Keeping the Path

Updated: Jul 9, 2020


| This is the 147th story of Our Life Logs |

At this point, the band had been on the road for days. Our clothes were glued to our bodies with sweat and our muscles winced from nights in cheap motels. Touring was nothing like what I’d pictured. When we got to the venue for a show in Colorado, there were just a few people there—each one sleeping on the stage. Homeless? Just really tired? Couldn’t tell.

Hello, My Brother’s Keeper Tour 2015.

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I was born in 1991 and grew up with my four siblings in the little rural town of Moore’s Hill, Indiana. We were a close-knit Christian family. I mean, not that we didn’t have other friends through church or through sports—but when you grow up with just a few neighbors and are home-schooled, it’s hard not to grow close to your siblings. Though I loved my oldest brother and younger sister, it seemed like I did everything with my other brothers, Josh and Titus, who were much closer in age. Some of my best memories are of playing soccer with them.

Cheesing with my brothers (I’ve got the biggest smile on the middle left).
Cheesing with my brothers (I’ve got the biggest smile on the middle left).

I started playing piano at six years old. Our mother—who by the way, is extremely musically talented, and not shy about it either—had a house rule for each of us to take five years of mandatory piano lessons. Though I took these lessons like a cruddy cough syrup, I owe a lot of my songwriting passion to them. After years of playing chords and regurgitating the music in the books, I wanted to create my own melodies. Problem was, I just couldn’t figure out how to get the arrangements in my head into the sounds of the piano. It just wouldn’t do.

And so, at 15 years old, I pulled my dad’s Martin guitar off the wall in our basement and became hooked on the hum of its strings. I didn’t know what might lie ahead, and to be honest, I still don’t. What I do know is that I started my career with that guitar and some of the world’s worst original songs.

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My brothers and I bonded over music. Josh had taken a liking to the fiddle, Titus became attached to his mandolin, and I couldn’t put down the guitar. We decided we liked jamming together and wanted to start playing as a group. Our first band was formed through Hope Church, where we worshiped. Naturally, we called our band Strings of Hope. It was cheesy, yes, but we got to play with a lot of our friends and cousins, and it was really the first time we got to perform the bluegrass and Southern Gospel music we were raised on. It was a good cheesy. A family band, plus a few. We played for local churches and developed a small following. With Strings of Hope, I continued writing original songs, each one inching closer to a sound that I was proud to have created.

A photo of me taken during the time of String of Hope (could’ve made for an edgy album cover, I’d say).
A photo of me taken during the time of String of Hope (could’ve made for an edgy album cover, I’d say).

While I was excited to share my music, I would get these feelings of wall-closing-in anxiety at the thought of playing in front of people—something that seemed to come out of nowhere. I didn’t know what to do. I loved playing, but the nausea and dread it caused was overwhelming. I sought help from my doctor who prescribed me anxiety medication. Over time, the feelings tapered off and I didn’t need to take them anymore, but it took a while. At 16, I realized that being on stage was not going to come easily, just like writing songs and learning to play the guitar, but sharing my passion was well worth the pitfalls.

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After high school, I went to college for a business degree in 2010. I think I just chose for the sake of choosing. While balancing studying and a full-time job, my brothers and I became unsettled as Strings of Hope had run its course. Many of its members cut the band out of their busy schedules, but the three of us liked playing music too much to let it become history. We played around with the idea of forming a band of our own.

To get started, we figured the first thing we would need was a name for our band. One night in 2012, late into the evening, I sat with my brothers Titus and Josh, and Josh’s wife Meredith, trying to come up with a band name. Just to preface, having a serious discussion with my brothers almost never happens. To be fair, we started the conversation with good intent, but eventually it turned into throwing out the goofiest string of adjectives and nouns we could come up with. We were just belly-laughing, saying things like, Red Runs the Sky (that would have been fun), when finally, Meredith chimed in.

“What about My Brother’s Keeper?”

And it stuck—mainly because it was the only normal name anyone had suggested that night (but maybe we’ll come back to Red Runs the Sky, who knows?).

After that we began reaching out to people in the music industry to show us where to start. While I was still in college, My Brother’s Keeper recorded our first EP (which by the way, we don’t sell, because well, it’s not our best work) and started sending it to venues to book shows. Sometimes we got calls back, and sometimes we didn’t. But eventually, we got a gig at a local club in Cincinnati called the Underground, which was the place for Christian teens to hang out at the time. And then we got to play there again, and again, and from there, we were able to book more and more shows around the area. Were we growing like a weed? No. But it was fun, and we didn’t stop growing and or stop gaining fans.

From left to right: Josh, me, Wyatt, Titus. Wyatt (Sawmill) joined our band as the upright bassist about six months after we started playing and has stuck around ever since.
From left to right: Josh, me, Wyatt, Titus. Wyatt (Sawmill) joined our band as the upright bassist about six months after we started playing and has stuck around ever since.
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As a new college grad in 2014, I immediately got into a few sales and business jobs, finding myself enclosed in the gray cavern of my cubicle. We played a few shows here and there on weekends, but I was itching to sink deeper into music, not into my chair. It was depressing, punching numbers all day—for funeral insurance, mind you. While at this desk job, I made it my goal to book our very first tour (and once I did, I was out of there).

The “before picture.”