America's Christian Idol

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IMG.jpg(My Going Away Party 1995 before I moved to Nashville)

A couple of days ago I got an email through my Flickr account about some very old photos I had taken from one of my previous lives as a Christian Band Aid. I do hope you have seen Almost Famous.

I can see I have some explaining to do.

There's a line in one of my old poems "In a previous life I was a saint" and I think of that every time I start to try to explain my involvement and now lack thereof in the Christian music industry. You can read a little about it here and here. But the shortest story I'll ever tell about it is this:

In the early to mid 90's I was a daytime radio personality at the contemporary Christian radio station, KOKF in Oklahoma City. One day in 1994 I drove a rented van around all day for and then new band called Audio Adrenaline that was in town doing a concert. Their drummer at the time was a guy named Brian who I began dating and continued to do so off and on for eight years. Those beginning years of our relationship I got to know some other members of the band, especially Bill McGinnis, and their manager, Scott. Said drummer was fired from the band not long after I moved to Nashville in 1995. Around 2003 I lost contact with everyone after finally ending my relationship with the drummer for good and moving to California.

For about ten years I had more than a few friends who were/are very well known in the Christian Music world. And for those of you who think that is a small world, think again. Christian music outsells Jazz, Classical, Latin, Sountracks and Bluegrass. And every year the sales increase. Christian artists are very much celebrities in the Bible belt states like Oklahoma.

Audio Adrenaline became one of the industry's top selling bands, won some Grammys and literally toured the world almost non-stop from 1994 to 2007. But last April they performed their final concert and have finally retired as a band. The person who found my photos on Flickr works for a spin-off charity of the band called the Hands and Feet Project. She seems like a nice enough girl who tells me she wants some old pictures to embarrass the guys with.

I have several good memories of those early days with the band. I went to a lot of shows and it was their manager, Scott who gave me my first ALL ACCESS backstage pass - something I cannot seem to enjoy a concert without now. I learned a lot about managing bands (later became an artist manager myself), the fine art of the head nod (what you do when you have nothing good to say to the person speaking to you), and the bizarre complications of adulation of strangers. The most useful thing Scott taught me about management is this: A good manager should have the ability to basically deliver harsh criticism (You're fired) to someone and have that person say Thank You before they walk away.

In the last week since this girl's request for my old photos I have reminisced a great deal of those years when the answer to my problems was summed up by my friends bible verse quotes and the only thing I need to not feel alone in the world was a song. I don't feel I am exaggerating when I say that Christian music sustained me during my teenage and early adult years.

Unfortunately, as I got older, my questions about the absence of God were not so easily answered. I no longer believe these lyrics in full. I remember the good times with the people who make up bands like Audio Adrenaline and dcTalk, but I also remember the severe heartache that I experienced then. When I speak about Christian music now - or even Christianity - it feels as though I am caressing old scars that are still tender to the touch.

Though Christianity, by definition is about forgiveness and acceptance, it is precisely the lack of those two things that come to mind when I recall my previous life in the Christian music industry. I watched the footage of AA's last concert and it occurred to me that what I wanted to ask those men now was this:
What did you learn on this trip since those early days when we were friends?

I want to hear the new truth.

I'm not giving my photos to this girl who politely asked for them. It would be like Penny Lane selling her story to Teen Beat. I was a part of what was. Not what is. I think I need to keep it that way. At least for now.

My favorite song from the guys. Unfortunately, it never made it as a single.

See Through

I'm unstable and extreme
good to bad , I've been burnt in between
the smoke from the fire in my soul
makes a transparent haze
There are things that I can't hide
that would make some people think I've lied
I try to do right but I fail
don't set your eyes on me

I drive all night to sing this song
but I don't even care
Some people want a piece of me
but I've got none to share

Don't you know that God loves you
Don't you know that I try too
I've been known to miss my cue
Don't look at me I'm see through

I would love to be made perfect
but instead I have the grace of God
you should look through me
and you will see what I want to be

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