Surprising New Ventures
The multi-talented mainstream rocker Michael Damian
By Andy Argyrakis, Senior Music Editor, GospelMusicChannel.com
Between its anthemic status and conquest of the Billboard Hot 100's top spot throughout the late 1980s, hardly a day goes by when Michael Damian's rollicking rendition of Rock On doesn't earn mainstream airplay. From then until now, the BMI Songwriting Award winner scored 8 top 40 hits, sang the Saved By the Bell theme song, starred on The Facts of Life, played the lead in Broadway's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and recently reprised his longstanding role on the 35th anniversary episode of The Young And The Restless (returning to the mainstream charts with the soundtrack single Getting So Much Better). But throughout the entire rock n' roll ride and beyond, the switch hitter's kept his feet on the ground thanks to an unwavering faith. "There are a lot of obstacles in the entertainment industry and you can get depressed and really frustrated," he notes. "Faith has really helped me in what I've achieved throughout my life, and it's given me strong principles to live by and guide me. I know rock n' roll's supposed to be all about sex and drugs, but it's never been my thing."
Of course, having a jam packed schedule between the studio, stage and screen hasn't exactly allowed ample free time for backstage revelry, plus Damian is a family man who just teamed up with his wife Janeen to write and direct the faith-based film Moondance Alexander (20th Century Fox), plus produce and provide background vocals for the soundtrack. The recently released DVD stars Kay Panabaker (Summerland), Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Lori Loughlin (Full House) and Sasha Cohen (Olympic Skating Silver Medalist) telling the tale of a young girl who finds a runaway Pinto pony and stands by her convictions in the face of resistance. "The most important aspect of the story is to be kind, charitable and to forgive, plus people who've been deemed as outcasts need the chance to be redeemed," explains Damian. "When you have a dream, pursue it, and even though there are roadblocks, have faith."
Speaking of multi-faceted entertainers, guitarist Jason Truby is a man of many genres, starting with the heavy handed likes of Living Sacrifice, joining melodic hard rockers P.O.D. and releasing a pair of jazz fusion instrumental recordings (with Phil Keaggy serving as his mentor). Though he's currently supporting the instrumental album Waiting On the Wind, the seasoned guitar slinger just revealed he's gearing up for a vocal debut disc, slated to hit stores later this year.
"I hope these tunes are innovative and expressive as past projects, but with less boundary and more fusion of styles and technique," says Truby of his current and forthcoming forecasts. "For me to presume how it will be received would do the music itself and the listener an injustice. The process of hearing a song for the first time and being impacted in whatever way is one of joys of personal interpretation. It is not a one sided deal. The surprises will be just that...a surprise."
In the spirit of surprises, Australian touring sensations/alternative worship band Hillsong United just unveiled Houston's Grace Community Church as the Integrity recording act's sole stop in America this year. On August 22-23, musicians, youth leaders, students and worshippers of all association will descend upon the Hillsong United Conference for concerts, speaking sessions and small groups. "Hillsong United has been coming to Houston for years and built a really faithful following in the area," says vice president of Integrity Live Events Rod Arnold of the geographical decision. "There are plans to expand into new areas in 2009, but we want to go to those who have supported them in the U.S. from way back."
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, 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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