Toledo rockers Sanctus Real vie for a GrammyWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Grammy-nominated Toledo rockers Sanctus Real have a lot of heart.
The group’s latest album, “Pieces of a Real Heart,” is up for Best Contemporary/Pop Gospel Album and most of the members will be attending the awards ceremony.
The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards will air at 8 p.m. Feb. 13 on CBS from Los Angeles.
“Pieces of a Real Heart,” released in March, is the group’s fifth album with Sparrow Records, EMI Music’s Christian imprint. The band also had three independent releases before signing to the label in 2002. Sanctus Real was the No. 4 most played Christian band of 2010, according to Billboard.
The group’s fourth album was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 for Best Rock Gospel Album, but the group was on tour and unable to attend the ceremony.
“We actually get to go this time,” said drummer Mark Graalman from his home in Sylvania. “It’s a pretty expensive trip, but some friends talked us into it. They said ‘It’s the Grammys! Are you kidding? You have to go.’”
Also nominated in the category is Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Beauty Will Rise,” Israel Houghton’s “Love God. Love People,” Ricky Skaggs’ “Mosaic” and TobyMac’s “Tonight.”
“We’re definitely the low men on the totem pole there,” Graalman said. “TobyMac, we lost to him last time, so it’s anybody’s game. But it’ll just be cool to be there and see everybody. It’ll be fun either way.”
Graalman said he thinks he was the first in the group to find out about the nomination.
He and his wife were watching TV in December and came across a Grammy special. The show was announcing the nominees in top categories and urging viewers to go online at midnight to see the rest.
“When the show was over, I sat at my computer, just waiting, like ‘What if?’, and sure enough,” Graalman said. “I was really excited and started texting everyone at midnight.”
Sanctus Real was formed in 1996 when lead vocalist and guitarist Matt Hammitt and lead guitarist Chris Rohman were attending Toledo Christian School. Graalman is also an original member. Bassist Dan Gartley and guitarist Pete Prevost are the other current members.
As the group spent about a year writing songs for “Pieces of a Real Heart,” a theme began to emerge.
“Just that theme of issues of the heart, the spiritual condition of one’s heart, that kept coming up, but I don’t know if it was a conscious decision at that point,” Graalman said.
The band put two possible titles to a vote for their Twitter and Facebook fans.
“The other one was ‘A Million Hearts,’ which is a part of some lyrics from the album, but we couldn’t decide,” Graalman said. “‘A Million Hearts’ was a cool title, but it didn’t mean anything in particular, whereas ‘Pieces of a Real Heart’ came off as these songs are parts of real hearts, and it won. It was meant to be.”
Ironically, about a month later, Hammitt and his pregnant wife found out their son would be born with a rare and serious heart defect. Bowen Matthew Hammitt was born Sept. 9 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.
“That was an amazing testimony that God was up to something, letting them know the challenge they were about to walk through,” Graalman said.
Hammitt will not be making the trip to the Grammys as the family prepares for Bowen’s heart surgery coming up March 2. He and his wife, Sarah, who live in Perrysburg, blog about Bowen’s progress at www.bowensheart.com. The family was featured on an ABC television special that aired nationally on Nov. 24.
“Lead Me” — a song Hammitt wrote about his desire and struggle to lead his family in a godly manner — is popular with fans, Graalman said.
“It can be a bit of a tearjerker for a lot of people,” he said.
“Forgiven” is another emotional number, while “These Things Take Time” — Graalman’s favorite and a nod to Tom Petty — is more upbeat.
After the Grammys, the group plans to tour and continue tinkering with new songs.
“We just started writing for the next record,” Graalman said. “I think we saw how well it went last time taking a good year’s time to write and rewrite. When it comes down to finally recording it, having a good 30 to 40 songs to draw from is definitely not a bad thing. So we’re trying to get a head start, starting to dive back in and hopefully something good will come out of it.”
For information, visit www.sanctusreal.com.