Despair but hope, doubt but faith. Life gives us unbelievable joys and deep sorrows, yet God keeps on. The band Carrollton, tells this truth through honest, open-handed songs born of questions, wonders and struggle.
Carrollton’s second album, Sunlight and Shadows, set to release September 18, is a hopeful testimony about that life in which beautiful, mountaintop days of sunshine mix with days in the shadows. Band members Jordan Bailey (bass), Michael Loy (drums), Jeremy Menard (lead guitar) and Justin Mosteller (lead vocals and guitar) bring listeners on the journey with them through powerful, faith-filled lyrics and driving beats. “The message of what we’re doing is that we believe God is with us in the good and the bad, and often in the mundane in-between” Justin says. “We’re trying to share that with people. We just want to put our hearts out there and see hope rise up.”
Trust in each other, in God and in their label, Centricity Music, led the band through the intense creation of Sunlight and Shadows. The band and producer Tedd T (for King & Country, Newsboys), collectively decided to start almost from scratch in the studio in spring 2015, rewriting songs they already had and creating new tunes over a total of eight days. “We knew from day one that we could have nothing at the end of it,” says Justin. “But what we came out with was stuff we loved.”
They let God lead that studio time and trusted the process. Michael remembers dialing in drum sounds one morning without a song to record yet. “It was an experience on so many levels. We worked with Tedd hands open,” he says. “At times we had writing and recording going on in three different rooms,” Justin remembers. “That chaos created some beautiful things.”
“We’re handing over our ministry,” says Justin about that trust. “There’s something authentic and special about Centricity. We trusted everyone in the room. As we worked on ‘Meant To Be,’ someone would say that it’s just not finished yet. So, we’d agree, OK, let’s rewrite it. It still wasn’t ready. There was a slot for one more song and we had four days to finish. But, we all had to leave and go to Atlanta to play two nights, go home and lead worship at church and drive back. On the drive to Atlanta in an amazingly uncomfortable van, we rewrote ‘Meant To Be’ for the eighth time.” It was finished. “That song describes where we are,” he says. Its lyrics start out with life’s worries, but quickly crescendo into a worshipful song professing: I’m right where I’m meant to be. “If we’re following after Jesus, we’re right where we’re supposed to be,” Justin says.
“The song ‘More Now,’ was written by Ross King,” says Justin. “It felt so genuine and just sets the lens to see all of the other songs. When we’re battling through faith, we can say, ‘God I believe in you more.’ There’s something so beautiful about that. The album was not written for a concept, but in the end, it all fit together.”
Carrollton’s first radio single from the new album, “Let Love Win,” speaks God’s peace into today’s tumultuous world. “So much has happened this year in Ferguson, Indiana, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Charleston, Chattanooga and now Lafayette that is laced with hate,” says Justin. “We believe the love of Jesus is the only hope we have to break the chains of hate. ‘Let Love Win’ is a song of conviction that we wanted to sing night in and night out to remind ourselves what Jesus has called us to. We feel strongly that in all things love should be our first step and the only thing we shout.” Its chorus chants an anthem of love: We believe your love is the strongest way / You’re tearing down walls and you’ll break our chains / Even in this darkness, hope will rise again / When we lay down our weapons we will let love win.
“When we began recording ‘Let Love Win’ in the studio the chorus said, “I believe Your love is the strongest way …” remembers Justin. “But when we played it in the tracking room, there was a news channel on mute in the midst of covering the Baltimore riots. That day, the song switched one last time from a personal declaration to an anthem for the Church with the changing of one word ‘I’ to ‘We.’ We hope people come alongside us and let love be the way we confront darkness and let hope rise again.”
The four singer/songwriter/musicians formed the band seven years ago, leading worship at numerous youth camps, conferences and churches. The band takes its name from Carrollton, a small town in Kentucky, marking the half-way point between their hometowns of Cincinnati and Louisville.
The honesty and energy in their live performances have made Carrollton a sought-after worship band. “When a crowd comes in with expectancy to open-handedly worship with us, it’s amazing,” says Justin. “It’s different with every crowd. Sometimes I talk more. Other times, we just let the music talk. We think about what the room feels like and the energy they bring. How do we engage each other?”
Carrollton leads worship with a maturity that focuses less on performing the perfect set but more on following the Spirit’s lead. The men know they are not on stage for themselves. “Our whole goal behind everything is to do our best to get out of the way and just present an honest night,” says Michael. “All four of us write; all four of us are experiencing life. The good, the bad. We want to sing songs every night that tell that story,” says Justin.
The guys experienced amazing days last year as three babies were born among them and Jeremy got married. Altogether, the four men and their wives have eight children no older than seven. But, that joy mixed with sorrow when Justin’s mom passed away. A shining example of faith, Justin remembers being awoken as a child as she sang, “This is the day the Lord has made.” The bridge in ‘Meant To Be,’ says the same, paying sweet tribute to her.
Faith keeps the guys honing their craft, performing and working. Justin is a full-time worship leader at his church. Jeremy is a part-time worship leader and does construction on the side. Michael and Jordan take their day-jobs on the road if need be, as Michael does data entry and Jordan is a music producer. No matter what, family comes first. Sometimes, all eight kids and eight adults travel to weeklong summer worship events. After weekend concerts, Carrollton will often travel through the night to get home before the kids wake up.
Sunlight and Shadows presents an honest faith and an unwavering hope in God. “He’s not lining up our next 10 steps,” says Michael. “But the next step. We can rest in that step. We don’t always have to have the big picture.” Always, He is in control. “God is going to provide,” Justin says. “That doesn’t always mean a house in the suburbs. It means He is faithful to provide His presence for us.”