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When you have a passion for music, you connect with it in a unique way. In this episode, musical duo Joel McCausland and Kevin Peay, known as Afterglow, share how friendship turned into a climb to the top of their profession. They started their musical activities during high school, singing together at school assemblies and performing for community groups and local fairs. They eventually decided to continue their musical career as a duo when they grew up. Join us as they share how their passion for music started and what factors contribute to their success.
Joel McCausland And Kevin Peay Share How Friendship Turned Into A Climb To The Top As Musical Duo Afterglow
This is an interview with the songwriting recording artist team of Kevin Peay and Joel McCausland. They’re known throughout the world as Afterglow. Thank you so much for spending some time with me. In this episode, I have my dear friends and fellow musicians, Kevin Peay and Joel McCausland. They’re known for their warm harmonies and heartfelt emotion as the superstar performing duo, Afterglow. They’re recording artists with seventeen albums, five of which were recorded in England with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
They share their lives that began as friends way back in junior high school, and their climb to the top of their profession spanning a 40-year career. They’ll give us an inside glimpse into the minds and hearts of these unique songwriters focused exclusively on creating life-changing songs about serving others. Also, dealing with loss, experiencing joy, and finding our way through life’s trials, produced to celebrate God’s love for all of his children.
We’re doing great, Dan. That was quite an introduction.
It took me an hour to edit your sixteen-page bio that I was trying to read. Trust me, you guys both look good for being about 144 years of age. This is such an honor to have you in my program.
What a privilege. We appreciate this so much.
Let’s get right to the questions that everybody wants the answers to. The first P is Passion. When and how did you first identify your passion?
I grew up in a musical family and Kevin did, too. My mom was a single parent for about ten years with six kids. A lot of times, that made life challenging for her. She used music as a way to keep us together and keep us focused on good things. I would sing and perform with my brothers and sisters. I caught that bug early on. When Kevin and I got a chance a little later, when we got into our teams to do some things together, it was a pretty natural progression.
How about you, Kevin? Weigh in on passion. How did you discover this amazing ability to communicate with the world through music?
I had no real desire to do that in my teenage years. I decided I wanted to play ball, that was about all I wanted to do. Joel was preparing for an assembly at Pleasant Grove High School. I had finished baseball practice and come strolling in. I heard the piano playing and one thing led to another. In my baseball fatigue, I sat down next to him and threw a little harmony while he was getting ready for the assembly. Eventually, he invited me to come up and sing with him at that assembly.
Find a simple way to express what is in your heart.
There wasn’t a whole lot of excitement from other athletes about having an athlete on stage in that particular environment, but I went through it anyway. One thing led to another. Even though I was mocked and scorned for a little bit, we pushed through. It was quite entertaining to watch some of those athletes eventually come around to choir in their senior year. Off we went and decided that it was time to break through and expand a little bit of the horizon. Joel was quite the anchor to be able to help me see that.
To the audience, you need to know that Kevin Peay was more than an all-star baseball player. He had over a 90-mile an hour fastball. He was highly touted as a young superstar with a huge career that would eventually land him in the Major League arena. Having that as a backdrop, who inspired you to prepare in your life, Kevin? You as well, Joel, who inspired you to prepare enough to realize that your passion could become a reality both in sports and in music?
I grew up with two sisters who were a little older than I was. I was able to watch their dedication to what they did. I had a father and mother who were present and supportive in all areas of my particular life. I watched the diligence of my father as a utility worker for a power company and climbing poles. If you’ve ever hooked on your hooks before and climbed up to 30 or 40 feet on the top of a power pool, I watched my dad do that for years and years with great skill.
His dedication to his craft and his industry, in my particular environment, put me on a little bit of a path to be able to stay focused on whatever it was to be able to do that would create some benefit. My mother was the same way. She was skilled in her financial situation and still is today. She lives and my father has passed, but his legacy still remains in our family.
I’m grateful for his discipline associated with what he was able to provide. I’m grateful for Joel and his expertise and discipline as well with music that took me in that same direction to be able to follow along with him, and continue to enjoy the benefits of the variety of life and variety of opportunities that come our way if we simply will put our minds to it.
