Canaan’s Crossing is a Bluegrass Gospel group from Alabama with five members who are all accomplished musicians. Four of these musicians are also talented vocalists, creating arrangements and performing many original songs written by band-member Tina Miller. The group performs across the southern States and was recently signed by Gospel music label Song Garden. In 2013, Rob Patz, Publisher of SGN Scoops digital magazine, interviewed Canaan’s Crossing, with the resulting article below published in the November, 2013 issue of SGN Scoops magazine.
Rob: Please introduce each member of Canaan’s Crossing to our readers. What instruments do you each play?
Canaan’s Crossing: Tina Miller ( Fiddle), Andy Wilks (Guitar), Drew Long (Banjo), Josh Palmer (Mandolin), Tim Maze (Upright Bass)
Rob: I’ve heard you have a new album with Song Garden. Who are some of the writers and players that were involved with this recording? What will be the first release to radio?
Canaan’s Crossing: Our new album is titled WORDS and it’s taken from one of the songs “The Words I Would Say.” A Contemporary Christian group, the Sidewalk Prophets, actually recorded the song in 2009. Andy liked the song and brought it to us during a rehearsal. Drew was experimenting with it and came up with a very unique Bluegrass feel to the song. The project consists of two songs that two of our members, Drew Long and Josh Palmer wrote plus a couple of songs co-written by Kenna West. One of those is the new single “Somebody’s Blessing” which seems to be a consensus favorite from all of us.
Tina: It is almost impossible to imagine me not playing the fiddle. I am not a professional, but I can pick most bluegrass instruments. All of them except one! I met my match when I tried to play the dobro. As hard as I have tried, I just can’t play those things. I appreciate dobro players, every time I get brave enough to try and pick that instrument
Andy: I would like to learn to play resonator guitar some day. Rob Ickes and Jerry Douglas are amazing.
Tim: I would play the piano simply because that is what my mother played while I was learning to sing. I have her piano in my living room and can only look at it- maybe chord a little bit.
Drew: It would probably be a dobro. I have always loved its unique sound.
Josh: It would have to be a steel guitar.
Rob: Who has been the greatest influence on your musical careers? What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Tina: The greatest influence on my musical career has to by my grandfather, Arlin Moon. He started me on the fiddle when I was five years old when he caught me playing the “air fiddle” behind a door in his banjo shop. Paw Moon was a tough teacher but I know now why he was so hard on me. He knew I could do it, and he expected nothing but concentration. He gave me the best advice a teacher could ever give a student when he told me, ”Just when you think you are the best fiddle player around, there will be another person and little better that you come along and put you in your place. So don’t ever think you are better than anyone in any way shape form or fashion.”
Andy: I would have to give my family credit as my greatest musical influence. I also give credit to each person that I’ve sang or played in a group with. Each one has been a positive influence on me to help improve my musical abilities.
Josh: Most definitely Rachmaninoff has influenced my music. The best advice I have received was from Mandolin great Chris Thile. He told me once to play as much as you can.
Tim: I was influenced by a man by the name of Bobby King. He was a hometown DJ at WRAB Radio in our hometown plus he promoted concerts. I would later work at the radio station and sing in a quartet with Bobby. We shared the stage with virtually every Gospel group on the circuit in the early to mid 80’s. The best advice I ever received was to never own a bus but I ignored it (LOL). Seriously, I once sang with a singer/songwriter named Bruce Thorn hill and he made a simple statement that more people see you off stage than they do on the stage. I have thought about that a lot. People see you before you ever strum or sing a note plus watch how you conduct yourself. We can apply that to more than just our conduct at a concert venue; people are looking for a living testimony more than a song testimony.
Drew: I would say Jason Crabb. Jason has an impact on me through his ministries and watching him in concert is a spiritual experience. I want God to continue using Canaan’s Crossing in the same way. The best advice I’d say I have been given was to never give up. Don’t throw in the towel because quitting will never get you anywhere.
Tina: I would have never dreamed I would get to share the stage with so many of my musical hero’s in both Bluegrass and Southern Gospel like I have. I am a fan of so many people in music I can’t name just one artist I would love to work with because there are so many. The greatest honor I have experienced was the moment I was able to share the stage with my son Collins. Collins plays the banjo and from the moment he played his first notes on stage, I was his number one fan.
Andy: We’ve also had the privilege to work with The Primitive Quartet, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Blue Highway, The Isaacs and Dailey and Vincent, among others. I would like to share the stage with Seldom Scene or Paul Williams.
