Directionally Challenged

If you were to ask my sweet, sweet girlfriend, Tori, for one of my biggest flaws, she would undoubtedly tell you that I am directionally challenged. And she would be absolutely correct. So much so, that when I first started driving I needed a GPS to find my house even when I was in my own neighborhood. So I don’t know why I thought that hiking a trail marked “most strenuous” without a map was a good idea, but nevertheless I did.

Leading up to the hike, I was very proud of the day I had planned for us. We were supposed to go on a 5-mile trek over the Black Balsam Bald near Asheville, North Carolina, and then head down into Asheville for dinner. She had no idea of our plans, and I jokingly said on the ride up, “Don’t worry, today will have enough excitement for today and tomorrow.” I had no idea how true this statement would turn out to be.

It was an amazing day for a hike, and I was so thankful to be able to take in the Lord’s wonderful creation with Tori. We did our devotional together on top of the Tennent Mountain, and we talked about surrendering our lives/relationship fully to the Lord. We discussed how this can be difficult and, as our devotional put it, that “surrender goes against every fiber of our being.” However, when we do surrender to Him we experience peace and joy, and our relationships are truly more secure because they are rooted in God.

It was a great devotional, but we had no idea how real all that we had discussed would become in a few, short hours.

Around 4 p.m., after we had hiked a little over four miles, we came to the end of the Art Loeb trail, which I thought was a loop. This is when the problems started appearing. The loop was nowhere to be found, and we were left guessing which way to go. I quickly realized that I did not do enough research on the trail we were hiking because I had no idea which way we were supposed to go at this point. All we knew was that we didn’t want to turn back and hike four more miles to get out. So, we decided to embark on a trail that we thought might lead us back to our car.

Bad idea.

I always thought that getting lost in the mountains with minimal water, dying phones and without flashlights would never happen to me, but indeed here we were. We realized we did not know where we were so we would take trails that we thought would lead us back to the parking lot, but that never happened.

A few hours earlier, we had joked about getting lost in the woods and having to spend the night out there. Now it was a real possibility, and we were definitely unprepared for that. We started praying that the Lord would lead us out.

Tori was ready to be back in the car, and I felt like an idiot for getting us lost in the woods. We were asking ourselves, as Taylor Swift says, “Are we out of the woods yet?” around every bend. The answer was “no” every single time.

Now it was dark, and we were no closer to being on the right trail. I began praying that the Lord would supernaturally direct us. I did not have any idea what that was going to look like, but I knew we needed direction. We were completely lost, and without Him we were not going to find our way out that night. Sounds a lot like our need for a Savior, doesn’t it?

Fork in the road

In this moment of prayer we came to a fork in the road. We decided to go straight, which was actually the wrong choice. However, we walked a little ways and literally stumbled upon two people camping for the night. They asked if we were okay, and I had to swallow my pride and admit that we were most certainly not okay.

They were able to refill our empty water bottle, give us headlamps and point us in the right direction thanks to their maps. Finally, we were headed on the right path.

At this point, Tori was extremely frustrated with me, rightfully so, because I got us into this mess. This was definitely the biggest trial that we had faced thus far in our almost-six-month relationship. I hated that I had gotten us in this mess, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the faithfulness of the Lord and how He always provides for us. He literally was the lamp unto our feet and light unto our steps on this night.

The Father’s presence was so real to us. I kept telling Tori how crazy it was that we tried to find our own way and only got more lost, but in those moments of complete cluelessness the Lord provided for all our needs. We might have skipped church to go hiking, but we definitely got our dose of church and learned so much about how amazing our God truly is.

It was through recognizing this truth about the Lord — and many, many apologies on my part — that Tori and I were able to reconcile. I was so thankful for the reconciliation. I figured that since we had made up we could enjoy the millions of stars we saw as we hiked back.

All of the happiness of making up and awe of the stars vanished in an instant when we saw four glowing lights floating on the trail in front of us. They were not stars, but four eyes staring directly at us. The eyes were silver, which we later learned, is common among wolves. My prayer in life is to have a heart like David, but I did not mean that I wanted to kill predators with a slingshot, or in my case, a tiny, hiking knife. Again, the Lord was watching out for us, and the wolves disappeared into the thicket.

