Ball Brothers among Gospel Music Festival highlights
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Daniel Ball once found himself standing in as the photo double for actor Chris Pratt of “Guardians of the Galaxy” fame. And while on a movie set, he got to watch Clint Eastwood – THE Clint Eastwood – direct.
But there was no question what road Ball would go down: music.
Ball and his brother, Andrew Ball, grew up in Lincoln, Ill., the sons of a music minister. They have been around music their whole lives – something they continue to surround themselves with as members of the Ball Brothers gospel group with brother-in-law Chad McCloskey and newcomer Matt Davis.
That musical talent is also something the group will share with audiences as part of the two-day Southwest Gospel Music Festival on Sunday and Monday at Grand Canyon University Arena. The multigroup event featuring almost a dozen acts will include five sessions. The Ball Brothers will perform at the 7 p.m. Sunday and 10:30 a.m. Monday sessions.
When he’s at home in Chickamauga, Ga., where the band has settled these days, Daniel Ball does some stand-in acting in nearby Atlanta’s burgeoning film industry.
Not only has he gotten to see Clint Eastwood in action, he has had the chance to work on films featuring Tom Hanks, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise and Jon Hamm.
As great as those experiences have been, nothing quite compares in his mind to his day job as a gospel singer. Growing up in a musical family, it was something he was destined to do.
Not that he didn’t follow a different path for a time.
When he went to college for his degree in pastor theology, he said he didn’t think he could make a career out of singing.
“Then the opportunity came up in 2006 to start singing full-time,” Ball said (besides Andrew, brothers Stephen and Josh also have been part of the group).
So he took it, and over the past 12 years he has seen a lot of success.
The harmony group’s song “It’s About the Cross” hit No. 1 on the iTunes Christian Chart and has been seen more than 20 million times online. The group’s album “Breakthrough” reached the top five on the iTunes Christian Chart. The guys also have won the 2011 Singing News Horizon Group of the Year, have appeared on the popular Gaither Homecoming video series, and travel to more than 150 dates per year around the world.
That success comes from the group’s ability to span generations, Ball said: “Gospel is our background because we grew up in it and all around it. … But we also try to bring in a younger generation.”
At the same time, the group maintains its ties to those old-time influences and more established audiences.
The band’s classic look – you’ll see them wearing gray suits — hearkens back to those early gospel groups. Ball said the guys didn’t have stylists and, being on tour, wanted something simple. They didn’t have time for anything complicated.
“We all wanted to color coordinate on tour and decided to go with a gray-scale wardrobe. … It also reinforces that we’re singing to an older generation,” Ball said. “They appreciate that timeless look.”
Ball spoke about the early gospel group influences in their sound and growing up listening to the Gaithers, but they balance that by taking a cue from young vocal harmony groups such as Pentatonix and artists such as Michael Buble, who put their own stamp on that classic sound.
The group also keeps relevant these days by using social media.
The guys once produced a popular YouTube series called “Rollin’ With the Ball Brothers,” which was a look at their lives on the road. Those videos have been viewed tens of millions of times.
“We ran out of time to produce the episodes,” Ball said. “But we actually went back and shot a new pilot and have been shopping that to the networks.”
He’s not sure if the series might return as an online video series or if it might lead to something like a television series.
“There’s so much adventure happening there,” Ball said of the guys’ life on the road.
They are getting ready for concerts in the Netherlands, Germany and Northern Ireland – concert stops that might not have been possible if not for their popularity on social media.
Ball said one of the on-the-road adventures that stands out in his mind right now happened in Bolivia. The group works with an organization called Child Fund International, which helps children in developing countries through sponsorships.
“What we were doing in Bolivia was seeing the program at work. It was interesting that a gospel band from Chickamauga, Ga., can have an impact on people’s lives in La Paz, Bolivia,” Ball said.
He got to meet the child he and his wife sponsor.
“It was a really big deal to that family,” Ball said of the sponsorship. “It was so amazing to see it firsthand. … It was just a highlight of our travels.”
Besides the Ball Brothers, also appearing at the Southwest Gospel Music Festival will be Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Liberty Quartet, Southern Raised, the Freedom Singers, the Triumphant Quartet, Greater Vision, comedian Timothy Lovelace, the Hoppers, Double Portion and the Old Friends Quartet.
You can reach GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901. Follow her on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.
IF YOU GO
What: Southwest Gospel Music Festival
Where: Grand Canyon University Arena
When: 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. Monday
Tickets: Start at $26 for single-session general admission, though festival packages are also available for all five sessions
Performers: The Triumphant Quartet, Greater Vision, Liberty Quartet, the Freedom Singers and comedian Timothy Lovelace at 3 p.m. Sunday; Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, the Hoppers, Ball Brothers, Liberty Quartet, Southern Raised and Double Portion at 7 p.m. Sunday; Southern Raised, Ball Brothers, Liberty Quartet, Freedom Singers, Greater Vision and Triumphant at 10:30 a.m. Monday, and the Old Friends Quartet at 3 p.m. Monday featuring Ernie Haase, Scott Fowler, Wesley Pritchard and Royce Mitchell.
Etc.: Find out more about the Ball Brothers at www.theballbrothers.com or go to their Facebook page
Information: www.gcuarena.com or 602-639-8979; to purchase tickets by phone, call 877-552-7362