We’re Firefly… and we love to sing!
This week I’m excited to introduce you to Nashville recording artists Firefly—Melanie, McKenzie, and Madelyn Merchant—sisters from Gilbert, Arizona. They accompany their own singing by playing the guitar, mandolin, fiddle, keyboard, and cello.
They have entertained audiences from Arizona to New York with: LeAnn Rimes, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown Band, Justin Bieber, Wynonna Judd, The Gin Blossoms, Benton Paul, Ryan Shupe and The Rubber Band, and more.
In addition to being some of the loveliest young women I know, I’ll fully divulge they are my nieces and I couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments. I am also grateful for the many years I have been involved in their development as uncle, babysitter, musical teacher, arranger, producer, and brand manager.
Working with family in any business can be a challenge but it seems none so much as the entertainment industry where artistic and creative clashes run rampant. We’ve had our bumps but nothing could tear us apart and few things have brought us together as much as our crazy musical dreams. I truly miss working with them so closely since moving on to further develop ILoveToSing.com but they continue to amaze me with their hard work and genuine artistry.
In the music industry we earn our success by “paying our dues.” Firefly certainly is banking away on their experiences. This last summer they clocked over 100 hours on the road covering territory from Phoenix to Nashville to Salt Lake City to San Francisco performing at venues large and small, collaborating with other musicians, recording in various studios, and working with vocal and performance coaches to refine their craft.
We met up this past June in Oakland, CA where we spent a brutal day filming a live audition for The X Factor in front of Simon, Demi, Britney, and LA. All day long I watched them stand in front of questioning cameramen and crowds authentically sharing their story and music—even when cameramen and directors arranged situations where they might act uncharacteristically provocative for entertainment’s sake. They ended up being one of the last auditions of the day. They gave an excellent performance regardless of their exhaustion. I was so proud to see the girls hold their ground and remain true to their message and values.
Contrast the frenzy of The X Factor with a performance at Phoenix’s famed Celebrity Theatre opening for Donny Osmond. Three sisters shared a personal song composed the day of their aunt’s death to a sold out crowd. I believe I melted into a puddle on the floor—a moment forever burned in my memory.
Their concerts are full of high energy original songs and the occasional clog dance (a bit unusual but you should hear the crowds roar with applause). Their range is from classic bluegrass to pop Country occasionally flirting with a hip hop song cover. You might also be so lucky to catch them involving friends in their act such as long-time friend pop-violinist/contortionist Linsey Sterling. So, get to a show already. You’ll love it.
As I write this post, they are recording the last song of a full album and preparing to film a couple music videos. In the meantime, I’ve asked them each a few questions to share with you about what pursuing a music career has taught them. I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I do. (Interview after the video)
JR@ILTS: Who is the person or people who most influenced you, and how?
Maddie: Musically, the people who have influenced me the most would have to be my parents. My mom has taught singing groups my entire life, and my love for singing came from being in her classes when I was younger and eventually following in her footsteps by teaching a singing class. She taught me to sing with complete passion!
My dad introduced me to amazing artists and inspired me to work hard and never stop learning. The artist who has influenced me musically the most is Adele. I love the emotion she brings to every song she sings!
JR@ILTS: If you could perform a previously popular song that you feel would be great in your style, what song would you want to claim?
McKenzie: I have always loved the song ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ by Carole King. I remember my Mom putting the James Taylor cassette tape in our car when I was little. The first time I heard that song I loved it! Even as a little girl, I felt something when I listened—the lyrics are relatable to every age and situation. We all could use a friend like that, and we all can be a friend like that!
JR@ILTS: How you would perform it?
McKenzie: I would pick it up a little and definitely add some strong harmonies in the chorus. It’s already a great song with a great melody, but I think there’s a lot of room for creativity. I can hear it with a cool piano hook!
JR@ILTS: It’s a favorite to so many and I for one would love to hear your version. What advice would you give to yourself one year ago?
Melanie: Advice? I would tell myself, “Okay, Melanie you are not too old to still chase your music dreams! Don’t give up and just breathe. This is going to take time. Breathing is good—in and out.” I would say. All you can do is work your hardest and do your best every single day.
Now that we are finally working on this album I have finally realized that the best things in life just take time. I am better because of all of my experiences music wise and just life wise. When you sit down to do the project of your dreams you are going to take the days and weeks and months to do it right. The right songs, the right producer, the right harmonies, the right tone, the right dynamics. How do you know what is right? Experience and time. Yeah, “Time. Patience, Mel. Patience.” [I’m] 25 and it is finally clicking in my head… or is that the click track from the studio? Hah!
JR@ILTS: Melanie, You’ve had the most experience of the three. I remember producing you as a solo artist when you were 15 before joining with your sisters a couple years later. You’ve come a long way since then! So, what is the best event of your career so far?
Melanie: The best event? Oh, this is SO hard. What I love so much about the pursuit of a music career is the journey. That means a lot of experiences add up to make it beautiful and worth it. But let me think….
We just recently played one of our first headlining shows—21 songs for just over an hour and half. The beautiful venue Chandler Center for the Arts invited us to do our OWN Friday night show and well, we worked hard. Let me repeat that: we worked HARD for this show. Preparing with the back up band, learning our new songs we had just written in Nashville, writing harmony parts and instrumental licks, planning the dynamics of the show, picking out the appropriate attire on a budget, planning out the transitions, and still staying sane while juggling our, well… lives.
Okay, so the day of the show came around. When we showed up for sound check, they let us have a REAL sound check! I mean the kind that goes on as long as you need and lets you get the perfect mix. [We were] playing multiple instruments and moving to multiple microphones. This [kind of sound check] rarely happens when you are the opening act.
So we got all dressed, tuned up, vocally warmed up, had our devotional, had prayer, and headed on the stage. We went to the side of the stage and I honestly thought we might be able to fill the first few rows of seats, because I mean who would come out to just see us? I was so surprised to see that the house was packed! I was so incredibly grateful that all of these wonderful people had come to support us! We had such a great time playing the show.
One of our new songs is called, “You Got This.” Everyone came down to the stage to dance and sing and I just loved being able to sing a song that inspired people to feel like they too could chase dreams and be really be happy! The new songs brought the show to a whole new level.
When we ended the show we sang our song “Here Comes Hope”. I started to tell the audience about the song but I started to cry because it felt like someone else was telling me what to say. That song came from a very special person who once danced on that same stage. [I felt] she was with us. After the show friends and fans stayed for hours to talk with us and bring home signed posters, bracelets and CDs. It was just one of those, “Is-this-for-reals-wow-I-am-so-blessed” kind of nights.
JR@ILTS: What is your ultimate goal as a group?
Maddie: Our ultimate goal as a group is to inspire people to use their unique God-given gifts to make a difference in the world—big or small.
JR@ILTS: Thank you so much Firefly for taking time to answer my questions this week. Thank you for sharing your light like little fireflies in the night. My best wishes as you set out making a difference in the world. Keep shining and keep singing!
For more information on Firefly: