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Every now and then, I get the chance to write about someone dear to my heart. It's a special privilege that I in no way take lightly - especially when it comes to my kid.
As you may know, not only are my family members patrons and partakers of the arts, but we also have established a kind of in-house arts collective. There's always someone around here talking about creating music, making videos and films, photography or writing. It's pretty cool to live here and watch projects come to life.
A year ago, my son, Marshall Hamilton, and his friend Samantha Phat formed the duo Neverlanding and have worked together to create a musical body of work, "Flight", that pays homage to the joys and trials that encompass who they are as young people on the cusp of embarking on the world. The one thing I have found remarkable as they wrote, played, sang and produced these songs is their honesty in capturing where they are right now as teenagers. The music doesn't pretend or play "dress-up," and that makes it relatable.
Marshall, 17, is a rising high school senior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts who previously attended Wilson Preparatory Academy. He said creating this album was both a joy and a struggle.
"Planning all this was very stressful, but I feel like it was totally worth it in the end," Marshall said. "We spend a lot of time on our lyrics, making sure it's relatable but, at the same time, personal."
Samantha, 14 and a rising sophomore at Fike High School, said that having Marshall move away for school during the process was difficult both personally and for the project.
"He was my best friend," Samantha said. "He went to school and had his friends and girlfriends. It started this thought of what happens when he starts his life and I'm four years behind? It's a leap of faith, and I'm curious to see where this project goes."
The two of them have literally spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours crafting and perfecting each of the seven tracks on their debut album. It became commonplace to hear Marshall in his room at 3 a.m. working on a track, plucking out a melody on his guitar or downstairs working out chord placement on the piano. Samantha's parents, Touch and Rhonda Phat, have practically taken Marshall in as one of their kids. Rhonda and I have become overseers of this entity our kids created, being sounding boards, therapists, taxi drivers, photographers, production assistants, stylists and, when two high-achieving, perfection-seeking teenagers put way too much pressure on themselves, moms.
The result is a professional album that stands up to, and in many ways surpasses, a lot of popular artists in current rotation. I've been living with these songs for several months and find myself humming the melodies as I clean the kitchen or thinking about one of the lyrics while I run errands. "Flight" is an album I'll listen to over and over in my car - not because it's my kid, but simply because it's that good.
Neverlanding's debut album will be available on all streaming platforms on Aug. 2. You can check out the album trailer on YouTube at https://youtu.be/pvz99PWCwps. For more information, follow the duo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/neverlandingduo/ or on Instagram at @neverlandingduo.