Why Tenth Avenue North Isn't Afraid to Tackle Taboo Subjects In Christian Music


It's common for a Christian file label to name employees collectively and have a band play new music and share their ideas and inspiration behind the songs. What is uncommon is for that presentation to incorporate matters resembling porn, lust, abuse and homosexuality. But then once more, Tenth Avenue North has by no means been your common Christian band. They proceed to problem perceptions and rock the established order with their new EP The Things We've Been Afraid to Say.

"The primary purpose we determined to do that file and make all of it about this was I used to be studying [the Bible] in Luke 6 and Jesus says to the Pharisees, the spiritual elite of the time, 'You thought your job was to be in style, however your job is to inform the reality,'" Tenth Avenue North's lead vocalist/principal songwriter Mike Donehey tells Billboard. "As a songwriter, I notice if I solely launch music that I do know goes to be industrial profitable -- and I do know that must be a part of the deal, we've made file contracts and promoting music is a part of the equation -- but when that's all I do as a songwriter, then I don't assume I'm actually telling the reality anymore. I'm simply promoting the components of the reality that I do know individuals need to hear and I don't need to promote the reality. I need to inform the reality."

In doing so, the brand new EP touches on matters not normally addressed in Christian music resembling sexual abuse, pornography and further marital attraction. "Covenant" was impressed by a poem penned by A Wrinkle in Time writer Madeleine L'Engle. "She writes this poem to her husband saying principally, 'I felt this spark with this different man at a writing convention and I virtually went to mattress with him, however proper once I may have gone into his lodge room, we simply mentioned goodbye and walked the opposite manner.' She mentioned to her husband, 'I spotted that feeling, that spark with that different man, it doesn't imply what we have now isn't actual. In reality, by leaving that spark behind and by selecting you once more, it really makes what we have now even stronger. It makes it much more lovely,' and so I used to be like, 'Hey what if we wrote a tune telling individuals it's okay in the event you really feel drawn to different individuals apart from your partner?' and so they [bandmates Jeff Owen, Ruben Juarez III and Brendon Shirley] have been like, 'That's cool, however nobody will ever hearken to it.'"

So they began taking part in it of their exhibits and response has been attention-grabbing. "I've been sharing that each evening on tour saying, 'I'm completely in love with my spouse and nonetheless in a position to be drawn to different individuals,' and you could possibly hear a pin drop," the married father of 4 daughters says. "But the primary time we performed it, two totally different informed the pastor that they have been in the course of going by means of a divorce and so they have been going to retract their divorce and attempt to work on their marriage after listening to the tune."

The band members have intensive expertise juggling marriage, profession, infants, expectations and public opinion. This yr marks 10 years since Tenth Avenue North signed with Reunion Records and launched the debut album Over and Underneath, which spawned a number of hits, together with "By Your Side," which received the Dove Award for Song of the Year in 2010. Longtime members Donehey and Owen, the guitar impresario who produced the majority of The Things We've Been Afraid to Say, lately launched a brand new imprint, Remade Records, and the brand new venture is the primary on the Remade label. They've additionally signed a brand new band, Land of Color, whose self-titled EP is out now.

With a decade of hits behind them, Tenth's members felt bolder about tackling powerful topics not typically discovered on Christian music albums, and difficult different believers to take a look at how they work together with the world. In an more and more divisive local weather, "Love Anyway" is a name for tolerance with a lyric that claims "Race, weapons, refugee wars/We're recognized for who we're towards/Yeah, however who're we for?"

"We discuss secrets and techniques. We discuss hating individuals who vote in another way than you. We discuss pornography and informal intercourse," he says. "I imagine God's kindness is what modifications us. Romans 2 says it's the kindness of God that really results in repentance. It's not the judgment and concern of God. It's the kindness of God that produces change in us, so as a substitute of railing, 'You guys want to vary this about yourselves,' I'm making an attempt to look in my very own coronary heart and go, 'Well what do I must let God change in me? And how can I be trustworthy about these issues in a manner that brings individuals in and doesn't construct extra partitions of conserving individuals out?'"

One of the issues that impressed the plea for tolerance in "Love Anyway" is the way in which Donehey's homosexual brother has been bullied. "He informed me, 'I've distance myself from you as a result of I didn't need to damage your Christian music profession.' He mentioned, 'Your followers have discovered me on Instagram and simply railed towards me as a result of by my footage they are saying, "This type of life that you just lead, it's a tragedy that you're so removed from God and also you're brother is such an awesome instance."' So for individuals who say that they're followers of Jesus to exit of their method to condemn my brother, who they don't even know, I can't consider something extra counter-gospel, counter-good information, counter-Jesus than looking for out individuals to sentence them. Jesus mentioned 'I didn't come to the world to sentence them. I got here down to save lots of the world.' It's a very essential factor for individuals to know that. The gay group, they know the way the church feels about it. You don't want to strengthen it anymore."

