Fred Buston of SEVENGLORY was quizzed by Tony Cummings about the band's, er, interesting past and rosy future
In the overcrowded American Christian rock scene it's hard for any newish band to register nationally particularly if, as is the case with Valparaiso, Indiana-based Sevenglory, the band have a hard-to-classify musical style that takes in such diverse elements as Jimmy Eat World, Radiohead and Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, Sevenglory's tour with Warren Barfield and an excellent album 'Atmosphere' produced by Don Chaffer (Waterdeep, Sara Groves), Quinlan (Everyday Sunday, ZOEgirl) and Ian Eskelin (Stellar Kart, Krystal Meyers) all point to a group building up an international fanbase. The group consists of Fred Buston (lead vocals, guitar), Josh Parsons (guitar), Caleb Johannes (bass) and Gabe Johannes (drums). Like most "new" groups Sevenglory are hardly wet-behind-the-ears newcomers. Said their lead singer Fred Buston, "We've been a band for six years in total, three and a half years full time. Three of us for that three and a half years, and the fourth member joined a couple years ago. We started with the drummer and myself and have cycled through many other members. We've been pretty stable for a couple years now. We formed the band right out of college with no intentions other than to make music. Since then our view has developed into much more than just making music and playing."
Fred admitted that the band's initial recordings were far from auspicious. "It was pretty, er, interesting. Like most bands, we recorded in attics, church sanctuaries, small studios, etc. Most times we just re-recorded the songs we had, or took the 'good' songs and made them better and added two new ones for people who had the old EP. We did that for three years. Many scary CD covers that I'd rather nobody ever see again."
Touring throughout the upper Midwest, Sevenglory established a devoted following at colleges, churches and youth gatherings but it was in 2004 when the band signed with newly formed 7 Spin Music that things really began to take shape for Sevenglory. The release in March 2006 of their 'Over The Rooftops' album was met with real enthusiasm by the critics. The Dallas Morning News, for instance, described it as "one of the best debuts in a long time, with a level of musical and lyrical maturity that is rare in this genre." Fred reminisced about 'Over The Rooftops': "It was produced by John Wertz out of Columbus, Ohio. We recorded that CD when we were finishing up college. It was a cool experience for us, being our first 'real' recorded project with a producer, with a 'real' studio and with more than one day to finish it. The best received song overall has either been 'Really Free' which is a fun, uptempo song, or our piano ballad 'Ever Be Enough'. We definitely still get a couple of emails a week about that song. It's more on the softer side, but it's a song that stresses the importance of putting your self-worth in the way that God sees us. And to this day we are blown away with the stories we hear on how that song has impacted people's lives."
After 'Over The Rooftops''s release Sevenglory maintained a punishing tour schedule, zigzagging the USA with such acts as Seven Day Slumber and Downhere and playing more than 150 shows a year. Now their 'Atmosphere' album has taken them to the next level. Fred spoke about three of the songs on the album chosen for the Cross Rhythms radio playlist. "'The Hope' is one of my favourite songs because I believe it is a song that talks about my future. The older I get the more I realise that God is so much bigger than my plans, and so much more exciting than I could dream. I wrote this song after Hurricane Katrina hit here in the States. I saw celebrities stepping up to the plate with money and speeches to try and aid in the relief effort. And really all around the world people were giving money to the effort. And I remember seeing on TV an interview that showed someone begging the government to step in and get relief there faster. And a dream came over me to see people in need going to the Church first, instead of some government programme. This is not to say that Christians aren't doing anything, but it became an instant challenge to me to make my life about doing, and less about just giving money for others to do. It's something that I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out."
Another gem is the intriguingly titled "Even The Blues". Explained Fred, "Being raised in the Church I have learned the 'art' of keeping things to myself. I realise that this is not what the Church is all about. But so many of us feel shamed so much by our failures and faults that we keep them locked inside. I've met so many people that feel trapped in their sin and feel like there is just no way out. We lay alone at night praying for God to bring relief, for God to comfort us, and for God to bring healing. I think much of the time his answer is in our brother, our family, our pastor, a loved one we trust. It's the body of Christ that is supposed to be where we can take our struggles, our fears, our concerns, and yet it remains the last place we would want to do so. So many times people get caught into years of heartache because they have nobody to lean on, nobody to let them know it's okay to hurt. And that is the secret, being okay with pain, okay with heartache. Not to just sit in it, but accept it to move on and grow from it."
The title track is a song that talks about reaching out for more. Commented Fred, "We don't often know what is ahead in our life but if we really want to reach our dreams we have to reach out, we have to put our prayers into action. There is something very exciting about leaving behind things that are comfortable in order to achieve something unknown. That has been a thought that my family has lived by for the last five years and I plan on living the rest of my life always reaching for more."
Fred admitted that the band have resisted recording a worship project because so many CCM acts have recorded one simply because it is popular. But a worship project for Sevenglory is now likely. Said Fred, "Now we are really considering doing a corporate worship project. We definitely see the commercialisation of worship but will never let that deter us from doing what is on our hearts to do. We feel there could never been enough praise, enough ways to sing to our Creator. Especially since there are always going to be more and more people coming to the Lord, coming with different tastes in music, coming with different ideas of worship. I believe that true worship cannot be denied, and there will always be a place for genuine worship music. Whether commercialisation of it will hurt it, I say that should never be the focus of it in the first place. I don't even want to go down that road. All I can do is write what is on my heart, and if God wants to use it, so be it."
Fred is already hard at work on songs for the next Sevenglory album. "I am always writing pieces of songs - I probably have 30 songs I'm constantly working on. Maybe five of them are songs that I'm excited about. I never want to get to the point where I'm out of ideas, so I am constantly recording melodies on my phone and writing down phrases on sticky notes in my computer, trying to figure out how to become a better songwriter. Many of my favourite writers seem to always have another project, always have too many songs, so that's what I aim for."
Things are looking good for Sevenglory but Fred has learned to be philosophic about where the future might take him. "God is teaching me about priorities. I have a wife, two kids with one on the way, a band that I've been a part of for six years total, a community of friends back in Valparaiso, and family all over the States. And all those things are a distant second to my relationship with the Father. And none of those things will succeed unless my relationship with the Father is in check, and then my relationship with my wife, and how committed we are as a family to God's plans. What a lesson to learn."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.