At this point in our hike we still had about an hour and a half of hiking left to do. That was definitely the most uneasy hour of hiking I have ever done in my life. We spent the rest of the hike yelling in hopes that the animals would leave us alone, which they did. During this time we were hiking through the valleys of the mountains in thicket that rose above our heads. Every step was not a matter of life and death, but it was a very real reminder that the Lord does watch over us in the valley of the shadows of death.

We made it through the thicket and over the balds and the trail started to look more and more familiar. Then, as we walked through the trees we could see the road; we had made it out of the forest!

We still had to walk a mile down the pitch-black road to our car, which was nerve-racking in itself, thanks to the heckling campers we passed just as we were exiting the woods.

Thankfully though, nine hours and over 15 miles later, we reached the car.

Never in my life have I been more excited about Taco Bell and getting stuck at red lights as I was when we made it down the mountain and into Ashville.

Looking back, that hike certainly produced copious amounts of tears and basically every emotion in the books. However, it also gave me a deeper understanding and thankfulness for the Lord as my provider, and encouragement for my relationship with the always-forgiving Tori Stoenica. Because if we can remain rooted in the Lord during our trials like the ones we faced on the hike, than our relationship will continue to head in the right direction.

Finally, in life, when we remain fully dependent on our Heavenly Father, we can have full confidence that He will always lead us on the right path; it doesn’t matter how directionally challenged we might be.

 

The Timid Sons: The juggling act begins

Trip Wood, Tre Mason, Frank Robertson and Preston Little relax after a long day of work, school and band practice. Photo by Kate Sullivan.

Story by Hannah Garrett and Caleb Jones

The band lounged around on the couch after a late night practice session, visibly exhausted but genuinely in love with the opportunity they have to make music.

However, The Timid Sons, comprised of Trip Wood, Frank Robertson, Tré Mason and Luke Brown, only get to make this music after their full days of work and school. They come together late at night to practice and develop new songs, and wake up the next day to do it all over again.

The band’s only studio-recorded album to date, a self-titled work, includes its most popular single, Cocaine Lips. This up and coming band loves to play shows in the Birmingham area, but also likes to travel as well.

“It all started when Frank walked up to me in the food court and said he had a song idea,” Wood said. “We weren’t in a band yet, but he proceeded to pull out a napkin with the words ‘cocaine lips and a hurricane smile.’ I was expecting a chorus or something at least, but all I got was a phrase.”

“That ended up being all I needed though; I took the napkin back to my apartment, sat down and wrote the whole song that day. In that moment The Timid Sons were born,” said Wood.

The band’s name, The Timid Sons, came about when Robertson was reading a book called “I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son” by Kent Russell. The book itself is based off a famous Davy Crockett quote.

With a band name and one song under his belt, Wood was ready to churn out music at a rapid rate.

“This book really resonated with us,” Wood said, “The idea that a father would really rail their son and be that openly disappointed with him made the realization that we are all born into expectations. People naturally have expectations of us. While you are born into a world of disappointment, that doesn’t mean that you are a disappointment. While we are imperfect, and while we aren’t necessarily a band with full time musicians, we accept it, move on and make music we want to hear.”

Wood said he had a handful of ideas already in his head from the previous few years. At the time he didn’t think he would actually use them. Some of the lyrics he had were from experiences that happened that month and others were just things he thought about and wrote down.

Following their first song, “Cocaine Lips,” the band spent about a month recording eight songs at Mountain Brook Community Church. The album came together so quickly because Wood would spend days on end recording music, often times sleeping in the studio to maximize histime.

“Back when we were recording, a few days would pass,” Robertson said, “and I wouldn’t have seen Trip, so I would stop by the studio. I found him there multiple times, tucked away by himself, with lots of cups of coffee, some fresh, and some not so fresh. Trip would have this twitchy, kind of crazed look about him, but he was producing our songs at a ridiculously fast rate. Sometimes you just let the man work and appreciate the results.”

At this time, the band was moving quickly and Wood was rushing the entire thing because he wanted to have a couple of singles to release right away. Because of this, only three of the band members actually recorded on the album. It was challenging for their old drummer from Atlanta to drive to Birmingham every so often to record so they began to reach out to find a new drummer.

