SouthernGospelBlog.com recently had an opportunity to interview Inspirations baritone Jon Epley.
Daniel: At what age did you first hear an Inspirations song or album? At what age did you first see them live?
Jon: As far back as I can remember, my grandmother was a record (vinyl) collector. We would go visit her, and as a small boy I would sit and listen to The Inspirations, The Happy Goodmans, The Hinsons, Florida Boys, Oak Ridge Boys, and many more. My family picked up many of the Inspirations’ songs and sang them in church, and later across the country when we went on the road full time. So I would say I have been hearing The Inspirations’ music my whole life.
The first time I ever saw The Inspirations live; I was 29 years old and standing on stage with them singing as a member of the group! 🙂 I met David Ragan in September, 2010 at NQC but didn’t get to hear them perform. Then I met the other members of the group in December 2010, standing in the Inspirations’ office, where we sang the chorus of Beulah Land as my audition. The next time I saw them was December 31st in South Carolina and I was singing my first concert as an official “Inspiration”!
Daniel: For readers who are newer to this site: What groups did you sing with before joining the Inspirations? And do I understand correctly that you sang with new Inspirations lead singer Stephen Srein in one of these groups?
Jon: Besides traveling and singing with my family growing up, and then traveling full time with my wife, Tiffany, for about 2 years, I sang with several groups that traveled a limited amount mostly singing in churches. These groups were The Marion Avenue Boys, The Brothers, and Sacred Heritage.
The first time I met Steve Srein, he was a member of Sacred Heritage, and they were coming to sing at our church. At the last minute their piano player had to back out of coming, and so they showed up on Sunday morning, I sat down at a piano with them during the Sunday School hour, learned all of their songs, and played for their concert that morning. Haha; I joined the group shortly after as their piano player.
Daniel: The Inspirations have a new album, No Two Ways About It, that released a couple of weeks ago. Have any songs from this CD been getting a particularly strong response live? What songs are you most personally excited about?
Jon: We have been hearing great response from all of our new songs. People enjoy hearing the older recuts as well, but there is just something about fresh, new songs. Our newest radio release is called “I’ll Never Get Over,” and it is getting great response. Our title track is “No Two Ways,” and that is a very strong song. We then have two new Jim Brady songs which are working wonderfully for us, “He Made a Change” and “You Can Still Find Forgiveness.” And one of Mike Holcomb’s features is a fast moving new song by Rodney Griffin, “Saved, Sealed and Going.” I really think I like each new song as much as the next, and am very excited about how they turned out!
Daniel: This year brought a new top half of the Inspirations’ vocal lineup, with Srein on lead and Mark Clark on tenor. What are some of the strengths that Srein and Clark bring to the group, as singers and as people?
Jon: Both are, of course, great singers as well as great people.
Steve Srein has a powerhouse voice and a great demeanor on stage. He has a distinct style that our fans are already falling in love with and commenting on favorably.
Mark Clark brings that “Inspirations style” tenor to the table, hitting the high notes with full voice and power. He is also a familiar face to most of our fans from his years of singing with and for Archie Watkins as Archie neared retirement. Change is never easy, but I believe that God had just the right people in line to fill these positions, and am excited to be singing alongside these fellas every night.
Daniel: Next year is pretty significant for the Inspirations, as it will mark the group’s 50-year anniversary. Are any special commemorations in the works – or, at least, anything you can talk about yet?
Jon: Truthfully, I haven’t heard anything mentioned about special commemorations or anything along those lines. From what I have read and learned about The Inspirations’ history, we will be starting our 50th year in April of 2014. (I suggested massive pay raises to commemorate the 50 years and indelibly imprint the moment in the mind of the group members, but I haven’t received confirmation of this yet.)
On a serious note, it will be a great milestone for the group, and whether or not a lot of hoopla is made about it or not, it will be an honor to be a part of the group during this legendary time.