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Exclusive Interview with From Ashes To New’s Chris Musser

11014265_372796216252453_7949435382937459835_nFrom Ashes to New is a rap/rock group from Lancaster Pennsylvania.  Using social media to introduce themselves to the world at large, front men Matt Brandberry, Chris Musser and the rest, which includes Branden Kreider (guitar, vocals), Lance Dowdle (guitar) and Tim D’Onofrio (drums) campaigned tirelessly after they released their eponymous EP in 2013.  The effort paid off and the band has recorded its first full-length album, Day One, which will drop on February 26th.  Matt and Chris write songs that promote the positive and offer hope to a new generation of listener; FATN’s songs speak of redemption, liberation and personal salvation.

I recently had a chance to talk to Musser about the band, their music and their plans for the future.

Will you share with us a little bit about how you came together as a band – your creation story?  Did you derive the name – From Ashes To New – from the fact that each member had played in other bands previously and FATN ‘rose from the ashes’

The band name “From Ashes to New” came from a song lyric in a previous band that Matt and I were in together. And yes it kind of just fit for the fact that all of our other previous bands that we worked so hard at burnt out over the years and from those ashes, we all pulled together to start over, to start a new and make this new project this new combination or crossbreed of different genres. 

FATN, while classified as a Rap/Rock group, distinguishes itself from the rest of that field through your lyrics.  Your songs are focused on the positive, even when one is faced with the negative.  Was this a conscious decision on the part of your songwriters or something that seemed to grow as the music was created?  How important do you feel it is to provide a source of positive energy to your fans?

I think it’s very important to put that positive energy out there and try to give our fans that need it a sign of hope and that they are not alone in their struggles. And as songwriters, not so much in past bands but in this band we have always tried to convey a positive message even if it might be layered inside a darker song but the reason I feel that we do this is because….  I always put it like this There’s so much damage and negativity in this world already I don’t think it needs any more, I know I have enough of it in my life. We want to create something positive from all the negative and give everyone some hope. 

That is honestly one of the things that drew my attention to From Ashes To New. It seems like, especially these days, we can all use as much positivity in our lives as possible. I love that in this case the hope is springing from an art form that is often bashed for its negative messages.

Will you share with us a little bit about your creative process?  Where do you gather inspiration and how does a song get from idea to fully fleshed out track?

A song it usually starts off with Matt and Branden in the beginning, they create a riff or synth, or a beat, basically, just a starting point and they structure the music around that.  As they get sections of the song done Matt and I write the lyrics. We always start with the chorus first and move on to the verses. The lyrical content just kind takes form as the song progresses. 

Then we take our finished product, the product as far as we can get it in our studio and then we end up reworking it in Atrium Audio’s studio in Lancaster, PA with Grant Mcfarland. Once we get to the studio that’s when everybody puts in their two cents and adds their flavor to each song. 

I love that it’s a true group effort. What other musicians have inspired your talent?  

I personally have so many influences (that) I could rant off band names all day but some of my main ones would have to be Alexisonfire, 36 Crazy Fists, Glassjaw, and Sevendust each singer just has their own distinct style and so much character in their vocal approach.  Dallas Green sings with such emotion, Brock Lindow, and Daryl Palumbo have this great fluctuation in their voice and Lajon Witherspoon has this soulful power. 

You, as a band, have made quite a splash on social media.  I know that you ran contests through your Facebook page to help spread awareness of the band and your music and in addition, you are very responsive to fan postings. 

Do you feel that this interaction gives you a better idea of what your fans are looking for in their choice of music?  What kind of relationship has grown from your interaction with your fans via the social media outlets?  Has this spilled over to your live performances? 

Yeah, we try to be as in contact with the fans as possible because I mean they are the ones that got us here and we are forever grateful for that. Being this in contact with them might give us a better idea of what everyone wants to hear but I’ve never really thought about it like that.  We just write the music that comes out of us, the music that we want to hear. But we have created quite the family through social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. (There are) many people we hear from on a steady basis and it’s always great to meet them all at our shows, especially when you’re up there performing and then all of a sudden you recognize one of them as a long-running fan, it’s a great feeling. 

How much time do you spend on the road?  How have live audiences responded to your music?  

We spend a lot of time on the road, most of this past year actually and every crowd has been great, from The east coast to the west coast and even over to Japan the crowds have been great very responsive and interactive.

That has got to be pretty gratifying! In addition to SXSW, have you played any other musical festivals and/or larger events, i.e. Lollapalooza, etc.?  What do you prefer – the larger concert venues or a more intimate setting where you are closer to your fans?

Yeah, we have been pretty busy, we played Welcome to Rockville, Rock On The Range, Dirt Fest, Radio Contraband and Rock Allegiance. We also play on Five Finger Death Punch’s Got Your Six Tour, The Christmas vacation tour with Falling in Reverse, we have also shared the stage with (in no particular order) Hollywood Undead, POD, Atreyu, In This Moment, Papa Roach, Like a Storm, Vamps, Stitched Up Heart, Killswitch Engage, Islander, Pvris,  All Time Low, One Ok Rock and many more!

Smaller venues are nice because it is more intimate but I’m a very laid-back mellow dude so I really like and feed of the energy of a big crowd, I love the adrenaline rush!

Ok, wow, that’s quite a resume you guys have! The band had recorded an EP and several singles prior to embarking on the work for Day One; did you notice any differences in your approach to recording as you worked on the current album? 

I don’t think I really noticed any differences. I think we all just became more comfortable with the process and we knew what the process entailed, so really I just feel that we all grew as songwriters and musicians and this time around we were ready for everything thrown at us there weren’t any surprises.

FATN has been getting airplay on Sirius XM’s Octane, how did it feel and what was your reaction the first time you heard one of your tracks on national satellite radio? 

Yeah, Octane is where we pretty much got our break so we can’t thank them enough but the first time I heard us played on air it gave me goose bumps. I was actually home visiting my parents, having a big bonfire and a few beers then “My Fight” came on it was a good feeling to get to share that with my family.  

What are some of the things you guys like to do to keep your sanity while you’re on the road?  Do you have a favorite destination/city yet (besides your hometowns)?

I spend most of my time going crazy and losing my mind! Lol nah, I’m on Instagram a lot, lots of movie watching, working out, drinking, drawing. Once in a while, we get to go sightseeing but usually there’s not enough time. 

But my favorite destination, I would have to say Arizona probably mostly because we’ve gotten a good amount of downtime there this past year and have gotten to do some exploring and some sightseeing so it’s always a good time there. 

You’ve invited me to sit in on a rehearsal session – what can I expect?  What can I bring you for snacks and/or drinks?

Well, you can expect a lot of ADD and getting off track! And for snacks and drinks you know something small like a nice juicy steak, asparagus, buttery mashed potatoes and a tall glass of blue moon. Haha nah we’re not picky but we do try to eat as healthy as we can. Chocolate chip cookies and Oreos are a weakness thou lol!

A steak dinner I can do, but I don’t bake…. Oreos it would have to be, lol. Blue Moon is also one of my favorite beers.

This is the last question and it is kind of a fun one.  We call ourselves Talk Nerdy with Us and we wear that badge proudly.  What do you guys do that would earn you a TNWU badge of honor?

Well, I don’t really consider nerdy but we’re all pretty excited about the upcoming superhero movies dead pool, suicide squad, and Batman vs superman…. Batman has beaten Superman more than once! …. Just saying lol 

Um, I hate to break it to you, but that’s Nerdy enough to get you a Talk Nerdy badge!

Read the TNWU review of Day One and follow From Ashes To New on social media at:

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