Highland Fall
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Highland Fall

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"Local Band Wins Christian Music Festival, Advances"

Fresh full-course meals served each hour, backstage passes, premiere parking, preferential treatment and hob-nobbing with top name artists like BarlowGirl or Downhere - being treated like a rock star is a childhood dream for many.

For members of The Frequency, they experienced it at the Crossover Christian Music Festival in Camdenton last weekend. They went from being unknowns to being sought out by strangers because of their grand prize-winning music.

Nick Bacon submitted a recording to the regional competition for the Christian Festival Association's National Talent Search with Provident Label Group.

The other guys thought he was crazy - until he called them with the news they had one week to write two performance-ready songs.

“I was ready, I was going,” Bacon said.

The guys met in Blake Maples's basement and worked out lyric ideas, instrumental sounds and infusing their faith.

“We turned on the strobe lights and turned off the lights and let the creativity flow,” said Maples, who plays drums and some keyboard.

Their sound is no different than secular music, so writing the music came easier to Maples and Tyler Long. But Bacon, their lead vocalist, had never written lyrics before.

Finally, they honed in on what became “Questions.”

“It's about personal struggles I had and how my faith pulled me through,” Bacon said.

Their second song “Welcome to the Light” came easier through upbeat fun and praise jamming, Maples said.

“It was God ... and the strobe lights,” he said.

As the days dwindled, they still were working out instrumental details and back-up vocals when drummer and rhythm guitarist Shay Johnson found out he couldn't go. That's when they called in Chad Brade, with two-days notice, to learn the new songs.

But the last night before their performance, their nervous feelings went out the door when they had the songs refined where they wanted them, said Long, who plays lead guitar. Even Raymond Schmidt was comfortable enough to try a special effect by using a cello bow on his bass for a part.

Friday morning when they arrived at the Crossover Festival stage, they learned they would be the first band up of 13 for the weekend.

“There were a bunch of out-of-state bands with their own recordings,” Maples said. “No one knew who we were.”

That was to their advantage as they took the stage with nothing to lose and hearts prepared simply to praise.

“It was our first show together ... it went perfectly,” Maples said.

Bacon added, “we just had fun up there.”

“It was an unexplainable feeling ... the vibe from each other,” Long said.

When The Frequency was announced as Friday's semi-final winner, that's when their pampering began. They even let BarlowGirl borrow their amp.

Saturday was different, as they listened to the other bands, including another Jefferson City group, who were very impressive.

“We got our doubts going, all we could do is pray and hope for the best,” Bacon said.

When their name was called a second time as the grand prize regional winners, they literally fell over themselves in celebration. But as Long took the microphone, “there was only one person to thank - God,” he said.

“It was too good to be true. We're going to Nashville to compete for a recording label,” Bacon said.

As days pass since their selection, the band members have transitioned from the feeling of royalty back to reality.

They'll need to write enough songs to fill a 30-minute performance this fall in Nashville, Tenn. And they need to line up some local gigs and raise the funds to cover their travel expenses.

“I think we're spiritually and emotionally ready to go (to Nashville),” Long said. “But physically and musically, we have a lot of work to do.”

But as they dream of the potential record label that would come with winning in Nashville, they continually remind each other to “have fun and play our music for a purpose, rather than for personal gain,” Bacon said.

“Bacon's on poetic rage and the Lord's got something to say,” Long said.

Long, Maples, Schmidt and Johnson had been the band, “A War in May,” for about five years.

This opportunity helped heal some hurt from their past and renew the camaraderie and sense of brotherhood the First Baptist Church youth have had.

“I never thought we would play together again,” Maples said. “It's God. I think he used this to bring us back together, it gave us something to write for again.”

For Bacon, who had devoted the last four years to high school football, “this was a chance to get into something I love,” he said. “Christian music ties in the faith factor and music.

“To get together with these guys was a great opportunity to join in our faith. It felt good because we felt it was not only ourselves ... our writing was inspired.”

The song, “Questions,” shared Bacon's personal story, ideas he had in the past reserved only for friends, he said.

To open up and sing about those thoughts, “shows - Jefferson City News Tribune


"Underground Band Scene Heavy On Christian Music"

The Jefferson City music scene may not be a hotbed of underground activity, but young musicians are getting their start here. Many of those bands have a christian message.

Blake Maples, 18, is the drummer for a local band called Highland Fall.

The five-member band is composed of recent Jefferson City alumni. Lead singer, Nick Bacon, 19, handles he band's vocals. Tyler Long and Shay Johnson, both 18, are guitarists who just graduated from Jefferson City High School. Raymond Schmidt, 16, is the band's youngest member and the bass player.