Tenth Avenue North tackles the problem of pornography within the tune "Counterfeits." The roots of the tune began with a staple on the band's bus that Donehey makes use of to maintain away temptation. "I wrote a weblog a pair years in the past known as 'My Porn Clock,'" he says. "Basically as a substitute of utilizing the alarm on my cellphone in my bunk, I take advantage of a clock. On a tour bus, you've got your individual little bunk, with just a little curtain. When you might be married and also you've bought children, the potential for pornography when you're at house is drastically diminished simply by circumstance, however when you're on the highway, you've got limitless hours by your self. You are in your individual little bunk and I do know a variety of dudes who bought actually hooked on pornography. It began as a result of they have been utilizing their cellphone as their alarm clock and so they'd deliver their cellphone into their bunk and so they'd begin simply scrolling late at evening simply limitless hours porn. So a technique I attempt to hold myself from pornography is as a substitute of bringing my telephone in my bunk, I deliver just a little alarm clock."

Donehey admits his preliminary weblog concerning the porn clock wasn't nicely acquired. "Within minutes I in all probability had 15 feedback of individuals saying, 'I'm burning all of your music. I'm by no means listening to your band once more. You clearly aren't a Christian for the truth that you even need to have a look at porn. You must go meet Jesus,'" he remembers of the backlash. "I used to be like, 'Oh in order that's why individuals don't discuss this stuff.' It's humorous as a result of within the weblog, I didn't even say I needed to take a look at porn. I didn't even admit to pornography. I simply mentioned in case it ever did occur, I had this guardrail and I nonetheless bought that blasted."

Tackling one other taboo, the final tune on the EP, "I'm Listening," offers with sexual abuse. "It's three totally different tales from three individuals I do know in my life and I type of generalized them as mom, sister, and brother, however I took three individuals's tales as a result of I've by no means heard a tune from CCM [contemporary Christian music] that even tries to speak about this," he says. "The tune known as 'I'm Listening' as a result of probably the most highly effective factor you may say is, 'I'm going to hearken to you.' I've had a minimum of 10 private messages and the file has solely been out a few days. A lady mentioned, 'I used to be sexually abused by my pastor and I'm not a Christian anymore due to it, however I want this tune was out eight years in the past once I was coping with this.' Another one lady wrote me and goes, 'I train center schoolers and I'm making an attempt to undo the unjust that was accomplished to me. And I do know that that pastor was not like who Jesus was, so I haven't given up on Jesus fairly but.' For me, man, I'd reasonably get that message than a gold file hanging on the wall any day of the week."

It's refreshing to listen to a Christian band be so open with points that many individuals wrestle with. "I'm not afraid in my songwriting to deliver the complete power of my questions and confusion to God," says Donehey, who based the band throughout his school days in West Palm Beach, Florida in 2000. "There's really a wierd peace that comes once I really let God have it as a result of he can take it. So 'the issues we've been afraid to say' aren't the issues I've been afraid to say to God. It's the arguments with God I've been afraid to let different individuals hear."

Donehey is aware of they're charting a novel course with these new songs and he's comfortable with that. "In the Christian business individuals need to hear about our struggles, so long as they're previous tense as a result of it's too difficult to say, 'Jesus doesn't all the time redeem us from our struggles, generally he redeems us by means of our struggles,'" Donehey says. "That's scary for some as a result of lots of people don't really come to Jesus simply to get Jesus. They come to Jesus to get Jesus to do one thing for them and so if I stand there and go, 'I rise up and I sing about Jesus each evening and my life nonetheless isn't excellent,' that may be unnerving for some individuals."

When requested why they solely did a six-song EP, not a full album, Donehey laughs and says, "There's a way of that is in all probability all that individuals can deal with. I thought of doing an entire file and I assumed it might be an excessive amount of. To lead as much as this file, I did just a little instructing video on every tune earlier than the songs got here out as a result of individuals hear stuff and so they simply make assumptions of what you imply by it. Because of the content material in our style, that is actually provocative stuff, so [I wanted to] increase just a little bit on every factor so you may perceive the place I'm coming from."

Tenth Avenue North is at present on the Imagine Nation Tour with MercyMe after which will kick off their Decade the Halls Christmas trek on Nov. 29 in Joplin, MO.

Donehey is hopeful that followers and gatekeepers will embrace The Things We've Been Afraid to Say, however he's okay in the event that they don't. "I used to be speaking to a man on the label and informed him, 'It's the primary time that I'm not scared if the artwork that we made isn't profitable.' He mentioned, 'No, you simply redefined success,' and it's true," Donehey says. "I spotted I need to get again to once I first began writing songs, and that was to assist individuals get launched from their burdens and disgrace and to discover a deeper sense of fact. But with a purpose to try this we've bought to be trustworthy about how messy it actually is usually."