The Alternate Routes on their song, "Nothing More" + interview
Two years ago, Eric Donnelly and Tim Warren of The Alternate Routes were given a very special assignment: write a song for the Connecticut non-profit Newtown Kindness that was started just after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. "We tried to keep things light and positive," explained Tim, "because I think that was the aim of the organization."
Their song, "Nothing More," has since become the anthem for numerous charitable foundations across the country and continues to provide a silver lining for everyone who listens to it.
The Alternate Routes are currently on tour with Ingrid Michaelson. They were kind enough to sit down and do an interview with me just before their opening set for Ingrid in Seattle on May 1st. I have no doubt that you're going to love these guys as much as I do!
FYF: Hey guys! How's the tour going?
Tim: The tour has been great. We started in Montreal. This is the 7th show. Ingrid has just the most respectful and relevant audience we've played for in a while, not that we haven't been playing to relevant people but it's really inspiring - her crowd is really invested in the music; they're really invested in the opening acts; they get there early ...and these venues are all beautiful - it's been wonderful!
Eric: It's been a great experience to be out with these guys - both Ingrid and Storyman. The crowds and venues have been awesome! It's been a huge treat for us.
FYF: Well, I'd love to hear a bit about your background, what brought you guys together to make music?
Eric: Tim and I met in college. I was a couple years older than him in college. I remember I was at a party, and this girl came up to me and she said,"I gave your phone number to a guy that I think you would be a good fit with." And I was like..."Oh, that's cool!" But then I wondered, "who was that and how did she have my phone number to give to someone else?!"
So I always thought that was a funny starting point. And then two days later Tim called and needed a guitar player for something that he had been doing, and the rest is history, as they say!
FYF: How did you come up with your band name?
Tim: I've had the full spectrum of emotions about our band name... But we stuck with it and I'm glad we did. I was on a summer trip somewhere and there was a road that had been flooded over. There was a cardboard sign that just said: "Seek alternate route." I thought it was interesting that it didn't tell you where to go - just that you couldn't go that particular way. And we had been playing shows and trying to get into the music business for a little while, but it seemed like an appropriate metaphor.
If you want to do music, there's gonna be a lot of people that tell you that you can't do it this way or I can't help you or whatever, but you just have to keep going. It's a name that suites us well - we've been at it for awhile and that's our approach to things: "Okay, well we can't do this but we're gonna keep going," and that's what's taken us to where we are now...that kind of mentality. It's okay if you get a no, but you still gotta keep going.
Eric: We had a lot of conversations over the last couple years about maybe switching our name. I think it's common for bands that have been around for awhile that haven't broken out to where they want to be to want to change things up, let's change our name and things like that. A lot of people do it and it works great. We got a lot of advice to consider doing something like that ourselves and we had a lot of internal dialogue about it, but we opted to stick with it and it's been good so far. I'm glad we stuck to our guns on that one.
FYF: Well, "Nothing More" is a very special song and I would love to hear about the background of it.
Tim: We decided we weren't going to do a lot of touring last summer. There were some guys in town that we were excited to play with, we wanted to rehearse the tunes a bunch and then make a record in the wintertime.
In the midst of a lot of rehearsing and just taking a step back I guess, we were asked to write a song for an organization in Newtown that was started right after the elementary school tragedy happened there. They were trying to sort of persevere - and they inspire, recognize and reward acts of kindness and they needed a song for their website. It came together really quickly. Eric came downstairs at the end of a rehearsal one night and sent it to me.
We rewrote it and re-recorded it a bunch, but the way that it happened the quickest was they way that it endured. We tried to keep things light and positive because I think that was the aim of the organization. And apparently it was just a lyric and a sentiment that people really want.
The song has been a part of different organizations - we couldn't have even imagined...charity groups, I mean there's maybe a hundred of them now. It's hard to describe, but it has a life of its own. And we just kind of made it and set it out there and it's just been doing amazing things.
FYF: So what inspired you to add the female part?
Eric: When we were in Nashville, the guy that we recorded with - Teddy Morgan - he is friends with Lily Costner, who is the voice on the track. It was just kind of one of those things, we thought, "Lily would sound great on this track!"
One of the other connections with this tour is we've also been doing it with Ingrid a little bit, so there's a version that Ingrid sings on - we haven't released it yet - but that was kind of the connection we had on this tour and she's come out and sang it with us on this tour, which has been incredible.
We've been very fortunate to get to work with some great people on this. It's just one of those tunes that people have gravitated to, I guess. People have been so generous with their time and talents and we've kind of been the beneficiary of that.
FYF: Well you guys have released multiple albums at this point. Looking back at where you started, how has your vision or your idea for what you want from your career changed?
Tim: I think a big part of this for me has been the fact that Eric and I have been working together for a while, not such a long time, but long enlighten to realize that we have to be respectful to one another first and foremost. And I think the most friction that we had in times when we were learning difficult lessons about the music business had mostly to do with that - the nucleus wasn't intact.
The music stuff was always pretty effortless, but there are so many things you have to do to run a band and we're really different. Eric and I are really different guys. So that's been number one for me - to just make sure that he and I are on the same page. If he and I don't agree, at least we know that we are not in agreement, but we know we're going to go out and put on a show and give it our best.
And me, I'm a guy that always wants to give them a good show and I've shyed away from because I thought maybe it wouldn't come across or it wasn't exciting enough...but I think just believing in the personality of my own style and being proud of it has really been the coming of age part. That's the thing I just needed to become more confident with. Some of that more personal stuff or the more subtle things in our music is something that I'm excited to put out there with this new album because I think it's going to resonate.
Eric: I think similarly, for so many years in the beginner - for me in particular - you try to do it all, you just want to have your hands on everything and you want to try to make things work I and I think the last year has taught me, more than anything, that letting go is just as valuable as anything. Just doing what you think is the right thing and just trusting that everything is going to fall into place.
For a lot of years we were swimming up stream as far as our efforts go and wasting energy being out on the road being stubborn and kind of set in our ways. We learned a ton and I'm really grateful for those years. I think the most success we've ever had has happened in the last few months because we just let go and said, "okay, this song is bigger than us, we can't even really take credit for it, we just try to keep in a good frame of mind."
On the musical front - similarly - I think it's the same idea of communication - being direct, both as a guitar player and as a songwriter and performer is what I'm most drawn to now. I think that's the kind of thing that, in the past, it was trying to be clever or wordy or flashy. Those things don't interest me that much anymore. Being cool doesn't interest me anymore. Being fast on the guitar doesn't interest me, but being direct does. Communicating does.
People look to music to be spoken to, not to be spoken at and that's the kind of music that I'm drawn to also.
Thank you, Eric and Tim!
To learn more about the Newtown Kindness Foundation, visit their website.