Interview with FFH's
Bold text – Brian Smith
Regular text – Christianbook.com
Hi Brian, thank you for speaking with us today!
Thank you for your time. I appreciate it!
First of all, congratulations on being nominated for two Dove Awards ["Best New Artist of 1999" and "Best Pop/Contemporary Song" for "One of These Days" off of their album I Want To Be Like You] and everything else that's happening to your group!
Thank you! Yeah, it's been quite a year… (laughing)
How many instruments do you play yourself?
I actually grew up around music. I love everything. I grew up playing the trumpet, though. (laughing) In fact, I went to college as a trumpet major – Music Education major, but trumpet was my emphasis. So trumpet is my best instrument. But in the band I play bass and I'm also a vocalist.
Ah, okay…we read you're a concert trumpet player, so this is true?
Yeah, I don't play that much anymore. In college that's basically all that I did. I did some voice stuff on the side, but trumpet was my main instrument and I played in, you know, concert bands and wind ensembles and brass ensembles and everything. So basically for the first fourteen years of musical stuff, I played trumpet. (laughing)
Have you played trumpet on any of your albums?
No, I haven't. It's kind of an in-the-back-of-my-mind dream to be able to someday play trumpet on one of our albums, but, you know, who knows if that will ever happen. (laughing)
When did your interest in music begin? How young were you?
My family was really musical. My grandparents were both in the choir. My grandma was the piano player for our church. And then my mom was in a group with her sisters. They sang a lot in a trio. So music has always been around. I remembered my mom was always listening to Southern Gospel or Contemporary Christian, like Sandi Patty or Twila Paris. I started getting into music probably in fourth grade when mom and dad made me try out for the band, for trumpet. They didn't make me, but they kind of pushed me into it. Which I'm so glad they did! (laughing) But that's when it all started. And then I was in Junior Choir at church. My mom was the director. So it was a young age that music started to be important in my life. But it wasn't until high school that it became something that I wanted to pursue as an occupation. Not as is 'FFH.' But as in 'music.' I really wanted to be a music teacher. So I went off to college to be a music teacher. And it wasn't until I was a junior in college that I felt like God was really calling me not to pursue the education side of music, but to pursue more the ministry with FFH. That's when I left college, not to be a teacher but to be a 'music minister' I guess you'd say, in FFH.
When did FFH form? You've put out nine albums!
Yeah. (laughing) We actually started in 1991. Jeromy and I are the only original members that are left. We started at a family camp meeting. Jeromy and I grew up as best friends. We were raised more like brothers than best friends. So we were at this camp meeting and we got together with two other guys. We wanted to put together some special music for the Youth Talent Night that they have every year. And we just put together two old a cappella hymns. None of us could play any band instruments at the time. The rest is kind of history. We started doing special music at the churches that were involved at this camp, and we did our first concert almost a year later. And then from there it just kind of expanded from this real local thing to kind of regional. Then we started to tour. We had a couple of member changes here and there. And now, (laughing) nine years later, here we are.
That a cappella beginning does that help you today while putting together your songs? They all sound so smooth and the way they flow from voice to voices and back again…do you draw from that beginning?
Yeah, our albums have a real emphasis on the vocals. And I think that really helped, as far as the a cappella. Because with a cappella, you don't have anything to fill in the gaps. No music. No little intro here. It's all voices. So I think that helps a little bit in the transition. And you'll notice we have a lot of things…take "Big Fish" for instance, off our first album. We have a scat, and that actually originated as an a cappella song with no instruments to fill the gaps. So it was just our voices. I think that helps a lot. And then it also helps us as we kind of create the music harmonies and stuff because we like all of us to sing at the same time, so we kind of created that a cappella sound with music behind it.
We've been listening to an advance copy of your new album. It's incredible, it's really nice!
FFH is exploding right now with album sales and popularity. Have things changed? Are things more difficult now than when the band wasn't so big?
They can be. You find that when things start to expand, you start to get pulled in different ways, as far as it's not just you out there singing for fifty people a night. You're doing interviews now. You're being pulled by the record company to do stuff here and there. People want you for in-store appearances…that kind of thing. So yeah, that kind of gets a little bit tough. But as far as what we do and what our goal is, it's never really changed. We're out there trying to accomplish the same thing now as we were three years ago. And our goal is to try to reach as many people for Jesus Christ as we can, as quickly as we can. And to do that, we have to be on the road as much as we can. That's why we're out there two hundred and twenty days a year. Trying to accomplish that mission. So as far as what our goal is and what our outlook is, we try to keep things the same and try to stay humble and not let things really go to our head. Just realize that we're out there for a goal and we need to try to accomplish that goal.
