The Gravity Band: Songs for the Soul

The Gravity Band
By Meredith Jean Morris

On most Saturday mornings, schoolteachers relish the opportunity to sleep in and enjoy a day off. Not so with Lake Alfred Addair Middle School band director Stephen Cornelius.

At 4 a.m. he’s awake and working on a new song.

“I’ll wake up early, bored and just open a notebook and start writing,” Stephen says. “Maybe I’ll take notes on a topic. A recent one was people who got hurt at church and stopped coming. From those notes, the melody comes from that.”

A few hours into his work, his songwriting partner joins him.

“After I’ve been working on the melody, Leslie wakes up and I’ll tell her, ‘Here’s a song,’” Stephen says of his wife and musical partner. “We’ll put it with the guitar, maybe change some lines and then put it on the computer. We’ll eventually have a song that’s ready for the public.”

All this work happens between 4 and 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings.

During the last six months, the songwriting duo has shared their music with a growing audience as Gravity, a two-person band.

Stephen and Leslie Cornelius are a modern-day love story. They met on an online dating website, and after several months of traveling between Orange and Polk counties for dates, became engaged. They celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary on Oct. 27, 2013.

“Music has been a part of our lives since our childhoods,” says Leslie, an upbeat sixth-grade language arts teacher, of their mutual passion.

That passion was part of what drew them together. After getting married, Stephen and Leslie brought their musical talents to Dundee’s Church on the Hill, where they play in a praise and worship band. Leslie plays the drums; Stephen, the guitar.

“We both are part of the worship team at Church on the Hill,” Leslie says of their Sunday morning and Wednesday night activities. “Even though we are both Christians, we also enjoy playing music that has a bluesy, rock feel to it.”

An interest in different styles of music led them to start writing songs in June 2013.

“The music we like isn’t the typical music Christian radio stations play,” Leslie says. “We felt there was a need to write lyrics that were honest about the struggles of both Christians and non-Christians.”

That mutual struggle inspired the name for their band.

“Everybody has something that’s pulling them, whether it’s good or bad,” Stephen says. “There are lots of forces in our life pulling us and sustaining us. In my life, it’s my faith. Other people have other things pulling at them. Gravity is just one of those we don’t think about.”

Stephen and Leslie want their music to relate to people regardless of their religious background.

“People often look at Christians and think they have to be perfect,” Stephen says. “We need to be honest about our struggles because they are the same as what the non-Christians have.”

In addition to playing original songs, a Gravity performance might also include music ranging from Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana to contemporary Christian and nearly everything in between.

“We got the idea to start the band back over the summer when we were sitting in a restaurant,” Stephen says. “We were thinking about the live music in the restaurant. With a drummer and a guitar player, we thought, we could do this.”

While Gravity is building its fan base, Stephen and Leslie have had consistent gigs in local restaurants, including Acropolis Bistro and Island Grill and Bar in Winter Haven.

“The places we play have great food and atmosphere. We like to eat at the places we play,” Stephen says, chuckling. “That’s part of playing at a restaurant — we don’t want our people coming to a place where we wouldn’t eat.”

Chris Cobb recently attended a Gravity show.

“When I heard them play, there was some Johnny Cash and then something you’d hear at church,” says Cobb, the worship leader at Church on the Hill. “Stephen is a funny guy, so he interacts with the crowd really well. They both are musically very talented. There are not many bands that are just drums, acoustic guitar and vocals, but they come together with a very eclectic, diverse style.”

Gravity plays music for fans of all ages, Cobb says.

“When we were there listening to them, I was trying to get my little girls up on the dance floor,” he says, laughing. “It’s just a good time at their shows.”

The growing fan base has been a surprise for Stephen and Leslie.

“When we started, we didn’t really expect to have a lot of people come out,” Stephen says. “Maybe just Mom and Dad and a couple of close friends. For our first show, half of our church showed up. It was pretty rad.”

As their audience grows, Stephen and Leslie are working on a record of their original music.

“Our goal over the summer was just to get enough money to get a record done at a good studio,” Stephen says.

“We’ve played enough gigs to pay for it, and a friend at church had a fundraiser for us.”

After having spent time in the studio in November, Gravity will have its CD release party at Island Bar and Grill on Dec. 14. The CD will be available on iTunes, and Napster.

“We think people will really enjoy hearing our music,” Leslie says. “God really has blessed us. Just because you can write music doesn’t mean you’re going to work well together. We just love the music and want to share it.”