Author Ralph White Date April 24, 2016
Hot Indie News: Tom, since you’re the patriarch of the family that would make you the founder of the band in more ways than one. How did you first get involved in music and tell us more about the formation of the Sky Family band?
Tom Sky: I have been involved with music since the Beatles and because of that have always loved songs with melodies. Over the years I’ve been in many genres including acid rock, adult contemporary, Christian rock and jazz. But what caught my attention was this contagious Celtic music that was so different from the mainstream. As a family one of the very few concerts we attended was an outrageously entertaining Acadian [French Canadian] fiddle band. What we experienced changed my whole concept of performing. They made the evening about the people not about themselves. They were self-effacing and made a real connection with the audience, putting lots of humor into the mix. And it seemed to be a great medium for conveying the joy found in a personal relationship with Christ. From that point we jumped into Celtic music and launched into a whole new world for us. Instruments were added and then dance until over the years it became one of Canada’s premier Celtic music/Irish dance productions.
Hot Indie News: The Sky Family has been touring for ten years now. What has changed in the band and your performances over the years?
Tom Sky: Well, we’ve gotten better, ha ha. The dance, the production, new lighting – everything has gotten tighter and more polished. Also, we have become something of a model for those who want a career in music without going through the mainstream channels of a record deal. We have put together our own promotional program, complete with postering, newspapers, radio, online bulletin boards, etc. There are tons of free resources which can be accessed if you can get organized. When we rent a facility, rental fees must be balanced with how many people can realistically be drawn to the concert. It can be a bit of a juggling act to not overspend or equally important not under-spend in advertising.
You also must be prepared for plain hard work. Music is a job and every job boils down to work. If you’re prepared to work you can have a career in music. We have proved that point.
Hot Indie News: When you perform locally what is your favorite venue and why?
Tom Sky: We live on the extreme east coast of Canada but tour so extensively that our local venues can be in Victoria BC [extreme west coast of Canada] or Texas. A few unusual venues which have been a real highlight were performing outdoors in Times Square, Central Park and in front of the Alamo.
In NY we encountered so many people who supposedly have the world as their oyster but in reality they are mainly depressed and empty. What a pleasure it was to bring a stab of joy and laughter into that environment – joy that comes not from money and power but from the presence of God. In fact one of our best songs came from that experience. It’s called ‘Send Down the Rain‘ and it’s about God sending a life-renewing outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who are without hope.
We have greatly enjoyed many venues in New England and New York. That’s really is our local area. We love to bring light and laughter into areas where people are despondent. That’s one of the rewards of our efforts.
Hot Indie News: Who does what in the band?
Tom Sky: Miriam is our [dare I say?] diva. She has a beautiful voice which we feature her on our most prominent songs. She also plays keyboards and is a terrific dancer.
Gabe is our lead dancer. We’re glad he joined our band before Riverdance recruited him. He also plays guitar and keyboards and Irish whistle well. Might I add as a dad I rarely get the opportunity to say these things about my kids!
Joel is our fiddle player. He practices hours a day and it is reflected in his many times flawless performances. He also plays the sax and Irish whistle and wrote one of our most dynamic piano instrumentals.
Seth holds down the bass and is our tech man for lights and sound.
Our newest member is Daniel Brocke from New Brunswick who plays drums. He has been a great addition since joining the team a year ago. Many times we wonder how we ever got along without him.
Seth Sky: Tom is the father of the troop and plays lead guitar, second fiddle [?!] and piano. Most everyone sings adding to the complex vocal harmonies.
Hot Indie News: How would you describe The Sky Family’s sound?
Tom Sky: Because of the diverse influences the SKYS’ sound is pretty unique. It reflects traditional and modern elements. You can hear early Coors, Rankin Family, Leahy, and lots of Petra. We call it Celtic pop-rock.
Hot Indie News: What act would you like to open for?
Tom Sky: Rolling Stones. To that you may ask, “Why would you want to perform with a group that has sympathy for the devil when you proclaim the Gospel of Christ?”
Just for that reason. The Stones have been leading many people into the same darkness they live in for so long I think it’s about time someone graphically demonstrated there is another way – a better way, a way that is full of light and hope. I would love to have the contrast set before the masses of people who attend their concerts so they can at least make an educated decision.
Hot Indie News: What would fans be surprised to know about the Sky Family?
Tom Sky: That we care nothing about fame or money, we just love our job. We love each other and do what we do because we want to bring joy to others. I also think most people would be surprised to learn that we do what we do with no backing, financial or otherwise.
We hit the road hard with the determination to reach as many people as we can and do whatever needs to be done to make it happen. We have a great team. Each one has laid down their ego which is mandatory for surviving as a band.
Hot Indie News: Miriam, what’s it like to be the only girl on stage with this gang of guys, and do you have to fight for the spotlight?
Miriam Sky: Well, I get asked that question a lot and I’ll tell you what I tell others - my dad and brothers, and now my husband, have always been so great to me - they’re just the most thoughtful and understanding guys! So it is absolutely wonderful working with them all the time! :)
And as far as the spotlight, we each gladly give it to each other so that we can all speak or sing whatever is on our hearts to share with each audience. Actually, over the years I’ve overcome quite a lot of shyness because the mic is freely handed to me so often! lol
Tom Sky: We are more than proud of our best looking, best singing member and are always glad to put that best foot forward, ha ha.
Hot Indie News: Joel, are you self taught on the violin or did you have formal training?
Joel Sky: The formal training I had was on the piano. Actually, each one of us, started on the piano. Then we all branched out from there. Dad and I picked up the fiddle and started learning it together back when I was around nine years old but it wasn’t until I was twenty-one that I started trying to learn it more seriously.