It's been a wild and fast ride for Highland Fall. "Basically we just started last summer," said Maples.

After winning a Christian music festival award, the group headed to Nashville last October to compete in a music contest there. (They lost to a Latino jam-band, lamented Maples.)

But the experience put them in touch with the music industry. Not all of those experiences were great; for a few months, the teens found themselves trying to write music they thought would please the major record labels.

Maples said the experiences didn't work out well. "That's when we decided to be ourselves," he said, "If people like it, they like it. If they don't ... well, that's okay."

The group has released one five-song extended play CD called "Those Crazy Northern Lights."

Maples said the group's main goal right now is to be heard by wider audiences. "We play any gig we can," he said, "We once drove nine hours to Oklahoma to play for 30 people."

Highland Fall extended its audience when they appeared at the Crossover Music Festival, a Christian event. They'll appear there again this summer.

A week ago, they performed before a packed house on the Blue Note stage in Columbia, opening for The White Tie Affair.

As for the "underground" appearances, Maples said they've played at "The Nest," a house in Jefferson City turned into a "party place."

"It's real underground," he said, noting he doesn't think Jefferson City's music scene is robust.

"We're working on getting some sort of scene here," he said. "It's hard in a town like Jefferson City. There's not that many bands.

Maples said while the band has a positive, underlying Christian message, "We actually don't like to be called a Christian band. We're Christians in a band."

He describes the music as "power pop."

As for the band's name, it isn't steeped with symbolism; the guys mainly just liked the way it sounded.

"It's random," he said. "Shay is spastic ... he sent out texts all day long with the names of bands. 'Highland Fall' was the most unique.

"It works." - The Jefferson City News Tribune


Discography

"Those Crazy Northern Lights" - E.P.

Photos

Bio

“We can take over the world.” It is easy for this statement to be the sole description of the purpose of Highland Fall and its members. Delivered as a lyric on the opening track off their debut album, “Those Crazy Northern Lights,” it is not difficult to see the effort that Highland Fall is willing to put in to backing their statement. Delivered by an opening punch of just two notes and a powerful vocal line, Highland Fall strives to deliver a powerful pop driven sound, with a mix of in-your-face rock in their opening track, “Speak Softly, Carry A Big Stick.” From there, the album simply takes off, delivering heartfelt messages to its audience with strong melodies and lyrics from vocalist Nick Bacon, driving bass parts from bassist Raymond Schmidt, intricate but catchy guitar lines from guitarists Tyler Long and Shay Johnson, and crazy yet technical drum beats from the band’s drummer, Blake Maples. The songs’ messages range from banding together for a common cause (“Speak Softly, Carry A Big Stick”), to not falling victim to stereotypes (“Ambulance Chaser”), to searching for meaning in a world of unique problems (“The Great Divide”). Produced by Kevin Gates (nevershoutnever!), the album in no way sticks to one particular concept, but does an excellent job of mixing the worlds of pop, rock, and even an epic ballad in to one related concept, as Highland Fall strives to make an impact from their Midwestern home. Started by vocalist Nick Bacon, the initial Highland Fall was formed under the name, “The Frequency” to compete in a national talent search competition for Sony/BMG (Essential) records. Collaborating with the members of a band called A War In May, Bacon helped mend problems the band was facing, and reunited the bands’ members under a new name, new style, and new approach. After signing up for the contest, the band had a week to write two original songs, but was not about to be discouraged. In no time at all, the band had created its two works, and delivered them to the judges of the Crossover Music Festival on a Friday morning. After surprising everyone, including themselves, with a victory at the regional competition, the band moved on to the finals in Nashville, TN, where they competed with strong hearts and new material. Although the band did not win the finals, they were reenergized with a passion for their music, and the heart to do something with it. A couple months later the band recorded with Producer Kevin Gates in Springfield, MO, and on April 3rd 2009, released “Those Crazy Northern Lights.” Upon the album’s release, the band has been blessed with many successes, bringing their show to six different states already, supporting major Christian acts such as Jeremy Camp (BEC) and Disciple (INO), along with its fair share of mainstream/secular acts including The White Tie Affair (Epic), Abandon Kansas (Gotee), and Josephine Collective (Warner Bros.). “We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do more than most bands at this point in our careers, but we feel the important part now is to not stop, to not give up, and to try and reach as many new people as we can with our music,” says vocalist Nick Bacon, “We write music that we love, and we try to show that with our live performance. If people love it, they love it, if they don’t than hopefully they’ve been amazed by our energy and by Raymond [Schmidt]’s leaps from his bass cab, but ultimately we’re out to make music, and to make friends while we are doing it; we’re just trying to take over the world!”