Sanctus Real is the real deal in Christian music
By Peter Elliott | Everyday Christian Editor
Posted 9:56 am on March 18, 2010
Sanctus Real has produced seven number one hits on the Christian charts and earned a Grammy Award nomination in 2009. Despite their great music and repeated success, this band does not have the name recognition it deserves.
Perhaps it’s their not-so-easy to remember name.
However, their music is very memorable, and a force to be reckoned with.
Their latest release titled “Pieces of a Real Heart” is no exception.
Late in 2009 the pre-released cut “Forgiven” hit number one, months prior to the official release of the CD several days ago.
Sanctus Real offers strong lyrics, music and faith. The new release is everything -- and more -- that should be expected.
I had the privilege of speaking with lead vocalist Matt Hammitt. I presented some intimate questions about the band and was impressed by his humble spirit and demeanor.
Life on the road is physically and mentally draining. Each gig is the highlight of someone’s day, week or perhaps life. It is difficult to match that intensity each and every show, day after day, year after year.
I asked Matt where the band finds the time to worship. “It is difficult to find the time, we really appreciate Sundays,” he said. The band intentionally assembles to for Bible study and prayer.
Matt has been a Christian since he was very young and couldn’t pinpoint a specific turning point. He said, “It has been milestones of faith, tough to define one moment. It has been a faith building journey and an ongoing process”.
Touring is exceptionally taxing on relationships. Four of the five members are married, two have children. Sanctus Real is a heavily touring band, performing about 150 shows annually.
And their polish as recording artists shows on “Pieces of a Real Heart,” which was described to me as a reflection of the band’s transparence and personal vulnerability.
“Show me you're willing to fight, that I'm still the love of your life. I know we call this our home, But I still feel alone.” is an excerpt from their currently released single titled, “Lead Me.”
“Lead Me” is very melodic and soulful. Matt described it as a reflection of his marriage and family mixed with a life of touring. He said the early years of touring were difficult on his wife and their relationship. He has become diligent to consciously pursue and build a strong relationship with his family. The band works closely with their booking agent and strategically schedules touring breaks so family is never sacrificed. Matt intentionally makes time to use the online video call service Skype and pray with his wife and family.
“Pieces of a Real Heart” contains many potential chart-topping hits for this five-member band consisting of lead vocalist Hammitt, Mark Graalman on drums, Dan Gartley on bass and guitarists Chris Rohman and Pete Prevost. “Lead Me” is just one example of the depth of personal expression Sanctus Real offers up on this 11-song endeavor. My favorite is track six,” Take Over Me.” I favor the rock edge and great message.
So how does a band destined to become a giant in the Christian music industry deal with recognition and fame?
Matt offered his insight, “You just can’t lose the vision of Christ. It’s a mindset; you can become a slave to the business side of music. As a band you must always recall what you’re meant to do.”
Sanctus Real is fortunate to have the support of a good record company. Most secular record labels dominate their artists and will strangle you contractually should you chew through the leash. The band’s label, Sparrow Records works closely with the group. Matt said they mutually collaborate and are mostly in agreement with the band’s business, artistic, and faith values. “Even when we disagree, our record label will respectfully debate their position,” he said.
Their new CD was two years in the making and was a collective effort.
As a producer, I can tell you it is difficult for a band to hit the road and immediately begin touring. Britney Spears and Lady Gaga are prime examples. They are both heavily produced, which means their songs are riddled with many layers of instrumentation, sounds, special effects and backup vocals. This intense studio production is difficult to pull off live without a strategic large scale production. Many bands must actually learn to play their own songs after leaving the studio due to months of on-the-spot creativity, adjustments and alterations made during the creation of an album.
Sanctus Real has experienced just such pain and prepared well for this release. They kept the production more natural and simplified the music. Matt said the band began in advance of recording sessions to develop their arrangements and individual musical contributions. Their planning is your advantage. Most bands which skillfully exemplify this process and create great music are often exceptional when performing live. From what I’ve seen of their live performances on YouTube, their current tour is going to be outstanding.
The Sanctus Real library is a must for every Christian’s music collection. This current album will not disappoint. Five stars for “Pieces of a Real Heart.” Remember, if you copy it, you’re stealing it, pay for all downloads so we can keep great music alive for our pleasure and the benefit of Christ!
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