Drive about an hour northwest of Atlanta, and you’ll run into a tiny little community of 10,000 near the center of Polk County, Georgia. Welcome to Cedartown, a simple Southern hometown known for its low crime rate, high humidity and as the birthplace for the Peacock of the Fairways, retired golfer Doug Sanders. But come Summer 2007, Cedartown’s reputation can boast another claim to fame as local band High Flight Society releases its self-titled national debut, an anthemic modern rock creation.
The four young men who comprise High Flight Society grew up together in Cedartown, forming their band after years of leading worship music in their home churches. Scotty Lockridge has been playing the drums at Cedartown Church of God since he was 6 years old, and his good friend Michael Packer picked up the guitar so that he and Scotty could play together in their high school talent show. Wanting to follow in the steps of his big brother, John Packer decided to learn to play bass, and before long the three were writing and playing together in their church’s praise band. When Michael decided that he no longer wanted to be the front man for the group, they set out to find a lead singer and landed on a rather unusual choice, especially given that High Flight was heading down a modern rock path.
“I grew up in a family of musicians,” says lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and Gaither Vocal Band fan Jason Wilkes. “My mom, brother, sister and I have always sung Southern Gospel songs as the special music in our small Baptist church, and I still sing Southern Gospel on the side. In middle school I was introduced to pop music, which molded my voice more. When I joined High Flight Society, I eventually developed more of a ‘rock voice.’"
“Developed” may be the understatement of the year. Wilkes soaring vocal boldly stands atop a tightly knit four-piece musical bed that seamlessly blends influences like Anberlin, Kutless and Foo Fighters. Still writing and rehearsing their songs together in the Cedartown Church of God sanctuary, High Flight Society hopes its debut CD, produced by Tony Palocios (Superchick, Stellar Kart, By the Tree), will help the band stretch its wings and take them beyond the borders of the South, and even of the church.
“God has called us to ‘be a light in the darkness,’” Jason notes. “We want to use our music to tell people about Jesus, people who might not hear the conventional way. We make music that could, because of its sound, easily make its way outside the walls of the church. There are so many songs out there portraying so many negative things. We want our music to be played alongside those songs, but we hope to send a positive message of hope and forgiveness to people who are hearing that message less and less.”
John adds, “My top priority is to see people come to know Jesus because of something they hear in one of our songs or by something we say from stage or whatever platform we have. Just to change lives really. One thing that’s always been in my mind is to change what people think about Christianity and God. Some people view Christians and Christian bands as a joke, and I want to show people that we as Christians are real people living a real life through God and subsequently make them realize what we have is real and what they ultimately are longing for.”
This Spring the band plans to hit the road hard, doing solo dates as well as sharing the stage with other bands. In addition to enjoying the Playstation 3 the band recently added to their touring van, the members of High Flight Society are anxious for the opportunity to play for the masses, “Our live show is constantly evolving,” says Michael, “and we are always working on ways to improve it. You can expect a lot of energy, as well as a lot of direct communication with the audience. We are a tight unit as a band, and I believe the musicianship shines through.”
It’d be tough to find a band of kinder, more dedicated young men. After working with two labels, both of which dissolved prior to releasing High Flight’s debut, most bands would have simply given up. But the lessons learned from those difficult circumstances have served to sharpen their character and strengthen their faith. Michael says the song “Learn to Let Go” reflects those lessons. “This song is about everything we went through as a band, how we had to learn to let go of situations that were out of our hands and give them over to God and be patient.”
Scotty adds, “God has been teaching me that His timing is the best. Everything happens when and how God wants it. When you let God take over your life, He has the best strategy for it.”
Letting God be in control requires immense patience and diligence, qualities these men are constantly exercising, in large part because this band is more than their livelihood—it’s their calling.
John says, “From the first moment I played bass in front of a crowd, I knew in my heart this is what God wanted me to do with my life, to reach people for Him. I’ve worked hard with the other guys over the years to make this dream of being a ‘real band’ come to fruition. I do what I do because it’s what God has called me to so I can help people, it’s what I do best and I love doing it.”
“We are just four country boys from a small town where nothing ever happens beyond the occasional high school state football victory,” concludes Jason. “We stick to our roots even if it means being hassled constantly for our ‘goofy accents.’ But we do what we do because we want people to know that we are really just like them. We mess up and we're not perfect, but we are out here doing this thing to try and use what we've been through in life as means to encourage and help out others.”