Listen to Sevenglory's impassioned pop/rock debut, Over The Rooftops, or spend some time talking with band members Fred Butson, and brothers Gabe and Caleb Johannes, and you are struck by their quiet confidence that comes from seeing the hand of God at work in their lives, from the knowledge that they are doing what they've been called to do. In a world of uncertainty, especially among the current generation of 20-somethings to which they belong, it is a refreshing breath of hope.
And Hope is what Sevenglory endeavors to share with their audience, whether through their music or simply in their interaction with others. But its not a naïve hope, holding up a Pollyanna view of life; on the contrary, these three preachers kids have seen their share of worldly imperfection. But more importantly, they have each felt the power of God in their lives, and thats what colors the music and lyrics of Over The Rooftops.
A lot of bands struggle with either being Christians in a band or being a Christian band, Gabe says. We never have. Were all pastors kids, weve seen problems in the Church, and we definitely feel called to reach the Church.
Produced by John Wirtz, Over The Rooftops sits squarely in AC/CHR territory, showcasing strong melodies and honest, vertical lyrics. Driving guitars give way to catchy hooks on cuts like the album opener, More Now, and Really Free, while Freds emotive lead vocals seamlessly transition from these powerful rock anthems to fragile, introspective ballads such as Waiting For You, or the simple, piano-based Ever Be Enough.
Originally from the Detroit area, Fred never sang in public until he was a senior in high school and his debut was not particularly auspicious. My whole life, singing was never part of what I wanted to do; in fact, I was terrified to sing, he explains. I had some natural ability, but it was definitely nothing that I wanted to do.
My senior year, I decided Id sing once for my mom in church because she really wanted me to, Fred recalls. I sang the whole song with my eyes closed. I opened them once and forgot the words, so I quickly shut them again. I was completely nervous, and looking back, I had no business being there.
But it became apparent that Fred was to be an example of God working through human weakness. The summer before going to college, he auditioned for a worship team in his churchs denominational district and met a man who offered Fred some free voice lessons. When they met for the first lesson, the man shared something he believed God was saying to Fred. He said, Fred, youre supposed to use your voice to sing for the Lord and just go with it, dont hesitate, Fred remembers. God is telling me that if you do this, youre not going to have to worry about anything. Things will just fall into place; its going to make sense, youre going to have peace about it and its not going to be youand youre going to know it. I would just challenge you to pursue this. Im not sure at what level, but do it.
A star baseball pitcher in high school, Freds family assumed he would pursue the sport as he headed off to Indiana Wesleyan University. Instead, he auditioned for the schools choir and traveling music group. Unbeknownst to Fred at the time, a star basketball player from Pittsburgh named Gabe Johannes, also an incoming freshman, was reconsidering his athletic future as well.
In college, I knew almost from day one that I wasnt supposed to be playing basketball, Gabe says. Obviously, its not that God couldnt use me in that capacity, but I wasnt going to the NBA. I knew it just wasnt what God had for me.
Gabe forfeited his basketball scholarship and auditioned to be a drummer for one of the universitys musical groups. At the beginning of their sophomore year, Fred and Gabe found themselves living in the same suite and soon began a journey together that is now Sevenglory.
Right away we started writing original stuff, Fred remembers. From the start, it wasnt just something fun that we were doing. We had no idea what it would eventually mean, but we knew God had something more in store for us, so we wanted to take it seriously.
As word spread about this new group, a successful Midwestern concert promoter, Peter Khosla, heard about them. He set up a meeting and offered to be their manager. Peter also formed a booking agency that kept the band busy every weekend during the school year, and most weeks during the summer.
Enter Gabes younger brother Caleb, who joined Sevenglory following the departure of their bass playerjust as momentum was starting to build. I go to college and I come back two years later and hes pretty good at bassnot amazing, but better than me, Gabe says with a smile. So another two years later, I come back and hes crazy goodlike Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten. I couldnt believe it. So when we needed a bass player, it was a no-brainer.
Caleb accepted without hesitation. I had asked God to open a door, and He did. So I moved to Indiana.
Peter soon formed 7 Spin Music, and the band had a record label to call home. Today, the relationship between Sevenglory and the 7 Spin Music family goes beyond the usual artist/label protocol. The group members are all neighbors in an apartment building in Valparaiso, Indiana, along with Peter and his wife, among others. Living, working and worshipping in the same community has fostered a strong support system that the band members and their families dont take for granted.
Although music is a driving force for Sevenglory, the band is primarily focused on what happens around the music. God laid it on our hearts that this thing wasnt about us, explains Fred. Its about service, about people, about relationships. We'll do a show and hopefully do a good job; hopefully people will be entertained and God will speak through us. But at the end of the day, weve got to be hanging out with the youth group kids and the other people that came to the concert, giving God the opportunity to say through us whatever it is He wants to, thats where we grow as a band.
We were on tour recently and felt compelled to pick up this guy we passed on the side of the road, Fred shares. His name was Andrew and he had lost his daughter in a car wreck six months prior. He helped us out on the road for three days and said it was the best time hed had since the tragedy. Hes now on a mission to figure out what life is all about.
When God put Andrew in the path of these three men who love music and want to serve others, a happenstance roadside meeting turned into a life-changing opportunity for everyone involved. Indeed, Fred, Gabe and Caleb do have the quiet confidence of knowing exactly what they are called to doand by the way, they are making some great music too.