Photo Courtesy of Glenn Roberson/Glenn Roberson Photography glennrobersonphotography.com
GalFriday takes the Yard, No Bones About it
by K.W. Poole ©2017
Two weeks ago GalFriday Band was anxiously awaiting the latest chart update from MusicRow Magazine. The weekly chart report noted their latest single, Scrapyard, as *“On Deck - soon to chart.” Today they are at 78, having cracked the Top 80 threshold. And it is no surprise. No bones about it, the band’s single is catching spins and momentum. The new year is sure to hold great success for this veteran band of sisters, and deservedly so. Their talent and track record set the course for a story of fighters and family that spun the wheels in motion to spark this unstoppable trio.
According to the Urban Dictionary the definition of Gal Friday is: **”A go to girl...who...is capable of doing almost anything.” That is precisely the description of the women in this band.
Picture three sisters as beautiful as the harmonies they make, with strength and business savvy to boot. GalFriday lives up to their name - a band that has it all. Conducting a three way interview with the ladies is seamless. As the interview unfolds there is no escaping the joy, humor and authenticity they bring to the Country Music scene.
How does it feel to have Country radio embrace Scrapyard?
Lauren laughs, as if she still can't quite believe it. "It's been so exciting -surreal - and... we want it to continue!" Every one laughs as if it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Melissa: “It's been a long time coming - us having the album out - so it's just a little cherry on top that they're playing it. We’re picking up radio stations - I mean there's momentum there - we're enjoying it.”
How did you feel about the call out on the MusicRow Chart Report (prior to charting) “ON DECK - Soon to be charting?”
Ashley answers candidly: ”I was surprised that we would make it in a publication for being in the On Deck Circle. I really didn’t think that there would be any notoriety until we reached 80 and above. So, to see that in print was really, really cool.” Melissa interjects: “[It] made my excitement way worse - see today you’re on that side of the chart - I’d like to see it on the other side. Now I have to wait three more days!”
Tell me about debut album? Tell me about Scrapyard? Is there a backstory to the song?
Melissa’s storytelling nature adds dramatic flair as she describes the initial thoughts behind the power song Scrapyard. "Honestly the original writing idea I had was a wasteland - let’s write about a wasteland - just broken hearted, but not going down. Or -” she self edits - “going down with dignity. Left in the dust. It’s every woman’s story; unless you fell in love at two and never broke-up once, you know what it feels like just to be duuumped.” She draws out the word, then closes with: “It’s a dump song.”
These women are gracious and articulate, but humor and fun are at the roots of everything they do. They all paint a cohesive picture of writing Scrapyard: “The original picture - you got tossed away with all the other junk.” Their Album Smoke and Mirrors is full of unique stories and brilliant hooks. It is intelligent and inviting. This is not their first time at the table, but they all agree, the writing process was different for them this time around and the response is notable.
Lauren: “It’s crazy [to have the album out]. We worked on it for quite a few years. (One of the songs Fighter - in the works for 6 years). To actually put it in a form where people can listen to it at will...you put your heart into something like that and you’re just praying’ people like it. It’s nerve wracking. It’s exciting. It’s a great feeling!” She laughs.
Melissa: “It’s been really cool too...we got a private message on FaceBook; someone sent that their mom had just been through cancer treatments and was in the hospital when she heard Fighter. She thought it had been written for her. We go on social media and see that people are posting personal stories - Fighter specifically is touching them.”
You all strategically released one of the songs on Veterans Day. Tell me about When You Think About a Soldier - how was that inspired?
Lauren: "We felt writing from a perspective of a woman in the military would a really cool [perspective.] Driven more from our love and support of our military - all of our grandparents served - and we’re passionate about it. We have done work with the Wounded Warriors - we sing the National Anthem with many organizations. When you watch movies and when you listen to the songs many are geared towards the men in the military. Since they allow women to fight up on the lines [more recently], these women are seeing the same things [as the men.] It must be really hard for those women to come home and get back into life. We’re women - we know what it’s like to be moms - what must it feel like for a woman to come home after serving in battle and try to be a mom again, try to be a wife again?”
Response from the public has been powerful to say the least. “After we wrote the song - it had not been recorded yet - we presented it at a festival We got off stage and this woman and her husband wanted to tell us how amazing our show was and that we were singing When You Think About A Soldier when they arrived. She said: ‘I absolutely loved that song. No one ever sings a song about us.’ She had just gotten home from Afghanistan. She was very young, in her twenties. She just hugged our necks and could’t believe that we would sing a song like that.”
