Leap of Faith: Six Degrees of Musical Separation
Photo credit: Tec Petaja
Faith-based entertainers making a splash in the mainstream is nothing new. But a trend is emerging in the world of pop and rock music in which artists are no longer being labeled as “crossover” acts, but instead are reinventing themselves with new names and musical styles. Some might not have ever recorded for the Christian marketplace, but nonetheless are meeting in the middle where creativity intersects faith.
While some seem as though they’ve lost their way and are still searching, still others remain grounded. Find out whatever happened to... , as gmc reveals which famous faces you might know more about than you think.
1. The Civil Wars
The end of 2011 found The Civil Wars landing on literally all the top critic’s picks lists and all the hype behind Barton Hollow is certainly warranted. After all, the folk-tinged singer/songwriter collection appeals simultaneously to hipsters and radio listeners alike, all while being centered around authentic songwriting. Oddly enough, the duo consists of one-time Christian pop starlet Joy Williams and the bluesy, southern rock troubadour John Paul White, who despite coming from seemingly divergent backgrounds, sound cohesive and practically pitch-perfect together. Though the group isn’t sold in Christian stores per say, perhaps Williams best summarized the group’s spiritual stance in a recent chat with Relevant: “We’ve each been in the industry for over a decade, and we cut our teeth in different ways. We’ve worked really hard, and I would never say we deserved this, but we’ve sweated and cried and put a lot on the line to do music, so to see momentum growing organically in a way we never thought makes us so thrilled... We sing gospel songs sometimes, but we also sing about cigarettes.”
2. Katy Perry
Exactly a decade ago, Katy Hudson was also topping year-end countdowns with her critically lauded, self-titled debut. It would be seven years until the world at large would hear her voice again, though a name change to Katy Perry found her trading in spiritually centered songwriting for secular love songs (some of which were trailed by controversy). Nonetheless, Perry still professed her belief in Christ, along with some other less accepted ones, during a Rolling Stone cover story interview: “God is very much still a part of my life. But the way the details are told in the Bible – that’s very fuzzy for me… I still believe that Jesus is the son of God. But I also believe in extraterrestrials, and that there are people sent from God to be messengers, and all sorts of crazy stuff.”
3. Foster the People
Rebecca St. James will always be known as Christian music’s ultimate purity princess, but she also has a connection to one of the hottest modern rock bands in the mainstream. She recently tied the knot with Jacob Fink, a one-time missionary in South Africa who had a television production career prior to becoming a musician. And for those who do some digging, he currently pops up under the nickname Cubbie Fink while serving as the bassist for Sony signees Foster the People, who are currently up for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” and “Best Alternative Album” at the 54th GRAMMY Awards.
4. Nikki & Rich
Throughout the late 1990s, Nikki Leonti was one of Christian music’s brightly burning pop stars, but she stepped out of that world by the 2000s. That decade saw her pursuing mainstream R&B music, which currently resides in the Reprise Records’ duo Nikki & Rich (also featuring Rich Velonskis). “Rich got his start as a DJ in New York and quickly escalated as a producer for artists such as Robin Thicke, Mario [and] Eve, and received a GRAMMY for his contribution on Ludacris’ Release Therapy album,” Leonti told PopEater.com. “I started as a singer in gospel music and later toured as a background vocalist for Carrie Underwood. Both of us came from completely different sides of the music world but at the same time complimented each other in our writing/music partnership.”
5. Hot Chelle Rae
It’s impossible to turn on a pop music station these days and not hear Hot Chelle Rae’s sing-a-long smash “Tonight Tonight.” Even though the group is fully immersed in that musical spectrum, the Nashville-based band includes bassist Ian Keaggy, who just so happens to be the son of legendary guitarist Phil Keaggy. The father/son team even toured together before Hot Chelle Rae took off and they’ve also tag teamed in the elder Keaggy’s ongoing Compassion International child sponsorship efforts.
6. Tony Vincent
The 1990s also saw the ascent of dance/pop star Tony Vincent, who collaborated with producers like Charlie Peacock and Brent Bourgeois to become one of the most promising voices in Christian music. However, it turned out his voice was so potent that Broadway and London’s West End wound up borrowing the mighty belter, who’s thus far appeared in “Rent,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “We Will Rock You” and “American Idiot.” In 2011, it seemed as though Vincent was returning to faith-based rock n’ roll via a Twitter-announced collaboration with dcTalk’s Kevin Max, though he’s since returned to theatrical territory, most recently paying tribute to Queen’s Freddie Mercury in London.
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About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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