The Timid Sons faced several challenges in its early days, such as finding a permanent drummer in the Birmingham area, recording for the first time and singing in front of an audience for the first time. Wood said he was unsure of how to carry himself in front of others and found the experience of playing live nerve racking at first.

They are currently working on two new songs including one Trip wrote about a blind man called Jim James. The song, he explained, is about how easily we can get wrapped up in our own frustrations while much worse things happen in the world.

“I was driving back from my Spanish test and was obsessing about how bad I had done. I was drinking my Starbucks, listening to my favorite music, and just being super self-indulgent,” Wood said, “I was going down Lakeshore Drive and reached the part where there isn’t anything for about a mile and that’s when I saw this guy at the bus stop. He was blind, and he was sitting out there on the bench, in the sun, during the hottest part of the day, in the middle of the summer.”

“In that moment it became really obvious how self-indulgent I was being. Some of the lyrics I wrote were completely bashing myself and I had to refrain from keeping them in the song. How could I be so self-obsessed? This man is probably going to work right now, and probably not to his first job, more than likely, to his second one and he is blind. There was just a lot of things going through my mind at that moment and I was able to get it out on paper.”

Trip Wood:

What does music mean to you?

It’s meant a lot of different things to me, especially in the last few years. If I’ve learned one thing about music, it’d be this: Music can be a stress reliever, a medium to express yourself and so much more. However, once you start expecting something from it, you start to lose it.

How does your music reflect who you are as a person/musician?

Sometimes I worry that it reflects who I am a bit too much: fast, irrational, and not thought through.

Describe a typical day for you.

My average day changes frequently. Right now, the only things that are constant are how much I eat and that I write two songs’ worth of lyrics a day.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What role does your music play in that plan?

Hopefully I’ll still be pursuing music as a career. Like I’ve said before, the men and women that do this full time are incredible. It takes a lot of guts to decide to make your living off of something so inconsistent.

Frank Robertson:

What do you play in the band? How long have you been playing?

I play guitar and have been playing since about 7th grade

What do you do when you are not playing with The Timid Sons?

I work part time and am trying to figure out if I want to go back to school this coming year or pursue full time work.

Is it hard to balance music and work?

The biggest challenge is to feel like I’m being responsible in my pursuit of both. It seems like practices can only happen later at night, but I have to be up by 6 a.m. in order to start my morning for work.

What is your best memory with the band?

One of our first shows back from the summer at a venue called the High Note. It was one of our first shows at a legitimate venue with a real sound guy and PA system, and this stage that was so tall but not very wide. It was one of the first moments that “we’re a real band” clicked in my head.

What is your goal for the band?

To go as far as we can.

Banditos in search of BIG break

Photo courtesy of David McClister

Guitarist Corey Parsons sits down with The Local to discuss the band’s goals, influences and accomplishments.

The Banditos are natives of the Birmingham area, but currently live in Nashville as they pursue their music career fulltime. The band is comprised of six friends who describe themselves as more of a “gang” than a musical group. This rag-tag gang has been making music together for more than five years now. They started out playing in bars and out on the streets around downtown Birmingham. Now, they have put out a full-length, self-titled, album with a second album on the way. Guitarist Corey Parsons recently discussed the band’s journey with The Local.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome as a band?

Being able to make a living by playing music is a challenge within itself.

How does the music you play relate back to your everyday lives?

Definitely, most everything we write has came from personal experience. And if not, it certainly does now.

What other artists (past or present) inspire you? 

Too many to name, but I’ll name a few that come to mind for the sake of the interview. Chuck Berry, Etta James, Gram Parsons, Ramones, Lightnin’ Hopkins, 13th Floor Elevators, Sly and the Family Stone, Dr Hook, Bob Seger, The Banana Splits, etc.

What are the band’s long term goals? 

To do our best to smooth the rough edges of life for anyone needing so.

What would you want your fans to know about the band that they might not?

We’re genuinely appreciative of them.

What inspires the lyrics for y’all’s songs?

It’s different every time, but we all take from personal experiences in some way or another.

