A Conversation with Anthony Quails

Anthony Quails is a bit of an anomaly.  By his own admission, his songwriting style seems plucked from a bygone age (I describe him to people as the type of country music my grandparents would listen to).  Unlike most of his compatriots at the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal, his music is incredibly approachable — almost classifiable as “easy listening” in comparison to the distortion-wrought emotional venting, the surrealist concept albums, and the unflinching sociopolitical commentary of his peers.

In light of these trends and the atmosphere of contemporary music as a whole, Anthony’s hearkening to a simpler time is welcomed.  Perhaps that’s what we need: to simmer down from the generally unfriendly times we live in.  We need more art that isn’t afraid to be brutal for the sake of honesty, but we also need art that is authentically kind, warm, and accessible.  This is the type of art that Anthony Quails makes: a throwback aesthetic to old school storytelling through music.

Despite such an easy-to-like approach, Anthony has not had an easy path to getting his art produced.  Inquiries at three different labels turned up with failure before he found the Nehemiah Foundation.  And even after that, his first Kickstarter for his forthcoming album Before the Bright Lights was not successfully funded despite incredibly savvy promotion and a positive reception.

In a bold move, Anthony and the Nehemiah Foundation have launched a secondary campaign, with a lower goal and only one week to raise the funds (it ends this Friday, May 27th).  This comes at no small risk to the Foundation, which will be eating all of the recording and mixing costs.  Moreover, it demonstrates a level of humility and courage on Anthony’s part, as he will be asking once more if people would take a chance on his music.

I got to ask Anthony a few questions about performing on television, his crowdfunding experiences, and trying to make long-lasting and honest art.

AQ Kickstarter Image 2

EJ: To promote for the initial Kickstarter, you appeared on local television in Chattanooga, TN to perform some songs. What was that experience like? Was this your first time performing on television?

AQ: This wasn’t my first time appearing on that specific television show, but each time I have appeared it has been extremely beneficial. This time was no different, except I was directly promoting my music and the campaign. There are always some nerves when sharing songs with an audience who may have never heard of you or your songs. I did receive some wonderful feedback from a viewer who did pledge toward the campaign.

EJ: How have you been encouraged by the crowdfunding process so far?

AQ: With the enormous support I received during the initial campaign, it has been encouraging to see folks still interested in my work. There is always a fear that people won’t be as receptive the second time around or become disinterested. We live in such an instant society so it is easy to move from one event to the next without a second thought. With the launch of the campaign again I know that at least a handful of folks are genuinely excited about the album.

WATCH: a live performance of “City of Bridges.”

EJ: What was your initial reaction to hearing that the first Kickstarter was not successfully funded?

AQ: To be honest there were a lot of mixed emotions. With an all or nothing campaign there can be a lot of stress, and although I’d love to be naive and believe that everyone is as attached to this album as I am, that is just not the case. When you invest over two years of your life on a project there is a finality to the process that can either feel like success or failure. Those emotions can be expected, but dwelling on them can also be dangerous. I had to choose to look at the concrete information gathered. There were 90+ people who believe that my art matters. When faced with that truth, it is very encouraging and does soothe some of the sting.

EJ: What concerns you the most about the release of ‘Before the Bright Lights’?

AQ: There are the normal concerns of whether it will be received well by the public but also would the album have longevity. My desire when creating this album was to create something with substance and integrity. My goal has always been to create one single piece of work that could last long after I’m gone.

EJ: What are some things you’ve learned so far in the process of trying to raise funds for this album?

AQ: That nothing in life is a sure bet and sometimes things may not work out. We can do everything in our power to make something happen, but in the end God is in complete control. Trusting Him is easier said than done, and even when the trusting is the hardest He is big enough to handle my unbelief and fear.

WATCH: a live performance of “Acres of Faith.”

EJ: What do you think is the album’s greatest strength?

AQ: I think the greatest strength of this album is its transparency. Some of the songs are almost five years old, but they still have a way of showing me something new each and every time I listen. I want to believe that if a song still moves me then it’s quite possible that someone else is going to feel the same way. Or at least I hope so.

EJ: Where are you up to (musically) after the release of the album?

AQ: At this point I’m looking to start scheduling some house shows across the southeast and eventually venture up north. Other than that I’m game for wherever God sends me. My hope is to share this album with as many people as possible.

Shout out and thanks to Anthony for taking the time to answer my questions.  Jump on his Kickstarter here.  Check out song previews from the album below.




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