Sending E-mealz: a quicker way to healthy

It’s a Tuesday night. You’re staring into the fridge wondering what to make for supper in the midst of work schedules, practices and homework. You just went to the grocery store but you’re at a loss for ideas while searching for something different to prepare. What should I make?

Jane Delaney found herself in that situation more often that she would have liked and decided to do something about it. In 2003, Delaney created E-mealz, an online meal-planning service for families. The concept behind E-mealz is to get families back around the dinner table and spend time together over a meal — something that was important in her own family growing up. Delaney grew up with four siblings, and as a daughter of a pastor. Delaney describes her family mealtime as, “it happened every night except Sunday night, because we went to church. Our family was big and busy. Had it not been for that regular pocket of time at dinner, we would have not had regular family time together.”JaneDeLaney_color-headshot

Today, Delaney is the wife of a pastor with four kids of her own, living in Birmingham. After struggling for years planning and preparing meals for her family and trying to find the time to make it happen, Delaney realized there had to be an easier way. Delaney began to see the potential that an online meal-planning service would have to help other families that deal with the same issue. “We started collecting recipes from other friends and families, as well as church cook books and sifted through them to get the most practical ones.” From there, she and her sister, Jenny Cochran, opened a business account and carefully grew E-mealz into a booming and successful meal-planning service that has helped thousands of families create a delicious meal, spend time together, and do it all on a tight budget.

Delaney’s desire to help families spend time together over a meal is centered around the idea that, “the dinner hour is the most logical, predictable time of day where families will likely connect, eye to eye, face to face, for any quality length of time. So making dinner happen, to us, means making family happen.” E-mealz offers its members a variety of meal plans including: Regular, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Portion Control, and Vegetarian Meals. Meal plans are based off of grocery stores and the foods that are on sale that week in the store. For $1.25 per week, members receive dinner meal plans with a corresponding grocery list. Another bonus of becoming an E-mealz member is the ability to use it when you need it. Some weeks, schedules may work so that no one will be home around dinnertime. But when schedules allow family members to be at home, E-mealz is there and ready to use. It’s as easy as printing out the meal plans and making a quick trip to the grocery store.

E-mealz has a team of recipe writers that work to make each recipe fit in the budget. Delaney discusses how most of the meals make enough to have left-overs and that “you have a lot of food for less money. Before your feet hit the grocery store floor, you know what you’re going to spend,” explains Delaney.

Delaney is encouraged as her team hears from members every day about how E-mealz makes a huge difference. “We have a team of women dedicated to answering e-mails every day. It’s an 8-hour job.” The team reads emails of how E-mealz has saved families time and money and that they are eating dinner as a family again.

E-mealzDelaney stays busy as E-mealz continues to grow but she balances her time operating her business with her family. “My family comes first. E-mealz second. So I weave E-mealz in and out of my life in a way that does not put my family at jeopardy. E-mealz has grown at a very steady and slow pace because of that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

In her blog, Delaney expands upon the importance of consistent meals together and how it can seemingly not be affective, but it is years of those small times that make such an impact on families. “No matter what the situation, every time you make family time happen around the dinner table it will be a bite-size deposit that will go into the reservoir of love and connection needed by each of your children. I assure you with many other resounding voices from our E-mealz community, it will be one of the best tools and worthwhile habits you’ll ever enforce. Don’t let the days turn to years. Do it now. Keep doing it. Don’t lose heart. Rally your family, regularly, for dinner – at home. You don’t need candles or cloth napkins. Just you, your table, and a simple meal. It’s a date and a family waiting to happen.”

Over Easy

IMG_3382From its delectable dishes to its chic, midcentury modern décor, Over Easy has many qualities that make it distinct from other dining establishments. A baby on the Birmingham restaurant scene, Over Easy celebrated its first birthday in November, but it has been a crowd-pleaser from the beginning.  Everyone from college students to members of weekly Bible studies file in daily for a fresh spin on breakfast food.

