American Gothic Revisited
In 1986, Bon Jovi released the music video for their timeless classic, “Livin’ On A Prayer,” complete with a scene of Jon Bon Jovi flying high over the crowd. Unbeknownst to the iconic rock group, a wide-eyed 12-year-old boy watching the video was equal parts mesmerized and inspired by the gravity-defying stunt. That young boy was Stephen Poff, the mastermind behind One Like Son.
He thought, “If being a rock star means you get to fly, then I'm in!”
While Poff hasn’t been able to integrate flying into his musical act yet, he has found a way to think outside the box and put a unique spin on his music. Founded in the ‘90s, the band One Like Son started out as a four-piece group. But after the release of their first album, Poff was left as the sole member; however, that surely didn’t stop him from releasing music under the One Like Son name.
Now four albums deep, One Like Son has taken on a life of its own. What may have begun as a band between friends just wanting to rock out turned into a creative outlet Poff has used to inspire others to create without boundaries. He is in no way a stranger to doing things in unconventional ways either. For the past few years, Poff has taken the idea of a New Year’s Resolution to the next level. At the beginning of every year, he starts a project that will take from January to December to complete. Previously, he has created the 365 Days project, a daily photo diary, and has written and directed a feature film called Songs About Your Girlfriend. On the musical side of his yearlong projects, Poff has recorded an entire album on his iPhone, and last year, he wrote one song a week for 52 weeks. This project can now be heard in the form of a 13-track album called New American Gothic.
Originally, Poff only meant for each song to contain vocals and guitar, but after a few of his friends found out about the project, they quickly jumped on board. With the help of bassist Clinton Kirby, drummer Ryan Fennell and pianist Bryan Seagraves, Poff saw a full-fledged song come to life every week. The concept for the album name comes from the famous American Gothic painting by Grant Wood. The album’s cover art features a newly imagined version of the painting featuring a modern-day couple and the classic pitchfork replaced with a guitar.
“I imagined how my generation with the tattoos and whatnot was going to look when they got a bit older,” he said.
The songs on New American Gothic cover themes about finding love in a zombie apocalypse, the death of a superhero and a 7-minute tribute to the original Star Wars trilogy. Writing a song every week challenged Poff to think outside of the box and come up with new and exciting topics.
“I really tried to keep each week fresh by accepting challenges from friends on themes or making lists of things that I thought might be interesting to write about...I'm really proud of the fun themes on this project. I don't know that I would have written songs like that if I didn't have to write 52 of them,” Poff said.
But trying to write and record a whole song every week was, at times, not the easiest task for Poff, who works full-time as a photographer and filmmaker at Stamp, an advertising agency in Montgomery. However, by this point, Poff is a pro at managing his time to execute the yearlong projects. No sickness or business trip could keep him from staying on par with his weekly songwriting plan. He even created what he calls a “musical first-aid kit” to carry around with him in order to keep the project rolling.
“Obviously life happens and a project like this could really get derailed if you don't have a plan in place,” he said. “...There were obviously obstacles, but between my musical shortcuts and some good friends helping me record, it all worked out. I never thought about quitting though, those kind of thoughts went away years ago when I was doing my other yearly projects.”
These creative ventures have allowed Poff to remember each year in a very specific way. Each one is a reflection of the year he spent working on it, which is a truly modern and unique type of diary. He hopes that his yearly projects will spark an interest in others to do the same.
“I encourage everyone to try to challenge themselves every year to do something like this,” Poff said. “They say it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. This is a great way to get in those 10,000 hours.”
This year Poff is focused on releasing the 52 songs he recorded last year in album form, with New American Gothic being the first in the series. Though Bon Jovi inspired Poff all those years ago, even they wouldn’t be able to pull off such an ambitious and inspiring project.
Check out One Like Son on Facebook. New American Gothic can be found on iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon.