That is the word BLUE Director Chris Hembree used to describe the seven contestants who will take the stage in less than a month to compete in John Brown University’s biggest musical competition: The Next Big Thing.
“This group of finalists exemplify music from a variety of genres,” Hembree said. “It is the most diverse group I remember seeing in my time at JBU.”
The contest also brings many fresh faces to the stage, the only returning contestants being junior Steve Sullivant and sophomore Lauren Townsend. Hembree said both artists are introducing new music.
Seniors Matthias Roberts and Liz White were chosen to emcee the event because of their class and ability to entertain.
“When we were looking for emcees, we were looking for people that could host a show like the Grammies,” Hembree said. “We are very excited to see this duo in action.”
The only major change to the event this year is a move from eight to seven contestants and a shortened lag time between performances, making the overall show quicker.
So without further adieu, here are the “diverse” competitors for The Next Big Thing:
1. Bryan Roe
Major: Worship Ministries
Favorite Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov
Biggest Pet Peeve: Hangnails
Favorite Animal: Grizzly Bear
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “I’d say my biggest inspiration for my music would be my faith and life experiences.”
Why are you the next big thing? “Uhhh…”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do? “Wish I could go to Disney World.”
2. Steve Sullivant
Major: Worship Arts
Favorite Artist: The Civil Wars
Biggest Pet Peeve: Clapping offbeat unintentionally
Favorite Animal: Wolves
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “Much of my music is drawn from my personal experiences. My faith is a huge part of my lifestyle, so a lot of the stories or feelings that I write about are often what God is teaching me at a point in time.”
Why are you the next big thing? “I’ve been a part of this competition three times, so I’ve been saying, “Third time’s the charm!” Being back has given me a chance to refine my sound and style to be more accessible to other people instead of writing so personally that no one understands. I try and let my music speak for itself. I hope to be the Next Big Thing even if I don’t win this competition.”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do?“I will probably smile really big, and say thank you [and] then hopefully have lots of people giving me a group hug.”
3. Lauren Townsend
Major: General Music with Voice Emphasis
Favorite Artist: That’s like asking me what my favorite food is.… I like all de foods!
Biggest Pet Peeve: Being late to things or having to make decisions on the spot.
Favorite Animal: Penguins!! They’re so cute and spiffy. I also like dogs. Especially corgis and my mixed breed, Birdie.
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “I’d say my biggest inspiration is Bethany Dillon. I’ve listened to her music ever since I was younger. Her musical style is so chill and yet so moving. Her songs are simple and yet speak volumes. She had such a joy in her heart, and it speaks through her music. I hope I can be like that for people with my music.”
Why are you the next big thing? “I don’t really like answering this question because I may not be. I love playing my music, and I want to share Christ’s love through what I write and play. That’s all.”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do? “If I win this competition, I would love to keep on recording my own songs for a long time. I’ve been writing songs since I was 15, and this has been a huge passion of mine for a long time. I love to write and love to play guitar and sing. God has given me a passion for these things and for people, and I believe He has given me these to give back to Him and share with the world.”
4. Jesse Wells
Also Known As: I am Jeh-sea Allen Breckenridge Eagleheart Wells.
Year: I am a sophomore, 20 years of age.
Major: I am studying music with an emphasis in guitar.
Genre: I play grunge/folk music.
Favorite Artist: I like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nirvana, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchel, Leonard Cohen, and on and on.
Biggest Pet Peeve: My biggest pet peeve is that I’ve let myself stoop so low as to actually have pet peeves, when in fact I should be more tolerant of folks and show them the genuine love that Jesus has shown me. So I’m my own pet peeve.
Favorite Animal: I know they’re extinct, but I really dig dinosaurs. I feel like they got the short end of the stick with the whole meteorite thing and all. I like to think they had a lot of wisdom that they just couldn’t write down or something. They’re a mystery. I’m not an archaeologist, but I still dig dinosaurs.
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “The biggest inspiration for my music is nature: the cycles of winds and waters and the way the Earth spins around the sun and how the seasons change and how things die but new things take their place. These cyclical properties are real and apparent in our relationships with other people. This real life on a real planet with real souls inspires me to make real songs.”
Why are you the next big thing? “I ain’t the next big thing. I’m like 5’7, 150lbs.”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do? “There is no winner, there is no loser. I’ll write my songs to the Great Spirit for approval. I would hope that none of us would be changed by the ruling of this contest.”
5. Guru & the Baron
Members: Jason Bowyer (Lead Vox/Guitar/Songwriter), Junior, Marketing
Ben Sooter (Guitar), Junior, Construction Management
Seth Davis (Drums), Junior, Construction Management
Asher Perkins (Bass), Sophomore, Worship Arts
Genre: Indy Rock/Blues
Favorite Artist: John Mayer
Biggest Pet Peeve: Having dirty hands.
Favorite Animal: Sliraffe (sloth, giraffe: A very hairy giraffe like body with a sloth head and claws)
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “The biggest inspiration for my music is the story and situations of my life as well as others. I process emotion through music and lyrics and morph it into songs that tell the story.”
Why are you the next big thing? “Guru & the Baron offers revolution to modern music. The music is dynamic, unique, catchy, and completely original. The lyrics are meaningful, well crafted, and are relatable. It’s a sound you won’t soon forget.”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do? “Well, we tend to go to McDonald’s after victorious moments. After that, we would get into the studio as soon as possible to record our EP. We have never had the resources to record and winning NBT is just the blessing we need to get the project started.”
6. Alex Calentine
Major: Youth Ministry
Genre: Christian Contemporary
Favorite Artist: All Sons & Daughters
Biggest Pet Peeve: I don’t really have one.
Favorite Animal: Sasquatch
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “I know it sounds like a Sunday school answer but a lot of my songs come from my quiet times, and the time I spend with God really does give me inspiration to write my songs.”
Why are you the next big thing? “I think my music has the chance to be really inspiring to others, but at the same time, it’s only if God wants to use me.”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do? “Hug my mom and get some ice cream!”
7. Hello Daybreak
Members: Reagan Barnett – (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Sophomore, Music @ Missouri Western University
Ryan Crisman – (Bass Guitar), High School Junior
Walker Brown – (Drums), High School Junior
Eric Seevers – (Rhythm guitar/Vocals) High School Senior, majoring in Business Administration @JBU
Collins Brown – (Keys/Vocals) Freshman, Early Childhood Education @JBU
Sam Elliott – (Acoustic Guitar/Vocals) Freshman, Political Science @JBU
Genre: Rockoustic (if rock & roll music and acoustic music had a baby, we would be that baby.)
Favorite Artist: John Legend, Mat Kearney, Coldplay, Celine Dion, Switchfoot, John Mayer or Needtobreathe.
Biggest Pet Peeve: Speed bumps.
Favorite Animal: Baby pandas, obviously.
What is your biggest inspiration for your music? “I’m sure this is the textbook answer, but it’s true. Jesus is the reason for our music. Everything we play comes from him and goes back to him, and our prayer is that whoever hears our songs ends up closer to hope by the time they end.”
Why are you the next big thing? “There are so many great acts in this year’s competition, and I think all six could be The Next Big Thing. But what sets us apart is our eclectic sound. We met leading worship at our high school and have been influenced by all kinds of genres – electronic, blues, rock, singer/songwriter. The resulting blend is something that’s catchy to pretty much anyone.”
If you win, what will be the first thing you will do? “I don’t know! My guess is that we’d head to Taco Bell for celebratory tacos.