Matt Hammitt lead vocalist for the Ohio band Sanctus Real recently reflected back on this past year and discussed the album "Fight the Tide", after learning that the group had been nominated for four Dove Awards. Sanctus Real was nominated for "Modern Rock Album of the Year" ("Fight the Tide"), "Rock Recorded Song of the Year" ("Everything About You"), "Modern Rock Recorded Song of the Year" ("Alone") and "Special Event Album of the Year" (U2 Cover of "Beautiful Day" for the album "In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa". The latter was the band's first number one hit.
Sanctus Real demonstrates the tremendous ability to combine an edgy rock sound with a heart that yearns to be drawn closer to God. Think of the songs on "Fight the Tide" as the Psalms put to rock music and you begin to understand what this album is all about.
When asked what the band wants fans to take away with them when they hear these songs Hammitt replied, "First of all I want people to listen to the record and really think it rocks! I want people to think these guys really can jam and really write good songs. I want people to appreciate the music and then I hope in appreciating the music that they really will find the message. They are both important." Thus Hammitt believes that by writing and performing good music it provides a greater audience and therefore a greater opportunity for the band to share their faith.
"Fight the Tide" is an album that has many tunes that could easily be played on Christian or mainstream radio but Hammit says the intent was to meet the needs of a Christian audience with this CD. He describes the recurring themes of the songs as being about relationships, how we communicate with one another, and communicate with God. He says the songs are also intended to let the listener know that God is still seeking us even when we are trying to hide or may have turned our backs on Him. The song "You Can't Hide" which he co-wrote with Chris Rohman has a line that says, "When you think you've escaped He's right there beside you." Hammitt says, "He still desperately wants to know us."
One song on "Fight the Tide" that speaks about relationships and communication comes straight from Hammitt's marriage. In the early days of their marriage he and his wife had a disagreement over something he now refers to as small and got blown out of proportion, but he needed to spend time soul searching and sat down with his guitar to do just that. Soon it turned into a prayer and eventually the song "Change Me" was born. The message says Hammitt is that the singer is asking God to begin to mould him more in the direction of love and patience and to be kinder and gentler not just in his marriage but in all relationships. It is a prayer offered up from his own heart as he says he wants to "become more kind and gentle like Jesus taught us to do."
The creation of "Fight the Tide" took place at a time when Hammitt was going through a musical awakening of his own. In his own words, "I actually started getting hooked on finding music that would be non typical for me and I began falling in love with music again." It may surprise the fans of Sanctus Real to learn that Matt Hammitt's preferences in music run the gamut from Sigur Ros to Johnny Cash and includes folk singer Mindy Smith. He does however still maintain a strong taste for rock by Christian musicians like Switchfoot. He feels his eclectic tastes in music reflect his growth as an artist and the band maturing.
In speaking about "In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa" Hammit said, "This project was a really cool way to step out and not just be a part of a project that raises money for Aids in Africa but a project that has a real voice too, and says to the Christian community, 'hey this is a real problem and we need to wake up'. I think there are people out there that if they knew more about what's going on, you know that they would really be able to do more about it." He calls working on the album a real honour.
The album also came with a lot of practical rewards as well. It was through the production of this compilation CD that they met Tedd T. (Rebecca St James, Delirious) who would become the producer of "Fight the Tide". The cover of the U2 song "Beautiful Day" also became the first number one hit for Sanctus Real. "In a sense it was very bittersweet for us because we wanted our first number one song to be one of our songs, but at the same time the awareness attached to the song also made people familiar with who we were."
The band members, Matt Hammitt, guitarist Chris Rohman, bassist Steve Goodrum, and drummer Mark Graalman are not only maturing musically but spiritually as well. They are learning to adapt to the rigours of touring without allowing it to interfere with their relationship with Christ or their families. Hammit said, "We've learned in these past three years how to really open the lines of communication with our bandmates, our wives, and pastoral leadership in our lives and to really tap into the true source of our strength when we're on the road, which is Christ." Hammitt goes on to add, "We've really started learning how to make all of these things work together and how to encourage each other."
There doesn't seem to be any concern that this new found success will cause the band to become complacent as Hammit is quite clear when he said, "I know every day how blessed I am not just to be a part of certain ministries that I wouldn't have a platform to promote without my music, but just the opportunity we have as a band to come in contact with people we have looked up to our entire lives, and actually get a chance to learn from those people."
For more on Sanctus Real visit: www.sanctusreal.com
Writer: Joe Montague