Pop-country band Firefly is comprised of three Gilbert sisters from a musically inclined family of nine.
Realizing their unique chemistry as a trio, Melanie, McKenzie and Maddie Merchant took the stage together.
“The dynamic we have between the three of us works out the best,” Melanie, 25, says. “Most families have contentious moments but we really feel like we’re best friends.”
Four years ago, Melanie was invited to play at the Songwriters Showcase at Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tenn. She brought her two sisters as backups. In the car ride home it struck them, “Oh my gosh, let’s do this as a band,” Melanie says.
“We’ve been on quite the wild ride since then.”
With their parent’s Michael and Gaylene’s support and management, they’ve entertained tens of thousands at preshows for radio stations outside of major concerts and are the main country opening act at Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix.
The band also travels to Utah and Nashville for shows. But their first one was in Mesa, opening for Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand.
“Oh my gosh, we were freaking out,” Maddie, 17, says. “We were so excited.”
All three share the limelight on stage and have equal parts on lead vocals and playing complementing instruments. Melanie and Maddie switch off between alto and mezzo-soprano vocals while McKenzie’s floats off to hit the higher soprano register. Their vocal talent is matched with their cello, piano, keyboard, fiddle, guitar and mandolin.
And before each show, they do their own variation of clog dancing, which is similar to tap dancing.
“That makes us very country too,” Melanie says.
Following the dance, someone will share a thought and then a prayer before entering on stage, they said.
$30,000 by July 12
Firefly may finally get their big break.
In March, the trio was invited by Grammy-winning producer and audio engineer Chad Carlson to make an album pending funding. Carlson has worked with stars including Taylor Swift, Jewel and Miley Cyrus, according to his discography.
Firefly needs to raise $30,000 by July 12 to make their dream come true. The band has a profile on kickstarter.com where fans can make a minimum pledge of $1 to help fund the project.
Following the production of their album, which is expected this fall, they hope to be signed by a record label and go on a radio tour.
“We would love to just do music,” McKenzie says. “That’s what we’re aiming for.”
Off stage, Melanie is a single mother and substitute teacher, McKenzie nannies and Maddie is a senior at Basha High School in Chandler. They also teach vocal lessons on the side.
Family and songwriting
The sisters write almost all of their own music drawing inspiration from favorite bands and life experiences, the most profound being their aunt’s passing.
After a bout of writers block, the feel-good lyrics to their song “Here Comes Hope” flowed easily and from out of nowhere.
“Songwriting isn’t always something that just comes, you have to wait for it sometimes,” Melanie says.
They later found out that their aunt had passed minutes before the song was written.
“She helped us write that song,” Melanie says. “It was the most validating experience.”
There are many benefits to being a sibling band, the sisters say. Aside from knowing intimate details about each other’s lives and having a special sibling connection, the band’s familial ties ensure a lasting bond.
“We can usually find a way to agree because we’re sisters,” Maddie says, and McKenzie assures that they’re “always going to be together.”
Firefly’s next local show is August 3 at the Chandler Center for the Arts and is free to the public. For more information on the band visit www.iheartfirefly.com.