Mark Shiner and Derek Overton come across as two chill, mostly normal guys. While you are likely to find them enjoying life at a local coffee house, restaurant, or on a couch playing Super Nintendo, their hearts beat with the thrum of far deeper matters and have developed a rhythm of their own kind of music.
Locally, the two are quiet about their musical involvement and many people are shocked to learn about their regular performances. Even more surprised are those who hear the quality of their music for the first time. “When we first began playing, we performed in high school under a different name. It was a kind of romantic-pop-acoustic music,” says Mark.
Derek describes their previous project as “Basically the cheesiest love songs you’d never hear on the radio or even enjoy listening to unless your boyfriend wrote it for you. But as we matured, we began to feel like that wasn’t the type of music we should be writing.” With many ideas floating in cerebral space but no clear direction to head in, Mark decided to call it quits. “Music was becoming too important to me. It was becoming my identity and I needed to step away for a bit and figure out who I was,” reflects Mark, who married shortly before moving to Hawaii.
Sadly, as Mark left to chase sunbeams, dark clouds began shrouding the rainy desolate county of Grays Harbor. Derek remembers, “There were several suicides that happened very close together and though I remember not being affected personally by loss, my friends lost their friends and the ripple effect of those deaths was huge. I kept asking myself how I could give hope to people who needed it so desperately. The answer for me was writing songs. Out of this season of continued suicides in our community I wrote the song, ‘Hope Around the Corner.’ I took it into the studio to record, but just didn’t feel like the song had met its full potential yet.”
Like with many works of art, a personal experience is often what gives life to a piece. Unfortunately, further tragedy is what would give this new song a beating heart. “A couple of weeks after I wrote the piece, I got the call that one of Mark’s and my best friends had taken his own life. He was a kid who had been a rock in our high school, our friend at youth group and someone who had invited me to Bible study many times. It really shook us up,” says Derek.
“That was the veil opening for me. Things just seemed to be getting worse and worse and it opened my eyes to be able to say, ‘something needs to be done about this.’ I was still in Hawaii at the time, but after some prayer decided to move back to Grays Harbor to try and help bring some hope – to tell people there is another option and there’s a way we can come out of this and unite together through it,” says Mark. After his move back from paradise, Mark assisted Derek in finishing the song, marking the beginning of their ministry together.
Derek and Mark’s partnership began with the desire to see hope restored in their community. The series of tragedies was a launch pad for their first musical release under the band name, “About the Author.” With some revision of “Hope Around the Corner,” they released the song on YouTube to receive wonderful responses from their community. “People really caught the vision of it. We received all kinds of messages from people all across the country.” reports Derek.
Many of these messages were from people on the brink of suicide, who found optimism in Mark and Derek’s music. Derek recalls one gray-haired lady, old enough to be his grandma, who approached him in tears after a concert. She had been thinking of self harm for weeks but after hearing their song had found hope and asked Derek to pray with her. “We’ve received many messages like this,” says Derek. “It keeps us grounded and reminds why we do what we do.”
After the overwhelming positive reaction to their first single, Derek and Mark continued to write songs stemming from a time where depression and suicide were defining characteristics of their hometown. Desiring to see revival in their community, Derek and Mark went to the studio with their close friend/producer Adamm Mitchell, and finished recording their first group of songs titled “The Harbor;” named after their home in Grays Harbor County.
Since then, Mark and Derek have had the opportunity to travel all over the country and perform in front of crowds of over 60,000 people. They currently reside in Nashville, TN, where they are in the process of producing their first full length project with the talented Micah Kuiper, a songwriter/producer and also band member of Hawk Nelson. In the midst of this success, it would be easy for them to leave Grays Harbor behind in the search of lights and fame. Instead, the duo believes that every success they’ve had and may achieve is by the grace of God alone. “We want to keep our roots and remember where we came from, no matter how successful we may or may not become. Hopefully the songs resonate with people an encourage them as they listen.”