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!

Playing For Change Receives 2019 Polar Music Prize

On June 11th, Playing For Change co-founders Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson accepted Sweden’s Polar Music Prize alongside hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.


Polar Music Prize

Regarded as one of the foremost honors throughout the international music community, the Polar Music Prize is bestowed annually to influential individuals, artists, and organizations who break down musical boundaries and bring together people from all the different worlds of music. First awarded to Sir Paul McCartney in 1992, there have since been more than 50 laureates, including such greats as Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and many more. Laureates from a wide range of countries, cultures, and continents have received the Prize in Stockholm from the hand of His Majesty, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

According to the Polar Music website, the prize is “awarded for significant achievements in music and/or musical activity, or for achievements which are found to be of great potential importance for music or musical activity, and it shall be referable to all fields within or closely connected with music”. This qualification has taken many forms, from rewarding individuals for outstanding musical innovation, to acknowledging significant careers in music and performance within local, national, and global communities, as well as honoring those for their service to humanity in leading positive change through music.

Each year, the Polar Music Prize Committee organizes the event in coordination with Sweden’s Royal Family, hosting various live performances, onstage “Polar Talks” with each of the Laureates, a red (pink) carpet and banquet, award ceremony, and additional pre and post-ceremony celebrations.

In their acceptance speech for the Polar Music Prize, Whitney said:

“Everyone here knows the power of music. That it can not only heal, but motivate. That it can not only give opportunity, but lift us out of that which holds us down. We see it every single day in the work we do with Playing For Change. By using their culture, their community, and their own history to strengthen next generations and build success and happiness. All it takes is music. All it takes is one spark.”

To view their full acceptance speech, click below.


Playing For Change

For Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson, the honor of accepting the Polar Music Prize on behalf of the Playing For Change Movement  cannot be understated. Yet, to them, the accomplishment goes far beyond their work as co-founders, and is a reflection of the worldwide support and appreciation that has fueled the organization for the past 15 plus, years. Playing For Change could not have become what it has without the generosity of thousands of musicians, the dedication from countless individuals and partners, and the belief from millions of human beings around the world that we are all connected through music.

In speaking with the co-founders about the Polar Music Prize award and ceremony, they had this to say.

Whitney: To have a music movement, a music project, honored alongside heroes of ours that inspired us and Playing For Change was really, really humbling…. to me it means that the “small” musicians are being seen and heard, and being recognized, and that is SO exciting because it means people are paying attention to each other!

Mark: I felt proud for all the people and communities who have worked so hard to support our project around the world and I was especially honored for PFC to be in the company of so many legends and musicians who have inspired us in so many ways.

Are there any notable past laureates that you are honored to share the stage with?

Mark: So many of my musical heroes are included, too many to list but my new favorite is Grandmaster Flash!

Whitney: YES!!! All of them! But I was especially blown away by being in the company of Bruce Springsteen—I’m a huge fan!

What does the Polar Music Prize mean to you?

Mark: During our first trip recording and filming street musicians in New Orleans back in 2001 we met a percussionist named R1 who told us “Music gets to the sentiment behind the words…” and I always loved that perspective of music as a window into something deeper. The Polar Prize is similar as they are recognizing the sentiment behind the process of making music and spreading music education. It explores a deeper understanding of where we are coming from and where we are going with Playing For Change.

Can you describe what took place at the ceremony in Sweden?

Whitney: It was incredible!  First, we walked the Polar Prize “red (it was pink this year!) carpet outside the Grand Hotel.  Upon entering, we were ushered to a room for private cocktails where we met the Swedish Royal Family.  After the pre-ceremony cocktails, we were escorted into the theater, where we were seated in the front row along with Grandmaster Flash and Anne-Sophie Mutter (the other laureates).  The awards ceremony took place, a video of our work was shown and then we accepted the award for PFCF on behalf of all of the musicians, staff, program coordinators, friends who have been a part of our work for the past 18 years.  It was extremely emotional, and very surreal, to accept this award from the King of Sweden! And in a room filled with such a rapt, passionate audience.

As an organization dedicated to changing lives and connecting the world through music, how do you hope to double down on your mission following this international achievement?

Mark: Fortunately for us Playing For Change was always a combination of a big global idea combined with a mission to make deeper personal connections and focus on one person, one child at a time…This rhythm gives us a chance to expand what is working and continue to grow our project while also maintaining deep personal connections with everyone we meet along the way.

How will the Polar Music Prize award support the Playing For Change Foundation and organization as a whole in the years to come?

Whitney: Well, first of all, the cash award of 100K is going to be a massive help in sustaining our current programs.  We are excited to put the award funds to work immediately to guarantee that the work we have been doing in each program will be continued through the next several years.  We will also be using the international platform of the Polar Prize to leverage new relationships into expanding our reach globally.

To Mark and Whitney, thank you for your years of dedication to Playing For Change. To all those who love and support the Playing For Change Movement, thank you for helping to make their dream a reality for all of us.

One Love,

The Playing For Change Team