With their latest release "East to West," Endless Highway sets out to prove that God's love and grace are all encompassing, spanning time and countless generations. With songs about belief, trust and commitment, the music of this family group proves that faith has no limits. It's what has kept their ministry strong for over four decades and what drives them forward with a new era of music.
Through blending musical styles, Endless Highway reflects the journey of the Southern Gospel genre and themselves by highlighting influences of the three generations that make up the group. By taking turns in the spotlight, the vocalists of Endless Highway show a style that is classic, yet fresh. From songs like the traditional "It's a Highway to Heaven" featuring the lead singing of Jason Griggsfrom the family's second generation, to the modern "Out of the Deep" featuring his daughter Allison, Endless Highway presents a dynamic mix of progressive and traditional music.
Q: Thank you for doing this interview with us. Formerly you were known as the Joylanders, why the change of name?
A: We've been asked that question a lot over the last 8 months. We talked about changing our group's name for a few years before we actually did it. We felt the name was somewhat "dated" and did not reflect the younger generation of the family that had taken a leading role in the group for the last several years. We found that doors were being closed to us and therefore opportunities for us to share the Gospel in song simply because of our name. We literally had people tell us they weren't coming to our concerts because they saw our name and figured that we were 4 elderly men singing around a piano, which couldn't have been further from the truth if they had actually come to our concert and saw us. We even had Music Ministers tell us that they did not attend or almost didn't attend the concert at their own church because they assumed from the name, "The Joylanders", that we were an elderly group of men singing around a piano. Let me be very clear, I say this with no offense to any group that is comprised of elderly men that sing around a piano!
Basically, we were being wrongly pre-judged and missing opportunities to share the Gospel because of our name. This was becoming a reality that was limiting us. The sole reason that we are involved in ministry is to reach people for Christ. Anyone that has been to our concerts knows that we are a family of 3 generations (from 79 years old to 17 years old) that sing hymns and standards, new songs with modern arrangements, acoustic/bluegrass music with live instruments, and difficult acapella arrangements. The vast majority of our program and sound is comprised of our 2nd and 3rd generation.
After signing with Crossroads Music, we began to release singles to national radio and encountered resistance once again because of the name. Names are important and have great significance. We have been a regional group singing in about 12 states for the last 46 years and absolutely nothing can change what our first generation started and accomplished as "The Joylanders." It was only with their blessing and encouragement that we even considered the name change. Their legacy will now continue on as "Endless Highway."
Q: What's significance of the name "Endless Highway"? Who makes up the team now?
A: The name is taken from Isaiah 35:8-10. The word "endless" is not found in those verses, but we feel that the highway that we are on for the Lord is endless until He comes for us. The group's composition is still all 3 generations of the family but with an intentional focus on the younger generation. Perry & Nell Wimberley are the first generation. Their daughter, Vanessa, and her husband Jason (me) represent the 2nd generation. Our 2 children, Jay and Allison, represent the 3rdgeneration. Jay and Allison now are assuming a much larger role in the ministry as we prepare them to continue this legacy.
Q: Have your music and vision changed too?
A: I don't think our music has really changed. We love variety and that seems to be our style. Since we are all singers and musicians, we get bored easily when it comes to music and enjoy a broad spectrum of musical styles. I think that's one reason that you'll experience such a variety of sounds at our concerts. Our vision has not changed at all. The only reason that we do what we do is because we believe there is a calling on our lives to Gospel ministry. Ministry takes on many forms. Our main form is music, but we are mindful that we never turn off "ministry." For us, ministry can be while we're talking with someone at the truck stop while fueling, while we're sharing with younger kids who are helping us load in and load out our equipment, while we're at the restaurant talking with a waitress, as well as while we are on stage ministering through music. Our vision is to share Christ and always make Him first!
Q: I have been listening to your album and I must say I love the song choices. What were the types of songs were you looking for while making this album?
A: This new album really focuses on the 2nd and 3rd generation of our group and we wanted to find songs that perfectly fit each vocalist and his or her respective strengths. In regards to ministry, we try to find songs that first minister to us and therefore minister to the listener as well. Musically, our goal is to achieve quality. I believe that quality is timeless. We also wanted a great variety. We wanted everything from a hand clapping, toe tapping song like "It's A Highway To Heaven", to a Disney/Broadway sound of "This Is The Grace I Know", to a huge orchestrated ballad like "The Richest Crown", to a modern harmony/big band/rockabilly sound of "It's His Story", to a very simplistic approach on "Unbroken Promise", to more progressive songs like "Beautiful Scars of Love" and "Out Of The Deep." We wanted powerful lyrics with variety.
Q: Who are some of the songwriters on this record? Did you write any of the songs?
A: Some of the writers are Karen Gillespie, Rebecca Peck, Allen & Kristy Guyer, Adina Bowman, Rachel McCutcheon, Dixie Phillips, Sandy Knight, Todd Wright, Thomas Dorsey, and several others. Yes, I (Jason Griggs) did write the song "I've Got The Son In My Eyes." It's the only song on the project that any of us wrote.
Q: What were some of the joys and challenges in the making of this record?
A: One great joy is to see the evolution of the project from beginning to end; from listening to demos to hearing the final mix. It is truly amazing to witness. The Crossroads Music staff has been beyond amazing to work with. They are all the epitome of class and customer service! They helped us find amazing material. We worked through the songs and took our ideas to our pre-production session. Jeff Collins produced the project and he took our thoughts and added color to them, so to speak. It's always neat on tracking day to see the musicians add their thoughts and influences to the music and arrangements. Then, seeing the string section, brass, and full orchestra add their contribution is overwhelming! The challenge is always trying to achieve the highest level of quality that each person can. Jeff Collins is great at knowing a person's boundaries and knowing how to pull everything out of you. We try to set the bar higher than "3 chords and a cloud of dust", as they say. We try to arrange in such a way as to challenge ourselves vocally and musically, but always achieving quality.
Q: Talk to us about the new single "It's His Story." Why are you excited about this song?
A: We enjoyed the song when we first heard the demo, but after hearing the writer's inspiration for the song, we enjoyed it so much more. Basically, the writer's granddaughter was telling her grandfather how the enemy was defeating her by reminding her of the sin and failures of the past. He told her that she had to combat the enemy with the Word of God; it's His story and you've got to stick to it. The writer's answer to his granddaughter came in the form of this song. Jay sings this song and he envisioned the arrangement as you hear it on the cd. He wanted a simple rockabilly sounding guitar on the front of the song and then a huge brass/big band sound halfway through with a Manhattan Transfer type modern harmony at the end. The song turned out exactly as we envisioned it and we love it! We believe this song has the potential to bless and encourage folks just as it did the writer's granddaughter!
Q: How do you wish this new record would impact the lives of your listeners?
A: We always pray for the anointing of God. Our efforts are in vain without the anointing of God on our lives and on our music. It is our prayer that this cd will uplift, encourage, and minister to the listener, introduce him or her to the Savior, or strengthen someone's relationship with the Lord. This cd can go to places that we may never go and minister to people that we may never meet. I have found that the anointing of God can translate to a person in a time of great need or despair and minister to him or her when a special touch is needed. It is our prayer that our feeble efforts accomplish this.