In addition to traditional omelets and pancakes, the menu also features innovative creations like the spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese “Easy Does It” Omelet; the cheesy, bell-peppered “Lumber Jack” Potatoes; a spicy breakfast burrito called “Huevos Rancheros”; the popular oatmeal pancakes; and Over Easy’s unique signature concoction, “Italian Eggs Benedict,” which substitutes a polenta cake for the traditional English muffin and an Italian pesto cream for Hollandaise sauce.

Over Easy also strives to serve the best ingredients, including organic milk and eggs, violet-hued blue corn grits and local produce, all offered at reasonable prices.

Over Easy is located at 358 Hollywood Blvd. and is open Tuesday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and weekends from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit www.eatovereasy.com or call (205) 639-1910 for more information, or stop by and savor the scrumptiousness yourself! Please see the coupon below and either print it out or show your Samford ID to receive a discount on your meal.

Barre Fitness: Birmingham’s new cup of tea

Wide-eyed, bubbly, and on the edge of her seat, 30-year-old Kate Lourie resembled an excited little girl anxiously waiting for the revealing of a surprise. “I’m an addict,” she confessed. “There’s no doubt. It’s my panacea.” Though the toned, beautiful brunette works in medical sales for a living, it is not a prescription drug that has her raging. “I’ve never felt or looked this great in my entire life,” she revealed. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop taking [barre] classes.”

Over the last three years, Barre Fitness studios have enthralled the women of Birmingham, already with four established studios within a 15-mile radius. The Barre Fitness technique is composed of repetitious, isometric movements done on a ballet barre, which are designated to strengthen, lengthen, and sculpt the female physique. Nonetheless, toning the body is only one of the many benefits from the workout.

Pure Barre Homewood co-owner and instructor, Lindsay Lancaster, raves about the success of the exercise. “It’s a full-body workout in 55 minutes that is innovative, evolving, changing, and prevents your body from ‘plateauing,’ it just works, it’s as simple as that.” Lancaster proceeded to go into the importance of the mind in Barre Fitness. “We call it an ‘intelligent exercise,’ meaning you put all of your effort and concentration into working that muscle. This is the time for clients to separate themselves from the world for 55 minutes and solely focus on themselves and their body.” Having taken classes at Lancaster’s studio for over a year and a half, Lourie claims she has never been so passionate about a workout. “The results prove themselves. There’s no other work out that has trimmed me in this way or that has given me the mental endorphin release that I need to ease my stress.”

Laura Amistead, owner and founder of Grand Jeté Studio and Boutique in Mountain Brook, says she went into owning her own studio so that she could serve others and share her gift from God with those around her. “The workout itself is completely effective in every way,” she began. “But I try to go beyond effective and more toward enjoyable.” Amistead asserts that to create a comfortable, intimate atmosphere, she tries keeping in touch with her clients and really takes to heart what they want out of the classes.

Alongside Amistead, Lancaster insists that the clients’ needs trump all other matters. “This is their haven, their safe environment. Women can come in here and not feel judged or uncomfortable, rather unified and empowered,” she continues. “It allows them to work their hardest without feeling vulnerable.” Lourie asserts that amidst the inviting atmosphere, she has been able to get close to the staff and fellow clients, claiming they have become a second family to her. “I love that it’s all women. We instantly have that special bond because we’re all there enduring the same pain for similar reasons. Not to mention I love seeing where they all got their workout clothes,” she joked. Lancaster admits that her relationship with the clients and their positive attitudes is what keeps her going everyday. “As instructors, we create professional relationships with clients to let them know that they are important and that they belong to something huge and amazing.”

