This week starts another new feature for MusicScribeBlog; Conversations. This new informative interview feature will bring you a little bit closer to artists/songwriters/industry folk that contribute to this music form that we all love, Southern Gospel music.
To sit in the interview chair for our inaugural feature is lead vocalist of the band, Akins; Nick Akin.
Eaton: I know your father has been ministering for many years and you and your brothers have been singing just as long. What is your earliest memory of performing on stage?
Akin: “Ever since I can remember, we sang on stage. We had our own kids album when we were little. Dad would usually bring us up to sing a few songs during his concerts. The first time I played drums on stage was at our home church when I was ten years old. We actually have it on video and included it on the bonus material of our Live In Concert DVD. My drums are set up so funny; I honestly don’t even know how I hit the toms with them being so far apart. Today, Eli is the most talented musician in our family, but back then he just sat in his chair and hit a tambourine against his leg. It’s quite funny to see.”
Eaton: When did you become familiar with what is known as Southern Gospel music?
Akin: “Really, I grew up with it. My dad has always been a huge Southern Gospel fan. He played lead guitar for The Nelons before we were born. So even as a child I remember hearing The Nelons a lot when we would get in the car. Also, Dad had many Gaither DVD’s that we would watch together.”
Eaton: One of the biggest enjoyments of seeing your family in concert is the live instruments used. What are your thoughts on being part of a music industry that is so track heavy?
Akin: “I wish it didn’t have to be so track heavy, as I believe live music helps attract a younger audience. But, I also understand that a band is a big financial expense. If we did not play the instruments ourselves, it would be challenging to have a live band.”
Eaton: Not only are you lead vocalist for Akins, but you do quite a bit of songwriting for the group. Where do you draw your creativity in crafting a song?
Akin: “There are many different ways I get ideas for songs. “I Want My Stage To Be An Altar” was written from a sermon that our pastor preached. “Kneel” was written because of a picture that my dad saw while out shopping with Mom at Kirklands. He calls me from time to time with ideas from something he sees or hears. Life experiences bring inspiration as well. “What If God Says No” was written after the passing of a very special friend of our family. As far as crafting the songs, it’s been a long process with much learning. And, I’m still learning. I wrote many songs in the beginning stages that were honestly very bad, but they were all part of the learning process. Much of what I learned was from letting professionals critique my songs. When I was younger, I signed up for a songwriting service called TAXI that would critique my songs. It wasn’t always easy to hear the criticism, but it made me a better songwriter. I tend to write in a “country music” style now because I love how country music writers are so good at crafting; hook lines are strategically placed, and stories are told in a creative way. I do my best to apply that kind of writing to Gospel music.”
Eaton: Your family does many multi-day church events. Explain to the readers how that works just in case someone is reading that would like to bring the event to their own church.
Akin: “It’s a great way to connect with churches on a more personal level. We usually start on Sunday morning and go through Wednesday evening. Each service Sunday through Tuesday is full of inspirational music, messages, and testimony from our family. Our dad does the majority of the preaching. On Wednesday evening, we finish up with a full length concert. We encourage everyone all week-long to invite their lost friends to the concert in hopes to see many place their faith in Jesus. We usually refer to these events as “Musical Revivals” or “Revival in Concert” because you don’t always know where the music stops and the message starts. If you are a church looking for something different to try, it really is a fresh way to have revival.”
Eaton: Southern Gospel concert goers can be an interesting bunch. What is the most unusual/funny thing a concert goer told you at the product table?
Akin: “We had someone at the NQC come to our table and ask if we were a quartet. We told him that we were a band, but our vocals were three-part harmony. He then said, “So you don’t have a bass singer?” When we said “no” he put our CD back in the rack, gave us a strange look, and walked away.”
Eaton: When I first heard Akins, having been around Southern Gospel music my entire life, my mind immediately went to the sound/style of the Mid-South Boys. Are you familiar with the Mid South Boys and have you been told that your style is reminiscent of the group?
Akin: “To be honest, we really did not know much about the Mid-South Boys until so many people began to tell us that we had a similar sound. The funny thing is that the drummer for the Mid-South Boys, Donnie Lewis, contacted us through Facebook a while back with an encouraging message about how much he enjoys our music. Believe it or not, he is now the tour manager for Peter Frampton. He met us for lunch in Atlanta and gave us tickets and backstage passes to Peter Frampton’s concert. That was a neat memory!”
Eaton: Who are some of you musical heroes/mentors?
Akin: “As far as mentors, I can honestly say my dad. He loves all kinds of music, and encouraged us to like all kinds of music too. He mentored all of us and allowed us to play on stage with him, even when we were not very good yet. But it made a huge difference in our lives, not only musically, but spiritually too. Growing up, my favorite artists were in the Contemporary Christian market. When we were kids, my dad bought us a Michael W. Smith live concert video. From that point on I was true Smitty fan. 🙂 Also, Steven Curtis Chapman was another favorite of mine. Then came the Christian rock bands like DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline, Third Day, etc. As I grew a little older, groups like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban began to hit the Country music scene, and they are really what inspired me to love Country music.”
Eaton: You just hopped in your truck. What is in your CD player right now?
Akin: “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” soundtrack. And usually it’s “Do You Know The Muffin Man” sung by Minnie Mouse, set to repeat over and over again. Hey, I have a two-year old daughter. What else can I say?”
Eaton: In closing, if you had the power to change one thing about Southern Gospel music, what would it be?
Akin: “I would say that I wish the Southern Gospel industry would be more open to all styles of Southern Gospel from traditional to progressive. As I mentioned above, if not for Country music embracing new artists like Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, etc., who were far from the traditional Country sound of that time, I may have never fallen in love with Country music. I may have never experienced how great all of the classic Country artists are too. I believe if this same concept could be applied to Southern Gospel, a younger audience would be drawn in, and begin to love the traditional Southern Gospel sound as well.”
I trust you enjoyed our first Conversations feature with Nick Akin (Akins). The group just released a video of their top ten hit “Kneel” (published by TheAkinsVideos). Enjoy!