Not Preaching to the Choir

By Jasen T. Davis

Posted December 27, 2012 in Music

While Little Faith has built its career on gospel, most of its members are atheists

Jack Maeby, keyboardist for Little Faith, has been a professional musician and producer for decades, having previously worked for industry greats such as Carly Simon, Otis Rush and Buster Pointdexter. How would he describe the music he creates along with his fellow band mates Nelson Blanton (guitar, steel guitar), Nadia Christine Duggin (vocals) and Paul Vitolins (drums and co-producer)?

“I call it roots gospel music,” he says, “because it’s closer to the kind of music people in the South still play.” The music Maeby refers to is often based on the same gospel music being played in churches throughout Louisiana or Alabama. “Traditional American spirituals all have a common link to gospel,” Maeby says. “That’s how we started, as a roots gospel band playing traditional church spirituals.”

Maeby points out that while the band does play gospel music, most of the members of the band are actually atheists. “For all of us, it’s about who is investing in the music. I also like to say we are a secular gospel band.”

On Oct. 1, Little Faith released Shelter, a compilation of traditional American folk spirituals including the classic, quietly incendiary song, “John the Revelator,” served up with style alongside more frenetic fare like the, rocking, thumping and rolling thunder of “Memphis Rising.” Shelter also has funky guitars, bumping drums, seductive vocals and the sweet, signature, country sound of the steel guitar or the juke-joint wail of a saxophone to remind the listener of how truly timeless finely crafted music can be.

Now that the band has had a few months to think about it, how does its members feel about the LP? “We’re really happy with it,” Maeby says. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive response for this album.” As a result of the success of Shelter, potential fans have had more opportunities to tune into Little Faith. “We get really good radio play, including KCSN 88.5 FM and a lot of other local Los Angeles gospel stations,” the veteran musician adds.

The life of a professional musician is often a roller-coaster ride of successes and failures, where the path to a career is never completely predetermined. Why does Maeby do it? “For me and a lot of band members, we just have to play. It’s what we do for pleasure. If we can make a little money while we’re doing it, great.”

The downside of the career is that sometimes people want too much of something for nothing. Maeby likes to work and play, but bills don’t pay themselves. “A lot of club and venue owners believe music should just be free, and they don’t want to pay you,” Maeby says.

With the big local success of Little Faith, the band is planning its tour to spread the good word. “We’re planning a regional tour,” Maeby says. “We’ve all done our best to promote the album, working off of our business connections to plan it, and we also got our own tour bus.” The musician reports that more updates will be available on their website. “So far, we’re heading over to Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona, and after that, wherever we can go.”

Little Faith at the Hip Kitty, 502 W. First St., Claremont, (909) 447-6700;; Sat. Dec 29. 8pm-12pm. $5.

One Comment


    For the record, while there are atheists among the members of Little Faith, our musicians also include Christians and others who practice their faith regularly. The point I had hoped to make is that there is a universality to gospel music that welcomes and inspires believers and non-believers alike. Sharing the spirit and vitality of gospel music and traditional spirituals is what we’re about, whether it happens at a night club, church or music festival.

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