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Husband-wife Dave and Licia Radford comprise The Gray Havens, a folk-pop duo whose unique artistry draws from such influences as C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and Jonathan Edwards.  Their debut full-length recording, Fire And Stone, is being hailed as “a phenomenal recording,” and reached the Top 10 on national mainstream Singer-Songwriter charts.

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“The songs on The Gray Havens’ first full-length release have a visionary quality that’s both playful and enraptured. Fire and Stone frames the vocals of the husband-and-wife duo of Dave and Licia Radford in sparking acoustic-centered arrangements bolstered by members of Jars of Clay and The Rhett Walker Band. From whimsical parables (“Jack and Jill, Pt.2″) to dreamy waltzes (“If the Walls Move”) and exalted hosannas (“Far Kingdom”), the album stands out for its imaginative treatment of faith. Those seeking something different in Christian folk-pop will find Fire and Stone a refreshing and inspiring listen.” – iTunes Editorial

“Good, beautiful stories plunge the reader into a fictional world in such a way that when they come out again, they perceive the real world more clearly and with more joy than before. In much the same way, song lyrics—when married to the right melody—can penetrate the heart. Story plays such a huge part in our songs because powerful narratives have been so transforming for us personally.” —Dave Radford

Many musical artists crossover into other mediums, drawing inspiration from one creative form and appropriating it for another. What differentiates the husband & wife duo of The Gray Havens from other artists is how effortlessly they blend fantasy story, lyric poetry, theology and song to produce a sublime narrative-folk-pop. Dave & Licia Radford’s richly textured compositions and unexpected, imaginative lyrics create a listening experience similar to paging through your favorite book.

The Gray Havens’ first full-length project, Fire And Stone, doesn’t so much ignore musical boundaries as it simply views them as a vast playground, mixing the complex musical changes one might expect of a band like Queen, with the winsome, folksy sensibilities and beautiful, sparse harmonies of current roots artists such as The Oh Hellos. There’s even a strong dramatic undercurrent

to the project that wouldn’t be altogether out of place on a Broadway stage.

“It’s fictional world-building we’re trying to do in our songs,” Dave says, “not just recounting events. The music reflects that. A lot of these songs don’t fit neatly into a formulaic writing approach. There are meter changes, key changes, compound measures—basically more paints on the palette to work with in conveying the story, idea, or emotion. I get bored easily, so I find myself intentionally writing songs that will keep me on my toes.”

Fire And Stone is the fruit of collaboration, helmed in the studio by GRAMMY® Award-winning Mitch Dane (Brandon Heath, JJ Heller) and includes contributions from Stephen Mason (Jars of Clay) and Tyler Somers (Jenny & Tyler), among others. Featuring 10 songs written or co-written by the Radfords, the album is an exuberant and hopeful declaration, the songs conveying a common theme of joy and its counterfeits. This dichotomy is nowhere more evident than on the Celtic-stomp-flavored track, “The Stone.”

“For me, ‘The Stone’ is one of the most exciting songs on the album,” Dave explains, “because it has a dual nature. It starts like a madrigal tune and transforms into a beating, driving, folk- inspired anthem. I started with the image of a stone. I chased that thought for a while to see where it might lead, and it moved from a lyric connecting the stone that was rolled away from Christ’s tomb to the idea that God removes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh.”

There is an evident theological undercurrent present in Gray Havens’ songs. Often this is expressed in stories, which occupy space with major influences—C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. For writers Dave and Licia, the lines between fantasy, lyric poetry and song lyric are very thin indeed.

“Lewis noted that stories have the power to steal past the watchful dragons of the human heart,” Dave says. “Some of the most worshipful, joy-filled times in my life have been experienced when I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia. In our own small way with these songs, we want to build those kinds of worlds for our listeners to inhabit.”

“Something I loved about Dave’s writing even before I really knew him,” Licia remembers, “is the way the songs invite you in. They unfold as you go. They require interaction. Before we were married, before we were even friends, I would sometimes listen to one of his songs for a couple of months before the real depth of it would suddenly click. And I saw other people being intrigued by the worlds created in the songs and having those same kind of rewarding moments as

the meaning emerged. I was able to experience some of these songs as a listener and a fan, long before I was part of performing them.”

Fire And Stone moves easily from the angsty, layered complexity and showcase vocals of “Stole My Fame”—a song about the ongoing tension between ego and grace—to the darkly triumphant “Sirens,” and then to the hopeful, wistfully organic homesickness of tracks such as “Far Kingdom.”

