Image for post
Image for post

The Joy Reunion “We’ve Come Too Far” Album Release Show & “Winter Wonderland” Cover

Image for post
Image for post

Robert Easley and Gentry Monreal have been playing together for nearly 20 years as worship leaders at a church called “The Packinghouse” in Redlands, Ca. California based Guitarist Neil Morrison joined the worship team in 2008 where there was an immediate connection between the 3 of them, and for the past 11 years, these three have been inseparable. Individually, each member has enjoyed many wonderful musical achievements in their own projects. In 2017 The Joy Reunion was formed and work began on writing songs for the group’s debut album.

For new fans, can you each share your favorite musical memories?

Neil: I have so many wonderful musical memories! But what comes to mind are a few pinnacle moments. I’ve had the pleasure of opening up and meeting some of my favorite bands and guitarists. One dream come true was opening up for Big Head Todd and the Monsters — I’m such a huge fan! I’ve also had the pleasure of opening for blues greats like Joe Bonamassa (2 times), Kenny Wayne Shepherd (2 Times), Robben Ford and so many more of my major influences.

There have also been a few amazing moments too. In another band I was in, we had a song called “Paper Plane” and prior to the show we passed out sheets of paper and had everyone make a paper airplane — we told the audience to hold on to them until the time was right, we set up the song and we told the crowd of over 1000 people to throw them all at the same time — it was an amazing site to see 1000 paper airplanes all headed for the stage at the same time, it was like something out of a dream!

Rob: By far, my favorite musical moment is when I had the opportunity to meet and play with Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys. I was in another band project that was bringing back a beach boys sound to present day. It was a blast making this type of music again, but with a modern flair. We had several shows in the Hollywood club scene and the word somehow reached Brian. I got to go to his house, eat with him and play some of the songs for him — absolutely a dream come true.

Gentry: I have a few wonderful musical moments, but the one that comes to mind is when Rob, Neil and I played at the Redlands Bowl for an outdoor summer concert series. The Redlands Bowl is a historical outdoor amphitheater that hosts over 100,000 attendees each summer. It’s a huge venue, and our previous band together “The Found” was playing this huge event to a packed house. Thousands of people showed up! One of the songs we were playing in the set was a long journey that starts out ambient and then reaches this huge climax. As we started the entire place was dark, and everyone turned on the flashlights on their cell phones — it looked like stars! Then as the song reaches its peak, we had a surprise friend come out of the shadows and he freestyled rapped in spoken word over the climax of the song. People went crazy! It was one of the few times I truly felt the power of music over all of us!

Can you tell us the story behind how you chose your band’s name?

Our band’s name gets back to the root of what music is for — joy, pleasure, connecting with emotion, connecting with people, creation, artistry and fulfilling our purpose! Being an artist can be kind of torturous sometimes — and in the past, we were all in different musical projects and although fulfilling, came with this sense of striving, trying to fit a mold, trying to be something, trying to “make it” — and when you have those kinds of influences in your creation, it can be toxic and it can rob you of the joy that comes with simply letting all of that go, and just writing-creating whatever the heck you want because it feels good, it’s fulfilling! The three of us found ourselves really enjoying our relationship as friends, really trusting each other as artists, musicians and songwriters, without the toxicity of striving to fit a certain mold. We were reunited with the joy of music — and that’s when we decided to call ourselves; The Joy Reunion.

Which artists influenced each of you growing up?

Neil: I had a terrific mix of influence from both my parents. As a young boy, blasting my ears out with Metallica and Guns & Roses, my Dad played for me “Eat A Peach” by The Allman Brothers Band. I heard Duane Allman’s solo on the song “Blue Sky” and it was like the sky opened up and I was hit with every type of emotion. I knew right then and there that I had to be able to make sounds like that, I had to be able to play guitar like that. Another song on that album is called “Mountain Jam” and its 33 minutes of live brilliance, but at 27 minutes and 20 seconds into this journey there is a solo by Duane Allman that ripped my heart out, and I was 6 years old — and I remember it to this day, my dad playing it for me as he picked me up from soccer practice, he would play it over and over again. To this day, I don’t know if I have ever heard so much feeling coming out of a guitar. So that led me down a blues and southern rock path: Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Eric Clapton, SRV, Freddie King, BB King, Robben Ford and Eric Johnson to name just a few.

My Mom was a totally different influence for me, she definitely influenced me from a songwriting perspective. She loved folk music, traditional Country Western and Neil Diamond! I grew up singing harmonies in the car to Ian & Sylvia, John Denver and Garth Brooks. She really planted the country vibe into my soul at a young age. As a teenager and into my early 20’s I really got into the Adult Alternative bands — The Counting Crows are on my favorite bands of all time, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Matchbox 20, The Killers, John Mayer, Train, etc. And more recently in the last decade or so, I’m in love with Needtobreathe, The Lone Bellow, Noah Gunderson, The 1975, The Barr Brothers, Grace Potter and Walk the Moon.

Rob: Okay, I’m a little all over the place — here we go! The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, many of the newer bands Neil mentioned, Matchbox 20, The Killers, John Mayer, Train, Needtobreathe, Noah Gunderson, The 1975, most of the 90’s country bands, Johnny Cash, The Lone Bellow, Coldplay, U2, Panic! At The Disco, Relient K and Switchfoot.