Ashley adds: "We knew it was an important song. Keesy Timmer (co-writer) said in the writing session that the song was very important. We knew that the message itself was important, but when you hear people come up to you who are actually living what you’re talking about in a song - personally that’s when it hit me.”
Proof their formula for authentic songs works. This band doesn’t write about the simple stuff - even their party songs have depth. The process and commitment they put into writing is not only extraordinary, but empowering.
Who writes most of your songs?
Melissa: “Lauren will come up with a lot of the melodies in her head.” (Melissa demonstrates by singing a melody.) “And she’ll record it into her phone. If I have a song idea I come up with a title or a theme. Lauren does a really good job of wrapping the words around it. She’s the lyricist of the group. She sits down thoughtfully and puts words to our ideas.”
Each singer has had sessions with co-writers separately as well as writing together. Through this process they create a balance in their writing and performing. “Our big loud songs that stand out, there’s definitely two or more of us in the session. It’s very organic. It comes naturally.”
The women start the music composition, as each plays a least one instrument. Melissa jokes: “I know all the major chords on the piano - I’m a white key girl. The black keys mean nothing to me. That’s all I know how to do.” Lauren explains: “We fiddle with the framework then we bring that to sessions musicians to really work the frame. We hone in on the words because words matter to us. We’ll talk about what kind of sound, tempo [we want], where we’re goin’ with this and it begins to take shape.”
“Outrun the Rain started in a hotel room, while I was waiting on Melissa who was in a business meeting with one of our producers. My guitar had not been restrung yet - I’m a left hander - I flipped the guitar upside down and was strumming chords upside down and that is how one of the main riffs [came to be.]”
Who came up with the idea of a band in the first place?
Ashley laughs: “Huh. It wasn’t even us.” That brings collective laughter. “We always sang together. We sang in church, at special events - Someone - probably at a Christmas Cantata - randomly said: ‘Hey, y’all are really good - y’all should think about doing this for real.’ It has literally snowballed from a garage band, to a concert on the lawn twice a year, to what we do now. It’s really kinda crazy.”
Though the gals of GFB may not remember who that person was they are forever grateful. What they do recall is who encouraged them to take it further. Lauren gives a shout out: “The first person that pops into my head, Steve Hicks. They each add: “A wonderful friend of ours - fantastic, doub-nominated song writer and acoustic guitar player. He played with us briefly.”
“He handed our very first album (a gospel album) off to a gentleman- Jeff Surratt at Sho Pro Steel Guitars and he gave it to Michael Flanders who ended up producing our last two albums.” Melissa adds: “It was really funny to get a call one day from some Australian guy in Nashville. I was like, am being punked? Like what? There are no Australians in Nashville. His claim to fame is that he came across the ocean on a boat with Keith Urban - he called me - and I’m like there’s literally some Australian guy on the phone who wants to talk about working with us.”
That phone call was a new beginning. Professional music has always been a part of their lives, with parents who had a Blue Grass band and a grandfather who was in The Music Makers - a band who crafted and played their own original instruments. Lauren, Ashley and Melissa now found themselves as the next generation in a long line of family performers to take center stage.
The Choir and Mama taught the girls the expert signature harmonies that make this trio so magnetic. The immense gratitude is apparent behind the joking delivery as Melissa confesses: “It was like a vendetta for [our Mama]...'you three are gonna sing. You’re gonna learn how to drive a car and sing harmony and you will wear blush.'"
It is because of this background that the transition to a successful music career has been seamless for GalFriday. Lauren reflects about family support: "If they would have said to us: ‘We think your crazy...’ We would have just laughed at ‘em, ‘cause they did it. We have their records up in the attic."
Ashley completes the thought with: "We started later than most people do. We went to school. We have degrees and careers. We had other endeavors but we always sang together. It wasn’t until were in our twenties that we decided to do this for real. They’ve been completely, above and beyond supportive."
When asked how they make it work, the answer is simple and grounded: “You just do.” Lauren continues: “It is a beautiful mess. We really do have a lot going on. We want to be in it with our families. We wouldn’t be able to do it if we didn’t have the support of our family. We want to drive this dream together.”
So what does the future hold for GalFriday Band? Melissa does not hesitate: “Our next step is a strategic tour. We’ve [played] some really big stages and we definitely want to keep doing that. We need to build the brand of GFB. We have folks around us who support us and know how to build a good strategy."
“We’ve performed shows mainly on the East Coast and in the South East - we definitely need to get moving around to different places in the country. We’re really looking forward to working with somebody who’s got big chops to get us out there; a touring partner, a booking manager somebody who can help put us in the right places so that more people can hear us."
