Tony Cummings quizzed the husband and wife duo from Fair Oaks, California, STEVE AND SANDI
The release of the independent album 'Something New' by California's Steve And Sandi brings into the spotlight one of the freshest and most creatively focused worship ministries heard for many a long day. It also brings into the spotlight the extraordinary testimony of Steve Padilla who, after four years of working with top selling CCM artist Lincoln Brewster, admitted that he was an alcoholic. Having received deliverance from his addiction Steve and his wife Sandi, now worship leaders at Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks, California, have released an album about which the Cross Rhythms reviewer enthused, "Whilst undeniably God-focussed and worshipful, the sheer musical talent of the Padillas allows this production to rise far above normal worship music fare making it really something rather special indeed." Cross Rhythms quizzed the duo to draw out their extraordinary story.
Steve began by recounting his early years. "I grew up in a low-income, working class working family. Both my mom and dad worked for the US Air Force as civil servants (non-military personal). My dad, being a sports fanatic himself, put me in every conceivable sport he could find. All of which I failed at miserably. It seemed that I could only catch a ball with my head! Finally he saw that I loved music and he bought a cheap used piano and started me on piano lessons when I was nine years old. I loved playing except I was extremely shy as a child so every time my teacher would hold a recital I would quit and get another teacher. This continued for a while until I walked into a local music store and discovered these things called synthesizers. I fell in love with artists like Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and Erasure and I knew that music was the career I wanted to have. I joined bands and went to college to study recording engineering, moved to San Francisco and was on my way to accomplishing my goals."
Sandi spoke of her early years. "As an adopted child from birth, I grew up in a very loving family. My father was an aerospace engineer (a real rocket scientist) and my mother was a stay at home mom. Growing up my mother played classical piano and I remember waking up many mornings hearing pieces by Chopin and Beethoven. This was so beautiful that I still have vivid memories of it and it gave me a deep love of music. My parents told me that I started singing before I could talk! In fact my first solo in church was at age six when I sang 'He's Got The Whole World In His Hands'. I began taking piano lessons at age eight and continued studying through my teenage years. Later, when I started writing music I picked up the guitar and found it gave me a unique way of expressing myself. I was hooked.
"I think I always wanted to be a singer and performer. People said I was a 'natural' and I received many invitations growing up to share my talent. In college, a professor who heard that I was writing original Christian songs, invited me to sing at his church. It was a turning point for me because I realised the positive impact that music could have on an audience. After winning a local songwriting contest with a song called 'Sheltering Wings' I found myself recording my music and pursuing a life centered around music."
Sandi continued, "I met Steve when we both tried out for the same band. I was trying to branch out into new music because I had grown up in the church and only performed Christian music and music in college. He liked my voice so we got together to write and pitch songs. After a while I lost touch and he moved to San Francisco."
In San Francisco things weren't going very well for the young musician. Recounted Steve, "I was in a town with one million other people and yet I felt like the loneliest person on the planet. One night, in an act of desperation I called out to a being I didn't even believe in and said, 'God, if you're there, send someone to me who can be a companion and help relieve this loneliness.' The next morning my phone rang and it was Sandi. She tracked me down and wanted to see what I was up to. I was working on a recording project and needed a vocalist so I asked her to come over to San Francisco. She said yes and soon after this we began dating."
Sandi was by this time a Christian and she kept trying to talk to Steve about Jesus. She admitted, "And yet, we were still falling in love and our relationship started getting more and more serious. He wanted to get married but I said that if we're going to do that we would need counselling. Steve said, 'That seems logical, do you know any counsellors?' I said 'yes' and set up the appointment and we met with the counsellor. Little did Steve know that the counsellor I knew worked for the Billy Graham Association."
Steve vividly recalled his conversations with the counsellor. "He told me about how we have this void in our life that only can be filled by God. It was the first time anyone explained to me what Jesus was really all about. I came to Christ that night and I gave up my dream of being a rock 'n' roll star and instead started living for Jesus. I soon found myself in ministry and serving in churches and before long I was serving on worship teams and now playing in Christian rock bands. Now we've been married for 23 years and have two great kids - Paul and Anna."
In 2004 Steve went to work at Bayside Church in Roseville, California as a worship leader. The main worship leader there was Lincoln Brewster, who had risen to prominence as the original frontman of Sonicflood and, signed to Integrity/Vertical Music, was beginning to make waves on the national Christian music scene. Explained Steve, "Linc was starting to work on a concert and live recording. That project ended up being 'All To You Live' (2005). I played on three more of Lincoln's CDs: 'Today Is The Day' (2008), 'Real Life' (2010) and 'Joy To The World' (2012). I toured with him for four years and was his keyboardist, road manager, merchandise manager, web designer and friend. Sandi also worked for Lincoln as fulfilment coordinator sending out CDs, DVDs, t-shirts and stuff for online orders."
