It took loading up their cars with instruments and equipment and heading to a lake house in rural Arkansas for Forest Fire Gospel Choir to officially become a band.
While Will McGee, Nick Fields, Sam Hunt, Will Lynde and Kip Allen were preparing for the trip, the pretense was to record an album for Northeast Anonymous, a band they were all playing in at the time, but things changed once they reached the house.
“We had been playing together since our freshman year, and it all kind of came together naturally over time. Just projects coming together, finally” said McGee, lead vocals and bassist.
Each member of the five piece represents a different genre of influences. Backgrounds in LA rock, soul, country, musical theater and metal are represented within the lineup.
“It’s very much a melting pot,” said Allen, drummer.
It seemed as though Randy Newman and The Band were the only artists that the five could agree on, but their myriad of influences somehow blended together to produce the roots-rock sound that the five-piece is known for.
“We’re still figuring out where we’re going with how we sound, but the songs that I’ve written and planned out that these guys have picked up on, they’ve definitely added their own styles to them and helped them develop more,” said McGee.
The audience of the 2015 Best of the Best Showcase unknowingly witnessed a performance by the group. FFGC played as Baylor Wilson’s backing band, so trying out for showcase wasn’t a big decision to be made; it was merely a matter of switching out the lead singer.
“It was just kind of understood,” said Allen, “I think we all talked about it once and then it was done.”
Their first performance under the name of Forest Fire Gospel Choir took place in the basement of their home in 2014.
“It was rough, but it was also one of the most fun shows. The energy was high,” said Hunt.
To the band, a successful show is less about getting caught up in any imperfections and instead focusing their energy on giving a performance that engages the crowd.
“We’re not like brooding and intense because we’re all having way too much fun to pretend like we’re not having an amazing time,” said McGee.
They’ve lived together, grown up together, and the familiarity has done nothing but add to their onstage presence.
“I think it translates how close we actually are as a band while we’re performing,” said Fields, one of the two guitarists, “It’s like we’re just really loudly kickin’ it.”
The friendship they’ve built over the past three and a half years has resulted in a strong group dynamic and an acute sense of brotherhood, said Hunt.
“The cool thing about this band is there isn’t a single member that you could replace in any way with anyone,” said Fields.
Outside of the band, each member leads a busy life with school, relationships, jobs and internships, so making time to play together has become difficult to do, said McGee. Even the writing process has evolved to reflect their busy lifestyles.
“When you’re going to school and you have a job and everything, I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and just write,” said McGee, “I might be in the shower, I might be walking home, I’ll just get an idea in my head and just have to run to an instrument and work the whole thing out right there, kind of in one sitting.”
Once the idea is out in the open, the band works to put together instrumentation, said Lynde. The music they create comes from a place of spontaneity but also familiarity.
“That’s kind of the culture of our band, just diving in and not overthinking it. Just fix as we go along,” said Lynde, pianist. “We all really trust each other as musicians.”
Though they all agreed that they’ve enjoyed their time together at Belmont, FFGC is looking forward to moving on to bigger horizons.
“I’m definitely ready for what’s next and for when I can shift all my focus to this project,” said McGee.
To them, the future isn’t something to be scared of, but something they’ve been waiting for.
“We’ve gotten so much from Belmont but at the same time, I’ve had senioritis since the 11th grade,” agreed Hunt.
The five-piece values the support of their friends and fellow musicians greatly and are excited to be sharing Saturday’s stage with long time friends.
“It’s going to be a magical evening,” said Fields.
This article was written by Paula Ramirez. Photo by Sam Frawley.