Clients of barre fitness studios agree that the technique has proven to be successful not only in the physical health of the body, but the mental and emotional health as well. Lourie claims that in all of her life of looking for an effective stress releasing method, she has never felt such ease, relaxation, and confidence all at the same time.“I could never go without [barre fitness] again,” she insists. “It is just so beneficial to my life in every way; I progress physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.” Lourie is only one of the many women that have been inspired by barre fitness in Birmingham, let alone across the country. This innovative way of working out utilizes more than simply the body’s muscles; rather it regenerates the mind and the soul to truly create a “full body workout.”

While gushing about the benefits of the barre fitness technique, Lourie suddenly paused as a mischievous expression came across her face. “Well, there is one bad thing about barre fitness,” she said with a playful grin, “all of my jeans look so good that I don’t even have a favorite pair anymore. It makes it really difficult to pick out something to wear in the morning.” With a twinkle in her eye and a strut in her step, she then proceeded out the door, passing a group of men whose heads turned violently as they gazed after her. Noticing their hardly subtle reaction, Kate giggled as she got a glimpse of herself in the reflection of the window and continued on her way with a brilliant smile.

The t-shirt tells the story

Bo Gilroy and Matt Thornton believe in sharing. The two friends, students at Samford University, have a vision for sharing stories and working for a greater cause. Combined with a passion for clothing and fashion, the two started We:, a nonprofit clothing line aimed at bringing people together through their passions and stories.

“I was in a World of Business class, listening to the professor talk about entrepreneurship,” Gilroy said, when the idea came to him. He had been researching TOMS at the time, particularly the idea of social entrepreneurship. “The fact that you can help somebody through your business,” he said. “It was fascinating to me.” Their initial idea was to sell t-shirts with a purpose. He knew people would respond really well to the idea at Samford. Gilroy proposed the idea to his friends who jumped on board with brainstorming and ideas. “We all wanted to bring our different stories to the table,” Thornton said. “As I thought about my own personal story, I realized that I wanted to give back to that specific area in a way that would encourage others.” And thus, We: was born.

Headlining as a clothing company, We:Wears main slogan is, “Wear to Share,” encouraging people to share their stories via the their We:Wear shirts and apparel. As people see the causes being represented, others can join in, creating a mass movement of action for a cause or an organization. “I think sometimes it’s hard for people to be involved in certain causes or communities,” Gilroy said, “We just want to give people a way to do that through what they wear.”

Samford University’s Your School Your City event was one of We’s first events. It gave students a chance to get connected and the team at We to get their message out to the public. They are still working with those individuals, personally investing in them to help them achieve their goals. We: is unique in that it allows individuals to personalize their action; it connects people based on intimate emotions and passions. “People usually buy clothes for the look,” Gilroy said, “We want to increase the value behind the connection.”

The website, set to launch in the next few months, will provide a virtual community for sharing information and connecting with people over shared interests or experiences. The site will contain updates on how much money has been put towards what cause, where money is needed in specific areas and how many people are involved. “We want people to find their friends and allow it to be a conversation piece,” Thornton said, “We want people to ask, ‘What’s your story?’”

How exactly does it work? It’s simple, really. Once you buy a We:Wear product, the We: team will get your contact information as well the cause, organization or even broad field of interest you want to be a part of. If you don’t know for certain where you want to give your time and money, team will help you narrow down your interests to a certain organization via the follow-up email. We: is all about personalization – it’s what makes them stand out, and it’s also what will make them work.

As you raise money for your cause through events, marathons or other fundraisers, the We: team will be there, at the event, supporting you. “We want to go to the event, encourage them and be there for them,” Thornton said. In addition to the money raised through individuals, a percentage of the money from the sales of the products will go directly to that cause. “Ultimately, it’s not about me or Bo or our stories, our organizations or our products,” Thornton said, “we just want it to be able to run and help do what it does.”

We: eventually intends on taking 99 percent of product sales and putting it directly toward causes. “We want to be faithful in as many areas as possible,” Thornton said, “We’re using organic shirts, so if someone is passionate about being green, we’re being faithful there.”

