Chris Sligh: The ex-American Idol rocker without the boy band looks

Wednesday 13th August 2008

Tony Cummings reports on the surprisingly long career of American Idol finalist CHRIS SLIGH

Chris Sligh
Chris Sligh

Authentic's release of 'Running Back To You' by Chris Sligh brings to British fans' attention a singer who has already had huge US exposure thanks to his appearances on the enormously popular American Idol TV talent search. As it turns out, Chris's soulful tones have already been heard on UK Christian radio thanks to "Run On For A Long Time", his smouldering duet with Kevin Max on the ex-dc Talk man's 'The Blood' album. Chris is at pains to emphasise that he was no inexperienced beginner when he first stepped before the American Idol cameras. "I think the difference between me and every other 'Idol' that I know of - I've done a lot of research on this - is that I was the first to come in and have had a successful indie career before Idol. I sold about 35,000 records completely independently. I played 75 to 100 shows for the last four or five years straight. I travelled around for years as an artist and had actually built up a following, had developed my songwriting more than I think any other "Idol" has. I'd actually won national songwriting contests. I have always thought of myself more as a songwriter than I have as a singer."

Chris Sligh is the son of Charles (Chuck) and Susan Sligh, fundamentalist Baptist missionaries to American military servicemen in Europe. Chuck Sligh is an accomplished guitarist and passed his love of music to his three sons, of whom Chris is the eldest. Chris was born in Madison, Tennessee and moved to Durham, North Carolina with his family when he was three years old. He spent 10 years with his family in Wiesbaden, Germany. Although Sligh has been singing since high school, as Adam Fisher, the lead guitarist of Chris's band noted, he "grew up listening only to classical music in a regimented upbringing." Sligh attended the notorious hyper-fundamentalist Bob Jones University for seven semesters but was expelled before graduation for attending a 4Him and FFH concert. Said Chris, "I had seven credits left to graduate, got called up the last day of the semester and was asked not to return to Bob Jones University. I was a little upset at first. But, I just went and finished up at a different college called North Greenville College. It was kind of a healing experience. Coming out of Bob Jones and spending the next two and a half years at a great college that understood my view of who Christ is was really kind of interesting and very cool."

2001 found Chris gigging as a solo. He released his first album, 'Vessel', independently under the pseudonym of Berg and the following year recorded and released another project, 'Someone Just Like You', this time using his real name. In 2004 Sligh became the frontman and guitarist with the band Half Past Forever, which rose up from the ashes of a local upstate South Carolina band. Half Past Forever's self-titled independent album was released in 2005 but the following year several members decided to pursue other interests, leaving Sligh and lead guitarist Adam Fisher to bring in new members. The band's second release, 'Take A Chance On Something Beautiful', was produced over a few months in Sligh's home studio. Before its release though, almost on a whim, Sligh decided to enter the American Idol contest. Because of American Idol rules, Sligh was forced to leave the band. Sligh auditioned for the TV talent search in Birmingham, Alabama singing "Kiss From A Rose" by Seal, after which Paula Abdul gave him a standing ovation and said, "I like you very much." Idol judges laughed at his ambition "to make David Hasselhoff cry," a reference to Hasselhoff's crying when Taylor Hicks won season five of American Idol.

Sligh certainly didn't look like a typical American Idol entrant. Overweight, with glasses and wild, curly hair, he looked more geek than Idol. The judges were initially very impressed with Sligh's powerful voice though after a few weeks with his rendition of dc Talk's "We All Wanna Be Loved" the judges seemed to turn on Sligh. The singer was eliminated from American Idol on 28th March, 2007 though he did make it to tenth place, earning him a place on the American Idol Summer Tour of the USA. Some critics suggested that his witty jokes where he stood up to the judges worked against him. Sligh commented, "I love the show, but at the same time there are some cheesy aspects I poked fun at. And there are people who love the show so much that anything you say bad about the show or Simon - as I did, for instance - they will literally write you hate mail. I had a blog and I would get hate mail for weeks after my comment to Simon. People said they hoped I would die because I told Simon I didn't sound like the Teletubbies. It kind of freaked me out. I hoped that people would realise that me joking around about the show was very tongue in cheek."

Chris Sligh: The ex-American Idol rocker without the boy band looks

Before the American Idol Summer Tour commenced Sligh rejoined his bandmates in Half Past Forever and negotiated a contract with Brash Music for the release of 'Take A Chance On Something Beautiful'. Although not a Christian music company, Atlanta's Brash Music had hit the Christian bigtime with Aaron Shust. In September 2007 Sligh signed with Blanton, Harrow, Cook And Corzine, the management company that has handled Amy Grant and Michael W Smith through their entire careers and now manages Bebo Norman and Aaron Shust.

In November 2007, Sligh stated in an interview with the Way FM nightly show Total Axxess that he had signed a solo deal with Brash Music. The resulting album, 'Running Back To You', was produced by Brown Bannister, who has won multiple Grammy and Dove Awards for his work with artists like Amy Grant, Third Day and The Afters. Other producers included Stephen Leiweke, who helped produce Jars of Clay's debut album and Will Owsley , a guitarist and producer who has worked with Shania Twain and Amy Grant. Sligh's album was released in the US in May and the first single from it, "Empty Me", made number nine on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart. The album received enthusiastic reviews, USA Today calling Sligh "the most musically ambitious Idol to date" and Christian website Jesus Freak Hideout giving the album four point five stars (out of five) and calling it " of the year's best albums."

Speaking about the album Chris said, "I would say probably half the record is directed more to the Church, and the other half is just whatever I want to talk about. One of my favourite quotes is [from] C S Lewis where he says, 'We don't need Christians to talk about Christian things. We need Christians to talk about many things.' I feel like that's kind of an art that's been lost over the last few. We have this delineation between Christian music and mainstream music and I just don't know that in life that there's supposed to be a delineation between our Christian walk and our regular walk." 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.


Reader Comments

Posted by Rosalee in Westbury, New York USA @ 16:56 on Aug 16 2008

Thanks for the great article!
Chris Sligh is a very talented individual who truly deserves the attention of the public and the media. He works very hard at his craft whether it be songwriting or performing, and has paid his dues over the years. I first noticed him on American Idol and am very glad for that introduction. I have attended several of his concerts and bought his CDs. I feel that this is just the beginning of a career that will stretch for decades.

Posted by Sophia in Grafenwoehr, Germany @ 14:38 on Aug 14 2008

Thank you for your great coverage of Chris Sligh. I had opportunity to meet him when he came to visit his parents here in Germany last Christmas. He is genuine and such a talented artist and all of us had such fun with him. His family lived in Bicester England for seven years and have a heart for ministry. Thank you again!

Posted by Carmen Metcalfe in Jacksonville, Florida USA @ 21:10 on Aug 13 2008

Thank you for an informative & lovely article about Mr. Sligh. Having had the opportunity to meet Chris on several occasions, I can tell you that he is a very genuine, down to earth individual. His strong faith in God is evident in his music and the way he lives his life.
I have been blessed to see Chris perform live and he always give it his all during his performances. He is a young man who writes from the heart and sings with his soul.
I own both Half Past Forever CD's and his current CD "Running Back to You". All three are great albums that leave the listener craving more. I can't wait until Chris releases his next album. I can guarantee you that I will be one of the first people to go out and buy it.

Posted by Risa Ratliff in Sherwood, AR, USA @ 20:36 on Aug 13 2008

It's great to see that Chris is getting recognition "across the pond" as well as here. Thank you for a great article.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

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.