One girl, one guy and A Thousand Miles between them.
A St. Louis, MO native born and raised as a city-slicker, Joe Banua had limited exposure to the life that most country boys would pray for. He may not have been "Huntin' and fishin' and lovin' everyday", but still yet, we think you will find that Joe Banua's country roots run deep and he infuses his music with an eclectic history of influences from Earth, Wind & Fire to Stone Temple Pilots to Lone Star & Garth Brooks.
Brought up with a touring musician for a father, Joe was always immersed in a world of music and began performing on multiple instruments and singing live at a very young age. As a child he would have claimed that his sole purpose was to be a fighter pilot, but he would ultimately lose that battle, as his passion for music would only continue growing as he came of age.
Fresh out of high school, his first steps in the real world were those of a touring musician playing guitar for other Christian contemporary and worship artists around the U.S. Then in 2004 he took his first position at a church in Brownsburg, IN. The next 12 years would be spent as a music director at various churches in the Midwest; separated by a short run on American Idol Season 11.
It was in Hollywood, CA for the filming of the famed "Hollywood Week" that Joe would meet Nikki Dee, another contestant from Brooklyn, NY.
Nikki Dee was born and raised in the very small town of Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, NY. In this quaint community, where she still lives today with her beautiful daughter, Nikki grew up singing at local events, parades, memorials and church shows with her father and grandmother, who both had the gift of song.
When it came time to choose a high school, Nikki had her heart set on Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the acclaimed “Fame” school in Manhattan, immortalized by the movie and Broadway show. Although approximately 15,000 students auditioned, Nikki would be one of only hundreds to be accepted.
Within days of attending the school however, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 took the life of her Uncle, Firefighter Charles “Chucky” Mendez. This heartbreaking event would spark Nikki’s first original song and from that point forward, writing became her emotional outlet as well as a fervid passion.
A year later, she earned the opportunity to sing backup for the multi-platinum singer, songwriter, actor and record producer, Josh Groban at such venues as Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Theater at MSG, Jones Beach, The PNC Bank Arts Center, and on Good Morning America. Soon after, she would be chosen to perform as an opening act for the Barenaked Ladies Holiday Concert at the Beacon Theater.
Over the past decade, Nikki Dee has been a regular National Anthem singer for the New York Mets, but her most memorable opportunity would be appearing on Season 11 of the popular television show, American Idol. With 3 ‘yeses’ from the celebrity judges; Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, and Steven Tyler, Nikki Dee received the golden ticket- an all expenses paid trip to California for “Hollywood Week” where, as you know it, she met Joe Banua (who also received 3 ‘yeses’ from the attractive and talented judges panel).
They didn't know it then, but in the 5 years that followed American Idol, they would be brought together again by a single common thread… ??
[[ September 11, 2001 ]]
In 2014, Joe married the woman of his dreams, Rachel Ardeel; a fellow creative and musician. Their souls instantly clicked on supernatural levels, but it wasn't until after a sudden tragedy struck Rachel's life when her late husband suffered an accidental death. He was a firefighter and police officer who passed tragically off duty. Still in shock and not fully recovered, Rachel happened to reconnect with Joe and they quickly discovered their special bond. In a whirlwind they would be engaged and married and both moving on and enjoying a new life together.
Sadly, in November of 2015 Rachel discovered that she hadn't fully grieved the loss of her late husband. So the healthy and happy couple decided to take the time and effort to be intentional and walk side by side through the grief process. It was during this time, in December 2015, that the two would write the first few lines to the song "SIRENS".
In the early morning hours they sat and talked about the life Rachel lived as the wife of a firefighter and police officer; what their daily routine was like. She talked about the fond times and the hard times. And during that very special moment, with only a few lines written, Joe knew he needed to involve Nikki Dee, his fellow American Idol Alumni, who lost her uncle (FDNY) in the Trade Towers on 9/11/01.
That early morning in December Joe and Rachel prayed that God would use the song to heal hearts. They only had a few lines, but they prayed that the rest of the world could feel what they felt when they sang the words, ??
"When you hear sirens... don't worry for me."
Following that night, they would not receive a single word of this song for 6 months. Joe and Rachel tried to be intentional about writing and finishing it... but nothing surfaced for 6 months.
Then, in June of 2016 the entire song came flooding in all at once. Within 2 hours it was completed. They were so excited about the song that they called their producer for the upcoming 5 song EP (David Zaffiro) and told him they would like to focus solely on this single and release it first. Little did they know that 4 days later 49 innocent lives would be taken in Orlando, FL. Then a month later, 5 officers would lose their lives under sniper fire in Dallas, TX. And 10 days after that, 3 more officers would be lost in Baton Rouge, LA.
It was clear that the song was not supposed to be finished in December 2015. Joe and Rachel believe God has a plan for "Sirens" and that our first responders, police, fire, rescue, military and our fellow Americans need this song... now.
After the release of “Sirens”, fans expressed their love for Joe and Nikki as a duo. They wanted to hear more from the two of them, saying their voices were made for each other. With much deliberation, Joe and Nikki shook hands on the name, A Thousand Miles, based on the myriad of miles between Nikki’s hometown in Brooklyn, NY and Joe in Nashville, TN.
A Thousand Miles is looking forward to releasing 5 more songs on their upcoming EP coming out in 2017, but for now, they have been so blown away by the feedback of first responders, their families and country fans all together. They hope that "Sirens" will help many hearts heal and give families hope that they will see their fallen heroes again, someday.