As far as future plans, the team anticipates expanding the current clothing line consisting of two different styles of t-shirts, stickers and buttons to include wrist wraps, tanks and v-neck shirts. The team wants to hold an event every month, letting people know about ways to get involved. The more people involved, the bigger impact can be made when you “Wear to Share.”

Go to www.facebook.com/weartoshare or follow on Twitter at @wearwe for more information.

The Briary

Secondhand smoke laws: a First Amendment debate

Briary 2Now that smokers represent less than one fifth of the United States population, the minority is fighting to be heard in its efforts against high taxes and regulations. As the tobacco industry tries to defend the right to puff away, they are up against an increasingly intimidating majority viewpoint and strategy. Thus, the tobacco industry has become a growingly easy target for politicians, as it has been pelted over the years with taxes and restrictions on public indoor smoking, Chris McCalla said.

McCalla is the legislative director of an association called IPCPR, which stands for International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers. IPCPR aids over 2,000 retail shops in letting their voice be heard by lawmakers.

In 2005 Aaron Eckhart played a smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist named Nick Naylor in the political satire Thank You for Smoking. In the film, Naylor calls himself “the face of cigarettes, the Colonel Sanders of nicotine.” “I earn a living fronting an organization that kills 1200 people a day Twelve hundred people,” Eckhart’s character says. “We’re talking two jumbo jet plane loads of men, women and children.”

Just like Eckhart’s character, that’s also a strong emotional appeal to battle against if you’re Chris McCalla. “The problem we have in the tobacco industry is being that low-hanging fruit,” McCalla said. “It’s an easy target.” Persuasive secondhand smoke awareness campaigns as well as a higher than ever federal debt have cause legislators on the federal, state, and local levels to tax and regulate the tobacco industry in an unprecedented manner.

In 2010 the state of New York upped their tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.60, making the average pack cost 80 cents short of a 10-dollar bill. In New York City, which has its own cigarette taxes, a pack costs nearly $11 a pack. Cigars, dips, and other kinds of tobacco rose to a 75% state tax, the highest in the nation. “(A 75% tax) is egregious,” McCalla said. “It should be criminal in my opinion. That’s when we reach in and tell the states ‘you’re going to crush a handful of small businesses.’ They may not be the bread and butter of the state but you know what, some money is better than none. These people are hating a nickel because it’s not a dime.” McCalla said that legislators have good intentions behind the laws but aren’t listening well enough to the smokers who desire the right to legally enjoy tobacco products nor the small business owners that are trying to stay afloat in a fragile economy.

Skip to Elliott, owner of a pipe and cigar shop in Homewood, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. Unlike McCalla, Elliot doubts that lawmakers have good intentions behind these strong taxes and restrictions. “I doubt it very seriously,” Elliott said “I think it’s all a political agenda. They claim they are doing it to protect the public but they’re producing their results before the tests are done.”

Elliott’s shop, The Briary, is a member of IPCPR. Although only three states have a lower tobacco tax than Alabama’s, both Elliott’s state and county are pushing for smoke-free policies. The Briary is a popular place for middle-aged men to shoot the bull after work and catch up with friends while enjoying a stogie. “We won’t need a smoking lounge if you can’t smoke,” Elliott said. “People wouldn’t have any reason to hang out here. What would be the point?”

Elliot said it’s a matter of “when” as opposed to “if” these policies will take place in his area. “I think sooner or later they’ll do it,” Elliott said. “It’s just a matter of when. I hope it happens after I’m retired.”

Reverend Lyons

From the Pulpit to the Picket Line

Pulpit to Picket LineReverend R.G. Lyons looks like a minister. Around five-foot-nine, he has a welcoming face that makes people want to open up. He works in an urban ministry out of his church, Community Church Without Walls, and spends most of his day handing out food and clothes. His office is a cluttered mess. Clothes, bins, papers and photos lie scattered everywhere. Two hand-drawn-signs are prominently displayed in his office. They read, “Best Pastor Award.” It’s obvious they were made by someone less than 6. Lyons speaks softly; one has to lean in at first to hear him, and his eyes are always looking to the distance, like his mind is somewhere else. He’s a quiet man. The kind of person one would find helping in a soup kitchen, not leading a crusade for civil rights. However, that’s where Lyons finds himself in what he calls his “journey.”

