Fireflight Turns 15, Stays Faithful Amidst A Flurry of Changes
Fifteen years sure have flown by for faith-based modern rockers Fireflight, who may have first begun as a relatively obscure Florida-bred band, but have since scored a Grammy nomination, nine chart-topping singles, sold nearly 400,000 albums and amassed an extraordinary 13 million views on VEVO. It’s no wonder why members have taken even more control of their musical destiny throughout INNOVA (it means “renew” in Latin), not only as a completely independent release via a PledgeMusic crowd-funding campaign (that hit 125% of its goal), but also when it comes to adding ambitious electronic and melodic pop elements (think Imagine Dragons meets Ellie Goulding) to the seasoned group’s hard rock rumblings. In addition to those aesthetics, a look behind the scenes also reveals a season filled with many fresh personal facets, some of which were accompanied with their fair share of challenges, but also the catalysts in guiding singer Dawn Michele, guitarist Glenn Drennen, his wife and bassist Wendy, plus drummer Adam McMillion towards even further reliance on the Lord.
“During the recording of this album, we’ve learned how to trust God so much more, first off, because we decided to part with our record label and do this on our own,” confirms Dawn Michele of the amicable split and first leap of faith. “This is also our first record without our original lead guitarist Justin Cox, who decided to retire from traveling to be with his growing family…We originally wanted to release the album last October, but between choosing to release it independently and having four different producers, we couldn’t get the timelines lined up. So we were discussing when we were actually going to release the record and suddenly my husband and I found out I was pregnant! We decided to release it on 5/15/15 because this is our fifth album and 15th year as band. The cool thing is it gave us more time to keep working extras for the album, build up momentum for it and even have Stephen Christian from Anberlin as a guest, who was still going to be gone on a tour in Europe [at the time of the original deadline]. That turned out really awesome, and we’re not only super stoked about that song [‘Safety’], but the fact that God has a plan even when it doesn’t match up to what we think it should be at first. It’s just totally a brand new process and a season of renewal for us!”
Though the extra time was clearly God-ordained, the group was far from idle over the winter with the players taking care of pre-promotion travels while regularly conferring with Dawn Michele via text and email, who was on a total flight ban for the last four months of her pregnancy and eventually had a C-section. Thankfully, baby and mother are 100% healthy, though between complications and a completely full calendar, it’s all really nothing short of a miracle!
“It’s been crazy,” admits the front woman, now able to laugh since the dust has settled (at least a little bit). “My husband and I moved to a new apartment a few weeks before the baby was born, and on top of that, we were trying to fulfill everything from our Pledge fund, like paintings or writing out song lyrics for backers. Also, I used to be a school teacher, so I went back and I was teaching for a fifth grade class who had lost their teacher. They were tons of fun, but they wore me out every day, especially because I was so hugely pregnant! So between teaching and painting and moving and preparing for the baby and the new record, it’s probably been the craziest time in my life ever!”
If there’s one recurring thread to Fireflight’s last decade-and-a-half together, its members deliberate decision to expose their unvarnished emotions for all the world to see. And while faith is always a primary focus no matter how intense a season may be, these famous faces will be the first to admit their struggles are just as human as anyone else. In the case of Dawn Michele, one subject she’s regularly shared with fans is a lifelong struggle with self-esteem, and even with so much on her mind as of late, it continues to creep into the picture.
“Having a baby is a huge temptation for your self-esteem,” she ponders. “You go through a tremendous change, both in your body shape and mentally with all those hormones. Then you have a baby and you don’t sleep anymore. I was joking with my husband one night and said ‘I think what makes women start to look older is the fact they stop getting to sleep.’ He’s like ‘babe, you look beautiful,’ but it’s hard! I think self-esteem is one of those things women and men are going to struggle with their whole lives. It’s always going to be a death to self kind of thing. As a woman, all these different things are set up against you and there’s a negative connotation with age. I feel like men get better looking as they grow older and women get worse, which is a terrible way to look at it, but I think that’s what society teaches us. I think that what God’s teaching me through all of this is the older you are, the more that you know and the more beautiful you’re becoming on the inside because you have more time to learn and grow in mercy and love and giving.”
So what’s Fireflight’s overall message to both fiercely loyal followers and those just latching on to the band’s contagious sounds amidst this flurry of musical and general life changes? “It’s my dream that people will listen to these songs and feel like they want to invite God into every aspect of their life,” sums up Dawn Michele. “Even hard times can be a blessing because there’s beauty in perseverance and even beauty in suffering and it’s our greatest goal to be like Him in our suffering…God loves us so much. He loves us more than any of the distractions that keep us away from Him and He just wants to be a part of our life. We just hope [those who don’t know Him] will find answers to their questions, and when it comes to the questions they don’t get answers to, that they’ll find a peace with them. That’s basically who we are as a group and we want to continue spreading the message of unconditional love for all.”
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