Tim: Gaither Vocal Band
Drew: Blue Highway. The band did a show with them but it was before I joined.
Josh: Shania Twain
Rob: What is the main difference between a secular Bluegrass band and a Christian Bluegrass band? Do you often play the same venues, or have the same audience? Is it more difficult to get gigs as a Christian band?
Canaan’s Crossing: The difference varies from band to band. In our case, there is not a big difference because we put a driving edge on a lot of our music like many of the top secular Bluegrass bands. We play many of the same venues that secular bands play such as festivals and theme parks. If there has been any difficulty, it has been securing certain Bluegrass festivals because some don’t use an all-Gospel band.
Rob: When you are on the road where is your favorite place to eat? Where is your favorite place to stay?
Andy: I enjoy trying new places to eat when on the road. It seems that Cracker Barrel and Zaxbys are the most common places we all agree to eat at. I like to stay at The Hampton Inn, but we typically stay on the bus.
Drew: My favorite place to eat would probably be Waffle House !! That one is a no brainer. My favorite place to say would be anywhere but the Sunshine Inn in North Carolina. That’s an inside joke about a bus breakdown.
Tina: When we are on the road, I am the “girl in the kitchen”. I wear that badge with honor because I love to cook and watch people enjoy eating. Our bus driver Lori is a wonderful cook and she helps out a lot. When we do have the opportunity of “going out to eat”, we seem to go to the same places. Now, keep in mind I am the only girl in a group of men. So their idea of a nice restaurant would be Jack’s or Zaxby’s. Most of the time, it’s just a feeding frenzy on the bus to see who can capture the last Slim Jim or the final scoop of dip.
When we are gone overnight, we sleep on the bus. We hose down the bus and away we go. We park at a truck stop to sleep. We have learned that when you use a truck stop shower, you better hurry because that thing will cut off if you tarry too long with conditioner in your hair.
Josh: Always Jack’s is a favorite place to eat. The bus is the comfort of the road for me.
Tim: I really enjoy eating at Zaxby’s. I am not particular about hotels as long as the shower is hot and has plenty of water pressure.
Rob: What is the goal for Canaan’s Crossing over the next year?
Canaan’s Crossing: We all agree that increasing our number of Bluegrass festivals would be a goal, plus, taking our music into churches and other venues that may not have used Bluegrass Gospel in the past. So many times people have come to our product table and said “ya’ll have made Bluegrass fans out of us!”
Tim: This is the first year for Sharon (my wife) and me to be empty nesters. Our son Jacob is at Auburn University majoring a Radio, TV and Film so, for us to make the adjustment together is important to me. Of all things, Sharon is an Alabama fan so she is having a tougher time adjusting than I am. War Eagle !!!!
Andy: My personal goal for the next year would be to continue to grow in my Christian faith, and in my musical skills.
Drew: Well, Kristin and I had our first child in 2013. To be able to take him to the beach for the first time sounds small to everyone else, but would be exciting for us.
Tina: Like I have said before, I am the only girl in a group of guys. I have always had a big personality and I have never really met a stranger. Along with that comes insecurities covered up by that personality. My goal for the upcoming year and beyond would be to share personal struggles so that it may help others overcome the same insecurities I experience. I hope to better learn how to deal with comments from others (good or bad). Most of all, I pray I can share how God is always on time with every trial you may be going through.
Josh: To advance spiritually and musically in every way possible and not slow down.
Tina: The perfect song to represent my entire family’s life would have to a song the The McKamey’s, “Right on Time.” Just when we think all hope is gone, here comes Jesus “Right on Time.”
Tim: A song from our new project “Hold Back the Sea.” I am not immune from concerns and worries any more than the next guy. If I’m going to make it, I will need the same faith and touch from God that Moses had when he led the children of Israel through the parted Red Sea. It’s easy to say I have faith but believing can be difficult some days.
Andy: The song that most represents my life right now happens to be one of the songs we just recorded on our latest project, WORDS. The title is “The Words I Would Say.” I’m at a point in my life where I feel it’s important for me to be an encouraging Christian witness to people I come in contact with.
Drew: It would have to be “Through the Fire” by The Crabb Family. It represents my life and uplifts me in any situation.
Josh: “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns.
Thank you, Canaan’s Crossing for sharing your ministry with our readers. For more information, visit: http://www.canaanscrossing.com/.