For years the darlings of the Christian music underground, SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER have finally found mainstream success. Mike Rimmer went to Nashville and met up with the million selling hitmakers.
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During this time Matt was writing songs that expressed the pain the band were feeling. Leigh remembers when she first heard them, "I really like the songs that deal so blatantly with the pain of that time," she admits, "Matt wrote them of course. He played some to me, three at once. It was 'The Lines Of My Earth', 'Anything' and 'Kiss Me'. I think he wrote them pretty much on the same day. We were in Holland playing at the Flevo Festival when he played me those songs. This was three years ago! I love those songs so much, because they were in a different language than he had written before, it was very plain what he was saying and it was just so emotional. I was feeling the same way and he put it into such beautiful words for me to sing, so it was great."
Even now that the band have experienced something of a happy ending with the success of "Kiss Me", Leigh and I chat about the wilderness years for the band as they struggled to sort out the business end of their work. For Leigh, it was a time of changes. She thinks back, "Besides the career thing, it was a really wonderful time for me -1 met and married Mark (Nash, former drummer with the sadly defunct PFR) so it was the happiest time of my life. We weren't on the road an incredible amount, and that helped a lot because we were just together. And he helped me - that was God's hug to me I think, reassuring me that everything was going to be ok. And Mark is so encouraging and is our biggest fan, such a wonderful person, and exactly who I was supposed to marry. But it was still difficult and daily I doubted. At night before I went to bed it was pretty much just tears and wondering why are we still even doing this. I would just try to dream up what I was going to do now. I haven't gone to college, I've done this, I've grown up doing this, and also facing the realisation that I was really going to have to get to the point where I was going to have to let it go. It would have been really easy to, because it seemed like at the time maybe this was God's answer. At the same time I think I was being spoken to by him that no, this is way too close to your heart, and he made it that way, and so it was a really interesting time, and I learned a lot."
As an outsider observing the recent history of Sixpence, spiritually it's apparent that God was working behind the scenes and that the depth of the wilderness has been instrumental in creating the climate for the height of the success that the band has reached. It's almost as though the hardships have been a foundation. Leigh agrees, "Yeah, it feels good to be where we are now and know that our egos are still the same as when we were down there. We know our place in the world." She pauses and looks around the restaurant before making her next point, "Everybody in this room, we're humans and we're trying to muddle through, but we've got this amazing faith. A God that's with us every day, and a Saviour, and it's just so wonderful and it's just nice to be at this level, and not have changed inside, well only for the good hopefully."
So was the turn around point, the moment that Steve Taylor came to the rescue, like the cavalry in a western movie charging over the hill? Leigh smiles, "Exactly, it's exactly what it was - we thought so much of Steve already, we already trusted him - it's like we give you our art, we trust you with it - he's just such an amazing person." She pauses to reflect and then continues, "They were pretty dark days still, because when we were recording the album we were still not sure what would ever happen to it. It was like, 'let's do this' and Steve had the means to help us do this and he was helping produce it, and we were really excited about that. But even while we were recording, we weren't sure whether it was ever going to be put out. It wasn't under the security of a label. He was in the process of trying to get the label together while we were doing the album. By the time we went in there, had done the basic tracks and went in to do the overdubs, we were a little more solidified, and things were really starting to get fun. Steve is really funny, and our engineer Russ Long is really hysterical too, so we laughed a lot which was just what we needed! As a band we love to laugh - it's got us through most of our hard times!"
Whilst the waiter begins clearing the plates, I ask Leigh where the single is currently placed in the American charts. Her response surprises me. She giggles and confesses, "I don't know right now." She looks across to her husband Mark for help. He's deep in conversation with Matt and a brief discussion establishes that it's still at number two and Leigh doesn't know! I confess to finding this incredible. She apologises, "Sorry" Again she laughs, "I stopped keeping track of it a couple of weeks ago, it's nerve-racking! I fully realise that eventually it's going to drop I don't know where, it's just going to be gone. It's just a lot easier to keep at the back of the mind, it helps me just keep focused on what's really important - you know, my marriage, keeping sane while on the road, my health, and family and stuff like that."
I imagine that keeping sane must be a tough call on the rollercoaster ride which has been the life of Sixpence during the last year. Because the song was picked up for the film She's All That, the band got to attend the premiere! Leigh remembers, "It was in Los Angeles. It was a kind of a strange experience for us as a band being amongst all those actors." She's diplomatic when she says, "it's a movie for younger people than we are - it wasn't that we didn't like the movie, it just wasn't a serious film, but we expected that but it was a completely new and different experience for us."
As well as the premier, the band also got to meet Tom Hanks. Though for Leigh there was some disappointment. "I didn't get to meet him -all the guys did except for me -1 was very disappointed because I'm a big fan, but they are too, so I was happy that they got to meet him. They were waiting outside of a show that we were about to do called Donny and Marie." Yes folks! The Osmond siblings are still going and now host a top-rated tv show! Leigh continues, "It's on a big sound stage thing in Los Angeles, and they were waiting outside of his trailer and he came out and was really kind to them, so that was probably a highlight of their year."
The band's next single is a cover of the La's "There She Goes". Leigh wasn't convinced about the idea at first. She says, "It was Matt's decision to do the song in the first place. I thought he was crazy because how can you top the La's version of it? It's like the best pop song probably ever written. But it wasn't our decision to have that be the next single - that's just the label - we trust them to make the right decisions and pray about that - pray for them that they're making the right decisions. I think it's a great song, and I think our version's-good, but it's hard to top the La's!" When it comes to hit singles, Matt is laid back about the success. He says, "I guess 'Kiss Me' is just a pop hit, and I think you have to communicate on that level first these days, and then move on to the more obscure things. But the record was great because we had the resources, time, and the minds and the people to make it possible. What's going to be liberating about 'Kiss Me' is that it's just going to increase the resources and time, and move us on to a place where we can explore all kinds of musical avenues. I really admire a guy like Elvis Costello who explores all sorts of things -1 really hold him up as an ideal and a hero because it's not just about pop and rock, but about all types of musical interaction."
Squint are now re-packaging the 'Sixpence None The Richer" album with the additional "There She Goes" track added. The future looks strong for the band, and as dinner ends and we get ready to go our separate ways, the talk turns to a new album. The band have plenty of material and are hoping to start recording in the autumn. Meanwhile a more pressing engagement calls them, they have to perform the song they've contributed to Word's prestigious various artists album 'Streams'. The theatre is a five minute walk away from the restaurant, and surprisingly, Leigh Nash confesses to some nerves, since the song is not part of their regular repertoire. Matt and her husband Mark murmur encouragements as they walk away and later, when we see them play, it's note perfect.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.
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