Exclusive interview

Amy C. Smith & Rock Up The Hill

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How exactly did the group come together?
In 2000 the guitarist, Herb, (my Dad) and I were a part of a Motown band that had reunited from touring back in the day. I was a background singer, and Herb was the guitarist. That's where I got some of the soul in my voice. Life got too busy. I was going to college, and I quit the band. I had been songwriting since high school, but it was in 2015 when I started to write Christian songs. I felt God calling me to sing for Him. I became a lead singer for another Christian band, where I sang their songs, but they didn't want to play any of mine. So we broke up. I decided instead of joining some other band, to create my own, with people I could depend on, where we play our own music. Our goal was to get our original songs recorded in the studio. So, I first got my Dad to join in 2016. In 2017 we needed a drummer in the studio. I knew my brother, Steven, played the drums, and he joined our band then.

Where did you all grow up?
We all grew up in a very musical family in Riverside, CA, except for Herb, who grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Amy, when did you realize you had a great singing voice?
I had a passion for singing since I was three. With support from my parents, I took a lot of private vocal lessons in LA during high school, singing other people's songs. I got second place in a Spanish TV Talent Show, "Cuanto Questa El Show." But I didn't consider my voice great then. I guess I was going through the motions, and there was no purpose to sing mainstream music. I liked doing it, but that wasn't enough. My singing style changed after going through a lot of health problems, and I really got closer to God. My voice became very soulful, and twangy. I started to sing from the heart, which became my own singing style. This was the game changer. I didn't realize I had a good voice until I got a standing ovation from the whole congregation singing a solo at church on Christmas Eve of 2016, and everyone clapped when no one was supposed to clap. God is the only reason why I have this album today.

What roles do each of you play when creating a song?
All the songs on this album 'Choose to Believe' basic music & lyrics were written by me, with the exception of guitar solos, lead guitar, and drums. I'd share the song with everyone, and everyone made the songs come to life by putting their own flavor to it. A lot of times I get inspired and write songs while at the piano or playing the guitar. The new songs for future albums are a mixture of collaboration, and writing on my own. I always come up with the lyrics. Sometimes we come up with the music first, or the lyrics first, or them at the same time. Songs are made pretty quickly, usually within a few minutes. We get inspired and it just comes out. It may start with a catchy melody, phrase or an idea. The drums are actually the last thing we add once we already have a feel for how we want the song to go. Then Steven does his magic.

It seems all of you went through some hard times that in the end brought you closer to your faith. Has your songwriting been influenced through all of this?
 Wow. God has really been there for all of us in our lives. When life seemed so bleak because of health problems, financial issues, and apparently hopeless situations, God always pulled us through miraculously. Each song has its story of what problem in our lives caused us to write it. Truthfully, our lives could be suspenseful novels or movies, if the whole story could be told. Songwriting, and writing poetry has always been therapy for me, and a way for me to talk to God, figure things out. We all felt God calling us to do more. I realized why am I keeping this all to myself? God gave me these gifts for a reason. How can I help others find hope in the darkness of their lives? How can I put my gifts to use? I need to lead people to Jesus, because He is the only one who can give peace and hope where there is none. That's when I started to write Christian songs.

How is the inspirational music scene locally? Is it supportive?
We have been playing at fairs, festivals, and churches in Southern, CA. God has opened doors and has provided us gigs to get our music out there, and people are very receptive and start clapping and dancing. After the show, they come up to us and tell us how much they've enjoyed the music.

Do you have a favorite song on your debut album?
It would have to be "On the Cross," because every time I sing it, it reminds me of the love Jesus has for me. I feel like it takes me to Calvary Hill, where I am witnessing him hanging on the cross for me, the unworthy sinner that I am, but Jesus is proclaiming His love to me, to all humanity, and to God with a perfect eternal love. I feel like I go through a series of emotions singing it. I feel unworthy at the beginning, to loved, to thankful beyond measure. I love the guitar solo, it expresses that transforming melody in my heart.

How has the album been received so far?
We haven't gotten a chance to truthfully promote it in social media until September of this year due to some serious hiccups in life for each of our band members. We've been gigging officially since October. We just started sending our album out to radio stations for airplay. Wish us luck.

Do you tour often?
 This is our first album, so we haven't toured yet, but we are looking forward to touring possibly with Extreme Tour in 2019, a Faith based tour that has reached out to us. If the doors open, the sky is the limit. We will go as far as God wants us to go, we're working for Him.

What can we expect from you in the future?
More music. We have over 30 songs written so far. We have saved some of our best songs for the next albums. So stay tuned...

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