Rocketown recording artist Shaun Groves has an ease and boyish charm on stage that belies the fact he never wanted to be a performer. The truth is, Shaun Groves spent a couple of years writing songs and getting turned down by numerous artists before someone suggested he record his own tunes. The result was six Dove nominations for his debut CD "Invitation to Eavesdrop". Not a bad outing for songs nobody wanted.
At a recent concert in Toronto, Groves borrowed a line from a Julia Roberts movie and put his own twist on it, teasing the Tyndale College audience with "I'm just a boy, standing in front of a crowd, asking them to love him." After his first song he had prefaced his appeal by saying this was his first appearance in Canada and a little like a first date for him. Groves had the crowd roaring with laughter. The dialogue between artist and audience continued throughout the evening and it became obvious this is an artist who is at ease interacting with his fans. Nobody was beyond reach, not even the man Groves spotted with a cell phone in his hand and the individual had to confess he had phoned his wife so she could hear her favorite song, Groves' "Welcome Home". The man's wife had been unable to make it to the concert. Groves bid the man to bring the telephone to him, said hello to the lady at the other end, placed the phone on the piano for the duration of the song and then picked up the phone to say goodbye.
The incident described above really describes who Shaun Groves is as a person. As you get to know him you realize that he is a deeply caring and passionate individual. He doesn't mince his words and may even be considered to be outspoken by some, but it comes straight from the heart. This passion is etched in his songwriting.
He continues, "I have always felt that rock music had the dumbest lyrics. I've always been a fan of rock music sonically. I love heavy drums, a nice grungy bass, and a vocal with a little rasp on it. I love that, but I've always, even as a teenager felt the lyrics were either purposefully vague and weird or so overly straightforward and stupid that it was like Cat in the Hat. It was Dr. Seuss."
He thinks of his music as Psalms put to rock music. "I've always been torn between the power and aggressiveness [of rock music]. I just love the sound of rock music and the poetry, depth, wisdom and the thought provoking lyrics of singer/songwriters like Rich Mullins, Carolyn Arends or mainstream like David Wilcox or Sarah McLachlan, people who I look up to. These are amazing lyricists."
He says this attitude helped form the backdrop for the song "See You" based on Romans chapters 7 and 8, combined with some inspiration from his two year old daughter who noticed that the moon and sun were "on" (out) at the same time. He questioned why artists were not taking the depth and poetry of a Rich Mullins and combining lyrics such as are found on Mullins' "The Color Green" with a rock beat similar to bands like Delirious, U2, Vertical Horizon and others.
He describes the song, which appears on his second album "Twilight" as being poetic, but says, "I didn't want to be James Taylor. I didn't want to pick up my acoustic guitar and put some strings on it and make it beautiful because it is also exciting. It's exciting to see God's fingerprints on the world. It's exciting to me."
Unfortunately for Groves despite all his passion the second CD suffered the sophomore jinx and didn't do very well in North America. He says that he zigged when the trend in Christian music was zagging. The trend towards more worship style albums and economic pressures throughout the United States in recent years caused Christian radio stations to take fewer risks and stay with music that represented their core group of donors who help fund many of the stations south of the border.
"I didn't think I cared. The longer the trend continued the fewer interviews I got and the fewer shows I got. The harder it got to pay my bills. I struggled with my identity. I asked God what I did to deserve this. Did I take a wrong turn? I never believed in a prosperity doctrine, where you follow Jesus and your life is great, but I guess I realized subconsciously I must have because when things went wrong I started asking am I doing this right? That's not what I ever taught. That's not what I ever believed."
"I succeeded and I really didn't expect to. I thought I would make one record and I would be out", he says. He thought that he would just go on and become a college pastor or teach saxophone lessons or take up a job as a janitor. Looking back he describes his attitude when he was creating his first CD, "It was really just a whim." He says he looked at it as a great opportunity, "It's not a bad thing. I'll try it. I had no idea I was going to get the awards and the radio play and all these things so I guess I didn't really guard my heart and mind against success." He says he was always the average guy in school or sports and was not used to winning things or experiencing success. When all his success and notoriety disappeared he wasn't prepared for it.
It was through these difficult times and teaching lessons on the Beatitudes to his Bible study group at his church in Franklin, Tennessee, that he began to discover new meaning in phrases like "blessed are the poor in spirit". He says God's message to him has been, "I didn't create you to be successful. I created you to be faithful no matter what the cost." He says he also learned, "It really doesn't matter what anybody thinks about you. What matters is whether you are righteous and pure of heart." Groves says these life lessons led to the creation of several of his songs on his new album "White Flag" being released July 12th.
Writer: Joe Montague