The 6 Best Bands You’ve Never Heard About

One of my favorite activities in life is discovering new music.  As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I grew up in a conservative family in a small town in Virginia, & thus it’s not too surprising that I was very sheltered for the first 18 years of my life.  However, once I got to college & had unlimited access to the Internet, including that fascinating place called YouTube, as well as dozens of new friends to broaden my horizons a bit, I began to explore all kinds of new (to me) music.  The biggest discovery I made was that I actually loved rock & metal, which I had previously shunned for most of my life as “devil music.”  In any case, over the past 8 years or so I’ve become a real music junkie.  Indeed, I have to be one of the only people under 30 who still buys actual physical CDs on a regular basis (because I am just weird like that).  I’m also proud to say that I’ve started to become that person who introduces other people to new bands & artists.  Furthermore, one of the best compliments I can receive is being told I have great taste in music (or books).

music speaks

Anyhow, today I thought I would share some of my favorite bands from various genres who are a bit out of the mainstream music scene but whose music deserves to be played on every radio station in this country.  I’ve provided links to at least 2 songs on YouTube for each artist so that you can easily locate some of their best pieces.  I sincerely hope you’ll click at least a few of these links because you never know when you might discover a new favorite band.

  1. Honor By August (Soft Rock)

I first heard Honor By August at a street concert in downtown Raleigh this past Spring.  They were one of the opening acts for Third Eye Blind, & let me just tell you that they blew 3EB way out of the water.  I was so impressed with them that I almost immediately bought their most recent album online & purchased tickets to see them again in August at the Pourhouse in downtown Raleigh.  I was even more impressed with them the second time around.  Honor By August is a 4-piece rock band based out of Washington DC (although their bassist is from right here in Raleigh).  Their music is substantially “softer” than my usual taste in rock, but their lyrics & delivery are absolutely stellar.  The emotion that comes through in Michael Pearsall’s voice is just undeniable.  By turns uplifting & by turns heart-wrenching, the lyrics to their songs are well-crafted & strike straight to the heart.  For a more upbeat song, check out Already Yours (  For a mid-tempo piece, check out We Were Young (  And lastly for a real tear-jerker about lost love, check out Johnny (

honor by august

  1. Brandi Carlile (Alternative Country/Folk Rock)

Brandi Carlile’s name has certainly started to gain more recognition, as several of her songs have been featured in TV commercials/shows & major Hollywood films.  However, such features hardly do justice to the power of this woman’s amazing voice.  I started to get interested in her when I read Eric Church’s praise for Brandi’s talent.  (After all, anyone Eric Church recognizes as talented is worth at least a cursory listen.)  Well, it just so happened that I came across one of Brandi’s CDs in Boston a few weeks ago, so naturally I jumped on it.  Not only is her music stellar, but I admire her courage in being open about her sexuality.  A married lesbian country singer/songwriter (who is NOT from the South) is clearly far from the standard country music paradigm, & I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s part of the reason she is not played on the radio as she should be.  It’s hard for me to pick favorites, but I’d highly recommend checking out 100 (, The Story (, & A Promise to Keep (

brandi carlile

  1. Nikki Lane (Alternative Country)

I first read about Nikki Lane a few months ago & was immediately intrigued by this alternative country singer who embodies a real rock & roll spirit.  Just this week I received both of her albums in the mail, & I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into both of them.  While maintaining a country style, it’s easy to pick up on jazz & rock influences in her albums.  As someone who loves music that crosses genre lines, Nikki’s music is instantly appealing.  For a slower-paced piece that superbly features Nikki’s sultry voice, check out You Can’t Talk to Me Like That (  Then check out her rock & roll spirit in Right Time (  You won’t find a Wikipedia page about Nikki (yet), but you can read a good interview with her here:

