May 16th, 2008
By Jonathan Andrews
Esterlyn‘s debut album Lamps came out back in February on Rooster Records. This is an email interview I did over the past week thanks to their management and the band.
Q: First off please state who you are and what you play in Esterlyn.
Hello my name is Luke Henry Caldwell- I sing and play guitar.
Q: What is the purpose of the band Esterlyn?
In short- to create, to love, and to serve.
In long- our desire is to be legitimate in all that we do in our sphere of influence as individuals and as an artist. I think for Esterlyn we really strive to be transparent and desire to represent Jesus Christ in all we do.
Q: For those who aren’t familiar with where your band’s name came from can you explain it?
The name Esterlyn comes from my little niece Esther Lyn. My sister and her family adopted her from China. The Lord really used the whole situation in my life. The power of God’s love to change a person’s future is remarkable. As a band we truly want that same love to impact the people around us just like it did for Esther Lyn. She is such a cutie. Her first word actually was love. If you get a chance, go check out the video on our myspace about the meaning of our name – www.myspace.com/esterlyn.
Q: As a band, how do you feel about being labeled “Grand Prize” repackaged?
It doesn’t really bother me. However this is a hard question because I’m sure some people do believe that we tried to repackage ourselves or that Grand Prize wasn’t successful or was dropped so we just tried again. The honest reality is none of those things are true. Grand Prize started when I was a youth pastor. I hadn’t picked up a guitar until I was 19 and really had no desire to be in the music industry at all. The Lord just kept opening up doors without pursuing them and so Grand Prize went from a simple worship band to a signed artist. I am super thankful for the season in each of our lives. I believe God used Grand Prize in great ways and I was privileged to serve the Lord through the band. We sold over 20,000 albums and saw the Lord’s faithfulness throughout- the truth is I felt like my vision wasn’t overly clear for the band and I also desired to move in a different direction musically. I asked our label if we could leave and go in a different direction and they allowed us to. It was at that time I really felt the Lord stirring something new in my heart. I wanted to start fresh with a clear vision of what I felt the Lord was specifically calling me to accomplish within the music industry, so I started Esterlyn. Tony was the only other original Grand Prize member other than myself. Esterlyn has been a completely new venture. We know our purpose and we know where we fit.
Q: What is the meaning behind the album title “Lamps”?
Q: What are some ways you guys have already been able to be “Lamps” on tour?
Just seeking to be “real” Christians everyday. We want to come into an event or concert desiring to serve and not to be served. For us, we desire Esterlyn to be so much more then just the music. I think when you do that, you are a lamp. You are shining God’s Character to the people around you.
Q: Was Jeff Schneeweis someone you pursued to come alongside you guys to help write and produce? How did he help you guys?
A mutual friend recommended him to us. Jeff was just getting into producing. I sent him a few demo songs and he liked them, and I familiarized myself more with Number One Gun. We felt like it would be a natural fit. We both enjoy a lot of the same music, and I loved writing with him. It was a lot of fun. Jeff is an amazing frisbee golf player and I still have never beaten him so we are going to have to do it again. After we signed with Platform Management they hired in another producer named Steve Wilson to work on some more songs and go through some of the songs Jeff and I had done. It was a joy working with two very talented people as well as the band. As far as it helping… A producer helps you think outside of the box that a band can get in. I felt they both brought great perspective to our songs.
Q: I read that your album cover was done by pop artist Grady McFerrin. Who in the band is a fan his work? Did you come to him with ideas for the album cover or what was it like working with him?
I am huge fan – I am intrigued by Grady’s art. He is one of the most talented people I know. He has done work for such artists as Bright Eyes, The Decemberists, and Modest Mouse. We are so grateful he worked on our album. I told him about the concept of lamps and basically said we want to be a light- can you visually show that in your style? I love where he went with it. We didn’t ask him to change one thing. Let art be art. www.gmillustration.com
Q: There has been some confusion as to who or what Rooster Records, the label that you’re releasing Lamps on, actually is. Could you clear this up and let us in on who is behind this label and what set it apart that you decided to work with it as opposed to other labels.
We wanted to be a part of something innovative and new from the get go. We turned down multiple big label offers. Rooster Records is just a name behind a greater vision. It is much more and much less then a standard record label. Our management (Platform) came to us from the beginning asking us if we would partner with them to do something that they believe could truly change some of the ways the Christian industry is run. So basically Rooster Records is a system that our managers, Darren and Chance, have been creating for the past 2 years. They brought us into the picture last year and we have been at work ever since. I will explain some of the specifics in the next question but overall the system is truly artist driven. Understanding that industry is changing so quickly you have to come to terms with a few things. Music is basically free, radio is playing a smaller role every year and print is nearly dead. So taking all those things into consideration we created a totally different strategy from making this record to getting it out to the public. The concept is a long-term partnership and being open to introduce new ideas often. We have freedom to be who we are and create what God has put inside of us. Rooster Records has put a long-term investment into us and that is priceless in the music industry. We are the only artist for the time being.
Q: What separates Esterlyn from other bands in the industry right now?
On the business side we have one of the best record deals in the Christian industry right now. I don’t say that in an arrogant way- we honestly are amazed at the situation the Lord has put us in. Let me explain.
A standard record deal is 10-15 points for the artist. Basically 10-15% after the record is recouped. The average Christian artist typically doesn’t ever recoup their record because there is a great deal of overhead and excessive spending with big labels. With Rooster Records, we have 50 points on our album and have zero of our own money invested. We are 2 months in and over 30% recouped. We will recoup by the end of the year. All profit is split 50/50 after that. We also get paid on all mechanical royalties from album sales on the road, which is unheard of as of now. The record industry is changing rapidly and we are guinea pigs in a new system and loving every minute of it.
On a personal side there are so many amazing bands out there. We just want to play our part whatever that might be. Our focus is to be creative and ministry driven.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about being in Esterlyn?
Being away from our families.
Q: What are some things our readers might not know about you personally?
I love wax lips.
I love the Seattle Seahawks
I go to IVM everyday
I love vintage and classic things
I would love to own an otter
I have the sweetest wife
I have been to India 4 times
I lived in Europe for a year and went to Bible College
I modeled for Nike
I love the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’
I love fashion
I want to serve the Lord with all my heart for all my life
Q: Growing up, what were some bands you looked up too and why did you look up to them?
Switchfoot for their originality.
Keith Green for his ministry
Third Eye Blind for the hooks
Amy Grant for the looks
Q: Now, working in the music industry, who are some artists who you look up to and think have set a good example?
Jars of Clay- amazing people- they are sincere and real- true artists
Kutless- we were just on their bus for the past 2 months- they are great people.
Leeland- I love their hearts for ministry. It brings joy to me.
Q: Where can our readers pick up a copy of your new album Lamps?
Well the IVM store of course, esterlyn.com, iTunes, Family Bookstores, Calvary Chapels, from your friends.