
It’s just too hard to narrow it down to 10, plus this list spans the genres and eras of the music I really enjoy.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Steely Dan – Aja

Boyz II Men – II

No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom

dc Talk – Jesus Freak

Shawn Colvin – A Few Small Repairs

Third Eye Blind – self-titled

Radiohead – OK Computer

Coldplay – Parachutes

Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Wilco – A Ghost is Born

Matt Wertz – Twenty Three Places

The Cardigans – Long Gone Before Daylight

Nickel Creek – Why Should the Fire Die

Acceptance – Phantoms

Copeland – In Motion

Brooke Fraser – Albertine

Mindy Smith – Long Island Shores

Andy Davis – Let the Woman

LiM: What artists have you played with?

James: Nowadays I mainly play with Shelly Moore and Daniel Renstrom and
not-so-recently, Jacob Taylor. Since middle school I’ve also served
in worship bands at churches I’ve attended throughout the years.
Going way back I would add Cardboard Box and Trademark and maybe my
middle school “band” called One Life Purpose/EDGE/The Gyrotones. Of
course we changed names about every other month and broke up over
creative differences. It was all very That Thing You Do.

LiM: Can you list any recordings that you have been apart of?

James: I played electric guitar on our church’s college band’s project
called ‘Vaunted Pleasures’, and on Rob Rucci’s ‘Better Day’ record,
some bass on Shelly Moore’s ‘Hope & Decay’ record and electric on her
‘A Hymn Project’. Recently I played bass, guitars, mandolin, and piano
on Daniel Renstrom’s ‘On the Incarnation’, and bass and guitars on
Taylor Regan’s unreleased hit single ‘Stone Me’.

LiM: When did you first start playing guitar and what made you want to
start playing music?

James: I first started playing in 6th grade when I got my first electric
guitar from a JC Penny catalog for Christmas. What really made me
want to start playing guitar was listening to guys play on Point of
Grace and Steven Curtis Chapman records. It’s funny because as I got
older I was embarrassed by that because I thought that music was
cheesy, then I realized that all my favorite players now played on all
that stuff back then! So my inspiration wasn’t Slash or Van Halen, it
was the more pop/rock oriented session players, which leads into your
next question..

LiM: What musicians would you say have influenced you the most as a guitar player?

James: My main influences are definitely some amazing session guys like
Jerry McPherson, Gordon Kennedy and Tom Bukovac. They’ve got killer
tone and an amazing ear for playing exactly what the song requires.
Another guy is Taylor Johnson–he was one of the first players that
made me want to be sparse, ambient, and melodic in my playing and he’s
also got great tone. As cliche as it is, the Edge from U2 is a big
influence, as is John Leventhal who plays on all Shawn Colvin’s
albums, and Ed Cash who is all over everything. I could go on and on
really, I find a new favorite player all the time..

LiM: What would you say are your strengths in regards to playing the guitar?

James: From what nice people tell me, I tend not to overplay and my parts
generally fit the song well. What they don’t know is this really comes
from a weakness of not being super fast or technically proficient – so
I couldn’t steal the show and overplay even if I wanted to. I also
try to get the best tone I can which sometimes helps me stand out from
other players. Some guys have their death metal distortion pedal and
their 80’s chorus pedal and go to town doing finger-tapping solos. I
like to try lay out and play intentional melodic parts. But again
it’s mostly because that’s all I know how to do! And this is more of
a God-given gift than a strength, but I have a pretty good ear for
melody and harmony so I can hear something and pick it up pretty

LiM: What would you say are your weaknesses?

James: ..however, I also can’t read music very well so that slows me down
in some cases. Also timing: I have an annoying habit of tending to
rush. This isn’t as big of a deal playing live, but in the studio I’m
constantly having to ask the engineer to nudge my tracks back to make
it feel more in time. I hate that. I’m also really weak at
soloing–which I don’t do much, but it would still be nice to rip one
out every now and then to impress the kids at Guitar Center.

LiM: Tell me about “Tone” and what that means to you as a guitar player.

James: To me Tone means getting a euphoric guitar sound from the endless
combinations of guitars, pedals, and amps. Some sounds are original
but I’m mainly trying to copy the archetypal tones that every guitar
player strives for — Edge’s delay sounds, Jonny Buckland’s bell-like
melody lines, Tom Bukovac’s buttery overdrive tones. I like my sound
and parts to create a layer of texture to a song, so I might try to
dial in something haunting and eerie, or chimey and anthemic, or
rootsy and folksy with lots of tremolo, depending on the song. I have
a library of tones in my head that I’m constantly striving to recreate
and make my own. It’s never ending but it’s a blast..

LiM: When rehearsing or playing live on stage, what are some key areas
you focus on?

James: The main thing is listening to the other players and trying to
complement them as best I can (your hair looks nice! are those new
slacks? etc.). Seriously though, listening and trying to fit in the
sonic space is key to make room for all the music and most
importantly, to leave a space for the vocal which is always the most
important part of any song in my opinion. I also try to focus on
Dynamics – making the verses softer, the chorus louder, making builds
dramatic, etc. Sometimes it can feel like overkill but all the
audience notices is that the song has depth. If you’ve ever seen a
band where they all play as loud as they can and bust out as many
licks as they can and play that way the entire four minutes of the
song, it’s not very enjoyable. I’m focusing on avoiding that as much
as possible. If I’m playing with you Will, I’m mainly focusing on not
being too distracted by your boyish good looks.

LiM: What are a few of your most memorable moments as a guitar player?

James: Great question.. the biggest crowd I played in front of was when
Ron Paul was speaking at Liberty University’s chapel, so that was
pretty exciting. My first real guitar was my Tele, so it was a pretty
awesome day when I got to play that live for the first time. I’ve
gotten to play for a few fun CD releases over the years and it’s
always fun and nervewrecking playing in front of all your friends and
family. One great memory was a few years ago when I went to the Naval
Academy in Annapolis with Shelly Moore Band and got to play for some
of their students. It ended up being a small show but it was a fun
band and an amazing place.

LiM: What do you hope the future holds for you as a musician?

James: I would love to end up anywhere in music, but if I had my dream job
I’d want to be a producer/mixer/engineer and/or a session player.
Ideally I’d love to produce and mix projects and also have a hand in
playing on it and even help with the songwriting and arranging.
Basically I want to be Ed Cash, who does all of this for a living and
is insanely good at it. It will probably take a while and a lot of
sacrifice but hopefully God will bless me with that dream someday.