One of the places the gals frequently play in Nashville is Cerveza Jack’s on 2nd Avenue. When asked about the venue and their upcoming gig there, the ladies are full of compliments.
“The stage set up by the open windows - It’s almost sport to see how many people we can get to come in. It has that relaxed environment, the people eating tacos understand why we’re gonna turn around and invite people to come in and shout out over the microphone about how good the margaritas and tequila shots are. We’re not only entertaining those in the restaurant, we’re entertaining those walking the streets. That’s one of the best qualities about Nashville - walk down the street and hear all that music - to know that you’re a part of that one big voice that comes from the streets of Nashville is just so stinkin’ fun!”
Ashley notes; “Ian [Byars, Manager] does an amazing job. He gets us dialed in very quickly - it’s so smooth and we’ve never had a sound issue there.” The sound is always spot on, it’s true. Cerveza Jacks has the atmosphere of a combination listening room,
food venue and all out party bar - a perfect match for GFB. So they return, and so do the crowds.
When asked about the future, Melissa is quick with the comeback: “Definitely not speaking to each other any more.” We all laugh, because we know this will never be the case. “No, It’s organic...Even if we’re in wheelchairs - well I won’t be in a wheelchair - I’ll be in a rocker because I’m a walker - too stubborn to sit. We’re just gonna keep makin’ records until we just aren’t.”
Ashley: “We just want to sing. We want to work. We want to get out in front of as many people as we can. Honestly that’s where we want to be. We just want to keep going. We’re always writing. Always working on the next album.”
To wrap it up the girls are asked to answer The Nashville 7 (pulling out my James Lipton - Inside the Actor’s Studio - here)...
1. In One word describe Nashville.
Melissa: “Energizing” (She adds: “That’s the best way to describe how it makes me feel when I’m walkin’ down the street.”)
2. How would you describe your music style?
Ashley: “Rockin’ “
Lauren: “I don’t know - dang it - It’s very Genuine - Authentic - what we’re doing is very true to who we are.” [As a genre] “Southern-Rock- Country”
3. What is your favorite venue in Nashville? (This is challenging for the girls - a bit of undisclosed discussion leads to...)
Ashley: “Robert’s Western World.”
A voice in the background interjects: “She just likes that bologna sandwich.” Lauren can’t answer right away tries to pass the buck to Melissa...there is a bit of whispering... Lauren: “Dancing at - Tin Roof.”
Melissa: “Paradise Park” (In particular she speaks to the chili pepper tater tots.)
4. What is your favorite food in Nashville?
It is unanimous when Lauren is quick to start: “Oh! Hands Down -“ Melissa stops her: “Let her go first Lauren!” Lauren: ”Dang it!” Ashley asks: “Are you gonna talk about the biscuits?” Lauren confirms: “I was gonna talk about the biscuits!” Ashley defers: “You can talk about the biscuits.”
Lauren exclaims for all: “Hollar and Dash Biscuits are on time!”
5. & 6. are a compound question:
Who would you most like to meet in Nashville? If you could ask that person one question what would it be?
Ashely: “Carry Underwood - how do you stay so freakin’ skinny?” Her sisters and I agree, this is a question Ashley need not ask as it one she herself could answer. Melissa adds: “Two words - personal trainer - that’s how she stays so skinny.”
Lauren: “Well I thought about this the other night as I was watchin’ the CMAs...I would love to meet Reba McEntire. The question: “What is the secret to surviving in the industry. The reason why I say that is because she’s been through so much. It’s pretty magical.”
Melissa: “I would really love to sit across from Lee Ann Womack. She’s so unapologetic about her music and she keeps that old school sound. She doesn’t [seem] to care what the music trends are, what’s charting, what’s going on. She’s so flippin’ authentic. When she sings she owns the room. And I would want to ask her, where does she get her confidence from to do that? Y’know, saying: ‘this is the music that I’m making.’ She’s so successful at it.”
The answer to the 7th question pays a perfect homage to GalFriday Band’s strength...
7. What is your favorite lyric from a song you wrote?
In order: Ashley softly starts, Lauren adds support and Melissa caps it off with reality ...
“Leave yourself behind the curtain”; “You are stronger than you think”; “From the battle lines to the grocery lines.”***
To the top of the charts. These gals are living the dream, writing the songs of the “beautiful mess” life presents and fighting the good fight to the top.
GalFriday Band will perform at Cerveza Jack’s Nashville Monday, December 4th 6:00pm-10:00pm
*Note: At the time of the interview GFB had just been noted in MusicRow Chart Report as “soon to chart.”
***Smoke and mirrors; Fighter; When You Think About a Soldier