Sanctus Real reflects during homecoming performanceWritten by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Sanctus Real has performed in every U.S. state except two (will someone please book them in Alaska and Hawaii?) as well as a number of concerts abroad, but coming home can be a bit nerve-racking for the Toledo band.
Like Sept 20, when the two-time Grammy-nominated Christian rockers played a show at Calvary Church in Maumee.
“It definitely feels different,” said drummer Mark Graalman. “Staring out into the crowd, you know half the faces there and so often it’s people … who literally watched you grow up.”
Many Toledoans will remember seeing Graalman, singer-guitarist Matt Hammitt, and guitarist Chris Rohman — the three remaining original members — finding their groove on the local music scene when they founded Sanctus Real 17 years ago.
“Matt and Chris were 16 and I was 18, we were just kids trying to make something of the noise we were making,” Graalman said.
Through the years, they’ve always made sure to fit a Toledo show into each of their national tours, including last week’s “Run” tour concert at Calvary.
It doesn’t necessarily go smoothly, even at home. After setting up the biggest stage and light show they’ve had on an outdoor stage at Calvary, a steady rain forced the show indoors.
And the group has undergone two recent personnel changes, as bassist Dan Gartley left a few months ago and the band’s second guitarist, Pete Prevost, quit last week after four years with Sanctus Real.
Jake Rye, a bass player from Adrian, Mich., has taken Gartley’s spot and local guitar ace Jeff Harris is filling in for Prevost temporarily.
Graalman said being from Toledo and playing for Toledo fans is fun, but it carries high expectations.
“There’s always a sense of pride to it. We’re always excited to play for the hometown crowd. But in all honesty, I think there’s a certain amount of pressure, too. I get more nervous. We want to make it good, we want to be proud. So we put a little extra pressure on ourselves,” he said.
The backstage scene gets a little crazy, too, with so many friends and family stopping in.
“There’s a million people everywhere, and with our wives and the kids it’s just like a circus backstage.”
Sanctus Real released its sixth album for Sparrow Records, “Run,” in February and the disc has gotten plenty of airplay with such hits as “Pray,” which was the official song for this year’s National Day of Prayer.
The group was in Nashville recently rehearsing for the tour and planning their next CD, which they are slated to start recording in January.
Graalman said everyone in the band contributes when it comes to writing songs, but Hammitt is the one with a special gift for that creative challenge. He is “constantly writing,” Graalman said of Hammitt, adding that lyrics and vocal melody are his strong suit.
Some Sanctus Real songs are sparked by a guitar riff from Rohman or Prevost, leading to an organic, old-school team effort in creating a new tune. “A lot of the rock songs come about that way, with Chris or Pete having a riff and we start jamming,” Graalman said.
It’s important to the band members that they get together and create music as a group, not just mail their ideas through cyberspace and tack their parts onto each other’s tracks in the studio.
“It makes us feel like a band, not a factory,” Graalman said.
As for his own songwriting abilities, Graalman is predictably modest.
“Every time I think I have a good idea, I go back and listen to it a few days later and think, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s something a first-grader would have done!” he said with a laugh.
In 17 years of recording and touring, Sanctus Real has performed at venues ranging from major Christian rock festivals and arenas to tiny clubs and rural churches.
Some memorable moments have come recently, thanks to the success of the soul-stirring ballad “Lead Me,” from the band’s “Pieces of a Real Heart” album, which topped the Christian Adult Contemporary charts for seven straight weeks.
That opened the door for Sanctus Real to reach new concert audiences and new radio listeners, touring with Casting Crowns and playing for 20,000 people a night on the Winter Jam tour.
“It’s interesting how fickle the music industry can be, though,” Graalman said. “That was all more than a year ago. Now the question is, how do we get back there again? It’s fleeting, just like everything else.” O
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality in the Toledo area.
Tags: Adrian, Calvary Church, Casting Crowns, Chris Rohman, Christian Adult Contemporary, Christian rock, Dan Gartley, Jake Rye, Mark Graalman, Matt Hammitt, Michigan, National Day of Prayer, Pete Provost, Sanctus Real, Sparrow Records, Toledo Faith and Values (ToledoFAVs), Winter Jam Tour