Reverend Lyons was not looking to lead a political movement and neither was his friend and co-leader, the Rev. Matt Lacey, but along with ministers, they find themselves in front of a battle against Alabama’s new immigration law. For these two ministers, they do not fight for political reasons but for their faith and the freedom to practice their faith as Jesus calls them to do.

Lyons said he first heard of the bill last spring when it passed in the Alabama legislature. “We should have been speaking out about it before it passed,” Lyons said, “But with the disaster relief we were involved in at the time, we just didn’t learn about it until after.”

Lyons said when he learned about the bill he was floored. “The law is so strict on illegal immigrants. It harkens back to the Jim Crow laws by discriminating on a certain group of people,” Lyons protested. “How can someone tell by looking at a person if they are illegal or not? What this leads to is racial profiling.” However, the biggest problem Lyons has with the bill is its clause that criminalizes anyone who helps illegal immigrants. “If the state makes it illegal to help illegals, it’s hindering the church’s ability to help those in need. Our pastor sends vans to pick up Hispanic immigrants. I’m sure some of them aren’t legal, and under this law, our church would be sentenced on criminal charges for spreading the gospel.” Lyons said.

Lyons is not alone in feeling this way. He has found a partner in Reverend Matt Lacey, a fellow Methodist minister. Unlike Lyons, Lacey never jokes. In a plain and direct manner, he explained how the inner-city work his church, Woodlawn Methodist, led him to partner with Lyons in protesting the bill. “Our church runs a food pantry on Mondays and Fridays,” Lacey explained as he sipped his afternoon cup of joe. “There are lots of Hispanics that come through those doors, and I’m certain some of them aren’t legal. However, we believe that we should give food to whoever walks in.”

Like Lyons, Lacey couldn’t believe that the law passed and felt called by his faith to fight against it. “This law demonizes our Hispanic population, and any law that demonizes a certain segment of the community is un-Christ-like.” Lyons and Lacey felt that as ministers they could not sit back and watch this injustice take place. They wanted to send a message to Montgomery, so they organized a petition that was signed by 150 Methodist ministers in Alabama and sent it to Gov. Robert Bentley. In the petition, they explain how they believe the law is an infringement on civil rights and goes against the basic principles of Christianity.

“Most of the people serving in the state government claim to be Christians,” Lacey said. “So I wonder if many of them have read the bill. If they had, then I would seriously question their claims to be a follower of Christ, because this bill goes against everything Christ taught.”

“We wanted to call them out,” Lyons said. “Most of them claim to be Christians, yet they pass this law that discriminates against a group of people. We wanted to show them that they weren’t living the life they said they were.” Since the letter, both ministers have been instrumental in organizing protest events and spreading knowledge of the bill throughout Alabama. Lyons helped organize five Methodist church gatherings where people could hear lawyers read what was in the bill and hear why other Methodist ministers were against it. Lacey has been working with other religious and student groups, most recently supporting a rally protesting the bill that was held on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s campus. Neither one of them was looking to step into the political ring, but both feel that they are doing God’s work in defending Hispanics’ civil rights.

“In Romans 13, Paul tells us to respect authority, but that doesn’t mean submit to it,” Lyons said. “We should respect our country but our allegiance is to a higher calling. If there is a law or policy that goes against our faith, then we are called to fight it, not simply stand back and watch injustice happen.” Lacey agreed, stating, “When it comes right down to it, am I called to be an American first or a Christian first?” As this debate has heated up over the past couple of months, both men have brought these issues to the forefront of their congregation and have started a dialogue within their churches about what it truly means to be Christian and American. “For the first time, people are talking about what it means to live out their faith,” Lacey said. “We have people examining how they are living their lives and asking themselves, ‘Am a truly living as a follower of Christ?’ Our churches are being challenged to live Christ’s call, and I’m very excited to see people step up and take a stand for what is right.”

