By: David Cotriss
Madison Rising‘s self-titled debut album was released in October 2011. The band – with Dave Bray on vocals, Alex Bodnar and Christopher Schreiner lead guitar, Steve Padelski on bass and Sam Fishman on drums – makes guitar heavy rock music with a distinctively pro-American message and sound. The overarching theme of the band’s music is that of liberty, independence, smaller government, and personal responsibility. Madison Rising believes that they can help revive patriotism and use their music as a way to get today’s youth more excited about politics.
“Madison Rising gives people a new way to think about things – whether it be the right to bear arms, the sacrifices made by soldiers of America or just motivating yourself to create a better future,” explains Bray. “That way is through intelligently written music. Great music. Cool music. Fun music. Music with meaning.”
Here, frontman and ex-U.S. Navy corpsman Dave Bray provides more insights into Madison Rising’s background and goals.
David Cotriss: What was the band’s inspiration for getting started and how is your music different from that of other bands that include political messages in their music?
Dave Bray: The inspiration was simple, we recognized the fact that there was absolutely no great pro-American rock music out there and we decided we needed to change that. It was obvious that there was a void there and that it was about time someone filled it.
We’re different from other bands that include political messages in their music in two very important ways. First, all our songs have some sort of message to them, as opposed to other bands that might have only a few hidden messages on their album. The second way is that our messages are the exact opposite of what other bands sing about. Instead of tearing down this country, complaining about the things we don’t have and giving the slackers more ammunition to attack anyone who’s actually motivated to do something constructive, we’re all about saying thank you for the opportunities we have.
Our messages are pro-American versus anti-American; hard work versus entitlement; creating as opposed to destroying; and personal responsibility, as opposed to government dependency. We’re about what this country was founded on – integrity. Not whimpering, not whining, but doing
David: Are there other artists that have influenced or inspired you and if so, how?
Dave Bray: I’ve been asked this question tons of times and I’ve never given the same answer twice. It really is one that is forever in a state of evolution; so, today; The Beatles, The Eagles and The Band, Jimmy Buffet and The Stones. I really like how they used lyrics to paint images in the mind and then later weave all those images into a story and complete idea. There are tons of other bands who do this really well. It’s probably the most difficult part of songwriting.
Pantera, Rage, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam — if you would put all of these bands together, I think not only would you have an awesome band, but you would have the vocalists that I truly idolized when I was growing up. I really enjoy the way they can connect inner peace with absolute rage. I feel these bands have that distinct ability to do that as well as totally rock your face clean off of your skull. In the end, pretty much all the pioneers who have tastefully created something completely their own.
David: I understand you were in the Navy. How has that influenced your role in Madison Rising? Does having that background give you an extra passion for what you do and the message the band is trying to convey?
Dave Bray: The two really go hand in hand. Both fall under the category of patriotic service to this country. Even at a young age, I took well to discipline and attention to detail, but feel the military brought those and other positive virtues out in me. As an FMF (Fleet Marine Force) Corpsman I got to train with both the Navy and the Marine Corps. I took an oath, “To do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people.” I still, to this day, try to stand by that oath for my family, my friends and my country.
David: How do you come up with the lyrics for the songs? What is the process?
Dave Bray: Usually me and the other guys in the band brainstorm about issues we care about, like the right to bear arms or ways to energize younger people to create a better future for themselves; and then just go to town. What is it about that issue that we care about? Why? How can we express that in a poetic way or weave a story around it? Those sort of things.
We didn’t always agree on topics and the delivery, but when you have a group of great musicians all wanting to be heard, you can’t help but have some creative confrontation. But in the end, we had the same goals and were genuinely concerned about the message. So, it worked out well.
We also had a friend of ours, Andy Waldeck, write a couple of songs with us. Andy is a phenomenal songwriter and has written a lot of hits for Chris Daughtry and others, so we we’re lucky to have him aboard for those tracks.
David: You recently headlined for the Gibson Guitar rally in Nashville, Tennesse. What was that like and what was the reaction?
Dave Bray: We’re pretty much the only guitar-heavy pro-American band out there, so a good promoter friend of ours, Lisa Mei Norton, hooked us up with the ‘We Stand With Gibson’ show. It was a great event and everyone there was incredibly appreciative of our music and our message.
I think our songs “Soldiers of America” and “Hallowed Ground” touched a lot of them personally; many in the audience had either friends or family overseas. It’s nice to give something to those who are the support system for the troops.
Most of the entertainment at these venues is strictly country; and that’s fine, but some people get tired of the same old cliché.
David: Chris and Alex, do you have any favorite instruments other than Gibsons?
Chris Schreiner: The Les Paul is the perfect tool for this band, although I use my D’Pergo JK Custom Classic for a Strat sound. My pedal board consists of a JAM Pedals Tube Dreamer, Delay Llama, MJM Roctavios, Chandler Tube Driver, and a Cry Baby. The amps I’m currently using are the Bogner Shiva, Bogner Duende, a Marshall Plexi 100 watt, and a Mesa Boogie Mark IV.
Alex Bodnar: My favorite guitars and those I use regularly are Paul Read Smith Custom 22’s. When I play acoustic, I use a Taylor CE-514 and a PRS. As far as the pedals, I use the Visual Sound dual tap delay, Pigtronix, Rocktron, Radial, Boss, and Digitech whammy. My pickups are DiMarzio and PRS Double Dragons. For bass I play an active Fender jazz and for keyboards I use the Yamaha MOTIF. For amps I use the Fender Roc Pro 1000, Bognar Ubershall and a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier.
David: How can your band (and music in general) help unify people and get them involved in a more positive and productive way?
Dave Bray: Music has always been a key form of communication. It’s catchy. It’s emotional. It’s memorable. And it’s a lot more fun that listening to speeches or debates. Our hope is that our music can help people get more politically involved and in a productive way, by taking the time to actually think about issues on a deeper level and not just react superficially to high-impact words and simplistic sound bites.