The husband and wife duo OUT OF THE GREY gained a faithful following with their classy alt pop sound without really breaking through to the Nashville bigtime. Mike Rimmer reports on their welcome comeback.
Every year I bleach my hair before I go to the Christian music industry shindig in Nashville. I just think it helps people remember me. In a ballroom at The Renaissance Hotel where the convention is happening, there are crowds of people at what is known as a meet'n'greet. This is where record companies set up stalls, bring in their artists to meet the various media types and give away mugs, T Shirts, CDs and all kinds of other promotional junk. The media arrive like locusts, sweep all the stuff off the tables into their bags and chat with the Christian music celebs. For popular artists, you have to queue!
At the Rocketown stall, I am midway through filling my bag with freebies when I notice Christine Dente from Out Of The Grey. She is surrounded by people clamouring for her attention and she is busy, everybody is hanging on her every word. She catches my eye and smiles and I can't resist it. "Excuse me," I pipe up feigning ignorance, "aren't you Natalie Grant?" The crowd of people around her audibly gasp at this social faux pas. Surely, I know who she is? Without missing a beat, Christine responds, "Yeah, and aren't you Billy Idol?"
24 hours earlier on the balcony of their record company's HQ, we sit in the sunshine, eating lunch and chatting about their new album. It's been a long time since husband and wife Scott and Christine Dente have released an album. Out Of The Grey always had a strong cult following but the last four years they've been without a label until now and they're excited to be back.
The new album is '6.1' because it's a new version of Out Of The Grey and for the couple, it's a fresh start. Reflecting on the four years away, Scott says, "For that much time to go by and that much life to have been lived without a new project was strange. Christine's always writing. She's always got songs coming out but I'm more project orientated. I need some pressure on me to create. So to have a deadline coming up and be writing again, it just felt so great!"
With a break of four years from recording, there's bound to be some changes in the way in which the couple are writing. Christine shares, "Well, I've definitely been encouraged over the last few years to be a little more revealing of myself, a little more vulnerable because I love a metaphor that stands for the basic idea but often that loses the passion and the emotion behind it. So I think this record is a little more revealing. For instance, the song "What's It Gonna Be?" is me speaking to myself saying, 'Hey! Grow-up! Where's your faith? Act like you believe! Move on! What's it gonna take to make you fly outta here?'" Scott jumps in, "And yet in all that, we continue to want to write the same kind of music. We really do labour and worry over every lyric that goes out because we really want it to be something that people can draw life from, to be inspired and moved. In a sense, God created music and poetry...the arts. As Charlie Peacock has said for years, Christians should be the greatest artists! We take it really seriously. We don't want to have any throwaway songs. Our motto is 'No Orphans', we'll not just put any little song on there. Yet, having said all that I worry a little bit about the landscape of the music industry right now. What are called the 'boy bands' and all those young singers out there. A lot of people don't write their own material. There seems to be a lot of that going on now. I'm not drawn to that at all."
In the past it's often felt with Out Of the Grey's songs that there's a bit of poetry appreciation that has to go on to grasp what Christine's singing about. It's almost as if the band allow the song to mean whatever the person hearing it interprets it to mean. Isn't that a bit obscure? Christine responds, "I'm drawn to those kind of songs/writers yet I know it can be frustrating, hearing a song by someone or some group that I love and it doesn't quite make sense. It never works for me to put my grid on top of it. So I know that probably frustrates some people with our music as well but it's so difficult. Scott and I have never wanted to hit people over the head with THIS IS WHAT THIS SONG MEANS...AND THE BRIDGE WILL EXPLAIN IT EVEN MORE IF YOU KEEP LISTENING!' I want the second, third and fourth listens to be just as new and exciting."
There is a danger that if songs are too obscure then the duo will fail to communicate anything meaningful with their audience, particularly if they want to share something that God has been teaching them. "Sure! That could definitely happen." Christine responds immediately, "I know that some people are quite amazed at how warm and friendly Scott and I are because the impression, whether that comes from our record covers or from the songs, sometimes is that we are a little distant and aloof. We've been trying to remedy that a little bit because we really are nice people! We struggle like everyone else does in this life. When we get on stage we really try to tear down the barriers between the audience and the artists because we're a mess like everyone else."
We chat for a while about communicating that mess to everyone else. Surely it's helpful to others to hear of the struggles and the difficulties that the couple experience. However they acknowledge that there is a certain amount of vulnerability that has to take place. "I think there are two ways to do that," Scott explains, "humour for one but also on stage, I like to tear down that wall as fast as we can. Yeah, we're up on stage and we may even have some shiny clothes on but we're songwriters and we just wanna have some communication. I'm more interested in the anti-show. Some people are into the show, they have dancers and that but I almost want to make fun of the process because it's a little bit silly if you think about it. We're up there wriggling around, singing and playing. We can be a little silly about it, then play a song, maybe be a bit flash with guitar and Christine's vocals. Then she may say something and BOOM! It is very poignant, very deep, which hits you hard. So I like to keep people off balance a bit. I'd like to think that at an Out Of The Grey show, you may laugh a little, cry a little...Hey! Christine may cry a little! You never know what she's going to do while introducing a song. She might suddenly remember what it's really about and just lose it and I'll have to play the same two chords over and over again 'til she sorts herself out! To me, it's all about the passion that's communicating in the lyric. That's equally as important as the literal meaning."
Christine chats about life in the studio recording the album. "We
worked with Monroe Jones and he's a great producer. He had me try
different vocal things, different background vocal ideas. He was so
encouraging and he got so excited in certain parts of the project and
that fuels us so much." Scott butts in, "I think you can hear that in
the record, a lot of experimentation and it worked really well.
There's a freshness that we've been missing in the last few albums. I
think we've returned to almost the feel of our first record. A lot of
folks who'd come up to us after a concert for example, would say 'Oh!
Out Of The Grey, I
love you guys! I loved your first record!' which is a wonderful thing
to hear...but that was 10 years ago! You just want to say, Thank you
but haven't you heard the other four?!' So for those people, I think
we've arrived back. It feels like we've come full circle in some
That full circle means that for some people Out Of The Grey are going to be new artists. Christine jokes, "I think we're gonna be nominated for 'New Artist Of The Year' and we will gladly accept!" Maybe there should be a new category for 'Resurrection Of The Year!' because on the strength of the new album, Out Of The Grey seem destined to make a huge comeback.