The Crowning: From Open Mic Nights to EPs

Pennsylvania has been the home to quite a few great musical artists over the years; from Hall and Oates to Ethel Waters to Wiz Khalifa to Taylor Swift. The Crowning are next on this list of talent, for their indie grunge-style music is sure to bring them to the top. East Stroudsburg, Penn. and the Lehigh Valley area are honored to have this quartet of musicians under their belt as they amplify its music scene. The band consists of Micah Martin (vocals and guitar), Ty Nordstrom (bass), Walter Lee (drums), and Ace Hendrix (lead guitar). With one EP out and another one on the way, it is hard to imagine that these four have barely been together for eight months. Not to mention that they opened for the popular heavy metal band, Last In Line, held their own music festival, and have over 40,000 streams on SoundCloud alone.
I was able to speak to Micah, lead singer and founder of The Crowning, a couple of weeks ago and learn a little bit more about these up and coming rockers.
As a newly formed group, you seemed to have kind of hit the nail on the head of the cliché “teamwork makes the dream work,” because I think that your music is quite good. So, what is the dynamic like between you guys?
It’s amazing. You know, I moved up to Pennsylvania about two years ago in the spring and I spent a year, my first year, trying to find musicians. I had taken a break from music for a while, so I started hitting the open mic circuit and other things in the area, and I happened to stumble into a small, little bar off the beaten path one night and they were having an open mic and I didn’t even know it. So I happened to meet Walter, our drummer, who was actually hosting it, and I happened to meet Ty that night, also. And it turned out that him, Ty, and Ace had all been playing in bands since high school and have known each other for well over a decade.
What’s been awesome is that I came into the picture kind of as the outside guy with all of these songs, and, you know, they have such a strong rapport already. For me it was like hitting a gold mine, because I was able to walk into a situation where these guys already knew how to work well together.
That sounds really awesome! I love the idea of the four of you gelling together even though you said that you were a little bit of an outsider. You also said that it took you awhile to get to this band, this stage, and start up; so do you think your style of music or your approach to this album would have been different if you had done it years before?
Possibly! We are actually in the process right now of recording and wrapping up our second EP that is going to come out probably in the February time frame, and it has already been different. You know, when I met these guys I already had, with little exception, everything done. The arrangements were already done, the songs were already done, and when I found these guys I was looking for someone to go in and essentially record a demo with. I found the studio, I had already picked it out, and I was actually playing around with a few other guys, but when I found these guys, I fired them, and I brought in these guys! [Laughs]
It was less collaborative at first, because it was already pretty well-established, but with this second group of songs, the writing process has already evolved in such a short period of time. We are working with an amazing producer, Dan Malsch (Fetty Wap, Forever the Sickest Kids) out of Soundmine Recording Studio, and we brought him in pretty early on in the process. We had written these songs together, arranged them, and he came in and kind of made some tweaks and changes to the arrangement, but all still ours. I don’t know if the songs would be better and different had we had more lead time to work on stuff together…
Probably, but I gotta tell you, I was pretty over the moon about how well things turned out, and the production company we were able to get with Soundmine. The next EP is a little bit more experimental, whereas the previous one was kind of more straight forward; ‘90s grunge/rock sort of stuff. And this one coming has those same great elements, but has a bit more experimentation. We will still have that core sound that we are still defining, but I think that it is coming out nicely.
Absolutely! And I did notice that ‘90s grunge feel in your songs! Especially in “She’s Running,” did I definitely get some Stone Temple Pilot vibes.
Oh, wow, thanks!
Where do you think that influence came from? Did you set out to sound like that or is it from the music you grew up with? How did your sound come about?
I mean, I never set out to sound like anything. My songwriting process always just starts with some kind of emotion and the song ends up kind of being built around that. You know, as a child of the ‘90s, I am heavily influenced by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and all that. The other guys are a little bit later, so they were more into Incubus, Tool, and Slipknot kind of stuff.
