Music That Fills You Up | Part 2

At the end of May, we chatted with our friend AJ Fountain from folk jam band A Brother’s Fountain who was embarking on a road trip across the Southwest USA with his bandmates in their 1979 RV, performing pop concerts along the way. Read “Music That Fills You Up | Part 1” here. The trip took them across New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah with the mission of reconnecting with each other and spreading the power of music. This trip, called the “Fill Me Up Tour,” was a success and we recently caught up with AJ to learn about the band’s experience…


Walk us through a typical day on the road during your “Fill Me up Tour?”

No two days were the same out on the road as we were often waking up somewhere new.  One thing that was really impactful was every day we would start with a morning “devotion”, where someone would lead us into an intentional discussion followed by solo quiet time, and then we would come back and all chat about our experience.  It was really powerful to press into intentionality with each other and our friends on the road who joined us.  After our morning time we would generally make a plan for the day, where we needed to get to, any gas station shows we would be doing, who’s driving, etc., and then go get after it.  

What was your favorite place you visited and why?

It’s really hard to say one spot considering the amount of beautiful Southwest America we experienced so I’ll name a few.  Flagstaff welcomed us in with open arms, and the high elevation made it a welcome respite from the desert heat.  We loved Southeast Utah as well.  We got to play a show at a steakhouse in a tiny town called Mexican Hat with a population of 14. Considering about 7 people were there watching us, that’s half the town that showed up! Moab never ceases to take our breath away with the beautiful pink and orange rocks and meandering Colorado River running through it.  Northern New Mexico was also a dream, filled with mountains, rushing rivers and friendly people. 

What were some of the things you learned that fills people up?

We were able to meet lots of great people along our journey and ask them what filled them up in life.  There were some really great answers.  People mentioned meeting new people, jamming out and making music, travelling, pressing into relationships, camping and seeing new places.  A whole lot of things we couldn’t do during Covid lockdowns.

For example we met one guy at a gas station outside of Las Vegas who was 20 years old, quit his retail job in Arkansas and was roadtripping north to Montana to start a new life.  He was also a musician and graced us with the most beautiful couple of songs in a gas station parking lot.  His answer was fitting in that he was filled up by the freedom to start fresh in life, exploring new and wild places and the ability to keep playing his music.  

How were you filled up on this tour?

We were able to participate throughout our tour in a number of things that fill us up in life.  We got the opportunity to do things we love like rafting down the Colorado River for four days, going on a 5 day backpacking trip in Zion National Park, and witnessing loads of epic desert vistas camping along the way.  We were also filled up by the jams, meeting new people, exploring new places, and pressing into our own friendships. What we found that was interesting is that we can often be filled up the most when we put ourselves in challenging situations.  

Were there any challenges that you faced along your journey? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

O yes, there were plenty of those, as any good adventure should have.  We were challenged by the sheer magnitude of 4000 miles of driving in an old 1979 RV throughout a desert with no AC and a loud hot engine constantly humming by our feet.  We were also challenged by the concept of playing music for little to no people at gas stations, forcing us to examine if we could get as excited about playing our music without the fans present as we did when they were there.  We were also challenged by the daunting task of filming the whole thing.  Any time something important was happening we had to be the one’s to get the cameras rolling and in focus as there was no film crew there to assist us.  Lastly, living in an RV for a month with a group of guys can be a lot of “life on life” as we say, and very little alone time, so we had to work through relational challenges throughout the journey.  Any one of those tasks is a tall order, but doing all of them at the same time was definitely exhausting and pushed us to overcome together in tremendous ways.  

One of your hopes for this trip was to grow closer to your best friend’s and bandmates. Was this accomplished and if so, in what ways?

Waking up and going to sleep together every day there was a lot of time in between to press into our friendship in various ways.  Whether it was sharing some of the hardest belly laughs at silly situations, or problem solving logistics and relational friction every day.  But we’re proud of the way we did it, staying humble, quick to forgive, and always willing to have a laugh.  The morning’s intentional times allowed us to talk about what was going on in ‘real life’ back at home and off the road, and we ended up getting very vulnerable with each other, it was incredible.  The times we spent together out there were beyond special and we’ll hold them in our hearts the rest of our lives. 

