The Easter Brothers are not only bluegrass Gospel legends, they are our national heritage. These brothers have been together for 60 years and they have released nearly 50 albums. Having won and having been nominated for countless Dove, SPBGMA, and IBMA Awards over the years, they are back with their brand new album "I'd Do It All Over Again." We are privileged to be able to sit down with them for this exclusive Hallels' interview as they share with us about their newest release:
Hallels: Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. I simply love your new album "I'd Do It All Over Again." What do you intend to accomplish through this record?
Russell: One of the main objectives is to once again touch base with those who have followed our music and ministry throughout the years. It's been quite a while since we have released a major project, and we're really excited about the songs that were chosen for this recording. It's good to hear the reproduction of several of these songs which we wrote many years ago such as "The Good Old Days" and "Lord, I'm Just a Little Branch." With today's digital format, we know that our songs can be easily accessed by those who love gospel bluegrass music from all over the world.
James: Many people have asked for another project from us over the last couple of years. We wanted the opportunity to let people know that we're still on the road, and still singing the gospel. Also, we are looking forward to possibly reaching younger generations that are now listening to our type of music. The gospel is for all ages.
Hallels: You have worked with quite a number of labels over the years, but this is your first album with Pisgah Ridge/Crossroads Records, why do you choose to work with them?
Russell: We personally know many of the artists and groups with Pisgah Ridge/Crossroads, and we have been very impressed with the quality of their artists and their ability to market and promote projects. They have an outstanding reputation in the music industry and we are thrilled to be a part of their work. Their label is the first that came to our minds when we decided to do another CD.
Hallels: On this new disc, you have written quite a few originals together. After writing so many songs for so many years, does writing become easier or harder? What advice would you give to younger songwriters?
Ed: A thought, an idea, or concept is the first step. After writing for so long, sometimes it is easier. However, sometimes it can harder for me, personally. At times, a song will come to me very quickly and writing just flows. Sometimes not. We started writing even when we were just young boys and didn't even know who Jesus was. Of course no one has ever heard these songs but us. "Little Turkey I Can't Quack" was my first. When we accepted Christ, He gave us songs from the heart. Songs about how He changes us and makes us whole are the songs that just come naturally. My advice to anyone wanting to write songs is to fully know your subject. Have a passion for what you're writing.James: My inspiration has always been how God changed my life. Lifting Him up and giving Him glory for those changes has inspired the song concepts that have always come easy for me. Our songs are almost like love songs to Him, the one who is worthy of all praise.
Russell: I always wanted to write songs even as a kid. I love music and putting words and thoughts to music has just been something that I have always treasured. Our songs are truly about our lives. We do not just write songs, we live them. I hold the pen, and God gives the message. I feel as though the message is mainly for me and that God wants me to share those messages with others. The song on the album, "I Didn't Leave Like I Came", is my own personal testimony. You know the song is inspired by God when tears come with the words. My advice to young writers would be to write from your own personal experiences. They will be the songs from the heart.
Hallels: You have kept your signature bluegrass-gospel sound on this new album without much compromise to change. Is this deliberate?
Russell: We fell in love with bluegrass music when we were just young boys, listening to the Grand Ole Opry on our old Philco radio. While we adjusted over the years, adding steel guitar, drums and piano to some of our songs, personally, my heart has always loved the bluegrass sound of the banjo, dobro, mandolin, and fiddle. Much of our music was inspired by country gospel harmonies of artists such as Charlie and Ira Louvin (the Louvin Brothers), who recorded some of the greatest gospel projects ever recorded. I feel that the Easter Brothers' sound incorporates other greats such as Carl Story, Jim and Jesse, and who can forget the "Great Speckled Bird" by Roy Acuff.
We have to give credit to the producer of this project, Jared Easter, my grandson, who is also a member of our musical group now. Jared's musical integrity is flawless. He is a perfectionist who captured the Easter Brothers' sound and combined the different tones of bluegrass, country, and southern gospel which makes up what we feel is our own sound. This was indeed, deliberate.
James: While Russell and Ed have always leaned toward bluegrass, I have also loved the sound of country gospel which is now included on many southern gospel radio stations. Our individual taste has formed our sound which I feel includes just about everything.
