Considering the average shelf life of most bands these days, it’s a particularly rare quality when a group not only sticks together for the long haul but maintains a strong sense of mission in the process. For Sanctus Real who began sixteen years ago in the basement of the home belonging to guitarist Chris Rohman’s parents, their purpose has never wavered even as musical trends have come and gone.
Basically, making music for purely music’s sake or trying to keep pace with rock ‘n’ roll’s definition of what’s cool has never been an option. Instead, no matter the season, whether it’s one characterized by struggle, victory or something in between, Sanctus Real remained sure and steady and written songs that honestly reflect the complex journey of faith.
Always running toward the only thing they know, namely God’s Word and His unfailing promises, Sanctus Real’s sixth studio album, Run, is a new collection of lyrics and melodies shot straight from the hearts of a weathered yet determined band of comrades who clearly still love collaborating. Building upon their Grammy-nominated 2010 album Pieces Of A Real Heart that featured the breakout track “Lead Me,” the band continues to devote itself to writing songs they pray will matter.
Rather than simply glossing over struggles, Sanctus Real hasn’t been afraid to shine a light on them. And by being transparent about what they’ve been through, songs like “I’m Not Alright,” “Don’t Give Up” and “We Need Each Other” have emerged as encouraging anthems of hope and healing that listeners can cling to in their own trying times.
Moving forward with an even stronger sense of what they want to communicate about life and faith than ever before, the months leading up to recording Run were trying. Forced yet again to practice what they preach, the band’s home on the road, their tour bus, also burst into flames. While nobody was hurt, a miracle considering just how bad the fire was and that vocalist Matt Hammitt and drummer Mark Graalman’s kids were riding with the band, too, life still wasn’t exactly easy in the aftermath.
In fact, for guitarist/keyboardist Pete Prevost, all the problems along the way pretty much feel like just par for the course. “Every album, something always comes up,” Pete shares. “Even though the fire was awful, it didn’t really surprise us. We always expect something crazy to go down with Sanctus Real. But we just keep moving forward. It’s amazing how God has given us this ability to keep going nonetheless.”
Now with Run, these trials have turned to musical gold yet again. With the album’s first single “Promises,” a simple yet stirring reminder of God’s faithfulness, Matt was inspired by the words a friend shared as he and his wife Sarah awaited the birth of their son, Bowen, who was diagnosed with a severe heart defect.
“A friend of mine in Minneapolis who has a son who’s severely disabled works with a ministry for parents with kids with special needs. There are different struggles that come with that, so he was always sending me encouragement,” Matt shares. “He would always tell me ‘cling to the promises,’ and that really resonated me because we had to dig deeper into the Word of God—and those promises—more than ever.” Now a thriving two-year-old, Matt and Sarah continue to share Bowen’s remarkable story online at www.bowensheart.com.
With another standout track, “Nothing Between,” the band also drew from recent experience. Written not long after the bus fire, the song’s evocative imagery paves the way for the underlying message that whatever God tries to teach us, His intent is always to show us where He wants us to be—closer to Him.
Staying close to God is also a theme that runs through “Pray,” a relevant reminder to make time for prayer because it’s the heartbeat of our faith. “I think everyone struggles with how to pray, even when Jesus taught us how to pray—and it’s really simple,” Matt says. “The song talks about how we struggle to make the time and how important it is to pray in general. Our hope is that it really encourages people to stop and cry out to the Lord with what’s going on in our lives.”
While Sanctus Real has never shied away from digging deep, there’s also a playful, fun quality to Run, particularly on the title track. A more simple and straightforward praise song, it’s been a thrill for Sanctus Real to already see audiences really responding to it live. “I believe Run is our most cohesive record to date,” says Mark. “It really feels like a natural progression—front to back—that leads the listener on a search for truth.”
“Making music for the sake of making music never made sense to us,” claims Chris. “Our mission was so clear at the beginning it was almost unspoken. It has been so natural for us to create music that reflects a life lived through faith in God.”
Helping keep these veteran artists on their toes, always the goal for an established act, Sanctus Real switched things up sonically by teaming up with three different producers for Run. Chris Stevens (TobyMac) who’s worked with Sanctus Real on their previous efforts, Jason Ingram (Brandon Heath) and Seth Mosley (Newsboys) all shared their production talents.
“From a production standpoint, it really brought a fresh spark to work with three people with such unique points of view,” Pete says. “Getting three different perspectives on songwriting and the sound of the band can’t help but sharpen you. Since we recorded in a few different places, the process of piecing together the album was so much fun. And that’s why Run sounds so different—it’s still us but a fresh take, and I think that’s a great thing.”
Something here says that their fans are going to wholeheartedly agree.