“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes”
The quote above by American writer/counselor Hugh Prather seems to fit the majority of people today, and any day. We all struggle and sometimes fight against change for years, then when it comes and we feel we have adapted, we are faced with the possibility of making more changes. Some say that change is good for everyone. That might be true in some cases but not when a negative change comes into our lives. Good changes are almost always associated with personal growth. At some time in youth, all of us have faced, or will face life changes that automatically come with growing up. We all will lose and gain friends, move away from our parents. Some of us may even move to a different city.
Like many of you reading out there I had to deal with change upon graduating high school. Immediately, I moved to a different city and state, and into a very different college environment and life. Some might call it a traumatic change, but I adapted. Just about all of you endured a similar experience and also adapted. However, the changes did not stop there. In fact, not only must we adapt to personal changes, but we must also cope with changes in the lives of our families, friends and associates. Interestingly, those in the music industry seem to face change with great frequency. For a musician, surrounding music makers may move from one place to another at a large rate of recurrence. A familiar saying in entertainment is “the show must go on”. Such moves certainly can adversely affect how an artist or group create music. Is there a way to deal with such changes to continue successful creative efforts? That question brought to mind what the group Flyleaf faced a few years ago.
Flyleaf is an American heavy metal band, formed in Texas in 2002. The band performed around the United States in 2003 until releasing their eponymous debut album, Flyleaf, in 2005. The album went platinum after selling more than one million copies. Flyleaf released their second album Memento Morion November 10, 2009, which debuted and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard charts. Flyleaf’s third album New Horizons was released on October 30, 2012. It seemed that the band from Texas was well on the way to a long musical career together. However, shortly before the album’s release, lead vocalist Lacey Sturm announced her departure.
Of course many music groups have changed members resulting in varied success with the new musicians in place. Throughout the years I have even seen a few groups change lead singers. The band Chicago added Jason Scheff after the loss of Peter Cetera. Van Halen brought in Sammy Hagar after David Lee Roth’s departure. There are other good examples but those two are most prominent to me at the time of my writing. Both Chicago and Van Halen have continued working as musical groups (David Lee Roth returned and is now performing with Van Halen again). Not every band can replace a lead singer and continue successfully to create good music. In the 1990’s I promoted music for a band that had a very good initial release. The song received positive reviews from radio executives and DJ’s, but right after the release the group’s lead singer departed. The group never recorded music together again.
Featured group Flyleaf has embraced change and continued to work together. The band called on Kristen May to add vocals and to contribute with her songwriting. Since May joined Flyleaf, the band released an EP, Who We Are on July 9, 2013. On September 16, 2014 Flyleaf released their fourth album Between the Stars on their new label Loud & Proud Records.
I got the opportunity to speak with Kristen May about her work with Flyleaf. I wondered about personnel changes from the viewpoint of the new band member. It is very easy for the music fan to compare the new lead singer to the departed vocalist, but I wanted to know the differences between the singers from Kristen’s viewpoint. Kristen said that both she and Lacey Sturm possessed the power to evoke emotion from the audience. The difference might be found in the backgrounds of the singers, “I don’t come from a heavy rock background, my background is more rooted in Indie rock, alternative and melodic music. Kristen also places great importance on songwriting. There definitely will be a difference in the way the artists contribute songs because each person has individual experiences and unique means of expression.
I asked Kristen how she has adapted to the band. She said, “From the first show I was ready. I spent a year and a half away from any band and joining Flyleaf sparked musical passion again. The band members were welcoming and the adjustment was not difficult for me”. I asked Kristen where she saw herself and the band in five years. She told me that “with all the changes in the music industry it will be interesting to see how music is made and released in five years”. It sounds like she is preparing to live with whatever changes may come in the future.
Currently Flyleaf is headlining the tour “The Revolver Magazine Tour Featuring Bands from The Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock.” They made a stop here in South Florida last week. For those reading who never heard of Flyleaf, their fourth album Between the Starsmight be a good opportunity to get acquainted. They sought out the production talents of iconic Don Gilmore for the project. With Gilmore behind the board, they captured a certain “magic” that proved both passionate and palpable. Kristen added, “I hope it’s an album people can listen to for years to come. We put our hearts and souls into it, and I want them to hear that.”
* photo by Travis Shinn