Then & Now with Randy Stonehill, Fusebox's Front Man
By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com
Ever wonder what your favorite Christian rockers from back in the day are up to these days? Well here's the first in a randomly recurring series catching fans up to speed with the latest endeavors from a pair of unforgettable stars.
Stonehill Soldiers On
As one of the troubadours who literally started the Jesus Music movement, Randy Stonehill is unquestionably a legend who continues to stay razor sharp as he reaches veteran status. The 57-year-old icon's been cranking out socially and spiritually conscious recordings since 1971, merging folk-tinged rock stylings a la Tom Petty or The Byrds with a witty undercurrent.
Outside of a plethora of famed solo CDs, Stonehill's other notable projects include The Keaggy/Stonehill Band (with fellow luminary Phil Keaggy), transforming into the children's character Uncle Stonehill and collaborating with just about every major player in the CCM scene.
One unmistakable tag team came with the late great Larry Norman, who produced Stonehill's classic 1976 album Welcome to Paradise and 1980's The Sky Is Falling, which were recently re-recorded and re-imagined on the single CD release Paradise Sky. Stonehill's new treatments throughout the best of both batches simultaneously give the retro tracks a modern day facelift and serve as the soundtrack to the film Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman.
"I didn't want to over think it and I also didn't want to mess much with people's memories, which was a bit of a squirrelly challenge to get back and sort of pull older material out of time," Stonehill recalls of the sessions. "I remember John Lennon always saying he wished he could re-record some of the early Beatles material having learned what he had as a craftsman and with access to ever growing technology. How cool and bizarre is the fact that I can utilize this material for a soundtrack, but it won't sound archaic or dated. I was able to revisit some of key material having learned what I have as craftsman and having liberty when it comes to today's technology!"
The results have been overwhelmingly favorable with fervent fans, who are also flipping cartwheels over the fact Stonehill recently reunited with Keaggy for the forthcoming record Mystery Highway, which will be a supported by a full-fledged tour.
"We just got together as old friends who shared a common history and common musical loves and we started creating these songs, really just as a lark," adds Stonehill. "I would come to Nashville to write with various country artists, which is an area I branched out in lately, and I'd always build in a day for lunch with Phil to talk life. And being who we are, we'd end up pulling out guitars and kicking around song ideas when he got this happy gleam in his eye and said 'let's go in the studio and blow this thing down.' We had so much fun that he emailed me a few days later and said, 'Man you want to make a record?'and I didn't have to think twice about that!"
The Vertical Side of Fusebox's Front Man
Throughout much of the 1990s into the 2000s, Fusebox found fame as Rebecca St. James' backing band and later scored its own record deal with Elevate/Inpop to release a series of rock and soul-infused worship records (including the monster smash Once Again). As time progressed, members slowly went in separate directions, leaving front man Billy Buchanan leading the group with a revolving door of backers.
"After the original line-up, it became more about me and whoever I had in the band, which got a little silly, [carrying] on the name when it really wasn't," the longtime leader admits. "So I just made decision after I moved to Florida to accept a worship director position to put out records on my own. As I kid I had always wanted to do that, plus I continued writing on my own all throughout Fusebox, so it was a natural transition."
With so many ideas on the backburner, plus a continuous creative drive, Buchanan's upcoming project will be the double disc Heaven and Earth, which finds the first installment focusing on more vertical themes and the second dealing with relationships and daily circumstances.
"It's a democracy in a band setting, and sometimes you feel a song should go in a certain direction, but it didn't go that way because of a compromise," he unveils. "Nowadays there's a freedom in going wherever I want to go, and I generally write my songs on just an acoustic guitar. It's a lot more organic and I could probably play them by myself and have it still come across, whereas in Fusebox, it was very riff-oriented and it wouldn't come across as well with just you and a guitar. It has some differences, but it's still my voice and I think people who listened to Fusebox are worshippers at their core. Musically this may be different, but it's all vertical music to God, and at the end of the day, that's what people enjoy."
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).
News You May Also Like
Download of the Week