Joel, in honor of your single mom, my mom was the youngest of nine children and raised by a single mom who never remarried. With your emphasis on music and inspiring Kevin to join you in that high school assembly, what came to mind is that knowledge is power but knowledge has no heart. We don’t learn critical thinking skills through math and science. We learn them through the arts, through passion, creativity and imagination. It means reason leads to conclusions, but it is the emotion that leads to action.
When I meet someone like you with a musical background, a musical influence from your mother and your siblings, and inspiring someone like Kevin to dig deeper and find more talent inside than he thought he had as a simple athlete. I want you to talk a little bit about who inspired you to prepare yourself from that passionate, creative, and imaginative perspective focusing on the arts instead of all the technical, left-brain, cognitive cycle babbling neuro technical stuff, that still seems to force-fed our children through our educational systems now.
I think about the direction that we’ve seen. I work in the training industry. I look at the changes that people are trying to engender with their employees or with other organizations or groups. You’re right, it seems like the focus is primarily shifted to mostly skill-building or skill changing. There is that core, there’s that part of all of us inside. I think about the people that have inspired me in my life. I talked about my mom and she’s always been a hero or a heroine to me.
For me, I look at people who rise above challenges and thrive even in adversity, and who make changes in their lives because they see that core. I don’t know if it’s an inspiration. I’m not sure where it comes from for everybody. For me, it’s when I can see people rise above the challenges of their lives and they can connect to that.
Most of the inspirational experiences in my life have come from a connection to music. There are times when I’m going through something, I’ll sit down to write a song about it. It helps me not only process what I’m going through, but it expresses something that can be universal and common. It’s something that people can hear and go, “Maybe I don’t have exactly that experience but I hear something there. There’s something that matters to me, something I can link to and connect to and be edified by.” To me, that is probably the best blessing that music has brought to my life.
I’ve had great leaders, great friends, great mentors, and a lot of different people who contributed in terms of seeing that passion and that desire to rise above and be excellent in what we do. For me, that has always been one of the common threads. Music gives me a way and a chance to express that in myself.
Between the two of you is this duo, Afterglow. You’ve been successful for decades as songwriters, performers and recording artists. Let’s talk about passion and preparation, and tie them together with a question about how you decide what you’re going to write a song about. For those of us who are not songwriters specifically, I want you to help us understand that creative process.
In my mind, if we can all think like hit songwriters, every song that was ever written was written with the same twelve notes. The only difference between one song and another is the order in which those twelve notes fall, timing, and spacing between the notes. The difference between a hit songwriter and a lousy songwriter is passion, creativity and imagination.
Teach us the process of getting together and saying, “We see this message that needs to be addressed. We see this need in our families, our neighborhoods, our community, and our world.” By putting it to melody, you elevate yourself from an ordinary speaker or trainer to a power player who stimulates and stirs emotion so we remember the message. I’d be remiss if I didn’t allow the readers to dive a little deeper into your brains and how you connect your head with your heart and craft a song with a hook that people remember that truly does heal the world. Teach us.
You’ve got to remember, I didn’t have a whole lot of musical piano skillsets. I did that a little bit when I was a couple of years old from an aunt who taught me how to read. In regards to chord structure, for me, it wasn’t taught to me until Joel sat me down. He was kind to show me the chord structure side of things to where you can take those 88 keys and you can modify those same chords in three different variations. From there, you can start to find your melody tunes.
In many instances, depending on whether it’s secular music, country, a love song, soft ballad, Contemporary Christian or sacred in nature, for me, it was at the moment where we were in our lives. What was the thought pattern to be able to lay some lyrics on top of those chord structures? I always had to sit down once Joel was able to teach me the chord patterns, and then find the chord patterns and weave the melodies and lyrics over the top of the chord pattern. That was reflective of today based upon experiences of marriage, children, life’s energy, and those types of emotions.
There are certainly times and situations where you feel like you are a failure.
Watching how we were able to go through the opportunities for consecutive albums coming up and many of our genres, which were Contemporary Christian, to begin with. It morphed over to love songs, into country, sacred hymns, and the London National Philharmonic Orchestral with Christmas products and other products like that.
We would go into writing original stuff, for me, it was immediately, “I’ve got to get this done.” I’d look to a higher power to be able to say, “I’ve got a deadline. Help me with these lyrics.” I’ll put them into the chord structure. Joel might address that his way is a little bit different. I’m fortunate enough to be able to see that there were a few songs along the way in those 40 years that came from those chord structures and from, hopefully, divine revelation or life experiences at that particular moment.
