It’s probably no coincidence that adversity feeds creativity, and in the case of modern rockers Fireflight, every ounce of pain, uncertainty and frustration paved the way for progress on its fifth long player INNOVA. In addition to leaving major label life behind after eight years, the band that’s been together since 2000 trimmed down to the foursome. Their latest album reflects the lengthy season of grueling songwriting which not only refine themselves as artists, but also as human beings committed to a purpose-driven career defined by authenticity at every melodic turn.
“We always used to joke, ‘this is a writing year, so I wonder what’s going to happen’ since we’ve always seemed to go through the ringer every time a new record is around the corner,” observes Dawn Michelle (vocals) with a laugh. “We use those situations in our songwriting so people have the ability to relate and understand us on a personal level. The more feedback we get, the more we notice a need to feel there’s someone else out there who understands. We make a lot of mistakes and have gone through terrible spots where friends have walked by our sides, and as we’ve become full on that love, we want to pour that back out with compassion towards others. The dark times usher in the light times and we want to shine a light because we know what it’s like.”
Adam McMillion (drums) paints the most vivid picture of what this veteran band hopes its fans receive from INNOVA, “People are genuinely searching for community and we’re real people who actually care about them. More than merely making a record we’re proud of, that’s the heart of what Fireflight means to us.”
While Fireflight has never been shy about its struggles with self-esteem or simply getting along like any ultra-close knit family prone to disagreements, the group was also at a creative crossroads following the departure of guitarist Justin Cox (who stepped down to spend more time with his growing family). “At that moment, we all just sat down and had to decide how we were going to move on, which was a very defining moment as far as figuring out our identity,” explains Glenn Drennen (guitar).
Another fresh turn of the page came from willingly leaving label life after an immensely fruitful run under an arm of Sony that yielded a Grammy nomination, the soundtrack for NBC’s “Bionic Woman” promos and victory in Taco Bell’s “Feed The Beat” campaign that catapulted the players towards a performance at the mammoth X Games. Considering that pedigree, not to mention having toured all over the United States countless times, trips to Europe and a growing fan base. Fireflight decided to turn over the keys to crowd funding platform.
“For the most part, we had a great relationship with our label, but we were not going in the same direction as the other artists,” suggests Wendy Drennen (base). “In order for us to get the attention we needed, we took the project into our own hands, which was a very scary thing to do because we could only hope we had enough fans that believed in us. But we started fresh, found there were a lot of people out there who had faith in what we were doing and that became another part of our renewal process.”
Adds Dawn: “Through the years, our music has always dealt with difficult circumstances and been kind of intense, so we have a super broad age group connected by the fact they may be going through a crisis. We’ve met so many who come from tough backgrounds or with family issues and I guess we’ve struck a chord. Our music gives hope and gives people a chance to glean power from victories instead of being a victim, which may be a reason why our fans are so devoted. We run all of our social networking pages personally and we make it a point to reach out to them and develop relationships on an individual basis.”
Add up all of the above, alongside the fact that this is Fireflight’s most diverse yet simultaneously vulnerable disc thus far, and the new album’s moniker INNOVA (the Latin word for “renew”) is indeed a fitting phrase. And there’s even one more upswing to that pendulum courtesy of Dawn, who recently announced she and her husband are expecting their very first child early next year.
“We’ve always liked words with a strong visual presence that have the potential for hidden meaning and symbolism in the art work,” offers Glenn. “INNOVA is a really old word, but it’s also almost futuristic in a way. It really told the story in one word of bringing what Fireflight has done in the past, but also moving it into the future. The official release date is 5/5/15, which is timed so Dawn can take time off after the baby, but it’s also significant because it’s going to be our fifth album and celebrates the 15th year of the band.”
Besides all the musical strides everyone has made collectively, members have literally grown up together from wide-eyed teens through young adults, who’ve certainly found significant success thus far, but will be the first to admit there’s still a lot to learn. “I’m really ignorant about how much having a baby will change my life, but I’m keeping a cool head about it,” admits Dawn of the unexpected delight.
“With this record, we specifically took a step back and pinpointed everyone’s individual strengths and roles in the band,” discloses Glenn. “We surrendered to the fact that everyone has their own strengths, which we think resulted in stronger songs overall. The overall goal is to just continue to try to push ourselves, the limits of our art and keep reinventing ourselves, while also staying approachable and transparent.”