“‘Far Kingdom’ was inspired by Jonathan Edwards,” Dave explains. “He says our view of heaven will always enlarge because our capacities to enjoy and participate in it will always increase. I wove that together with C.S. Lewis’ depiction of earthly joy as a longing for heaven. He called it ‘an unsatisfied desire, more desirable than any satisfaction.’ Musically, ‘Far Kingdom’ is my favorite on the album. I love the lullaby nature of it, the strings, the distant percussion, and the way it builds from beginning to end.”

As a performing entity, The Gray Havens have what might be dubbed a “short, cute history,” but the stories that led them to this point go back much further. While still in high school, Dave auditioned for American Idol in his hometown of Chicago. He performed a crooning cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Winds” that got his foot in the door, but it was a vocal-chord-scorching tribute to Louis Armstrong that landed him in the show’s Top 20.

“In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t make it further as a high schooler,” Dave laughs, “because I would have been set up to make Big Band crooner records. That was all a couple years before I discovered my passion for songwriting and crafting the kind of music we do now.”

Dave began writing, performing, and recording as a solo artist while in college. When he and Licia met, they connected over a common love of literature, but Dave had no idea of Licia’s musical giftedness. It was only after they stopped dating for a season that Dave’s mother, an accomplished musician and music educator, offered Licia free vocal lessons—in part to keep her around their house on a regular basis.

“The first time I heard her singing voice, I was floored,” Dave remembers. “And not long after that we started singing and performing together.”

The Gray Havens credit a local Chicago coffee shop, Conscious Cup, with helping them build their first following. The owners gave the duo a regular performance slot and even created “The Gray Havens Blend” in response to the now-married Radfords’ burgeoning audience.

“People like stories because they enjoy watching relationships unfold and develop,” Dave says. “I think that is a dynamic that our audiences have come to appreciate in our live performances—our relationship as husband and wife, as well as artistic collaborators, is very much front and center. To me, there’s always been something about watching a married couple perform music together that’s fun to take in.”

Which brings us back to the undercurrent of joy. While the release of Fire And Stone marks the culmination of a several-year journey, both personally and artistically for The Gray Havens, it also arrives as an artistic and theological statement of conviction and depth.

“The title Fire And Stone is really a metaphor about distinguishing between what really fuels joy, and what merely pretends to,” Dave explains. “It’s about true joy versus counterfeit joy. A log thrown on a fire will fuel the flame and generate heat by giving itself and being transformed. A stone placed in that same fire will absorb heat and will seem hot to the touch, but it’s not actually sustaining anything. It’s like a short-lived feeling of happiness, but it’s a counterfeit, not a source of true joy, and the stone will eventually contribute to the dying of the fire. Fire And Stone is about that fight for real joy.”

With the arrival of Fire And Stone, The Gray Havens fill a unique niche for listeners who desire music that communicates truth wrapped in compelling allegory and narrative. Two gifted individuals whose lives have been made richer by consummate storytellers and traffickers of truth, Dave and Licia Radford are together savoring the unfolding journey of being able to share their own stories with a waiting world.

  • Happened upon a symphony band performance of "destruction of home tree" from the Avatar soundtrack. #epic #downtownwoodstock
  • Simon meets Aslan. #nevertooyoung #nevertooold
  • lots of smiles lately :) :)
  • One month old! Dave's dad says we've been "Simonized." :) It's so true- we love this little guy!
  • A favorite spot in our home. Thanks @itzkrazi & @hmason913 for the perfect addition! "Courage, dear heart." #lewis #tolkien #macdonald
  • Some new songs in the works.
  • It's been so refreshing spending some time at Escape to the Lake, put on by Under the Radar. We love the people here so much. @jennyandtyler #ettl15 #undertheradar
  • Simon's favorite position to be in :)
  • Love these two.
  • Recognized this funny facial expression instantly. #whosyourdaddy
  • Definitely a sleeper. #thankful
  • Being a dad is cool. #strollers #seriousbusiness
  • #elfears
  • Enjoying some hard won sleep (him, not us). #notimeforsleep #itscool #hescute
  • Day 3. First appt. at the pediatrician :)
  • Life is sweet today :)
  • Our baby boy :) Simon David Radford. Born last night at 8:27pm. Woot!
  • Mmmmm.
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Hello hello! The day has FINALLY arrived for “Fire and Stone” to be released, now available on iTunes and Bandcamp! Woot! We hope you love it! Thanks for all your . . .

Wed, Jan 07, 2015
The Gray Havens Blog