Are we still one nation under God? Images of US military troops returning home suggests war in the Middle East is finally ending. Indeed, their homecoming deserves country-wide celebration, yet many Americans have been fighting opposition in their own homes and communities no Armed Forces presence could avenge. Losing financial and economic battles seem to have caused casualties of confidence at an alarming rate, killing persons’ faith in anything beyond their own hands.
Ohio-native gospel trio Half Mile Home have arrived to turn the tide. Together they’re providing much-needed back-up in person as they tour, and through weapons of wisdom found on their album Church Muzik & Inspiration. Members Darryl “Deaken” Brownlee (lead vocalist/songwriter/guitarist) and brothers Terence “Buttons” Burton (lead vocalist/drummer/songwriter) and Todd “Ty Traxx” Burton (pianist/songwriter/producer) are united in faith. These three men stand firm on the front lines to achieve a greater victory for everyone they encounter from their own communities to those across the nation.
SoulTrain.com: The problems of the world seem to have caused people to act out in greater numbers. With what seems to be an increase in gang violence in your native Ohio, do you guys feel you need to pray more for your communities?
Ty Trax: There is a need for praying more because there is a lot of gang activity. There’s actually a lot of killing in certain areas, in terms of the youth. There is more of a need for us to get out there and talk to the youth, to start witnessing to the youth about what’s going. These young folks don’t know what they’re doing! It’s a greater need for prayer right now.
Deaken: Prayer is very necessary. I’ve worked with gangs for about six or seven years, and prayer is the furthest thing from their mind. A lot of these guys don’t have any type of spirituality at all. Nonetheless they still need prayer. Sometimes just having people they know around them who pray keeps them in good standing. We have to be the people around them who continue to pray!
Buttons: No matter the situation, prayer is always needed. We have a lack of it because there is a lack of spiritual leadership in our communities. There’s a lack of real fathers serving God on top of a lack of fathers – period! And a lot of the mothers don’t go to church! As life goes on, fewer and fewer people are depending on and trusting God. There are so many kids having kids. The interest of going to church and serving God, we’re losing that daily. So prayer is most definitely needed in all communities, not just in Ohio!
SoulTrain.com: Deaken, with you being the group’s songwriter, do you feel any pressure when putting together the words you all have to sing to deliver a message?
Deaken: With the three of us we’re very much a group. This music was self-contained; we pretty much all wrote the whole album. It pretty much comes from all of us, not just me. But there is a lot of pressure because people see you, and you have to live a life that’s acceptable. You can’t be a hypocrite. You can’t make songs about the Lord and how good things are but your life is no reflection of that. You have to believe in what you’re saying and you have to be real about it.
SoulTrain.com: Okay Deaken, since you also play the guitar and sing, tell us some of the things you do to perfect your timing.
Deaken: Well…[laughs], again, I can’t take credit for all of it! A lot of it is just God-given talent. The Lord has just blessed me to be able to do both. But you have to always practice! You have to stay up on your craft and keep your creativity fed.
SoulTrain.com: Ty, being from the north and playing the keys, how much influence did feel from Stevie Wonder?
Ty Trax: WOW, a whole lot! My brother Buttons and I, we would listen to Stevie Wonder all the time. His music was constantly in our household. Actually Stevie Wonder and Charlie Wilson were the only R&B singers we were allowed to listen to when we were young. Playing the piano and listening to Stevie Wonder was all I knew!
SoulTrain.com: Was that because Stevie and The Gap Band used vocal arrangements that were so very close to that of gospel music?
Ty Trax: I believe so, because our parents were so rooted and grounded in the church. Not only that, but they didn’t say a lot of offensive things. Stevie Wonder is still considered an inspirational singer. That’s the only reason were able to listen to that style of R&B music growing up, because we were in church seven days a week! And when I say seven days I mean seven days – every day!
SoulTrain.com: Buttons, since you also play the drums is it hard for you to take repetition out and keep harmony in when you’re singing?
Buttons: It’s not a difficult thing at all when you’ve been doing it for a long time. I started when I was about five-years-old. I know church music like I know my name. When I learned to spell my name I knew church music and I knew the Lord. I knew the bible. That’s how I was taught. I’m a drummer and a singer, and I do them both simultaneously; just like I can talk to you right now and iron my clothes.
SoulTrain.com: Then you must have a pretty hot beatbox then!
Buttons: Oh, man, of course!
SoulTrain.com: It’s good to hear each of you have so much faith in your talents, but also acknowledge you’ve been blessed. It’s reflected in your music. I have to ask you this: Do each of you feel that, overall, people seem to be losing faith in having faith?
Buttons: If you are familiar with church and know the history of church, faith seems to be evermore important as you get older. When you’re younger it’s not as relevant because you think you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. When people get older, a little wiser, they start understanding how essential their relationship with Christ is to them. They get closer and closer to the time in their lives when things start breaking down; like when a car gets flat tires from lack of tread or the transmission goes out. As you go through those life-changing experiences you seem to grasp the relationship with Christ a little more. As you get older faith becomes more relevant, and it should be opposite. When you look in the obituary today, there’s no age limit and no age requirement!
Ty Trax: Well…I won’t say I disagree with my brother, but when I talk to people about Christ and if they have any type of relationship with him, out of a hundred people sixty of them will say, “No, I don’t go to church and have never been to church.” It’s shocking to me because there are people out here who know nothing about Christ! [There are] people out here who don’t know, they’re not looking to seek, and honestly don’t care! They say to me, “Oh, I don’t get off into that type of stuff.” And I say, “Well, how are you breathing?!”
SoulTrain.com: When people respond to you about belief, they really refer to it as “that type of stuff?”
Ty Trax: Yeah, man! And I try not to get overaggressive with people like that. I had a lady here last week that I asked, “When was the last time you’ve been to church?” She was like, “I haven’t been in a while.” She was talking about her family member who’d gotten murdered. So I called my brother and he started witnessing to her on the phone! We need more people who will go out and do that to turn people around. It ain’t about going to church to dress up. You don’t have to do that; just come!
Deaken: People are absolutely losing faith and going so far away. I think when you look at all the things going on in the world, there’s not even a mention of Christ. Look at the people who are supposed to be our leaders–some of the things they say,like on the issue of abortion–we let man decide things that show we have more faith in man than we do in Christ! And the world don’t tell you, you have to have faith in Christ, but it will tell you to have faith in man. That’s what we see every day.
For more on Half Mile Home and a list of tour dates visit their official website halfmilehome.com.