Ed: Many artists from different genres have recorded our songs, adding their own special flavor of music. Doyle Lawson, the Primitives, the Inspirations, the Hoppers, The Gaither Vocal Band, Jake Hess, Rhonda Vincent, Rex Nelon, just to name a few. So I feel that as a whole, our musical ministry has appealed to different types of music. As we have aged, we have come full circle back to our roots which we feel is a unique sound. Regardless of the tone of the music, the sound that has remained the same is one, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hallels: What are two of your favorite songs from the album? And why?
Ed: Two of my favorites are "The Crossing" and "I'd Do It All Over Again", both written by Gerald Crabb, a tremendous songwriter and close friend of ours. I feel that all three of us can relate to both of these songs after traveling on the road and being in the ministry for close to 60 years. We've seen God work in mighty ways and one day we'll meet the One who we've been singing about all these years.
James: "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover" is a favorite of mine because as Christians, we should do as the last verse says - to love one another and if one falls, to lend a helping hand and to not judge. "An Old Fashioned Talk with the Lord" speaks a tremendous message. We've heard several testimonies at our concerts and services from people who have been encouraged and helped by the words of this song. God tells us that He will roll back the dark clouds and pour out His blessings.
Russell: "Let the Hallelujahs Roll," written by Jared, along with my daughter, Linda Thompson and Steve Schramm, is one my favorites. This is because I know in my heart that we will all rejoice at His appearing and that the saints from every nation along with the saints of old, will shout "Hallelujah." Another one of my all time favorites is "The Lost Sheep." Anyone who has followed the Easter Brothers over the years, recognizes that we like to include a recitation in our projects, and no one does that any better than Ed! This song reminds us that Jesus left the ninety and nine, and came looking for me - and I'm so glad that He did!
Hallels: What do you think of the new groups and artists now in Southern Gospel music? Is there anyone you would like to work with in the foreseeable future?
Russell: I enjoy the music of the up and coming family group, Mountain Faith. I feel that family harmony always has a unique sound that is hard to beat. One of our favorite memories was an event with Jeff and Sheri, other members of our family, along with the Lewis Family. We would love to do collaborations with other groups in the future such as The Primitives or Dailey and Vincent.James: A project released just in the past couple of months was a labor of love for me and my son, Jeff Easter, called "Like Father, Like Son." We always enjoy getting together with other groups and artists in concerts and services, because at the end of the program, we all gather and sing favorites such as "Thank You Lord for Your Blessings on Me" and "They're Holding Up the Ladder." This is the part we always love the most.
Hallels: On the title cut as well as the whole album, the themes of nostalgia and hope run right through it. Looking back over the years, has your faith in Jesus Christ changed?
Ed: I believe that all three of us would give the same answer to this question. Our faith has grown deeper and stronger with time. We've all had our share of heartaches and disappointments as well as accomplishments and victories. The Lord has seen us through them all one by one, day by day. We've held the hands of precious loved ones as they've made their way through the crossing and celebrated that their battles here on earth were over, even as our own will someday be. Heaven is sweeter, and more real with each passing day. Traveling over this country all these years and being part of a work that has led as others to give their lives to Christ, witnessing miracles which He promised, and having the opportunity to share His love and grace with so many has just drawn each of us closer to Him.
Hallels: With the release of this new album, where can our readers go to purchase it and find out more about you?
James: We're hoping that many will go online to order this new project. Our website is www.easterbrothers.com, and the label website is www.crossroadsmusic.com. This new project as well as several of our other projects can be ordered from iTunes and Amazon. We invite everyone to come to Mount Airy, North Carolina, our hometown. My music store, Mayberry Music Center is located on Main Street, right below Snappy Lunch. Come and get a pork chop sandwich and walk down to see us. You can bring your instrument and we'll just jam a while to gospel favorites or maybe just talk about the Lord. I'm at the store sometimes on the weekends and once and while Russell and Ed pop in. But one of the best places to see, hear, and meet the Easter Brothers is at one of our concerts or church services. Our website keeps the schedule current and even gives directions on how to get there. We would just love to meet as many as we can to share our music and our testimonies.