What was the greatest highlight of the trip? What did you learn?

I think the greatest highlight of the trip for me was the connections formed with people.  Connecting with the friends and family who joined us for various legs, and also the complete strangers who we met along the way who quickly also became like  friends and family.

We learned that it pays to ask people how they’re truly doing and listen.  We learned how to give and take, living on top of each other for so long.  Lastly, we learned how to turn on our flashers and wave people around who were interested or able in going faster than we were.  

Is there anyone or anything that truly made this trip a success in your eyes?

This trip was a success because of a lot of different people and factors.  Without our individual and brand sponsors we couldn’t have pulled this trip off, so a thousand thank you’s to them.  I would say the amount of hours we put into planning how this trip could be legendary ahead of departure has to be mentioned as well, without that intentional forethought the trip just wouldn’t have been as epic.  Of course having the best friends and bandmates anyone could ever ask for has to be mentioned as a reason for some of the success.  Last but not least we have to thank God for the safety, depth and provision he provided throughout the journey.  

When will you be releasing the documentary about this trip and where can people watch it?

The release of the Fill Me Up Tour films will likely be in 2022.  We’re planning to release them as a series of episodes with a fun vlog style incorporated.  You can stay updated on the release by following along on our Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or website.  

What’s next for A Brother’s Fountain?

Right now we are working hard to release our third album which we are beyond stoked about.  We are also finishing up our Only Music // South Africa film in the next few months so look out for that on the horizon. 

Of course we’ll get back out somewhere around the world for our next Only Music tour and plan to make it as saucy and spicy as all our last one’s.


Where would you like to see A Brother’s Fountain go on their next adventure? Be sure to follow them on their social media pages to stay updated on this amazing band and see how you can join us all in connecting the world through music. One love!

Music That Fills You Up | Part 1

This month we reconnected with AJ Fountain from the Colorado based folk jam band A Brother’s Fountain to talk about the next installment of their Only Music series — a collection of experiments involving the power of music. We last spoke to  AJ and the band in 2019 when they went on a musical expedition to South Africa with no money, food, or outside support whatsoever. All they had were their instruments, the clothes on their back, and an unbreakable spirit and determination to put the power of music to the test. They even stopped by the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program in Gugulethu along the way. Check out more about that trip here.


The Fill Me Up Tour

This next installment of the band’s Only music series is called the “Fill Me Up Tour” which will take the band on a road trip into the Southwest USA from May 7th until June 5th, 2021.

What fills you up? This is a question we asked ourselves after a long and lonely road that COVID-19 put us all through. Now, the world is opening back up, and we want to be filled back up, and know there are many who could also use a pick-me-up. This road trip will be filled with all of our favorite people (insert: best friends, strangers), activities (insert: climbing, rafting, backpacking, camping, busking), and some good old fashioned spontaneity (insert: costumes, random acts of kindness, pranks). 

-AJ Fountain, A Brother’s Fountain


What’s the purpose of the “Fill Me Up Tour?”
The concept was based on the premise of us wanting to explore our friendship in an intentional way and in the 1979 RV we had bought. We didn’t really want to pursue this trip in the traditional tour sense, with gigs lined up, so we had the crazy idea to play a pop up show every time we would need to get gas for our rig we affectionately call Ole’ Boy Georgie.  All along the way asking ourselves and others what actually fills us up in life?  And furthermore, are we actually filled up right now, because we found a lot of us are a little off with the Covid epidemic happening across the world.

How did you come up with that name?
It was the perfect mix of what we actually had to do, loads of fill ups on our 28 foot gas guzzler, and what we wanted to ask ourselves and others, what fills us up in life?

Why did you all decide to take this tour across the Southwest USA?
The Southwest USA was the perfect spot for us on this trip because we are at least vaguely acquainted with some of the areas after having lived in Colorado for 10+ years and taking voyages to explore the surrounding states.  We knew a bit of the epicness of places like Zion, Taos, the Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff, and were eager to explore more.

Where in the Southwest USA will you be traveling?
The trip is mostly outdoor recreation based as this is what we love.  We’re hitting New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah.  So cities like Taos, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, and Moab. Basing our destinations largely around the most accessible places for our rig, and great places to camp, hike, backpack, raft and climb.