nikki lane

  1. Gemini Syndrome (Hard Rock/Metal)

I first discovered Gemini Syndrome last summer when I saw that they were on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.  As FFDP is one of my favorite bands of all time, naturally that was enough to intrigue me.  As I started looking up their songs on YouTube I was thoroughly impressed with what I found.  Here is a hard rock band, with some definite metal influences, whose music is sensational AND whose lyrics are philosophical & deep.  It wasn’t long before I purchased their album Lux & fell in love.  Introducing others to new music is one of my greatest joys in life, & I’m happy to say that my husband also fell in love with this fantastic album, which sounds much more mature than a debut album.  For an inspirational piece, check out Pleasure & Pain (  Another stellar piece is Basement which was written by the lead singer in relation to his albinism.  I think we can all relate to Aaron Nordstrom when he sings “I never wanted this/I never asked for it/But this is what you gave me/I never wanted this/I never asked for it/But this is what you gave me/Why would you forsake me?”  Haven’t we all felt that way at some point in our lives for one reason or another?  Check out Basement here:  (And just in case anyone’s wondering because of the symbolism in the videos, no, this is NOT a Satanist or pagan band.)

gemini syndrome

  1. Mindset Evolution (Hard Rock)

My husband & I discovered Mindset Evolution at Uproar Festival in Raleigh two years ago.  Their live performance was very impressive so we bought the five-song disc that they had for sale at the show.  Over the next year I stayed up to date with the band on their Facebook page, & naturally I purchased their first full-length album on the very day it debuted last summer.  This is yet another debut album that sounds very mature.  These five guys from Illinois are clearly dedicated to writing & performing their music & that dedication shows through in their songs.  Check out heavy-hitter Burn It Down ( & the inspirational The Change (  How these guys are not on the radio more is absolutely beyond comprehension.  Additionally to anyone who thinks rock music is all anger & negativity, I beg you to give this band a listen & let them prove you wrong.

mindset evolution

  1. Redlight King (Rock- with rap influences)

Redlight King is yet another band my husband & I discovered at Uproar Festival two years ago.  This band features Canadian singer/songwriter Mark Kasprzyk.  After the festival I started looking up their music on YouTube & was surprised at the great variety of styles in the band’s music (some more traditional rock, some with heavy rap influences).  Two years later I now own both of their albums . . . Check out Bullet in My Hand which was the song that really caught my attention at Uproar Festival:  Also don’t miss Kaz’s tribute to his dad in the rap-rock song Old Man:  Lastly, be sure to check out the inspirational song Times are Hard:

redlight king

I sincerely hope you’ll take the time to check out at least a few of these bands who are truly worthy of your attention.  And if you like what you hear, I hope you’ll take the next step in supporting these great artists by purchasing their albums &/or tickets to a live show.  As you may have noticed I discovered three of these bands at live shows . . . And all three of them were NOT the artist I had gone to those shows to see . . . As I said at the beginning, you just never know when or where you might discover your newest favorite band.  Happy listening!

The Most Powerful Songs in My Life

Music is an important element in every culture in the world, & I strongly believe that it is the greatest art form because of its potential to influence our lives.  Think about it: we listen to music in the car, at home, at the gym, & even at work sometimes.  And we carry around ipods so we can listen to music wherever we go.  What other art form so transcends our daily lives?

A few years ago I got the idea to write down what I considered the most powerful songs in my life.  Not necessarily my FAVORITE songs but the songs that I feel like have had the greatest impact on my life & capture the ideas that I believe are most important in life.  Today I was thinking again about the power of music in my life, so I decided to revisit that list & update it just a bit.

I would love to hear what songs have most influenced you & why, so please feel free to comment & share your thoughts.

Please note these are in no particular order.  I only numbered them so I wouldn’t lose count.