Joel, let me amend the question for your response. What Kevin brought up is that you are the message. You can’t possibly write a song unless you’re living the message and unless you are in tune with what you’re trying to say to the world. To tie that into the 2 of the 3 Ps, Passion and Preparation teach us all about the significance of being the same offstage as we are onstage.
Therefore, when you’re looking for that intuition, that divine connection to write a song, a gift from the heavens if you will, that you need to put out to help heal the world. Teach us about the significance of preparing yourself and always living by that higher way that makes you a power player off the stage as well as on the stage, and how that translates into writing these amazing songs that you’re famous for over 40 years.
There are a couple of caveats. First, Kevin is being generous when he says that I taught him music. What I know about music, you can fit on the head of the pin. I was fortunate to have good people in my life. My dad and older brother both taught me a little bit about chord piano and how to get started in a simple way.
That has helped me because, honestly, I was too lazy probably to be disciplined and become a great musician. I did get a chance to find a simple way to express what was in my heart, and that enabled me in a couple of experiences, in particular, to see the power of what you’ve been talking about, Dan. It’s this idea of the core of ourselves and being consistent internally with the things we say and do.
I can’t claim that I’ve always done that 100%. There are certainly times and situations where I’ve been false to myself. This is an interesting experience that happened to me many years ago now. It was an odd one. It came up as you guys were talking. I hadn’t thought about it in years. I used to work for Franklin Covey. I did training in design and development and that sort of thing for them. Great people, great experiences, and great mentors that I ran into there as well.
At the time, we had a relationship with Avon corporation. Growing up as a kid, that always meant Avon ladies to me. They would show up at the house and they would show my mom the catalogs, and she would buy what she wanted to buy. They have representatives of both genders at Avon now and that’s a good thing. At the time, they always needed Avon ladies.
I was approached as the Avon corporation was getting ready for their annual convention. They said, “We’ve got this new planning tool that we’ve created for them. We’re going to introduce it. We’re going to do this convention in Las Vegas. We’ve got 15,000 Avon ladies coming to this convention. We want you to write a song about this new planning tool.” I was dumbstruck. I was like, “A song about a planner, how do you do that?”
I started doing a little research and I started looking into the way that they had customized and created this tool. It was all about what those people are about. It was all about customer service. It was all about making connections with your customers or an emotional connection or relationship. They called this program Success by Design, which I love. How awesome is that? We’re going to get success in our lives and we’re going to do it with a plan. We’re going to be clear about what we’re trying to achieve.
I sat down one day and wrote the song, Success by Design. It wasn’t about the tool, it was all about the lifestyle, the focus and the commitment. I had this big thrill. We were down at the MGM Grand Garden. In the morning before the convention, the first day, they had all these Avon ladies behind the ropes waiting like a thundering herd to get in. They wanted to see all the stuff that was available to them. They’re waiting behind the ropes. They had me walk out there with a wireless mic and we turned that song on. I taught that song to 15,000 Avon representatives, and then they sang it back. The hair on your arm stands up. It was one of those thrilling moments.
In the scheme of things, that probably didn’t matter too much. You could tell it mattered to them from the way that they learned and sang that song. It was another testament to me about the power of what we can do when we have focus. My device for that is music. People can use a lot of different devices to get there.
You’ve remained power players as musicians, songwriters, entertainers, as well as trainers, and real estate investors when it comes to Kevin’s side of the profession. Let’s cut to the final P, the Pursuit. What has allowed you to continue this relentless pursuit of your passion to make a difference? What you said touched my heart, Joel. I know all the readers will agree.
There may be 15,000 mostly women in this convention center, and you are on stage and you were able to connect with them. Remember, each one of them left the convention center. If they only touched and influenced in a positive and passionate way one other person, and then that one other person influenced someone, that’s why you and Kevin as Afterglow have remained for four decades power players.
The questions I have for each of you as we wind down our time together, Kevin, first. I’m taking a leaf out of Professor Randy Pausch. He’s the one that coined the speech titled The Last Lecture. Let me ask each of you individually. If you had one day to live with all of these experiences, with all of these hit songs, what is your one consolidated message to the world, and because of who you are with the album that you released? What’s the name of your album?
