Water from Fire: Collectively making music from the heart

 John Woodall ’14 and Kevin Brawley ’13 met at UNC Charlotte. They were pursuing bachelor degrees in music, developed a mutual respect for each other’s abilities and became fast friends.
Friday, May 1, 2020

John Woodall ’14 and Kevin Brawley ’13 met at UNC Charlotte. They were pursuing bachelor degrees in music, developed a mutual respect for each other’s abilities and became fast friends. 

They traded out solo shows, referred each other to clients and venues and over time began to play shows together.

“There is nothing that replaces the energy of playing on stage with friends,” said Woodall.

Today, Woodall is the executive director for Camp4Heroes, an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and transitioning of veterans and first-responders from their lives of service back into the civilian world. He also is a worship leader at Matthews United Methodist Church.

Brawley has received national awards as  music educator at Torrence Creek Elementary School in Huntersville, North Carolina, and regularly speaks at teaching conferences about improving music education for students with autism and those impacted by trauma.

One day while hanging out, Woodall sang Brawley the first line to a new song he was working on. Brawley quickly jumped in with a lyric he thought would work and before they knew it, they had “Caroline,” written and their band, Water from Fire was born.

“We realized at that moment that even though we had varying styles individually, we created a unique sound collectively, and the voices blended well,” said Woodall.

Water From Fire, a collective of worship leaders and musicians from Charlotte, North Carolina toes the line between Christian and secular, touching on elements of faith within the setting of today's unpredictable world.

“John and I each reached a point in our personal and musical lives where we were ready to create something more meaningful,” said Brawley. “We unified our message, focused on our faith and began to write songs to help people see that no matter how dark things may seem, there is a light still reaching for you.”

Incorporating messages of hope into their music is important to both Woodall and Brawley, which is why they were honored to participate in “United: A Remembrance Program,” paying tribute to and honoring the lives lost and all those affected at UNC Charlotte on April 30, 2019.

“I can't begin to imagine what these families have gone through, but I can try my best to empathize and use my own life experiences delivered through music to try and ease their pain, see hope rather than despair, or, at the very least, reminisce fondly on their lost loved ones,” said Brawley.

During the virtual remembrance, Woodall and Brawley performed their original song, “Home,” which at its heart speaks to the suffering many endure on a day to day basis, encouraging the listener to come back to a place where they feel whole again. View “United: A Remembrance Program” on the Niner Nation Remembers website.

“Though it stems from our experiences working with the military, ‘Home’ really is a call to anyone who has felt defeated, anxious, alone or broken,” said Woodall. “We hope that by including the song, it adds comfort to anyone who is struggling to make sense out of this tragic event or even out of what’s happening all around us in the world right now.”

While inspiration comes in many forms, Woodall and Brawley find the inspiration to write and perform music from their life experiences. They have both had big lives leading up to where they are now. They have both had struggles, highs, lows and everything in between. They try their very best to put an authentic melody and lyric to situations they have found themselves in or have seen others experience.

“We want to leave behind messages that people can relate to and that lift people’s spirits,” said Woodall.

“We have both seen and felt what it’s like to be down and out and can genuinely write about how we came out of it and the things which are worth fighting for.” Brawley added, “Music has always helped me empathize with others - whether I am the listener or the creator of it.”

UNC Charlotte has played a role in Woodall and Brawley’s successful musical journeys. Woodall, said he was a “practice room rat” during his days on campus, constantly playing in Robinson Hall.

“I am thankful I had that kind of quality facility to be able to work on my craft constantly,” he said. “The voice faculty were supportive, and the knowledge I gained from them have taken me to places musically that I only dreamed about before having their mentorship.”

Brawley wouldn’t be a successful music teacher without his UNC Charlotte degree. He recalls a music department head once telling him that he didn’t look like a music teacher, and he sure didn’t act like one but that he was thriving in the music program and should keep it up.

“That reinforced to me at the time, and still does, that all the training and methods in the world won't make you a success,” said Brawley. “You are the secret ingredient. There is no one correct way to do this job, and I have been able to use all of my unique life experiences and personality quirks to create a really unique and thriving music program at my elementary school.”

Water from Fire is a new sound, with musicians who are writing and performing from their hearts, spreading relatable messages of positivity based on their real life experiences.

Learn more about the band’s newly released self-titled album.