What has been y’all’s biggest accomplishment so far? 

We just finished recording our second album. We’re pretty proud of it.

 

 

 

People of Birmingham: Micah Green-Holloway

If four years ago you asked Micah Green-Holloway where he would be attending school, Samford University would have not even been on the list. Fast forward to October 2016, and he is set to graduate with his business degree in May.

“Being from Woodlawn High School,” Green-Holloway said, “I didn’t think I would ever be smart enough or have good enough test grades to make it into Samford. That’s when I learned about this program called My Brother’s Keeper.”

My Brother’s Keeper is a program designed to put inner city high school students into Alabama universities. There were only eight kids selected for this program, and Micah was talented and blessed enough to be one of those students.

Green-Holloway remembers touring Samford one day during his sophomore year where he met President Dr. Westmoreland. “I was talking to Dr. Westmoreland recently,” Green-Holloway said, “And he reminded me of what I told him when we were sitting in his office during my tour.  I told him, ‘not too many people make it past my stop sign.’ Not too many people make it out of Woodlawn. I was not going to be complacent. I was determined to make it past my stop sign, and I did.”

It was a long journey to get to Samford, but he has been making an impact ever since he stepped on campus. Green-Holloway made the Dean’s List both semesters of his freshman year, was selected to be a Samford Ambassador, and was given the Freshman Leadership Award. Needless to say, the hard work and determination he had paid off immensely.

Today Micah is an intern at Fix Mart and will be presenting a business idea to the Miami Dolphins, Marlins and Heat in the middle of December. This past summer he interned with the Birmingham Barons to try to get his foot in the door of professional baseball management–his ultimate dream is to be the General Manager of the Atlanta Braves.

Even though Green-Holloway has thrived at Samford, he has never forgotten where he came from and how he got to where he is today. That is why being an Urban Young Life Leader is one of the things that Micah is most proud of.

“I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to invest in the lives of kids the way that so many people have invested in me. When I look at these kids, I see the potential that a few years ago people saw in me, and it excites me to see where they will be four years down the road.”

Green-Holloway wants people to remember a few things when they think about his Samford career. He said, “I want people to remember that I loved the Lord with all my heart, that I not only did well at Samford, but that I left a legacy that lives beyond myself. I want people to see that I left a legacy at Young Life, at Ransom and on the campus of Samford as a whole. I want people to know that I never would have been able to do it on my own, but by the grace of the Lord and His faithfulness throughout the whole process I have been able to leave a legacy.”

Faces of Birmingham

Birmingham lays claim to some trendy coffee shops, and Octane Coffee is no exception. Have you ever wondered exactly who the people are behind the counter serving this delightful coffee? They have intriguing stories to tell, and barista/mixologist Trenton Bell, has one of the finest.

Bell graduated from Samford’s Beeson Divinity School back in May of this year. “I felt a sense of calling to go [to seminary]; I felt internally that it was the right next step for me after college,” said Bell. He received his Master’s in Divinity and now awaits the Lord’s next step for his life.

Throughout his life, Bell has always had two main loves: Jesus and music. He felt the Lord calling him to combine those passions for the Kingdom of God and thus, the band Multis Project was born. Multis is Latin for many, and Bell chose this name because the purpose of Multis Project is to promote diversity within music.

Multis Project was somewhat born out of necessity. Bell and his friend, Louie Free, were driving back from a conference they had been leading worship at and were in line for another gig, but there was one problem, the next conference wanted the two guys to bring a band with them. “We put together a group of folks, and tried to put together as much of a diverse team as possible,” Bell said. “We have some hip-hop, gospel, folk and pop all mixed in together. We want to push the envelope and reach out to and unify diverse groups of people.” The band has been doing just that ever since their first performance back in January.

Bell constantly faces the battle of balancing being a full time barista and trying to continue to pursue his passion for making music. However, he does not really worry about it too much. “I trust that we [Multis Project] will go where we need to be at the proper time. We have patience in trusting the Lord, but we are persistently pursuing opportunities,” he said.

So if you need a delicious Carmelatto, or want to book a cutting edge band, look no farther than Octane’s very own, Trenton Bell.