"I believe there's a song in everything,” says Bryce Avary, the lead singer/songwriter/do-everything-guy of The Rocket Summer. “Literally everything you look at, you can pull a song out of it. We all have a song, we all have a story.
Avary's story began in Dallas/Fort Worth in the late 1990s, and has since exploded into an epic that has brought him critical acclaim, commercial success, tours with some big names (OneRepublic, the Goo Goo Dolls, Paramore), and travels around the world.
After some independent debuts in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Avary caught the attention of the music world with his Island Def Jam debut, Do You Feel, which contained two very infectious pop hits "So Much Love" and "Do You Feel."
The follow-up to that project, 2010's Of Men and Angels, continued the momentum, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard U.S. rock charts, and No. 2 on the U.S. Christian charts. It produced the singles "Walls" and "Hills and Valleys."
In the midst of momentous success, Avary made the unconventional decision to go it alone with his latest album, Life Will Write the Words, and release it independently.
The album, as it turns out, is a thrilling continuation to The Rocket Summer's trademark positive, high-energy tunes. And as a result, it has reached No. 12 on both the Billboard Independent and Alternative albums charts, and No. 2 on the Christian charts.
But every epic story faces epic challenges, and Avary's is no different.
"It's been a bombs and guns and fire kind of season," he sings in "Revival," a cut off the new album. The pressures and attacks of a Christ-follower that is sharing God's love to a hurting world--while largely off the church radar--can be great.
In a rare appearance at a Christian music festival this July, Avary told me that he was eager and excited to participate in the community of believers. It was a show that was definitely circled on his calendar.
So what's he thinking these days? What gets him excited? What's it like to be a mainstream band that's trying to make waves in the Christian world for a change? Learn all this and more in the first half of our discussion at Creation Festival Northwest. (View photos of his performance here.)
I am so excited that you're at Creation. Is this your first time to Creation Northwest?
Yeah. I am too. I don’t know if I’m more excited about playing the festival or just being in this area, because I live in Dallas/Fort Worth. It’s my home, but it’s common knowledge that it’s not really a pretty place. There are parts of it that are, but this is just unreal. I guess we lucked out, though; looks like it rained yesterday.
A lot of unhappy campers here, for sure. So you’ve played so many different kinds of venues. You’ve been in mainstream venues, Christian venues, all over. What sets apart the Christian music festival for you? How’s the experience different for you?
Well, there’s a certain very special vibe in the air, which you don’t really catch in most places, and I think that it’s obvious what that is. It’s cool. I woke up and I was just like, “I’m so excited to play this thing.” I’m just looking forward to the good vibes and honestly catching other shows. Hopefully I'll catch some cool worship stuff because we mostly have always sort of toured in kind of the general market--even though what I’m about, what so many of my lyrics are about comes from a very spiritual place and the Lord is the root of it.
For whatever reason we’ve kind of been going that [mainstream] road. Even when we’ve knocked on the door to be like, “Hey. Can we do these kinds of festivals, these Christian festivals?” It’s like we weren't on the Christian radar. It was weird; I feel like it's this totally backwards thing.
You kind of came in reverse, in a way. It's a cool progression. You've started out mainstream. It’s an anomaly, really. Switchfoot, for example, started out in the Christian industry and then has made their way into the mainstream.
It’s hard because I want people to hear my music, to hear the Lord in my music and feel the Holy Spirit in my music and I want the whole world to hear it. But I write plenty of songs that I guess wouldn’t necessarily be considered “Christian." I just write about life.
It’s interesting to see what He’s got in store for what I’m doing and how things will look next year and the year after, because there’s definitely some things going on in my life where I’m just like, “Who knows?” I’m excited.
Do you find it’s spiritually lonely out there as far as doing all these mainstream shows and being away from the church environment?
Yeah, it can be. I don’t think there’s really any way of saying that it’s not. You really have to have a really good support team. It’s never been like all of a sudden I’m tempted to do the things or whatever. It’s not really like that as much as it is just a heaviness. This [interview] is getting really heavy really fast, but I always feel like what we’re doing… I kind of feel almost a little more in the trenches with the mainstream world without this huge support of Christian culture.
So I kind of feel like I almost have a target on my back sometimes in the spiritual realm. Some of the spiritual warfare that we’ve experienced over the past years just makes no sense otherwise. We’re either doing something good or something wrong, I guess.
We should be praying for you for sure.
Thank you, but I’m not trying to make this heavy or anything. I’m so grateful that the Lord has me in a position to where we can tour with OneRepublic and Goo Goo Dolls and Paramore and Warped Tour, and all those people can get into this music and hear it a little more.
The amount of stories that we’ve heard over the years of people who have come to know the Lord through that, it’s like, “That explains it.” There are definitely times we’re like, “Wouldn't it be easier if we were just doing one [type of audience] or the other?” I just don’t know if that’s real life though. Everybody has to go to work and work to live with everybody. So for me that’s why I was like, I want to try to be as big a light as I can be, but still be in the world. But it’s not easy, I’m not going to lie.
What’s happening out there? What do you see with the fans both in Christian and mainstream? You’ve got an especially huge perspective on what’s happening out there. What are you running into?
You run into so many different kinds of people doing this. There’s a lot of pain out there. That’s just the bottom line, and music is such an outlet and such an escape. For me I just believe that God works through music so much. Half these people wouldn’t go to church, or wouldn't want to go to church, but music is their life. It’s cool to see, like I said earlier, how powerful it can be and just the mountains that can be moved just through music. It’s crazy. It’s awesome to be a part of it, but I do feel like there’s a certain--I don’t know if revival is the word. There’s something happening though.
I do feel like it. I know people always say that kind of stuff. You turn on the TV, like the church channels and stuff and you hear it, but I just feel like there are so many things happening.
Everybody hits this point where they just want something more. It’s not about the music anymore. It’s not about singing. It’s… what are we doing this for? What are we living for? So for me, in what I’m doing, I feel like I’m in a place where I’m just about to take it to the next level. I just don’t know what that looks like. Sorry I talk too much about myself.
No. This is awesome. We love hearing your heart. You’re talking about people throwing that word around--revival. In that song, what are you talking about when you say, "Let the revival rattle me"?
I’m talking about an awakening. Sometimes it’s hard explaining a song, because when you have to explain every single thing it changes something for someone. That’s why sometimes I don’t like to get too far into it, but for me that song is definitely just about a renewal of your spirit in life, and for me obviously where that comes from is my hope and my relationship with the Lord.
Click here for Part 2 of this interview and to learn about how his show went.
Posted August 28, 2012 | NRT Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and now Community Life Director for East Hill Church in Gresham, Ore. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at East Hill. Follow his journey at www.mheternal.com.