Thursday, August 25, 2011

Artist Profile: Tenth Avenue North


It’s easy to get the wrong impression of the contemporary Christian music group, Tenth Avenue North be just reading the group’s entries on social media sites. For instance, if you are one of the 407,762* people who “like” them on Facebook, you may come to the conclusion that they are a very holy, spiritual and somber bunch. For instance, take this recent post: “Spirit, help us hear you.” However, it is a different story over on Twitter: “We know how to sleep on planes, on the floor...in the exit row.” Could this be the same band? Perhaps they are more light-hearted on Twitter because they only have 29,757* followers there and feel like they can let their hair down a bit.

I got the chance to see both sides of the group personally last July at the Creation Northwest music festival in Enumclaw, WA. For those who think that there is a big story behind the band name, there isn’t. The original band members met 10 years ago at Palm Beach Atlantic College in Florida and the school was (and still is) located at...10th Avenue North. It’s a good thing the school wasn’t located at 123 Lame Street or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
The current version of Tenth Avenue North consists of five members: Mike, Jason, Jeff, Ruben and newbie Brendan. Mike is the lead vocalist and most appropriately, the most outspoken of the group. Ironically, if it wasn’t for a big event that happened in Mike’s life, Tenth Avenue North may not be in existence today. Mike plays the acoustic guitar that he picked up during his senior year of high school after a bad car accident. Since he would be laid up for a few months and was bored, he asked for a guitar for Christmas. It just might have been the best Christmas gift ever.

Even after ten years of practice, the group still says that they are trying to find their way in the Christian music industry. When I ask, “How so?” they are silent for a second or two and then say, “We want to follow the spirit and not the system.” All of the band members have held jobs at their local churches and have seen the good and bad of Christianity. They just want to be as authentic as they can.

Besides playing electric guitar, Jeff is probably the wittiest one of the bunch. When I ask the group, “What can we expect with the new album you are working on?” The uniquely Korean/Irish man speaks up and says, “Same euphoria, different approach.” Spoken like a true marketer. This makes sense since it comes from the guy who initially wanted to help finance and market musicians, but couldn’t handle the business classes. He has the gift of sarcasm (which I can appreciate) and it slips through stone face serious lips. It was hard to know when he was messing with me.

Jason and Ruben get the awards for band members with the longest history of playing instruments. Jason is a self-taught drummer who has been playing since 8th grade. Bass player, Ruben, has also been playing since middle school but breaks the tie with his knowledge of piano, which he began at the age of seven.

And then there’s Brendon. Brendon is the first to shake my hand but the last to speak. He’s the quiet keyboard player who is so new to the group, he isn’t even featured on the band’s website. He says he on a bit of a learning curve trying to figure out how he fits in with the group. He seems to fit in just fine. To know the complete history of the band, you will want to check out the video, “The History of Tenth Avenue North in 4 Minutes or Less” featured on this page.
The casual listener may also be surprised to know that Ten Avenue North can rock. Probably better known for their softer GMA Dove award-winning songs “By Your Side” (Song of the Year 2010) and “Hold My Heart” (Song the Year 2011), the group treated the Creation crowd to both sides of their musical talent and no one left unimpressed. No one can doubt the group’s sincerity in what they sing and it is no use trying to not tap your toe to the song, “Healing Begins.”

Fans that can’t wait until the release of the new album (not due until mid 2012), can get a respite with a free download of the unreleased song, “You Don’t Owe Me” by visiting theirwebsite. The song relates to the older brother of the prodigal son story and  “gently” reminds us that God doesn’t “owe” as anything and that everything we have is blessing. It has a similar sound to an older Supertramp song. It’s bluesy and begs you to snap your fingers along with it. (*As of 8/22/11)


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