Made up of husband and wife Jon and Jennifer Ellison, Jon’s brother, Joseph, and family friend AJ Babcock, Nashville rock band Bearing Torches has found a way to masterfully balance honesty and raw emotion with rock ’n’ roll stylings in their music. I got the chance to talk with Jon about how the band came together, what inspired their new single “Never Heard Bob Dylan,” their plans for new music and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Yeah, so Jen and I are married, and from the night we met all we have talked about is having a band together. She wanted to play drums and I write songs and play guitar so it was cool from the word ‘go’. Living close together, you develop musically together too so that makes for a cool “soul reading” dynamic. My little brother Joe plays guitar for us too, so it was kind of a few people who were really close that all wanted to do the same thing and were influenced by the same stuff. Best way to have a rock band come into the world, really.
I’m totally intrigued by the name Bearing Torches. Where did it come from?
We started our band a few years after the last good KOL record. We were jamming to that and a bunch of classic rock and were just missing that feeling. We just wanted to make the new record that we wanted to hear and hopefully be a part of passing it down to some kid that wants to start a band.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. So how would you describe your sound without using genre names? What kind of music do you produce?
I want to convey to listeners that there is great power in the life story they are living, and that connecting with other people going through the same human experience – sharing, helping, lifting, healing, accepting each other right where you are and how you are – generates a group more powerful than any political leader, any political party. People bonded together over a common cause is the most powerful force in the world and music is often a common language to help facilitate that connection. I am honored to be a part of the rock n roll music storyline in whatever size role we end up playing.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Who.
You guys are based in Nashville, which is typically known for country music. But as of late, the city’s reputation has grown to be a music city for all genres. What has your experience creating music there been like? How has being surrounded by so much diverse music impacted the music you’re creating?
The talent here is really hot in all categories of music and can be really inspiring and crazy fun. I moved here to record and the resources are cool, but sometimes it can be distracting being surrounded by so many people on the hustle out here. As much as I love seeing so many talented people play music and being pushed by that, I still miss living in Kansas City, and I always want to rep it. I love the underdog story. It was a lot more clear to me what the mission was back in KC – rally around the music, put on for the city, spread the word. The studios are great in Nashville – music production here is rad.
I honestly love the new single, “Never Heard Bob Dylan.” What’s the story behind the song?
A lot of it is in the answer above. I was just going to a bunch of music meetings with managers, producers, publicists, etc. and having this gross feeling about the commercial side of what they wanted to do with our music. I was reading Chronicles by Bob Dylan at the time and just kind of laughed to myself at the fact that if Bob Dylan was here he would make fun of me for being stressed out about it. The thought that sparked the song was that if I were hearing Bob Dylan on the radio, I would have a constant reminder not to stress about things that don’t matter.
What was your writing process like for this song? Do you guys like to keep the writing done in-house or do you like to collaborate with others?
I just grabbed my acoustic and started singing it, then jotted down the lyrics in my notebook. After I realized the song was kind of sticking with me, I showed it to the band. We played it live a few times and liked it enough to take it to the studio. It took an afternoon to record. Like most of my favorite songs, it came together really easily.
Yeah, we played live and recorded it in one session. I did sneak back into the control room after we played it and added the B3 solo over top of Joe’s guitar solo. I think Joe probably wanted the whole guitar solo to stay in, but I thought Bob Dylan would have told me to add a B3 solo and I thought it was cool so I did it. Sorry, Joe! [laughs]
Were there any major changes to the song that happened once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
Luckily no [laughs]. This one just fell into place. [It’s] cool when that happens.
You guys are still new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
I would like to be able to play a few sold-out headline tours of the US and Europe in 250-500 cap rooms late next year. I know there is a lot to do in music beyond that, but all my favorite shows throughout my whole life have been catching a band that blew up in a tiny room before it “really” happened and I want to live in that sweet spot for a while – you know before it gets crazy and Joe buys a gold-plated Lamborghini Countach and Jen demands the label gives her a tour bus for her cats.
Musically, what can people expect from you for the rest of 2018? Any chance of more new music this year?
Maaaaaaaybe so – if not, definitely a few singles or possibly an EP the first few months of 2019. We have a ton of stuff recorded [and] it will be out soon.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something you guys nerd out about?
I’m a car and motorcycle nerd. [I went] to the F1 race on Sunday and I have a bunch of old motorcycles and sports cars. I actually was late getting to this because it’s beautiful out and I was trying to get a drive in before the weather changes. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd too, although I don’t feel like that’s considered as nerdy as it used to be. Jen nerds out on Rainbow Brite and 90’s TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends. Joe is a gamer, golfer, and baller – he’s constantly unleashing the inner-nerd but he acts the coolest so nobody knows.