From a very young age, Nashville-trained musicians Sarah, Kiley and Anna Grace each felt called to journey along an unexpected path. All graduates of Belmont University’s music program, the three banded together to share their story and minister through music. This particular message--to stand out from the crowd--is something the band hopes to impart onto listeners young and old.
Hearing HIGHROADIII for the first time, one could easily believe they have been in this business for decades. Tightly bound harmonies rise and swell from track to track on their aptly named debut, “The Road Less Traveled.” This collection of Gospel-infused classic country tunes could be likened at times to the early stylings of acts like Little Big Town (“Boondocks”) or Martina McBride (“A Broken Wing”). The three showcase solid vocal performances throughout the record, often akin to the powerhouse pipes of Carrie Underwood. “Hold Me to the Rock” is an instant classic, blending freshly-penned lyrics with their signature nearly-haunting harmonies. From their innovative a capella rendition of “How Deep the Father’s Love” to original melodic story songs like “There is a Man,” it’s evident that the unbeaten path is the one these ladies were born to travel.
We caught up with the girls of HIGHROADIII, just in time to hear about how the band was born, their varied music tastes and what’s ahead for them, this year...
CCA: Can you start by introducing yourselves & your role(s) in the band? Tell us about how HIGHROADIII came to be.
Anna Grace: Hey! I’m Anna Grace, and I play the fiddle and sing the low harmony. I also co-wrote some of the songs on our latest album. I love to crochet, knit, rollerblade, and hang out with my amazing husband. We are just recently married, and are enjoying life together. He is a huge fan of our music and the ministry and has been a great addition to the HIGHROADIII team.
HIGHROADIII started off with Sarah and myself after a summer of playing music together. She hired me to play fiddle at some country music shows with her. We hit it off! Playing and talking about hymns in our spare time over the course of the trip led to our continued friendship back in Nashville. It was so great to finally meet someone my age who knew all of the hymns I had grown up listening to. We started the group in October of 2008, and have been playing together ever since. We [recently] added our sweet Kiley to the group, and it has been such a joy to play music with her.
Sarah: My name is Sarah Davison and I play piano and sing lead most of the time. I began playing music with Anna Grace and it sparked a kindred love that we both had for gospel music. We immediately knew that this was our calling and its been a joy ever since! In May of 2012 we added Kiley Phillips to HIGHROADIII and it was a match made in heaven for us! We absolutely love making music together.
Kiley: I'm Kiley Phillips, and I play guitar and sing the high harmonies. Joining HIGHROADIII was an answer to many prayers. I was looking for an opportunity to make music with wonderful people and give praise to our Creator--High Road III was the perfect place to do both!
CCA: Did you always dream of a career in music? Who/what sparked your passion for your craft?
Anna Grace: When I got into fiddling around the age of 10, it became my dream to live in Nashville and play the fiddle. I started playing when I was 5, and it has always held me. The person who influenced my beginnings most was fiddler Mickey Davis. He is now home with our Precious Savior, but while he was on this earth, he influenced me more than I even realized.
Sarah: I knew from the time I was born that music was what I wanted to do. I grew up playing piano and singing in my dad’s music group and that is what really stirred me to pursue it as I got older. I tried to draw techniques from my favorite players and singers and just do what God was calling me to do!
Kiley: I have always wanted to have a career in music. In 3rd grade, I remember telling my Sunday school teacher that I wanted to be a professional singer... little did I know at my young age that it wasn't exactly the easiest thing to achieve! My dad was probably my biggest influence in music. His side of the family is full of wonderful singers and I grew up listening to them all sing harmonies...I'm sure that's where I got my love of good, rich harmonies.
CCA: Your music is described as Appalachian Gospel, who would you cite as major musical influences? What was the first album (cd/cassette/etc) you bought or remember buying?
Anna Grace: I know that we all have lots of influences. Mine consist of Blues, Gospel, Soul, R&B, Old Time, Irish, Scottish, and Cape Breton fiddle music. The first music I remember buying was a Joe Nichols album. It had one of my favorite country singles at the time on it, “The Impossible.” I quickly stocked up after that with numerous folk music CDs. Something about the old time music has always caught my attention. The sounds and the voices brought me to a place I wish I had known. It opened up the world of my grandfathers and great grandfathers to me. It was through those songs that I found my musical identity.
Sarah: The first two albums I ever bought- on cassette- were The Judds and Patty Loveless. Patty’s music has been my biggest inspiration. Her voice, lyrics and melody are all very much a part of the sound I love- the raw, bluegrassy, Appalachian feel.
Kiley: As a group, we just love good music. We all come from such unique and diverse musical backgrounds, but we aim to have the combination of our voices and instruments all come together to create a joyful noise. Personally, my musical influences are all across the board. My dad was a DJ and had almost every CD under the sun. I was exposed to so many different artists and genres, but I was always drawn to the big, powerhouse vocalists: Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Martina McBride, etc. My dad tells me that the first album he ever bought specifically for me was New Kids on the Block!
CCA: Story seems to be a very meaningful component to your live show and all that you do, as a band. Tell us about your your album, “The Road Less Traveled” (Available on Noisetrade.com!)
Anna Grace: Oh, we love stories! We love to hear them, and we love to tell them. The goal in the stories and in our music is to share the love of Jesus Christ. The greatest story ever told is the story of God becoming man, dwelling among the ones He created, going through what we go through, living with emotions and feelings, experiencing the best and the worst of what we ever have or ever will experience. Because no sin can go unpunished, He bore our wickedness on Himself, bore it on a cross where he suffered and died. He rose from the dead, and now is sitting in heaven interceding for us to the Father. We want our stories to point to and lead others to the greatest story. We want our audience to be encouraged as they hear the words, and the Gospel. The music is not about us, it is about the One who changed our hearts and lives, and continues to sanctify us each and every day.
Sarah: This album defines who we are as a group. We choose to take the “road less traveled” in several ways. Musically, we love being different by playing our own instruments as we sing harmonies and we love writing and arranging our own songs. By faith, we also choose to live as those who are set apart from the world, as we strive to follow Christ at all times.
Kiley: "The Road Less Traveled" contains so much truth woven into song. So many great songwriters (including Miss Sarah and Anna Grace) made this album possible. We've also been so blessed to work with some amazing musicians, engineers and producers. Aside from the album, we love to introduce each song with the story behind it at each live show.
CCA: We hope to see you on the road, soon. What does your live show typically look like? What can you tell us about upcoming tour plans (or things to come in 2013)?
Anna Grace: Our live shows find three crazy girls playing their own instruments and singing their hearts out. We want to meet you, and we want to get to know you. We want you to be blown away by a God who loves you more than you can imagine. The upcoming tour, “The Road Less Traveled,” will take us to a lot of new places! We’ll also travel to places we love so dearly, and we can’t wait! I believe we are going to Iowa, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Florida, Michigan, and everywhere in between! Also, keep on the lookout for us if you are planning a trip to Nashville! You might be able to catch us here as well.
Sarah: 2013 is going to be a great year! We will be touring in several Midwest and Southern states this year and maybe even out west too! Our typical live show is one that definitely reflects our mission- which is to exalt our Savior and glorify Him while making music together. We do everything from upbeat originals and gospel standards to hymn arrangements and medleys.
Kiley: Yeah! We'd love to see y'all at a show! In a typical show, we just strive to have a great time playing music and sharing The Gospel with folks along the way. We love to share personal experiences and testimonies, as well as telling a joke or two to keep things upbeat! We're so excited to visit some of our favorite states in 2013.
To download HighlandIII's album, The Road Less Traveled, click here!