Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE — Judeo Christians are called to be in the world but not of the world. It is a calling that hit Johnny McLain on stage in the middle of a concert while performing secular rock music. It is a calling, he said, that changed his direction in life and opened a new venue for four other part-time musicians who were seeking more spiritual fulfillment in their own lives. And in a whirlwind six months, the unique sound of the newly-formed Christian alternative band, RideTheWind, is gaining more and more attention — from a VIP America’s Got Talent audition to an audition for numerous Christian music labels to the Christian Rock the Camp online band contest. The five musicians truly are riding the wind and holding on for what is next.
McLain said during a performance in Nashville he felt his heart was just “ripped out” of his chest — “I literally had a heart change right then and there.” McLain knew he had been taking the wrong path playing secular music. During the next couple of weeks he wrote the Christian songs “Rescue Me” and then “Stand” and “Come to the Father.” He started putting together a band that would perform Christian music, including his new songs. When his minister told McLain he had “found the wind of God” and to “ride that wind,” McLain knew the band also had a calling — and a name.
Although the sounds of the band might be unique, many people say the five young men play as if they’ve been performing music together for years. The uniqueness comes in part from a harpist who performs even during the more Christian rock pieces. Dave Henry says he has had a fascination with the harp for more than 10 years and has performed for churches and special events for years. It was a dream fulfilled when McLain asked him to be a part of the band. McLain said early on in putting the band together that the thought struck him, “I think I need a harp.”
Now, usually with the mention of a harp, the mind immediately thinks of heavenly soft music, or the baroque classical composers such as Mozart, Bach and Handel whose compositions were written to make use of the harp.
One might also think of the grand opera houses of European capitals or ballets by Tchaikovsky. It is an instrument known for its divine sound and one not commonly found outside the classical music genre. It’s just not an instrument most rock bands make use of — even though you can catch the sounds of harps in the Beatles song, “She’s Leaving Home” and in pop hits like Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” and “Dark Lady.” But McLain felt the need to have a harp in the band and Henry was ready and waiting for the call.
According to McLain, there is a distinct reason for each of his band members being a part of RideTheWind. The group has bonded as Christian brothers and each have their distinctive attributes that make them unique and yet an integral part of the band.
“Dave [Henry] is the member who reminds everyone of the love of God,” McLain said. “His eyes are so focused on Jesus and he just shares that love.”
Rick Swearingen, the drummer, is the “heartbeat” of RideTheWind. Tyler Mattox, bass guitarist, is “exploding with energy,” McLain said. He is so full of energy. He keeps our energy level high and keeps us pumped up.”
Dave Loughmiller, the lead guitarist, gives Christian “strength” to the band and McLain, the lead singer, is the “voice” that all these Christian brothers speak through. “We have one common voice,” McLain said. “All together we create a body that helps us serve better.”
While the group is getting to know each other better and working on releasing the first CD, they are also awaiting word on three important opportunities that hit them like a rush of wind. The first is waiting to hear if they go on to the second round of America’s Got Talent. They received a VIP invitation to audition in Chicago earlier this year. Hearing from the popular TV show doesn’t happen at the same time for every one who auditioned, Henry said. Although some have already had their call, calls are still being made to artists, he said. “It’s a wait and see thing,” he added.
Last week the band had the opportunity to audition in Nashville, Tenn., for various Christian music labels. The event was sponsored by Band with a Mission. The possibility of getting the backing of a recording company could open wide more doors for the group whose work would then be available for radio stations to play. RideTheWind is waiting to hear the results of that venture, also.
And finally, the third big opportunity is their competition with an online band contest through “Rock the Camp.” This contest is aimed at giving Christian bands the opportunity to be discovered through first a voting process by the public, and then a decision by 10 top Christian judges. It is sponsored through CRW Radio Promotions. RideTheWind has made it to the second round, being among 50 competitors who are going on to the second round out of 800 artists who entered the contest. Anyone can listen to the local band’s music and vote daily to help them make it into the final round. Prizes include opening for Christian artist Toby Mac live in Nashville, recording with Grammy and Dove award winner Paul Ebersold and performing live on the K-LOVE Friends and Family Music Cruise 2011.
You can hear the sounds of RideTheWind at the Web site, www.ridethewindband.com or at the Rock the Camp Web site where you can also cast your vote daily at rockthecamp.endavomedia.com/audio/91151134B8/stand through March 22. Winners will be announced April 6.
Local and upcoming performances are posted on RideTheWind’s Web site along with the band’s contact information.