I’ve included links to YouTube for each song because I’m awesome like that.  🙂

  1. I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack: This is such a simple song but the words are so powerful.  Every time I hear this song, it makes me stop & really think about how I’m living.  The metaphor of “I hope you dance” is so perfect for expressing the need to live actively rather than passively letting life pass us by.  I also love the fact that this song reminds us of the importance of standing in awe of nature, taking a chance on loving others, & never letting our hearts grow bitter. hope you dance
  2. Fifteen by Taylor Swift: You can go ahead & laugh at me for having Taylor Swift on this list but I seriously love this song.  I’ll be the first to agree that her voice is far from perfect & that everything she’s released over the past two years or so has been absolute CRAP, but to me that does not diminish the power of her song-writing abilities earlier in her career.  In this song she expresses exactly what it’s like to be a teenage girl.  She captures the feeling that we all had in high school that this is your whole life & every little drama that comes along feels like the end (or beginning) of your world.  Yet she reminds us that in the end most of these things are but insignificant trifles in a life full of so many things so much bigger than we ever dreamed at fifteen.  She reminds us that despite what we thought as teenagers most of us had no idea who we really were then, much less how to really love another person.  I love how this song encourages girls to aspire to be so much more than the high school quarterback’s girlfriend even though when you’re fifteen that seems like the epitome of success.  In this song she also encourages us to think twice before making any big decision & reminds us that time can heal all wounds, two very important life lessons.
  3. Life Ain’t Always Beautiful by Gary Allen: This is yet another very simple but profound song that speaks of both the extreme joys & sorrows of life.  As the song teaches us, life isn’t always beautiful but the hard times & the changes give us strength & wisdom so that at the end of the day, life really is a beautiful journey.  I think Gary Allen’s deep gravelly voice perfectly demonstrates that something that isn’t perfect can still be wonderful. aint always beautiful
  4. Best I Ever Had by Vertical Horizon: When I first discovered this song I listened to it over & over & over again.  This is such a sad but beautiful song that expresses the sorrow that so many of us have known in life when we have lost someone we love, whether through the end of a relationship or through death.  Initially I thought of this song as strictly about the loss of a romance but the more I listen to it, the more I believe the emotions expressed in this song could easily be translated to the loss of any loved one.  The song speaks of how we so often don’t realize the value of a relationship until it’s over.  I prefer the Vertical Horizon version simply because that’s the one I knew first but the Gary Allen version is hauntingly beautiful also.
  5. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (all four movements): There’s a reason this is Beethoven’s most famous work.  All four movements of this symphony are truly incredible.  The first & most famous movement is simply awesome.  The simple four-note theme begun in this movement is continued throughout all four movements, though cleverly disguised at times.  I’ll never forget hearing the third movement for the first time in a music class freshman year of college & how vividly the piece conjured up images of knights & castles.  To hear the transition into the fourth movement when the key switches from the angsty (Did I make up that word?) C Minor to the victorious C Major is truly heart-stopping.  Beethoven’s greatest strength as a composer was his ability to, without words, capture all of human emotion in his music, & I believe this piece is the greatest expression of that ability.
  6. Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini: Forgive me if I sound crude, but those of you who appreciate music as I do will understand my meaning here.  This piece is my musical orgasm.  Those last few notes at the end of the piece never fail to send chills throughout my whole body & have quite often brought tears to my eyes.  Words feel so inadequate to express the glory of this piece.  If you don’t know it, listen to it NOW, & I hope you’ll experience it as I do.