The bill was passed last week, but there is a silver lining. A federal judge has blocked certain aspects of the Alabama law from being enforced, including the part about punishing those who transport and harbor illegal immigrants. The case is still in the court systems; however, Lyons and Lacey will continue fighting it on the home front. They aren’t sure what the next step is, but as long as there is injustice to fight, they will follow God’s call to fight it.

“We aren’t community organizers, we’re not politicians,” Lacey said. “We’re just figuring it out as we go and walking wherever God takes us.”

Happy Place

Finding your happy place: the beauty behind Amy Head Cosmetics

Amy Head

“I’m just sneaking in the back,” a customer jests as Lynn North, the owner of Amy Head Cosmetics in Homewood, warmly greets her with a hug. “Oh, that’s what it’s there for!” Lynn exclaims, “I’m sorry I don’t have on my lipstick, you caught me finishing lunch! Come on in, and we’ll see what Amy can do for you.”

That’s the way that Lynn treats all of her customers. It’s part of what makes Amy Head Cosmetics different from other makeup lines and cosmetic studios. That, and their theory that makeup is not meant to hide or cover up a person. This theory is what Mississippi native Amy Head, founder of Amy Head Cosmetics, had in mind when she began her makeup line in 1987 after seeing first hand the negative effects of poor makeup.

“It’s not finding what’s wrong, it’s seeing the beauty, and then painting,” says Amy. “It’s seeing the beauty first…we can explain what’s pretty and why, so that people feel that authenticity that is there. When [people] have that type of validation before the makeup, it’s just huge.” A model in her early twenties, Amy was tormented by an abusive childhood and blinded by a shame that masked her physical beauty. She had always been artistic, but was unaware that her gift was special. Then, one day during her modeling career, one move would change her life forever. “I could not see my beauty. The shame was the veil; I could not tell that there was something special there. And, I had the worst makeup job ever,” says Amy. “So, I said ‘give me that [brush]’, and I never turned back.” From then on, Amy wanted to put makeup on everyone. Her husband, Harold Head, is a photographer, and Amy would have him photograph her clients’ faces for her to study. From there, the self-taught artist developed her own line in Ridgeland, Mississippi at the age of 26.

So, how did Amy Head Cosmetics get to Birmingham? Says Lynn North, “I thought, ‘What a great business opportunity!’ and I also liked Amy’s philosophy. It’s not just about selling makeup. It’s about empowering women…and helping women really feel good about themselves. I really do think that’s what we do. It’s not just putting makeup on somebody.” With that, Lynn opened an Amy Head Cosmetics studio in Crestline in the fall of 2004. While it was great for the small community, within a few years, the studio had reached its full potential in that village. In December of 2009, Amy Head made the move to Homewood, just as the economy took a turn for the worse. “It’s been a tough time for sure,” says Lynn, “But I’ll tell you, I think our reputation has kept us on top. The fact that we aren’t just about selling makeup, that we love to work with that 7th grader, that we can also help a tired young mother. And people know that and talk about that.”

The more time one spends in the little studio on the corner of 18th street and 29th avenue, the more one understands Lynn and Amy’s vision. From the crisp, soothing décor, to the upbeat but hardly overwhelming background music, the place exudes joy, comfort, and beauty that goes beyond a pretty face. It is evident that each client comes in to buy a product, but leaves feeling inwardly radiant and outwardly rejuvenated because of the measures that Lynn has carefully taken to ensure that each woman feels special enough to recognize the beauty that the ladies of Amy Head saw even before the makeup.