It’s called Walk with Me.
Sometimes, there’s an anchor to be able to help you see a little bit of the horizon.
I want you to answer that question. If you had one day to live, what would your one consolidated message be to the world? Each of you selects your one favorite song from this new album release that helps you quantify what this message is to the world.
Webster defined the word ‘afterglow’ as a glow remaining in the world where light has disappeared, a reflection of past emotion. At the end of the day, as I have sat down with those that I love and that hopefully love me, that we simply reflect on one day at a time and what we’ve accomplished on that particular day. If that day has brought us reflection, warm feelings, kindness, and a desire to do better tomorrow than we did the day before, that’s where my approach is resounding.
I’ve been fortunate enough that Joel and I, over the years, all these years, both respect each other. In essence, maybe we haven’t taken this whole thing too seriously. We’ve let it flow and let it do and navigate according to how we feel and what happens regarding the next day. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to express that through whatever I can contribute to the music side.
In many instances, this has been a release for me. We do exercises or play extracurricular activities or do something. Music, in this format and being able to do this with Joel, has been an outlet to be able to keep you focused on what the greater goal is, and that is to be able to help people the best we can, one day at a time, every day, and reflect on how we can become better. Also, to show kindness wherever we go and create good feelings along the way.
As this superstar baseball pitcher, you blew out your arm. You had major surgery and it ended your career. In the big scheme of things, because of your preparation based on your passion to make a difference, maybe that wasn’t your ultimate purpose in this life. Look at the difference you’ve made because you persevered and pursued your passion through the pain and through the difficult times. Look at how many lives you’ve touched because of that.
I appreciate that, Dan. That’s kind of you to say that. One of the songs on this particular album is called Somebody Knows, which is an outtake of service in a children’s hospital. That opportunity to be able to strum that a little bit and to be able to sing that and write that in that Children’s Hospital is one that not only Kevin knows, but also there are many people who want to engage in whatever we are doing. There are many good people in the world. There’s so much kindness. There are so many people who want to serve and to serve others. That’s one of the contributions I was able to make on this particular album.
It answers the question. That’s your one consolidated message to the world, serve, love, and give. You’re able to quantify that in a song. I challenge everyone to your website. What’s your website?
I’m a fan. Joel, you’re not off the hot seat. What’s your one quantifiable message and perhaps a song from this last album that you released?
This one is pretty easy for me, Dan. I wrote the title cut for this album called Walk with Me after the loss of my cousin and a dear friend, Darren Walker. He was an example of a person who lived with purpose and passion. He always tried to make life better for the people around him, not just family but he extended a tremendous outreach in his community. He was a business owner. He did a lot of other things. When he passed, there were over 5,000 people that showed up for his funeral. I thought a lot since then about what impact and legacy he left.
When we think of the message of that song, Walk with Me, some people might attach a higher power to that. Some people might think of their family. Some people might think of friends. Whoever it is you’re thinking, whoever you rely on, it’s that concept of being able to walk together toward a common goal and to share the strength that each other has. Also, to have those moments when you’re a little weak or a little low, and somebody else steps in and buoys you up. The times when maybe you can be in that role to help somebody else along the way when they’re struggling or having difficulty. That is the message for me. Let’s not get so caught up in our own stuff that we fail to notice opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others around us.
What a podcast. Thanks for joining me. This is Joel McCausland and Kevin Peay, the recording artists and musical duo known as Afterglow. You can find them on iTunes and wherever great songs are sold. In conclusion, I love my tagline. Remember when you finally decide to be a power player, your power play begins in you. Until next time, quantify your takeaway and go make a power play. Have a great day, brothers.
About Joel McCausland and Kevin Peay
Joel McCausland and Kevin Peay are better known to thousands of loyal fans around the world as the musical duo AFTERGLOW. Joel and Kevin began their musical career together over 40 years ago in Pleasant Grove, Utah. As Juniors in High School they began singing together at school assemblies and performing for community groups and at local fairs. They eventually presented LDS firesides and concerts in the United States prior to their missions in Japan and St. Louis in 1980. In 1984 AFTERGLOW signed a recording contract. They have since recorded 17 albums for Deseret Book, five of which were recorded in England with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.