Gentry: I just love so much music, all different types, but the few that have been most influential have been: Patty Griffin, The Lone Bellow, Lady Antebellum, Paramore, Keane, Shawn Mullins, Edwin McCain and Kacey Musgraves.

Which songs of your favorite artists do you like to cover?

​On our Instagram, we do a segment called “Get To The Chorus”, where we pick some of our favorite songs from up and coming artists that we love to support, our favorite 90’s country bands or anything that crosses our path that would be fun to do. I think we really like to challenge ourselves when it comes to covers, we typically pick songs with melodies that are difficult to come up with 3-part harmonies for. That really is our spin, to take a song that has a wonderful hook or melody, and work endlessly to discover the 3-part harmonies that our hidden in there somewhere. We like to hit 1 verse and then go right to the chorus. In today’s day and age everything moves so fast, so the thought was to give our fans the goods right away — instant gratification!

What’s being planned for the album release party in your hometown?

​A dang good time! That simple. Honestly, the local support in our home town of Redlands is amazing! There are some amazing musicians in this town! Even more amazing is the beer! Hangar 24 is a legendary Redlands brewery who has become a household name throughout the country. They have an amazing story — friends in a hangar at our small local airport would get together and hangout and brew beer for fun, their Orange Wheat Ale spread like wild fire and has launched them into being a major success. We are really honored that they would host us for our album release show — it’s a testament to their support of the local community, especially when their name draws much larger acts.

​We have a few friends opening for us, one being a terrific artist- Izzi Ray, whom you can catch playing all over the country, as well as a local favorite and good friend, Clay Nacsin. Then, our full band is going to hop up there and give it everything we got! We’ll be playing every song on our debut album, we’ll rock our latest holiday release, which is a country-fried version of Walking In A Winter Wonderland, plus we’ll play a few more gems that are brand new! It’s honestly just going to be a great time, casual, relaxed and drinking some delicious Hangar 24 beer!

Putting your own touch to classics — what was the process like recording “Winter Wonderland”?

A few years ago, the 3 of us were asked to play at the Christmas party for our church, and we magically came across how delicious the harmonies were on this song for us. We decided to do a quick cover on our Instagram, and received really great feedback. It just felt like it was the right song to record for the holidays. One thing we really wanted to try was a 3-part harmony scat solo. So, if you listen to the track you’ll hear a pretty crazy 3-part harmony scat solo that vocally matches a 3-part harmony guitar solo at the same time. When you hear it, it sounds kind of fun and playful, but it was really a tough challenge to come up with the parts and record it. We really wanted to mix a traditional holiday song with a fun country vibe and finish it out with kind of a jazzy twist- I think we did a good job blending the 3 genres together. We had our good friend and master fiddle player, Jonathan Warren out of Nashville record the fiddle for us, Neil worked hard on the twangiest of guitar solos, and we recorded, mixed and mastered the song in a matter of 10 days! It was an absolute blast. ​

Can your share the backstories for the songs on your debut album We’ve Come Too Far?

“We’ve Come Too Far” is a musical journey, a story, telling of love, loss, passion, heartbreak and grit, family and faith — all the things that make a life. The thing about growing older is you find you have a lot more to say from your life experiences. Isn’t that what we all love about music? That you can hear a song and feel like it was written about you or for you? That you’ve been there? Music has been such a big part of our life’s journey- as with any good story, there are the rise and the fall, the devastation and the hope in finding the strength to keep on moving forward and keeping the dream within you alive -against all odds. That moment when you say “we’ve come too far” to give up now. And something magical happens. It’s what we hope touches your heart as you hear our songs.

How did you choose “Every Little Thing” for your first music video?

The vision actually came from Rob. The song itself stemmed from the loss of Neil’s mom after her 3-year battle with cancer. At the time where we were finishing up the album, which in the 2 years it took to make it, Neil’s mom was there in the studio with us, sharing in the creation of it. The song came from a moment where Neil’s mom held Rob’s hand and took a picture of it on her phone. She wanted to remember that moment as much as she could, before she was gone. It inspired Rob to write the song “Every Little Thing”. Rob then thought it was the right song to make a video for, to pay homage to Neil’s mom and to reflect on the things in life that are truly meaningful. We used Neil’s 1971 Dodge Power Wagon that has been in his family since it was new, and Neil’s mom had many fun adventures in that truck. Everything just lined up, to pay respect, to pay homage to Neil’s mom for her influence in the music we made on this album.

What’s ahead in 2020?

Play, Play, Play, Write, Record and Repeat! We are so ready to play, we have had an action-packed December! We have our good friends Robby Ruff and Louis Morales playing with us now, and we’ll have Jonathan Warren on fiddle and our good friend Hans Chamberlain on keys as soon as we get the chance to bring a 7-piece band to the table haha! The Southern California country scene is on fire, and we’ve been welcomed in with open arms, we are playing the California Country Christmas on 12/18 and 12/19 and then back to one of our favorite places, the Hotel Café in Hollywood on 1/10. What’s great is we already have songs for another 2 albums, and we are always writing more. So, our focus this year is to really get entrenched in the scene by playing as much as we can, making friends one fan at a time, and behind the scenes recording one song at a time so that we can release singles, EP’s and albums! new fans, can you each share your favorite musical memories?

Instagram

Facebook

YouTube

Apple Music

Google Music

Spotify

Amazon Music

Written by

Music Feature Writer on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store