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Downhere: Hope in the Ending

By Jennifer E. Jones
Guest Writer Marc Martel of Downhere sounds like he’s in a good mood. As I talk to the singer/songwriter by phone, he is in the midst of getting into the Christmas spirit as he pens lyrics for the band’s upcoming holiday album. He laughs about finding inspiration in the winter months, including writing a song about an ice storm that happened in the ‘90s.

His four-man band has been keeping busy on tour and had much kinder conditions than the frigid weather and cramped quarters that they experienced while filming the 2003 DVD While the World Is Asleep. “We haven’t done a tour in Canada for a long time, but we are still a 15-passenger van band, if you can believe it,” he tells CBNmusic. “We were out with the Michael Gungor Band. It was cool. We thought, man, these guys are better than we are! During the Christmas tour, we were on a tour bus with bands from our label. It had great crowds and was almost like a vacation.”

As Downhere currently preps to go back into the studio later this year, it wasn’t that long ago that they were preparing for the release of their current album Ending Is Beginning. “We definitely felt more confident than before," Martel says. "We feel good about our ability in the studio. We love to create. Jason [Germain] and I love the producing side and spend time in our own home studios. So when we get to the big studio, we go nuts.”

Ending Is Beginning is arguably the band’s best effort yet. When songwriters Martel and Germain came together with fellow bandmates Jeremy Theissen and Glenn Lavender, they found a central theme to wrap their songs around. Martel explains, “A lot of songs deal with hope and the idea that true life, in the Christian sense, comes at total desperation. And we picked songs that went with that.”

Musically, the album is a prime example of the group’s signature sound while allowing for a few surprises. Martel was influenced by a number of bands of which, at the time, he couldn’t get enough.

“I’m a huge mimic," he says, laughing. "That’s how I learned to sing. I listened to a lot of Freddy Mercury obviously. On Wide-Eyed, you can hear The Killers. This time around I was definitely listening to some Queen and Maroon 5. Hopefully, there’s a good mixture on this album.”

The record also saw the coming together of Germaine and Martel’s vocals in a true blend. He notes, “We’ve been singing together since we were 18. We know each other's styles so much that we can write for each.”

Ending Is Beginning could not have hit the United States at a better time. As the nation is still waist-deep in a recession and massive layoffs are making headlines, the band is reaching out with their music. “We wouldn’t have the songs that we do if we didn’t know how hard the life of an artist is. Thinking back to the days when we were all living in the same house. It’s cool to see the art that comes out of our hearts and our struggles. We’re in a stage of transition ourselves. The economy is hitting us too. We’ve had to buckle down and change the way we pay our employees. They have families too.

“We wanted to make an album that you can sing in spite of your circumstances – in good times and bad. I think people tend to cling to music when times are hard. So we always want to make meaningful music. Hopefully, it’s the soundtrack of their lives."

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