How will you decide where to stop to participate in activities and/or perform a pop-up concert?
We have an approximate itinerary that details all of the stops we’d like to hit and how many miles we need to go on each day, but we are definitely looking to stay open to opportunities to busk on the streets, play in local establishments, or jam with other musicians, in addition to our pop up concert at every gas station stop.  Also trying to leave ample time for stops to see various vistas and roadside attractions.

What instruments will you be bringing?
We have our Ovation guitar and bass which are durable and awesome.  A djembe, briefcase kick drum, and whatever instrument the different bandmates bring as they come for different portions, which will include a banjo, mandolin, saxophone and cello. We will do one battery powered amp for the bass, but the rest acoustic at the gas station concerts.

What do you hope to take away from this tour?
I’d like to stay open to what all could be learned from the journey, but foundationally I’d like to grow closer with my best friends and bandmates, play music for people pumping their gas and try to brighten their day a bit, and explore the beautiful landscapes and nature we are blessed with in Southwest USA.

How can we follow your journey?
We’ll be doing stories and going live on FB and Insta to keep folks updated.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abrothersfountain
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.brothers.fountain
www.abrothersfountain.com


Be sure to follow A Brother’s Fountain on their journey and join us next month as we follow up with them to hear all about their trip. In the meantime, tell us, what fills you up?

One Love,

PFC

PFC Artist Spotlight | Claire Finley

From an Iowa farm girl to the Berklee College of Music, and finally beyond as “Lady B”, bass queen of the Florida Keys, Claire Finley has amassed a wealth of experience in her time as a professional musician. Now, she has started a new chapter as lead bassist for the Playing For Change Band, touring in Bahrain, Brazil, and recently arriving in Australia for the upcoming Byron Bay Bluesfest this weekend.


Introduction

To formally introduce our newest member of the PFC Band, we asked Claire to share her story.

Although a bassist at heart, Lady B’s first connection to music was through the piano, which she started “plunking out melodies” on by the age of four. From then on, Claire made the plunge into performance, practicing-traveling-and-competing her way in classical piano, knocking down 11 consecutive superior ratings by her senior year of high school. Beyond piano, Claire tried her hand at nearly every other instrument and opportunity she could, “playing violin in orchestra, electric bass in jazz band, bass drum in drumline/marching band, French Horn and percussion in concert band and electric guitar“. As a driven musician from a young age, she notes that she has her parents to thank for supporting her ambition and busy schedule.

Picking up the bass in fifth grade, Claire had discovered an entirely new medium for expression through the instrument and began playing in the church band and the middle school jazz band immediately.

The Bass seemed to give me an outlet that the classical piano didn’t offer. My place in the classical world was about perfection….carefully emulating famous works by renowned composers and being judged on my interpretation of what was notated on the page. Although I had appreciated the meticulous and detail-oriented nature of the style, I knew there was another musical world out there where self-expression was welcomed and encouraged.

It was only once Claire discovered her love for the bass that she came to the realization that music was going to be her life. She says, “I had finally found an instrument that resonated with my idea that music should be joyful, creative, and fun“. Since then, she has lived a musical life that is just that. She has always gone with where the music takes her, and as of most recently, it has brought her to new countries, new audiences and new experiences in her role with the Playing For Change Band.


When did you first hear about ‪Playing For Change‬? 

I first heard about Playing For Change several years ago, having seen a couple of the viral videos being shared by friends online. However, I didn’t realize these very moving videos were also part of a non-profit to raise money to support the creation and sustainment of music schools around the world. I remember being brought to tears, seeing so many different people from all over the world with different beliefs and cultures coming together to play the same song. A genius idea to promote world peace through music.

How did you eventually get involved with the PFC Band?

I was invited to attend and perform at the wedding celebration of my friend and PFC advocate, Savannah Buffet and her fiancée, Joshua. The special weekend finally came and there were lots of late-night jams with all the musicians in attendance during the celebrations.  That’s when I ended up meeting Mark Johnson and Raan Williams and jamming with Robin Moxey, one of the producers and guitarists in the PFC band. We all hit it off immediately and musical magic was in the air!

