Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community. Each category is further divided into areas important to you and your Christian faith including Bible study, daily devotions, marriage, parenting, movie reviews, music, news, and more.

Intersection of Life and Faith

CHRIS RODRIGUEZ

  • 1999 5 May
  • COMMENTS
CHRIS RODRIGUEZ
"I got to the point where I realized that my wife is a person who has needs. What I would interpret as nagging or getting on my case, was that she wanted me in her life. She wanted my attention. She wanted my love. And I wasn't ready to give it."

by Mike and Paula Parker for the Music Channel at crosswalk.com


"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" - Frank Baum in "The Wizard of Oz"

These words, spoken by the Great and Powerful OZ, could have easily been the mantra chanted by a successful and sought after Nashville session player named {{Chris Rodriguez}}. But eventually the curtain falls, and what is revealed is not the wizard -- but the man.

Chris Rodriguez learned his chops in high school playing everything from Peter Frampton to Led Zepplin to disco. By the time he enrolled in Belmont University's School of Music in Nashville, he was already something of a guitar wiz.

"By the time I went to music school, I was already a player," he confesses. "I just didn't know what to call the things I had already learned. I spent the first six months of college learning theory. And it was a good thing. I use a lot of the things that I learned there to this day. Being able to go to a session and look at a piece of music for the first time, and three hours later have it recorded -- that's the kind of skill I picked up there."

Chris not only "picked up" that skill, he excelled at it -- to the point that he quickly and quietly became one of the most sought after session players, background vocalists, and producers in Music City. He has contributed to the success of such noted artists as Michael Bolton, {{Amy Grant}}, Billy Joel, Shania Twain and Kenny Loggins. Along the way, Chris Rodriguez met some pretty fascinating people -- like his wife. And Jesus.

He remembers the night he got the call from {{Michael W. Smith}} asking him to tour with him. Chris was a non-practicing Catholic at the time, and had no experience with contemporary Christian music. "Pragmatically, I needed the work," he says. "I had been working five-hour sets, six nights per week, sweating it out in bars for $250 a week. I was losing my voice I was tired out I needed a break. Michael called at the right time, offering $150 per NIGHT! So I thought, 'What have I got to lose?' I had no clue about the spiritual implications of what was about to happen in my life."

Chris spent the next month rehearsing with the band, and hanging out with guys like Smith, Chris Harris, Mark Heimmerman, and Wayne Kirkpatrick. It was his first experience with real Christians.

"All my relationships had been built on sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll," he admits. "And playing in bars -- I was way deep into that. This was my first experience hanging out with godly people. Nobody beat me over the head with a Bible. The were just living their lives -- living THE Life; which is the best way to win people to the Lord, in my opinion."

Three weeks into the tour, after a communion service on the bus, Chris noticed a change in his life. Even though he wasn't sure what had happened, he points back to that night as the moment when God apprehended him. "It was like the start of a whole new life," he says. "It was wonderful -- just wonderful."

Chris's new life included a new set of values, new relationships, and -- after meeting a lovely young lady named Lisa, at the annual Christian Artists Seminar at Estes Park, Colorado -- a new wife.

Chris's career soon began to take off in earnest. Within the year he had received several offers from Christian labels for record deals, but he turned them all down.

"I was new to the faith," he explains. "What could I say of value? I felt like I needed to walk with God for a while before I could talk about Him. And besides, I think I had some stars in my eyes. I wanted to be a pop star. I felt like I had the potential to be like Prince. I had the same musical influences as he did. I didn't really want to be in Christian music, even though I loved Jesus. I thought I could be a Christian in the pop world."

While Chris never abandoned contemporary Christian music, he found his services increasingly in demand by mainstream artists, most notably, Kenny Loggins. He started touring with Loggins, playing lots of concerts, making frequent TV appearances, and "getting paid very well." Then, in 1993 he agreed to do a Christian album for Reunion Records.

"I got about three songs into it, and it fell apart," he says.

"Everything was going great on the surface," Chris confesses. "But personally, my life was going down the drain, and my marriage was on the rocks. I was in trouble. I had been married for seven years, and I had been a Christian for seven years, and I guess I hit a point, kind of like the seven-year itch. I was fed up. Not with the Lord -- but with people."

"But it wasn't God's fault," he continues. "And it wasn't all the other people's faults either. It was me. I was building my faith on all the wrong things, and that whole house of cards came tumbling down. There was this dichotomy of everything going great in my career, and everything going wrong in my personal life. For all those reasons, that record didn't happen."

Chris's home-life rapidly deteriorated as the constant bickering between him and Lisa degenerated into shouting matches. He interpreted everything she said as criticism. And he gave back in kind.

"We were just missing each other," he says. "I got to the point where I realized that my wife is a person who has needs. What I would interpret as nagging or getting on my case, was that she wanted me in her life. She wanted my attention. She wanted my love. And I wasn't ready to give it."

Chris' solution to this intolerable situation was to move out. After two weeks away, he returned with every intention of obtaining a legal separation, only to be struck with an incapacitating panic attack.

"Lisa called my pastor and a few other friends, and they came over at 4 a.m. to pray for me. Looking back, I realize I was panicking because I was stressed out about packing up my stuff." Chris chokes back a tear, and pauses to regain his composure. "To think that I was really going to do that. I was really going to leave my wife of eight years, and my one-and-a-half year-old son. Thank God I had enough godly friends who came into my life and said, 'you can't do this.' Zoom forward three years: we went to counseling, we had a lot of really great people that we are accountable to, and they pulled us up. Now my wife and I are best friends. We look back on our lives in 1994 and wonder, 'who were those people?'"

Chris never stopped writing songs, even during the dark days. And as his life centered more on healing and restoration, he found his songs capturing his autobiographical journey.

"In the fall of 1997 I sat down with a bunch of my demos and spent a couple of hours just listening to my songs," he says. "And then I went, 'Holy cow! I think I actually made a Gospel record.' After all this time singing and playing on everybody else's records, I was unconscious of the fact that I had spent the past two-and-a-half years writing songs for an album of my own."

It was those demos that eventually became {{Chris Rodriguez}}'s debut release, ==Beggar's Paradise==. And while Chris acknowledges that it is autobiographical, and embraces the struggles, and the dark times, he insists it is not a "downer record."

"I think it is a really joyful album," he says. " It talks about real issues, real things that I went through. But it also talks about being delivered out of the deep by God. I needed to talk about the real garbage I've been through. Because the divorce rate in Christian marriages is as much as the in the world. A lot of my friends are breaking up -- and I'm not condemning anybody for that. I think it is a miracle that God showered enough grace on our lives for us to make it through. I'm not coming out of it with, 'Look what I accomplished.' I didn't do anything. It was God that saved me -- twice!"


ALSO AVAILABLE - Tune in our Musician Resources channel for a musician to musician interview where Chris talks about his gear, his jingle work, and the long road to his first solo project.