The years of hard work with Brewster were, however, taking a terrible toll on Steve's life. "What Lincoln didn't know, or anyone else for that matter, was that I was struggling with alcoholism. I never drank on the road or at work, but kept it at home. But as the stress from managing a Christian rock star and being the music director at Lincoln's 10,000+ member church increased I turned to alcohol to help me alleviate all that stress. Most of my work days were 16 hours long and I began drinking in response to the stress and pressure that came with that. The more I tried to make others happy, the less I became fulfilled with my life and calling and drinking made everything seem okay. That is until I would feel unhappy and stressed again, and then I would want another drink. And so the cycle began. God began to help me realise, after years of doing this, that I couldn't make others happy and I needed to get healthy and quit drinking. It was fellow musician Adam Nitti, bass player for Steven Curtis Chapman among many others, who shared with me his own experience with depression. As he described what he went through I felt like he was describing me and in the fall of 2010 I put myself into treatment with my local healthcare facility and started down the road to recovery."
Said Sandi, "My part in Steve's recovery was really secondary to the Holy Spirit's role. As the Holy Spirit began to bring things into his marvellous light, grace just began to pour out over both our lives. How could I not be forgiving? God has forgiven me and paid a huge debt of sin for me. How could I not be patient? God has been tremendously patient with me. How could I not engage in a process of reconciliation? God has redeemed me and restored situations in my life over and over. But I will say - because the alcohol was Steve's secret it was hard to rebuild trust. After he stopped drinking I would hear the second garage door slam and wonder if he was doing it again. Over time I saw that the Lord truly had healed him of alcoholism and that he had no desire for it. I also learned that the Holy Spirit is actively at work in Steve, and that I don't need to control or fix him. God's got it covered!"
In 2011 Steve and Sandi began working on songs which were to become their 'Something New' album. Said Steve, "When we first started writing songs for this CD we went up to a cabin in the Northern California mountains and asked God to give us a vision for what we were doing. We came away with a simple acronym to help us remember a 'filter' for our lives and our ministry - H.E.A.R.T. (Healing, Encouraging, Artistic, Redemptive and Teaching). And we want our lives to reflect a H.E.A.R.T. of worship. What that means is that we want everything we do, say, or sing to have a message of healing hearts, lives, emotions, relationships and healthiness both physically and mentally. Encouragement in how we treat each other with our actions and words. Artistic creativeness in our music and art. A clear message of redemption and reconciliation between ourselves and God and reconciliation between us as people spreading a spirit of unity. And finally, teaching and equipping the Church with resources so that the next generation of worship leaders can be developed. That's why we mentor people, participate in worship seminars and consult churches in worship music and culture. I love what we do because I love music and worshipping, but the real reason we do this is because we love God. Through all the hills and valleys of my life, all the great times and darkest times, God never turned his back on me. He waits for us with an unlimited patience to turn to his love and that love never disappoints, never leaves and never fails."
Continued Steve, "We used Kickstarter.com to raise the money we needed to finish the CD, but we started the whole project with the simplest means - an iPad. I downloaded an app called the iMS-20 which is a mono analogue synth with a seven track step sequencer. We programmed a few songs and started performing them at church, coffee houses and even on the street. We took those tracks and recorded them in our home studio. I have a degree in Recording Engineering and my experience in studio work enabled me to do all the recording and mixing ourselves. We played most of the instruments and invited our friends to play on the CD. When it came time to manufacture the CD we used social fundraising to help us master the audio, take photos and graphics design. Kickstarter.com is an online pledge drive website in which people can raise money for projects that they want to do. Most of the money we needed was given by friends and family. This is an awesome time to be an independent artist. The slumping of CD sales and the access to music via the internet has helped independent artists like us get our music to people who might not have been able to hear it 10 years ago."
Sandi spoke about two of her favourite songs on the album. "Love isn't perfected or beautiful until it has been refined. To remove the impurities out of our hearts (selfishness, pride, etc) God allows us to go through difficult seasons in our lives. The lyrics of 'Beautiful Love' speak to that, 'You forge a love born out of fire, tested and tried, burning inside; completely melt my fear away. . .' When God's love ignites in us his love removes the fear of our being worthy, acceptable and simply enough. Another song that touches me is 'Into Your Arms'. Truthfully, I cry almost every time I hear this song. There's a transparency in Steve's vocal that seems to draw me to that same place - into the Lord's arms. When our fears and troubles want to overtake us the lyrics speak, 'The Lord will protect me, no harm will touch my soul. . .now and forever, he'll be my help, he'll be my life, he'll be my help. . .so I run into your arms.' All of us need that kind of security and assurance. God is truly our refuge and strength."
Steve's favourite track on 'Something New' is "Lovesong". "It's the old '80s song from the Cure and how we decided to do it is one night I was pulling an all-nighter at Bayside Church (like I've done many times as Music Director there) and I was all by myself in the main sanctuary. All of a sudden I felt like praising God so I started singing this song out loud and I realised that the verses of this song expressed exactly how I feel when I'm alone with God and in his presence. The chorus of the song states exactly how I feel about my relationship with him and states his own promise that he will never leave nor forsake us."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.