Bible Belt Blues - 10 Questions Interview
Harold and Paula Vega Vondenstein are Bible Belt Blues, 2019 Josie Music Award winning Gospel Blues musicians from Gulfport, Mississippi. Their music is fresh and bold with biblically sound lyrics wrapped in early Mississippi Bentonia blues influenced music with a bit of 70’s retro mixed in for good measure. The gritty guitar picking, hauntingly beautiful minor chords, and weeping harmonica are the perfect backdrop for their full-fledged repentance and church revival songs for which they are known.
YOUR STORY IS QUITE AN AMAZING ONE! CAN YOU TELL US HOW IT ALL BEGAN?
Two years ago in September of 2018 my husband, Harold, and I started creating Christian music together as a couple after I convinced him to let me write the lyrics first. I wanted to write bold biblically sound lyrics like nothing I had ever heard before on Christian radio or in churches these days. Harold and I had met three years prior when I had placed an ad in Christian Mingle looking for a Christian musician who would not set limits on what God could accomplish through him. Harold responded and the rest is history. In 2019 we produced two albums, “I’m Not Ashamed to Be a Christian” and “My God, My God” and are currently working on our third album. Since March of 2020, In the midst of this pandemic, we have already released five original songs and have several more songs in the works.
WHAT HATS DO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND WEAR WHEN PRODUCING MUSIC TOGETHER?
Harold is the composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. I am the lyricist, producer, and vocal coach. Harold does everything tech (recording, mixing, and mastering). Harold is deaf in one ear and is totally dependent upon what he calls my “excellent ears.” I write the lyrics, do all the marketing and promotion (writing media and securing radio airplay). As the producer I get to choose which songs make the cut to be included on an album and which songs need to be re-recorded. As his vocal coach I determine how many vocal tracks are needed to produce the quality of song I envision. Neither one of us could accomplish what we do without the other. Thank You Jesus!
I HEAR THAT BIBLE BELT BLUES HAS RECEIVED NUMEROUS ACCOLADES. COULD YOU ELABORATE?
Against all odds, my husband, Harold, and I won the coveted 2019 Josie Music Award for Gospel/ Christian Duo and are now Finalists for Duo of the Year with the upcoming 2020 Josie Music Awards to be held on Sept. 5th in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We also won the 2020 Finalist Award for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian-America for the 2020 InterContinental Music Awards. Amazingly, we crossed over to the gospel genre with the Gulf Coast Gospel Music Award (GCGMA) nomination for Song of the Year with our Bible Belt Blues song, “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
WHAT IS YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY FOR BIBLE BELT BLUES?
With 14.6 million new songs downloaded last year on Spotify I knew I had to do things differently. Instead of following the “tried and true” methods for Christian songwriting, I decided to write songs that address sin, repentance, and salvation as well as creating a style of music that is unlike anyone else’s. I used my writing skills to write our own media coverage (press releases and articles) as well as securing TV interviews. I developed my own personal contacts to secure radio airplay instead of working with a radio plugger with no guaranteed results. Not wanting to put all my efforts into one basket hoping for that elusive “hit song,” I chose instead to see how many of our Bible Belt Blues songs I could get approved for radio airplay- 25 to date! As an Indie artist trying to get the attention of larger radio platforms my strategy was to get numerous professionally written song reviews by Berklee College of Music graduates to be published in International Music Blogs (19 to date with BWH Music Group).
This would place Bible Belt Blues in a unique position within the Christian music genre that may capture the attention of a larger Christian radio platform like American Family Radio (200 stations) as well as other Christian radio stations. My aspirations also include having our Bible Belt Blues music cross over to both gospel and blues genres with global radio airplay! All for God’s glory and for building Christ’s Kingdom!
DO YOU HAVE ANY EXCITING NEWS YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
We are part of a compilation album, “Consecration Revival Vol. 1” by Bongo Boy Records, scheduled for release on August 18th that will include two of our original Bible Belt Blues songs. An upcoming compilation album, “Backroom Blues Volume Nine,” also by Bongo Boy Records, will include two more original Bible Belt Blues songs. We are also excited to announce that we have submitted two of our original Bible Belt Blues songs, “Can’t Take It With You” and “Can’t Take Away My Joy” to be considered for the 2021 Blues Music Awards Song of the Year Nomination in the Contemporary Blues category.
IS YOUR BIBLE BELT BLUES MUSIC CHARTING ON ANY RADIO STATIONS?
Bible Belt Blues has placed numerous times on the Roots Music Report when played on Cross 104’s Gospel Blues Hour syndicated radio program. We have also charted monthly since January of 2020 on WNIR Radio’s Top 10 Monthly Chart, and this is a secular radio station! Bible Belt Blues was the inspiration for WNIR Radio’s new “Spirit & Soul” Christian Program which airs daily at 3:30 pm Central.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO SUBMIT YOUR GUITAR FLAG DESIGNS FOR MISSISSIPPI’S NEW FLAG?
I wanted to commemorate Mississippi’s greatest heritage, “birthplace of the blues” with a bold colorful flag with a big blues guitar. I loved the fact that our national motto, “In God We Trust,” had to be included on all flag design submissions. Although my flag designs did not make it through Round One, I am honored to have participated in this historic event. (www.MSGuitarFlags.com)
DO YOU ENVISION YOURSELF TEACHING CHRISTIAN SONGWRITING ONE DAY?
I would love to be in a position to challenge a new generation of Christian songwriters to approach their craft through the eyes of an evangelist with the ultimate goal of winning lost souls for Christ instead of entertaining those who are already saved.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE GREATEST JOY WITH YOUR BIBLE BELT BLUES MUSIC?
Listening to a song on the radio that my husband and I produced together as a couple; it doesn’t get any sweeter than that!
HOW CAN WE FIND YOUR MUSIC? All platforms, Spotify, and on our website.