Local Christian band Listen 249 will headline this week’s Concert in the Park at noon Friday at Veterans Memorial Park.
Listen 249 band members are Austin Willis, 15, the son of Terri Hendrix and Glenn Willis; Bailey Lawson, 14, the son of Ragan and Karen Lawson; and Matt Carver, 15, the son of Anissa Jones and Bo Carver. Willis attends Tiftarea Academy; Lawson attends Tift County High School Northeast Campus; and Carver attends Tift County High School. They are all members of First Baptist Church.
They first started playing together about a year ago with a Christian band called, “Driven Spirit.” Months later, Willis and Lawson branched out together and played at a few church services before they began calling themselves, “Listen 249.”
Lawson explained that he and Willis were at a church retreat at Shocco Springs in Alabama when they first had the idea to call themselves, “Listen 249.” The Bible verse Mark 4:9, which states, “Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear,’ is what inspired them. The “2” in 249 represents the second book of the New Testament.
Carver joined Willis and Lawson over the summer after he learned that they needed a guitar player. He plays electric guitar, while Willis plays the drums and Lawson sings and plays acoustic guitar. They stated that they grew up playing their instruments, mainly teaching themselves after taking only a few lessons.
Other than playing at First Baptist Church, Listen 249 has performed at several events, including a youth rally in Baxley, the Williams Syndrome Family of Hope 5K and One Mile Fun Run, the Downtown Tifton Farmers’ Market, a Meals on Wheels fundraiser event, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) events and banquet and recently at the Georgia National Fair in Perry. They are planning to also perform at the Fields of Faith event and during the Hometown Holiday Christmas Celebration.
The band noted that they’re working on putting out a CD in January. Carver stated that a studio is being built at his house. Willis said they currently practice at church or his house two days a week. They noted that they’re selling wristbands with their band name printed on them for $3 or 2 for $5, and they’re working on having some shirts possibly made to sell as well. To purchase a wristband, comment on their Facebook page; they can also be purchased when the band performs.
When asked what inspired them to be a Christian band, they stated, “We all went to church together.”
Willis added, “We like playing music and worshiping — combine the two and that’s what you get.”
According to Carver, “We’re not just an ordinary Christian band. What I’m saying is that all Christian bands do the same thing — sing to our Lord. But, we sing to Him and to all who rejoices Him, too.”
Listen 249 have three original songs — “I Need A Lord,” “Show” and “You Are You” — that carry a strong message.
The song, “I Need A Lord,” was written by Carver. He explained that his parents divorced when he was a small boy. He said as he grew older, he began to go down the wrong path and was introduced to drugs and alcohol at the young age of 13. Peer pressure was a big factor and then he hit rock bottom. At a party one night, officers raided the place and arrested some people. Carver said during this time, he was thinking, “I need a Lord.”
He stated that when he got home, the song, “I Need A Lord,” came to him. He said it remained in a folder for two years before he introduced it to his fellow Listen 249 band members.
Carver noted that through his dark days, however, he was able to maintain a clean record.
“Show” and “You Are You” were written by Lawson and Willis. Lawson explained that “Show” is about “showing how God’s love is enough.” Willis added that it’s about being a light in the darkness.
Willis said they wrote “You Are You” after attending this year’s Road Less Traveled Ministries Christian concert featuring Jeremy Camp. He stated that the message behind this song is that “even though people change and go through struggles, God stays the same and He’s always there.”
Attendees to Friday’s concert can expect to hear the band’s three original songs, as well as “Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture; “Our God” by Chris Tomlin; and “Blessed Be Your Name” by Tree63, which was the first song Willis, Lawson and Carver learned as a group while in the band Driven Spirit.
All three of them would like to make it big in the music industry, but Willis says, “If that’s where God puts us, that’s where we’ll be.”
Having a backup plan doesn’t hurt either. Willis, who’s originally from Tifton, is thinking about attending Mercer University. He would like to get a degree in mass media production, as well as a type of degree working with computers.
Lawson, who’s originally from Jacksonville, Fla. and came to Tifton when he was two months old, plans to attend the South University School of Pharmacy to get a degree in pharmacy.
Carver, who was raised in a farm house in Mystic, plans to attend Ohio State. He said he wants to be an echo technician.
When asked about them being such close friends, Willis smiled and stated, “We’re more like a family.”
The free concerts are sponsored by The Tifton Gazette and Main Street Tifton. They will continue through October. People are encouraged to bring their lunches and a lawn chair or blanket to the concert.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.