Cheri Keaggy: The niece of the well known guitarist with a new CD

Saturday 1st October 1994

Another new name hits the CD racks. But at least to CCM buffs the second part of it will be familiar. CHERI KEAGGY spoke, Tony Cummings listened.

Cheri Keaggy
Cheri Keaggy

By now everybody and his dog knows that newcomer Cheri Keaggy is the niece of a well-known guitarist called Phil. But what else is there to say about this new pop gospel artist whose Charlie Peacock debut album 'Child Of The Father' is out now on Sparrow?

"I've always played the piano since I was a little girl and in the last few years have begun writing my first songs. It was through involvement with the music at my church that I had a platform to write and sing my songs. Then my husband, who is an audio engineer and has a studio, recorded 10 of the songs I had written. We have known Peter York at Sparrow because he used to travel with Phil so Eddie sent the tape to Peter and said just have a listen. There was some interest in the songs; there were some people who wanted to record them. But then Sparrow said, "We're interested in this, not just the songs. We're interested in Cheri as an artist.'"

Being Phil Keaggy's niece, Cheri has long been an admirer of the guitarist maestro's music. "Before I started singing and writing lyrics I would write instrumental piano pieces. There were a handful of opportunities where Phil let me open up for him, just for fun. He definitely encouraged me but he actually didn't know that I was singing was kind of a surprise to him. But he's so excited, now we're on the same label. It's incredible."

Asked to describe her music Cheri slips into the jargon so beloved by US Christian radio. "It's adult contemporary, inspirational. It's very mainstream. Charlie Peacock produced it so it has some great pop elements and it's similar to Twila Paris in that I'm an artist with a worship emphasis. It's kind of Amy meets Twila meets Out Of The Grey to give you an idea of who you might compare. I'm sure people will make their own judgments and comparisons but that's what people have said so far."

As well as performance-orientated music, Cheri leads worship. "I've led worship for the last four years at my church, leading a contemporary worship band and I play keyboards. The congregation respond well. It is not common for a woman to lead worship but I've had people come up to me specifically and say how they're able to enter into worship because I am so calming."

On 'Child Of The Father' there's a song about a little boy (yep, Cheri's) and the desire of his Christian parents to see him grow up to serve the Lord. There's also a key song, "Make My Life An Altar", which speaks about how God really desires every aspect of our lives. Cheri comments, "The song speaks about how God would really desire our lives to be lived under him just like in the Old Testament where they would build an altar to the Lord as an act of worship. A physical altar. I was thinking about that and how that's what God would desire of us, that our lives every day would be lived as an act of worship."

Working with top CCM producer Charlie Peacock was quite an experience for Cheri. "My husband does live sound and studio engineering and back in California Charlie came to one of the universities there - Viola University - to do one of his concerts as an artist. My husband was doing sound for him and I went just to enjoy the concert. Eddie had done the sound check and Charlie left to go change and get ready. There was a nice grand piano sitting up there. I play the piano and so I went up to play. I was singing one of my songs. I didn't know it but Charlie had walked back into the room and was at back of the soundboard with my husband and very intently listening to me and when it was over he turned to my husband and said 'Who's that?' Eddie goes, 'Oh, that's my wife.' Charlie whipped out his little black book and wrote down my name. At that time we had already contacted Peter at Sparrow and he was already very interested but he hadn't seen me perform live. The fact that Charlie had seen me and seemed to really like it was a real encouragement and he said he'd go back and put the good word in and we thought right, everyone says that. But he did. The very next day he called Peter and said, 'Peter, I've got two words for you - Cheri Keaggy.' So that was real exciting for us that response. You know here's another artist who really liked what he saw and went back and confirmed in Peter's mind what he was already thinking. And then months later it turns out that Charlie ends up producing the album which is way beyond what I would ever imagine as happening. Certainly the Lord has had his hand in that."

Cheri was born in Rolands Beach, California and raised in a Christian home. "I've lived in California all my life and now we're moving to Tennessee so I'm sad about that. I have one sister who is two years older than me. I became a Christian when I was 14. I had some background in the church in my pre-teen years and began to get some, knowledge of Christ and Bible stories and all of that. Then I met some people who lived the Christian life before me. I noticed a real difference in them. I knew I needed that for myself also. Some of those people in my early Christian life were my husband Eddie when I was in high school and I saw him living the Christian life and then Phil and Bernadette Keaggy, I'd seen them as a married couple. I admired their relationship and how it seemed to be Christ-centred. So I then, over a very short time in my freshman year, I recommitted my life to the Lord. Then for the first time I understood what it was to have a personal relationship with the Lord. I'd gone to church for quite a while before then but I didn't have the full understanding until I was in the word every day myself. Then the lights came on."

Today Cheri finds herself in the tangled marketing-hyped world of CCM (Sparrow's promotional gimmick to pick up initial interest in Cheri was a literal "taster" to DJs and magazines, a chocolate CD contained in Cheri's CD case). Becoming a figure of CCM media attention was something Cheri sought. "This isn't something that I was striving or seeking or pursuing for years like people really pursue and then it pays off. It was something that just happened very naturally because it's obvious to me that this is where God wanted me to be. Yeah, there might be some attention now but I feel whatever it might require from me God is going to supply that because I feel he has supplied everything to this point. So I don't feel stressed or pressured about it. I feel excited that there is a company like Sparrow with such a wonderful reputation and such good hearted people and people of integrity and that they are excited about something that I am a part of. It's incredible. But as far a long term goals, I just feel that I I'm a mother, so even if this first album flops and nobody " likes it, nobody plays it, I'll still be happy, because I'm married to a husband who loves and supports me and I have two beautiful children. Music is a love, I'll always love it. I believe I'll continue to write and if there's a platform for my songs, that is just wonderful. Who could ask for more?" CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Be the first to comment on this article

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.