  7. Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas: Yes, I have a Disney song on here.  I’ve never been a big fan of the movie, partly because it’s so historically inaccurate, but I have always loved this song.  In today’s fast-paced, technologically advanced world, it’s extremely important to remember the beauty & frailty of nature & that the world is not a limitless supply of resources to fulfill our desires.  Yes, we have smart phones that can do more than computers from ten years ago.  Yes, the internet has connected the world in ways that our ancestors never even dreamed.  None of this is bad, but what is it worth if we destroy our Earth?  We must never lose touch of the joy & knowledge that can be found in a simple walk through the woods or gazing at a flower.  As the song points out, we are all connected to each other & to the Earth, and thus all of our actions ultimately affect everyone else as well as this planet we inhabit. of the wind
  8. How Can I Help You Say Goodbye by Patty Loveless: I remember hearing this song as I drove back to my hometown on a break from college one year.  I ended up with tears streaming down my face more than once as the words of the song kept running through my head & I thought of how much I missed my grandmother.  This song has been special to me ever since.  Perhaps it seems odd to like a song that can so easily make me cry (it still does sometimes), but I love it because it covers all of the major losses in life that we all experience at some point or another: loss of a childhood friend, loss of a spouse or romantic partner, & loss of a parent.  I love how the song highlights the importance of learning to say goodbye & that it’s ok to grieve when you’ve lost someone important.  Yet it also reminds us that eventually we must learn to put the past behind us while always cherishing the memories we’ve made.
  9. Bleed Red by Ronnie Dunn: This is one of those songs that I fell in love with the first time I heard it.  The whole theme of this song is that we are all human beings who experience pain, joy, sorrow, & pleasure.  We all make mistakes, we all bleed red.  As the song says, “If we’re fighting, we’re both losing.”  In a world filled with turmoil, strife, & incessant war, I can’t think of a better message. red
  10. Born This Way by Lady Gaga: To me this is the ultimate “feel good” song.  If you feel down on yourself, listen to this for an instant “pick me up.”  The message of this song is that regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual persuasion, etc, we are all beautiful creations & should thus be confident in our existence.  I think that’s something we all need to be reminded of once in a while.
  11. I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt: Here’s another song I fell in love with the first time I heard it.  Bonnie Raitt’s hauntingly beautiful voice combined with the jazzy piano phrasing makes this song unforgettable.  You can clearly hear the pain in her voice as she comes to the realization that so many of us have had to understand in life: you can’t make someone else love you no matter how much you love that person.
  12. Sangre Por Sangre by Hellyeah: Well, here is yet another song I fell in love with upon first listen.  The musical composition is nothing short of brilliant & the message makes it all the more powerful.  This song is not for the faint of heart for sure, but the band’s name alone ought to tell you that.  In any case, the lyrics so brilliantly describe how war & violence inevitably only lead to more war & violence & how futile this cycle really is.  The singer has stated that he wrote this song initially after losing a friend to murder, but he has also stated that the song has larger implications for wars & violence across the globe.  The visuals in the music video are a bit gruesome & haunting but they only serve to reinforce the power of this song.  I can never listen to this song just once; I have to listen to it two or three times in a row.  There’s just so much to absorb that once is never enough to take it all in.  (And just to clarify, the song is not in Spanish; there is only the one phrase “sangre por sangre” which means “blood for blood” that is in Spanish.) por sangre
  13. 100 Years by Five for Fighting: This song talks about all the major stages of life & how each one is beautiful, terrifying, & wonderful all at the same time.  It also highlights how quickly life passes by & how important it is to enjoy every minute of it.  To me, this song also encourages us to never forget the vitality & strength of youth no matter how much the responsibilities of life seem to weigh us down as we age.