I think that it is a cool blend of all of that and I think it absolutely influences our music. You are going to hear influences in just about anybody’s sound, but I don’t think we set out to sound like anything. Like, if you listen to our first album versus this other stuff we have, and even a bunch of the material that we don’t even have recorded, the sound is kind of all over the place. I like the diversity of being able to do things and not just have people be like, “Oh, you sound like Nirvana,” or whatever. Since I don’t set out for that, every song can remind people of other bands, but it is a huge compliment to even be compared to greats like that.
Right! I totally understand that. I think that the passion that comes from your music is a big element of it. Off your EP, which songs do you think hit home the most for you? Which one do you think currently represents you guys as whole?
That’s a great question! And your comment about the passion…that is, to me, what I want to come through. My passion for writing, playing, and performing needs to come through in the music. I think that my personal favorite would be “Hard to Find” and what I like about it the most is that is has the perfect blend of soft and quiet, but then builds into something powerful. When it kicks into the heavy part, even now, it gets to me every time.
Writing music that I love to listen to is my goal, and if it is able to really connect with other people the same way, then that just makes it all worth it. But, I would say that “Hard To Find” is a good example of what we do, what we are doing. You know, I was super happy how all of them came out. You kind of get a bit of everything when you put it all together and listen to it all.
You guys just had the opportunity to open up for Last In Line. What was that experience like for you guys?
It was amazing. First of all, everyone in the bands we got to play with were absolutely incredible. Being relative unknowns, this was a huge opportunity for us. We sold quite a few tickets and it was a great crowd. That venue [Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA], that energy, and that sound were so incredible. It was really our first big opportunity to showcase to a large audience what we do and the reception was amazing. The people that like us seem to really, really like us.
I would rather have 10 people that absolutely love everything we do than have 1,000 people that can take it or leave it. My philosophy is to build ourselves one fan at a time, make that personal connection, gel with those people, and then they will continue to support you as long as continue to make your art. So, that was really our first time really being able to connect with a large group of people at one time and do that. It was fun, it was a blast!
That’s great! How do you think social media and today’s technology play a part in the fan base and careers of rising bands like you guys?
It’s huge. It has its pros and cons, like I really hate social media, but it is a necessary evil. The best thing about it, especially since the music industry has changed, is that the power has shifted from the hands of the record labels to the hands of the artists, which is awesome. Social media can be very disconnecting, but we try to use it in a very personal and direct way; interacting with people and not just like a Facebook page where we post everything to. We genuinely work hard to interact with every person that we possibly can. Speaking of social media, we do use it for promotion and stuff, too, but I do like to do things a bit differently.
You know, I have this amazing five acre property up here where we live in Pennsylvania, and so we started putting on festivals. So we put on a big one in October and just through inviting people from social media, we got a ton of people out here. It was a family friendly, free event, and we had 10 bands come out and play…We rented a huge stage and a great sound system and threw a free festival to really use it as a way to connect out here and build a music scene. It was hugely successful and we are putting on another one in the middle of May, and this time we are actually going to promote it. We have connected with some indie bloggers and music sites here in the Lehigh Valley area and we are going to livestream it.
Wow, that sounds so exciting! What are your plans for 2018? Any more backyard festivals?
We are going to be hitting 2018 hard. We are heading out of town. We are doing some show swapping with some bands in New York and Philly and Wilmington and Jersey. We are going to be releasing another EP. Come summer we will be putting out a full-length, which will probably be a combination of our two EPs and some new material.
When we have new songs, we try to release them one at a time, once we have them ready we try to put them out every four to six weeks. We hope to hit the road more, and we actually have some leads to play some local festivals. We are putting on two festivals, like I mentioned; one in May and another in October. We are talking to a few labels at the moment, but I kinda don’t want to tie my hands. We have come very far in a very short period of time. We were only together for like a month and a half when we recorded our first EP, and so if that is what we can do in only a month and half, I can’t imagine what the next year is going to bring. I think it’s going to be a very, very exciting time for us.

You can follow The Crowning on Facebook, @crowningmusic on Instagram and Twitter, or through subscribing to their website