“From young [girls] learning makeup to an older woman who doesn’t want to be stuck in a rut…we are makeup for all ages, and we have the expertise to do that,” says Lynn. “That’s why we call it empowering women…we want you come in and sit down so that we can teach you.”

“My favorite thing,” explains Lynn, “is seeing people and making people happy. I feel like that’s what we do, we make people feel good. It’s a happy place.”

For the love of music…

The Nashville Alternators

Lead vocalists Gene Miller and Chris Rodriguez jam out on stage

Europeans know Tennessee exists because of Jack Daniels whiskey and country music. Bright neon lights, smoke, drinks, crowded rooms, and really loud music are ordinary in “Music City” bars and music venues. But only a select group of musicians have what it takes to really catch attention away from the noise of Music City. “There are a million great musicians,” says drummer Bobby Blazier of crowd-pleasing band The Nashville Alternators. “But the ones that play it from the heart, well that’s rare.”

All the musicians in the Alternators have 30 plus years experience in the music industry. Some of them have played on stage and in sessions together for 25 to 30 years. If you combined their experience, you would find they played with big name artists like Keith Urban, John Mayer, Peter Cetera, Lee Ann Rimes, Shania Twain, Kenny Loggins, Matt Redman, Amy Grant and Vince Gill. Lead vocalist Gene Miller even graced the stages of Opryland in its prime before he moved to Los Angeles to perform with Barbara Mandrell before touring with Donna Summers. But it’s never been fame that drives them. It’s all for the love of music.

They’re the definition of seasoned players and have a passion for music second to none. A common thread among this group shows that they all fell hard for music at a young age. Blazier started playing drums at 13, Miller harmonized Christmas carols with his dad at the age of six (he said he didn’t choose music, it chose him), and other lead singer Chris Rodriguez decided at the same age that he would have a guitar by age 10. He followed through with that decision. When music got a hold of them, they didn’t want to let go.“It’s in your soul,” Blazier says, “It’s what we breathe and live and love.”

It all started when Blazier organized a group of his closest musician friends to play at Stogie’s, a favorite cigar joint in Cool Springs, Tenn. for the MusiCares benefit in May 2010. However most of them didn’t know what he was planning. According to lead vocalist Gene Miller, the chemistry on stage that night surprised them all. “It just so happened that Chris Rodriguez and Tommy Sims were there…We just got up there and started jamming. It sounded like we’d been playing together for years.” The connection between each of them weaves throughout the entire band: vocalists Gene Miller and Chris Rodriguez, drummer Bobby Blazier, bass player Akil Thompson, keyboard player and vocalist Carl Hergessell, recently deceased and world-renowned percussionist Tom Roady, keyboard player De Marco Johnson, bass player and vocalist George Hawkins, and finally (take a breather) bass player David LaBruyere.

Classic covers would best describe the song list. Rodriguez says it’s his favorite part, “The coolest thing about the Alternators is the song list…The songs you’ve always loved but never got to play live.” They set out to do covers better than the original; their fans would argue they do it every time. “When you love the music and then you love the people you are playing with, it makes it that much better. And there is a high respect level there as well,” says Blazier, “It’s fun for everybody cause we are having so much fun ourselves.” The attitude is contagious, and audience members of all ages love what they play.

Drummer Bobby Blazier smiles for the camera.

Throughout decades in the music industry, these musicians have crossed paths and worked with each other from one gig to another. For the first time in 30 years they are playing together. “We have a nice cast of revolving people,” Rodriguez says. It’s where they get the name. They never know who’s going to be on the road during an Alternators show, and that’s okay for them. “We’ve gotten to the point where we can alternate songs based on who we have.”

Miller says the spontaneity of talent rotating through each gig keeps it fun. He hopes it’s something the music industry gets more of in the coming years. “I wish there would be a pursuit of the art more than there is a pursuit of being stars,” Miller says. Their passion may pay the bills during the day, but once they’re on stage together the pressure is off. Music is the art, they’re the craftsmen.