Is it ever scary for you, all this attention?
Yeah, sometimes. Especially with these Dove Award Nominations, it's a wake up call for us. God has given us a platform. And He's expanding that platform and making it bigger. And because He's given us that platform, we have a huge responsibility to share His message and be responsible for that message.
Your goal is to "reach as many people as we can for Jesus, as quickly as we can." Many bands share your calling in the first part of that statement, but can you explain the second part, "as quickly as we can."
Yeah. For us….well…who knows when Jesus is coming back. I think that's kind of the whole thing. I mean it could be tomorrow. It could be in fifty years. It could be in one hundred years. But we need to live like He's coming back tomorrow. So that's why it's "as quick as we can." We want to reach as many people as we can before He comes back. We just want to get the message out there. We don't want anyone to not be able to hear His message. So we're out there just doing it as fast as we can, before He comes back.
Could you talk a little bit about "Found A Place – The Devotional," that you have coming out soon?
The devotional is something that came out of the woodwork, I guess you could say. It wasn't something that we planned to do. It wasn't even something the record company planned to do. It was kind of a collaboration of all of our ideas. It's something that we had really wanted to do as far as giving kind of an insight into the life of FFH and all of its members. We wanted to put it into something that wasn't music. Because music sometimes skims over some of the real important issues that we really wanted to talk about. And that's basically what this devotional is. It's ten devotionals written by each of us. It's a deeper insight into each of our lives and what we've gone through in the last two years. What we've been through and what we're trying to accomplish. And hopefully some of these things will hit people maybe between the eyes, maybe it's something they're going through at the same time. And hopefully it will help some of the people out there. Some of these devotionals are being packaged with the new album, and some of them will be available at our concerts, like a ministry tool and that kind of thing. We're excited because it's something different. Sometimes our music doesn't connect with people the way the spoken word does, and we're hoping this will connect to the people who need to be connected to with the spoken word.
Are you on tour right now?
Well, sort of. (laughing) Our life is basically touring. The beginning of March is when things begin to start up full blast. We're excited, though. This will be our first real tour based around an album. Basically we've just toured year 'round because we wanted to. Plus we had to be out there every day. So this will be our "Found A Place" tour I guess you could say. We've got Aaron Benward coming along with us, so it's going to be a great tour. We're really excited!
On your songs, do you all know who's going to sing which songs right away, or is that something that's decided later in the studio?
As far as the vocals go, we usually know what we're singing before we get into the studio. Jeromy, he's pretty much the songwriter. Actually Michael has begun writing some, too. When he joined the group, he had a few songs, and he's quite a good writer. So we kind of sit around…usually the songs that Jennifer sings, it's a given that she's going to sing them. (laughing) We usually can't sing them. But as far as Jeromy and I, he usually takes most of the leads because he's the writer and you know, when you write a song it's a little bit more personal when you sing it. And he's kind of the primary lead singer. But he usually writes something when I sing. He usually writes something in mind and he just says, "Brian you're singing that!" So we usually know before we head into the studio. There's a few places where we'll say, "Maybe you should sing there. Maybe I should sing there." Those kinds of thing, which are last-minute things. But as far as the vocals go, we usually know what we're singing before we get into the studio.
On the song "Your Love Is Life To Me," it says under the title 'for our friends at Camp Orlando.' Who are they?
We did a camp for a group of high school youths that were from Orlando. It was a good way to kick off our summer last year. It was a four day camp and it was kind of a spiritual awakening for us. It was a good way to kick off our summer last year. The kids really fired us up to be out there on the road, and to kind of dig deeper. These kids, they were pumped for Jesus Christ and we were like, "Man, we want to be like that!" So for us, they just made us dig a little bit deeper into our Christian walk. That's why they're significant for us. And we also gained lots of friendships out of that camp. People we still keep in contact with today! But it was at that camp that we first sang "Your Love Is Life," and it became a favorite for that camp, too. So that's why we dedicated it to them.
On the inside sleeve of your CD, the four of you are walking along a beach. Where was that picture taken?
That was Santa Monica Beach out in California. (laughing) A beautiful place!
Well, Brian that's about it for now. You've really covered quite a bit! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Thank you so much for your time, too. I really appreciate it.