  14. Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls: This has been a favorite of mine for many years now.  It’s always struck me as an achingly sad song for some reason, though I’m not sure exactly why.  To me this song is all about feeling really “at home” with that one person you love & how no one else in the world can really understand you the way that person does & how you yearn for that person when you’re separated for whatever reason.  I think deep down we all have a need to be 100% open with someone, but that comes at the price of making yourself very vulnerable which is why most of us can only find that sort of comfort with one person.  “I don’t want the world to see me because I don’t think that they’d understand . . . I just want you to know who I am.”
  15. Hello World by Lady Antebellum: I’m not sure how anyone could listen to this song & not be affected by it.  It’s simply gorgeous.  I love how the song starts out very soft & gentle but gradually builds up to a thundering, dramatic finish.  It’s even more amazing when you hear it in person.  To me this song is all about rediscovering the true beauty & meaning in life which is found in the simple things that money can never buy: family, friends, etc.  We all have times in our lives when we get caught up in the day-to-day frustrations & forget the bigger picture.  This song reminds us of that bigger picture. world
  16. Sweet Dreams Are Made of This by Marilyn Manson: The first time I heard this song I was driving over to visit my then-boyfriend/now-husband one evening during my senior year of college.  It was dark outside & I remember getting goosebumps as I listened to this song.  I was both terrified & intrigued.  I was pretty sure it was a Marilyn Manson song, so part of me was screaming “He’s crazy!  You can’t like this!”  As soon as I got to a computer, I looked up the song on YouTube because it interested me so much.  I’ve been hooked on it ever since.  (Note: The real video is pretty creepy & YouTube requires you to be 18 to watch it.)
  17. Painting Pictures of Egypt by Sara Groves: This is technically a religious song, but I don’t think you need to be the least bit religious to understand & appreciate it.  This has been such a powerful song in my life that I have a whole note on Facebook about it.  (I’ll have to make a blog post out of that sometime soon.)  This song speaks about the longing to go back to an easier or happier time in life & the fear of stepping out into an uncertain future.  (The metaphor is related to the Israelites missing Egypt when they left for “The Promised Land,” in case you’re wondering about the references to Egypt.)  This is something we all experience in life at some point or another.  What we have to realize is that like an old pair of shoes, the past no longer fits us anymore so we have to try on our new shoes & move forward in life.
  18. King of Anything by Sara Bareilles: The sarcastic attitude of the lyrics combined with the infectious beat made this song an instant favorite of mine.  This is the song to listen to when you’re tired of people telling you how to live your life or what’s best for you.  After all, “Who died & made you king of anything?” of anything
  19. Justice by Rev Theory: Yet another song I loved immediately upon first hearing it.  This is just a fun hard rock song all around & it’s especially fun to listen to if you’re angry or frustrated.  (Which of course makes it a fantastic song for the gym.)  But more importantly it speaks to the need to find justice for all the many wrongs & abuses in the world.
  20. We Were Young by Honor By August: I first saw Honor by August as one of the opening acts for Third Eye Blind at a street concert in downtown Raleigh this past spring.  May I just say that they blew Third Eye Blind out of the water by a longshot?  I don’t think I’ve ever so immediately fallen in love with a band’s music the way I did with Honor By August that night.  I had never even heard of this band or any of their songs before that night, but it was evident from the very first note they played that there was real emotion & wisdom behind their music.  It’s hard for me to even classify their music, but I guess you could call it soft rock, which is not typically my favorite genre.  But as I said before the EMOTION conveyed in their music is just so REAL that you cannot help but be drawn to it.  It’s hard to pick just one song of theirs that has really impacted me because there are so many, but We Were Young has to be one of the best.  This song conveys so many truths about how we tend to rush through our lives, especially when we’re young, only to realize later on how precious each day really is.  It also speaks of how life can change so much over the years but real love will last in spite of all the changes.  I saw Honor By August again this summer & I was just as impressed as the first time.  Seriously, you need to look up this band & find a live show to attend.  You won’t regret it.
honor by august

