Dale Sechrest. Submitted photo
Dale Sechrest. Submitted photo

Faith-based Americana is a musical genre with a distinctive sound and message.

Coined by Hoosier rocker John Mellencamp, the term ‘Americana’ is a sound defined and inspired by one’s roots. It is a unique, and sometimes folksy, sound inspired by places like Hope and its residents.

“I would take faith-based Americana as music that does not always necessarily have to reflect Jesus Christ, but always has a positive outlook and vibe to it,” says singer/songwriter Dale Sechrest. “Frankly speaking, there are times when musicians will find themselves playing in places where a Christian song just won’t fit. The moment may seem right, but the people there won’t receive it. So there are positive-based songs that we use that still bring the message or the light in a different way.”

Sechrest’s work is a great introduction to the Americana sound; a sound that is shared by fellow singers/songwriters Avery Tallent and Sally Webster.

The trio, who frequently perform together, is no stranger to Hope area churches and community events as their music has helped to weave the intricate tapestry of Hope.

“It’s just ecstatic fun when all three of us get together and start playing and jamming,” Sechrest says. “It’s like we are in our element, and we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.”

Webster, who has worked with special needs children for more than 40 years, began singing as a child in church and youth group, she says. As an adolescent and teen, she surrounded herself with others of like mind who also used music as a creative outlet. Before long, she was writing and performing her own music.

Known for her performances at the annual Hope Ride and WILLow LeaVes of Hope to name just a couple, Webster may not necessarily describe her music as Americana, but the message remains the same.

She recalls a song she wrote that stemmed from an accident suffered by a close family member. Webster’s bedside prayers later became the basis of a song about finding strength in difficult times, she says. “It is a matter of faith.”

“Everything in your life can inspire you,” she says. “If nothing else, it helps you through things sometimes.”

Twenty-three year old Avery Tallent first picked up a guitar at the age of eight. By 15 years old, the Hope resident was writing his own songs and music.

“I think I get my inspiration from the people around me, the community, and what God and scripture tells me,” he says. “I always say that I can only write what God gives me. I write through His strength. There are times the creativity isn’t coming, but other days, as I wait, it comes on strong.”

For many artists, the idea of performing faith-based music isn’t always direct and forthcoming in approach. Sechrest says, it can take the form of a journey.

“It seems to me a number of artists, at one point or another, they come to a point in time where they themselves are wrestling with, ‘Is there a God?’ or

‘What do I believe?’ or ‘Was Jesus the son of God?’,” Sechrest says.

As artists grapple with age-old questions of faith and their role in this life, expressing one’s feelings and thoughts can be a mercurial process where inspiration ebbs and wanes.

Regardless of their medium, nearly all artists will attest that creative block is a real thing. And Sechrest says he is no stranger to it.

The creative process is different for everyone, Sechrest acknowledges, and for him, the process is ever-changing.

“When inspiration strikes, you gotta grab it,” Sechrest says. “Generally, I will have a melody in my head first before the words ever come. That seems to work best for me. I’ve tried the other way, but I struggle if I have the words first and no melody.”

He recalls a songwriter who once told him there are those who say they have to be inspired to write, and there are those who write for a living.

I thought, “That is a different perspective because when you’re writing you have a need to, or it is where your income is stemming from. You have to get past that block. A good way to start – drawing on a phrase by Paul Simon – he likes to start all his songs off with an element of truth.”

Webster has a respectful, working relationship with creative block and simply allows time to help creativity flow, she says.

“A song will hit me, and I will start adding to it,” the North Vernon resident says. “Sometimes it takes a while for one to become a song. Other times it comes quick. I think a lot of times it is about taking a break.”

The musicians agree having a supportive community, like Hope, helps not only fuel their creative ventures but inspires them even moreso to offer their music to the community. Once that music is out there, hopefully it will inspire others, they say.

“If you love music, if you love what you do, I encourage others to get out and share that because you never know how that may touch or inspire someone else,” Tallent says.

Looking to the future, Sechrest says he is hopeful his music continues to encourage those who hear it and listen.

“It is my hope that God will use whatever songs He gives me and will use those songs to draw people closer to Him and into His presence,” Sechrest says. “Be open to where God is leading you, and be responsive to how He leads you. Music has a way of allowing you to do that. It allows you to put yourself out there, and you are always revealing a part of your soul when you are playing.”