Quint Randle and Jeff Hinton, a k a Joshua Creek, didn't exactly set out to become a performing group.
Both have day jobs — Randle as a professor of communications at Brigham Young University and Hinton as a junior high teacher in Highland. But both also share a passion for songwriting, for combining words and music in meaningful ways.
They began writing together about seven years ago, and have had success in both the Nashville and Los Angeles markets. When you reach a certain level in this craft, says Randle, "it kind of comes full circle."
They began singing and recording demos, decided to pitch a few songs locally, got a recording contract with Covenant Communications and have recently released their second CD on that label, "Heaven's Not That Far."
Randle and Hinton might not have set out to provide a soundtrack for life, but that's pretty much what their songs do.
"We've found that the songs that resonate most with us — and with other people — are those with an underlying inspirational message of faith and family," says Randle.
"We like to find the faith of everyday life," adds Hinton.
Their music can be described as country-esque, the men say. But it's also making inroads in what is known as "Christian country" or "cowboy gospel," styles that have created a lot of subgenres in the music world, with lists and charts to track them.
"Our music is more what we consider Monday morning to Saturday night music — music you can listen to all week and feel good about," Randle says.
Still, they admit, it's exciting when some of their songs show up on those lists. For example, "I Love You Son," from their first CD, was covered by Christian country artist Jackie Cox and reached No. 1 in Power Source magazine's top 20 list (a position previously held by Tim McGraw).
Their "Joshua Creek" CD recently debuted at No. 10 on the International Country Gospel Top 100 Chart and has received airplay in the Midwest, in the South and even in New Zealand.
Their newest collection continues that tradition with songs of home and family that offer a blend of humor, sentiment, introspection and even a couple that could be considered Sunday songs. They are works that most people can relate to, that speak to universal experiences and emotions.
They resonate for a reason. Even more than musicians, the men say, they consider themselves storytellers. "That's where it all comes from," says Randle.
It's an art and craft they take seriously. "We e-mail back and forth on lyrics," says Randle. "Then we get together and talk and talk and talk. We talk until the story comes out. Sometimes it takes pages and pages of free writing."
"And then it takes tons and tons of polishing," says Hinton. And while it may be true, he says, that "every song is a gift. We have to take the gift and polish it. It's rare to ever be given a polished stone."
The men work well together, they say, because they act as each other's editors. "We're each other's sounding boards," says Randle. "And the end becomes greater than the sum of the parts."
Both Hinton and Randle have paid their dues in the field. Both grew up with music, and played in a number of bands in high school and college. Hinton has played and recorded as a solo artist. But they've also enjoyed coming together, finding someone else that shares not only a passion for writing but a similar way of looking at life.
And they both enjoy performing. "It gives us a chance to tell our stories," says Hinton.
Joshua Creek has performed at everything from firesides and girls' camps to opening for the Bellamy Brothers at the Sandy Amphitheater. Their most recent appearance was at the 18th Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Sometimes it is just the two of them, but they often perform with a five-piece band that includes Ron Saltmarsh, lead guitar; Jim Hollister, drums and percussion; and Dave Despain, keyboards. With the band, Hinton plays guitar and sings lead vocals; Randle plays bass and sings backup.
"That is fun for us to hang out with musicians we respect so much," says Hinton.
But a big part of the joy of performing is the audience connection, they say. They may not have set out to change lives, but they have.
"It's fun to play when you have material that you know is connecting with people on an emotional level. That's the big payoff in all this," says Randle, "when we have people come up and say 'that song turned my life around' or 'I pulled to the side of the road in tears when I first heard that song."'
It's often hard for songwriters to know the impact they have on people; they put their songs out there, and who knows where they will go. "Every song has a different meaning for different people," says Hinton. "People often connect in different ways than we thought they might. Sometimes it's totally different."
So, when those times come along when they do hear what one of their songs has meant so someone, "You feel, 'wow!"' says Randle. "But you also feel humble that the gift you've been given can do that, and you feel a responsibility to take care of that gift."