The coolest thing that I have learned over the years about playing an instrument is that humility is the key. That might sound strange to suddenly add in here but I add this because it has everything to do with my fiddling. I’ve learned this: there is ALWAYS someone or many out there who is better at your instrument than you are. When you learn this it does something really cool.
One, it can inspire you to play better which is REALLY fun. Two, it removes the intense competitive pressure and pride from you so that you actually can relax while you are on stage. There is so much pressure to be the best or if there are other musicians in the audience to feel like you have to prove something. But by being humble you can learn to not take yourself too seriously and focus on trying to simply be a blessing to your audience. This is the goal. Not trying show off andsay, “wow, look at me!” Nobody likes a show-off (AND, I find being like that tends to dramatically increase my odds of making blunders. LOL
Trying to be a real blessing to the people who come--this is what matters. There are other stresses besides that and you really want to practice beforehand and try your hardest to give a good performance but if you make mistakes while you are performing, people actually don’t mind, especially if you don’t take yourself too seriously, because then you can just laugh it off, make some kind of joke with the audience and move on. People appreciate that and this is what I strive for as a musician.
Hot Indie News: Gabe, the Sky Family is as much of a musical group as it is a dance troupe. How did that evolve?
Gabe Sky: There is a very strong Celtic influence where we are from in eastern Canada, and when we launched out as a Celtic group, we wanted to have dance as an integral part of our show. Our dancing in the earlier years was the Canadian step dance style, but when I saw Riverdance I was deeply inspired by the Irish dance, both in the skill and precision, and in the form.
Knowing that God is the creator of all good things, I immediately asked for His blessing to help me change my style of dance, and after about three years of work, completed the transition from Canadian to authentic Hard Irish Dance which is what our show specializes in now. From the first year of dance, it has been an outward expression of the joy that I have in the Lord, and I can truly say that it is my pleasure to be on the road sharing that joy with others! “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth!”
Hot Indie News: Seth, you not only play bass but you take care of the lighting and sound at performances. How do you do it all?
Seth Sky: It just takes a little bit of pre-planning or maybe a lot actually! I spend months pre-programing lighting for all the songs in the show so that when we head out on tour everything is ready to go. Then it is just a matter of not making a mistake in keeping up on all the cues for it. It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy it!
Lighting is a little bit like learning how to paint only with light. Every color interacts with the other colors that are hitting the stage at the same time. It can be a little challenging to work with all the blending that happens from all the different angles but the end result is always worth it! And of course there is no end of how good you can get so it gets more and more fun the farther I get into it.Group
As far as audio goes we do some things a little different from most – the mix is actually run from the stage. The house is first analyzed and flattened and any global EQ is made from the center of the venue. After adjusting the mains and vocals the front of house units are moved to the stage where they are controlled as we go. Though there are certain small drawbacks from this there are huge advantages. Our show is tweaked and mixed very carefully and it takes all the margin of error away from a sound man that may not know our show as well as well as we do. Many sound men to today focus largely on only two elements, bass and drums. The music really shines if these two rowdy members can be tamed a little.
Hot Indie News: Dan, as the drummer for the Sky Family you’re the only one not directly related to the rest of group by blood. What’s that like for you when it comes to the dynamics of making music and performing together?
Dan Brocke: Well, I’ve played drums for my church for a couple or years and that was fun….. But, nothing is like playing with the Sky Family! It is so much fun, the songs are upbeat and joyful and the family is the best to play with! They make you feel like your part of the family even if your not.
Sure it was a bit of a challenge to learn the songs but, with spending time in prayer and asking for Jesus’ help with the songs, within two months I was on tour playing with the group. So Jesus really helped me a lot! Servant of Jesus Christ, Daniel A. Brocke.
Hot Indie News: You make some pretty cool music videos. Tell us about them.
Tom Sky: Seth is our master mind in video and editing. Editing is what makes all the difference. We have a few humorous videos as well as music videos. They are called H.I.T. Videos and your readers may enjoy them as well.
Our videos start with a concept of conveying the message of the song. The concept and rough story board are presented to the whole group and interesting ideas are added and adjustments are made. After the filming I throw a bunch of ideas at Seth who is a genius at adding background and editing. In a short while the concepts become reality. The H.I.T. Videos get really creative.
But the best music videos are in the making right now so stay tuned…
Hot Indie News: Any other artists you’d like to musically collaborate with and why?
Tom Sky: Unfortunately most of our favorite artists are dead or no longer performing with the exception of Petra. Our favorites include Twila Paris, Second Chapter of Acts, Keith Green, Barry McGuire and Petra. We really belong to another era, ha ha. Were they available to collaborate we would gladly do so not only because of their musicianship but because of their wonderful commitment to make the show about the audience and about Jesus. We hope to pay a visit to Barry McGuire later this year when we tour the west coast.
Hot Indie News: How do you feel about the current state of the entertainment business?
Tom Sky: Much of the music of the day is homogenized both on the secular and Christian sides. One person comes out with a new sound and then every song after that must emulate it or be passed over by the gatekeepers. I’d like to get back to a day of more variety, which of course is what we’re working toward.
Hot Indie News: What about the world?
Tom Sky: On the world scene much of the music has become very dark, very depressing. It has led to a lot of suicidal tendencies. Again, we want to bring light and hope through the old fashioned gospel mixed with upbeat music. I guess that’s what ‘Celtic Revival!‘ is really all about.
Hot Indie News: How can our readers find you and your music?
Seth Sky: Well the first is type in 2 words – Sky and Family
Tom Sky: Thanks so much for your interest in the group. We appreciate all you’re doing. God bless, The Sky Family