Honor By August

The Pain of Regret

When I was probably 19 or 20 I remember a friend of mine telling me that it was a point of pride with her grandmother that her husband of many decades had never even once seen her fully nude.  My friend & I both agreed that this was a ridiculous thing to be proud of, though it was probably not uncommon for our grandmothers’ generation to feel that way.  We also agreed that it was really quite a sad commentary on the mentality of many folks in older generations because it is reflective of a mindset that sees life as something to be feared rather than something to be experienced.

I’ve never forgotten that conversation for one reason or another & I was reminded of it again today.  While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I came across a meme that several friends had posted that said “I’d rather look back on life & think ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I had,’” or something along those lines.  That quote prompted me to think about how it really is true that our biggest regrets in life are often the things we didn’t do rather than the things we did do.  Whenever I heard people say that when I was growing up I couldn’t understand it.  But now I do.  Because I don’t have a lot of regrets in life but the few I have are mostly the things I didn’t do. 


That meme also prompted me to think about how dangerous it is to live your life in fear & not experience so many of the wonderful things this world has to offer.  I’m a humanist so I believe that people are capable of both good & evil but if we focus our energies on the good we are capable of creating amazing things & effecting a lot of wonderful change on this planet.  That is exactly why I think it’s so dangerous to raise children in a society that constantly tells them they’re a bunch of lousy sinners who don’t deserve anything good.  When people have this kind of mentality drilled into their heads from day one, there is a tendency to never reach their highest potential.  There is also a tendency to think it’s frivolous to do things just for fun & to feel like you have to live your life making up for your all of your sins.  This leads to the kind of mindset where people think they are holier for not having high-speed internet or modern cell phones or other “worldly goods.”  I wish I were making this up, but I’m not.

I lived the first eighteen or so years of my life with a very long list of things I couldn’t do because they were wrong.  (I’m not talking so much about lying, stealing, or murder.  I’m talking more about movies, music, words, & drinks that were somehow deemed “evil” & thus to be avoided at all costs.  Obviously I am not advocating that life should be lived without any sort of basic morals.)  Somewhere along the line I’m so glad I realized that life isn’t meant to be lived that way.  I’m so thankful for the friends who encouraged me to have fun just for the sake of having fun.  I’m so glad I learned that having fun is NOT a sin, nothing to apologize for, & that I never need a “reason” to spend time with friends, go to a concert, discover a new band or restaurant, or just do whatever I please so long as it’s not hurting anyone else.


This past weekend I went to a concert with a friend from work.  We had a great time & while there we discussed the fact that I’ve never been to a rap concert.  While I’m not a big fan of rap music I do like a few songs here & there, mostly from Flo Rida (embarrassing, I know but the songs I know by him are just fun songs that aren’t terribly crude or full of drug references), & one of my regrets in life is not going to a Flo Rida concert at my college a few years ago.  While I know there is a lot more to rap/hip-hop than “gangsta” rap & the other mainstream crap that is blasted on radio stations, it’s still not my favorite genre, but nonetheless I want to go to a rap concert at some point in my life.  It’s just an experience I think I should have.

Upper Cascades at Hanging Rock State Park near Greensboro, NC which we visited a few weeks ago

Upper Cascades at Hanging Rock State Park near Greensboro, NC which we visited a few weeks ago

What I’m trying to say is that life is meant to be experienced.  Our journeys on this Earth are way too short to be spent depriving ourselves of all of the joy life has to offer.  I’m in NO WAY suggesting you should go out & snort a few lines of cocaine, shoot up some heroin, or have unprotected sex with a stranger.  Those are all choices that have well-documented negative consequences & the chances of experiencing not only short-term but long-term ill effects are far too great.  Therefore those are not “life experiences” but simply bad decisions.  What I AM saying is that never letting your husband see you fully nude is just silly.  Never tasting a glass of wine because it’s “evil” is sad.  There IS such a thing as moderation & maybe if people weren’t so convinced that they’re horrible sinners they’d have the self-discipline to actually practice moderation.

To be clear I’m not advocating that people should focus only on having fun in life.  Obviously we need to be responsible mature adults who work hard, save money, & take care of ourselves & our families.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t squeeze as much fun as we possibly can into our lives. 

I took this while climbing on the rocks at Acadia National Park on my honeymoon in Maine, August 2011.  Amazing experience.

I took this while climbing on the rocks at Acadia National Park on my honeymoon in Maine, August 2011. Amazing experience.


Spring time is here with summer sure to follow, so let’s make the most of it.  Go camping.  Hike a mountain.  Swim beneath a waterfall.  Go fishing on a river.  Attend an outdoor concert, even if you don’t know the band.  You might discover a new one you like (that happened to me last weekend; already ordered & received their CD which I am loving).  Go to a winery or a brewery with friends & taste some new drinks.  Go to that Indian buffet you’ve been wanting to try.  Take a walk on the beach at sunset.  Listen to loud music & dance while doing housework; I promise it’s so much more fun that way.  Take risks; just be smart about them.  Above all, have fun with the ones you love.  Spend time together as often as you can.  Say “I love you” and mean it every single time.  When you get to the end of your life, whenever that may be, you’ll be so glad you did.

P.S. Here’s a link to a song by the new (to me) band I discovered last weekend.  Check out We Were Young by Honor By August.