Five months later, this incredible weekend morphed into the PFC crew coming to Key West, Florida to film and record ME for my very first appearance in a song around the world. I will never forget the feeling I had when we were setting up at my favorite beach with the recording gear and film crew. I felt like this was it…I finally found what I was supposed to be doing with my music. The idea that music is the only international language had always resonated with me…but this was a project that could actually prove visually and sonically that this theory was true.

Is this the largest band you’ve ever been a part of?

The Playing For Change Band is definitely one of the largest musical collaborations I’ve been a part of. While at Berklee, I participated in many performances with large groups but they were always one-off shows for special occasions. The difference from these experiences is that the Playing For Change Band is a family. It’s about creating a foundation of support to continue spreading the word of the movement throughout the world. Being a solid band unit allows us to build on this foundation and learn from each other constantly. Everyone hears and performs music differently. The opportunity to be surrounded by so many talented international musicians, all with different stories to tell, is truly a dream come true.

As an artist who routinely performs with many different groups, is there anything unique/special about the PFC Band that you haven’t experienced anywhere else? 

Absolutely. Playing music for such a good cause, using my musical powers for the greater good of humanity, is an amazing feeling. The memories we are able to create while on the road are memories I will cherish forever.  Even outside of the music our friendships are strong and we are there for each other.  Having the opportunity to hone in on the African, Latin, Reggae, Blues, and other styles of music we play are very exciting.  We are all learning together and teach each other.  I’m pretty sure Mermans Mosengo knows everyone’s’ parts! If I ever forget or have a hard time with a bass line or rhythm, he is right there showing me the way. I’ve already learned so much in the short time I’ve been in the band!

What’s been the highlight of performing with the band so far, and is there anything that you’re most looking forward to in the coming months/year?

Since I joined PFC in October, I’ve already had the opportunity to travel to two places that I always wanted to go, Brazil and the Middle East. Now, Australia! Travel has always been a huge passion for me so being able to combine this with music and great people fills me with joy. I am thrilled and looking forward to continuing this adventure, traveling to even more places I’ve never been, and musically connecting with as many people as I can across the globe.

We heard that you recorded one of your songs with Mark Johnson and the PFC Band. Can you tell us more about “Run”, and what it was like to perform/record your song with the whole group?

‘Run’ was a song that I wrote with my friend Jason Lamson in my living room in Key West Florida. Feeling inspired to write more after a successful songwriting visit from Robin Moxey, I called up Jason and asked if he wanted to get together to brainstorm and try to write a song. He swung by with his notebook and showed me a lyrical melody idea he had, “I’m gonna run, as fast as I can”. That line inspired me. How cool would it be to write a song that focuses on running towards the good instead of away from the bad?

Robin helped me come to the realization during his visit that I had a story to tell and needed to tell it, so I did and it turned into ‘Run’. The lyrics of this song resonate with the feelings of fear and longing that I’ve experienced living the life of a musician and always striving to get to that next level. In order to pursue this dream, I needed to give up the comforts and financial security of the wedding band business, which scared me. But, there was something else out there. It was finally time to run towards all those positive opportunities and take a chance for something even better, which ended up coming to complete fruition when I became a part of the Playing For Change Movement.

First hearing the song performed live by the band was an overwhelming and emotional experience. To have created something that has the chance of inspiring others to “dream big and take chances” fills me with such joy. Another big moment for me was when we were at 2 Seas in Bahrain working on the official studio version. Titi Tsira and the rest of the band put their magic touch on the track and just blew me away. Even down to Merman’s perfectly timed vibra-slaps.  Hahaha… it was a moment I will never forget.

What does ‪Playing For Change‬ mean to you?

The entire Playing For Change Movement resonates in a huge way for me. Our musical voices are so much stronger together than alone. United, we have a much better chance of actually being heard by the rest of the world. The opportunity to SEE the change, and BE the change with such an incredible group of people is an honor that I will never take for granted.

Are you working on anything else right now that you’d like to share with us?

Currently, in between PFC adventures, I try to fill my life with experiences that will help facilitate creativity and inspiration to write more songs! The life of a musician is never boring!  ; )

 

Thank you Claire for sharing a glimpse into your life, and thank you for everything you bring to the Playing For Change Band!

One Love.

PFC