It was the decision that every band hates to make – especially after losing its record deal. But it’s one that Canadian rockers Downhere were recently forced to make:  Is it time to hang up the music thing or press on?

“Losing your record deal could be taken as a door closing and time to move on,” says the band’s bassist, Glenn Lavender. “We are always prepared to do that if that is where we feel God is leading us. But after much prayer and time together talking through things, we realized that now isn’t the time to stop. We still have a lot to say and much more room to grow musically and as a band. We decided we needed to get serious about what we do as a band, as a business and as representatives of Christ.”

And getting serious didn’t immediately mean heading to the studio to work on new songs. Instead, in Jerry Maguire fashion, Downhere crafted its mission statement, or as the band calls it, a document titled “The Way We Do Downhere.”

“This really helped us focus on what we wanted to do as a band and what things are important to us,” Lavender explains. “It helps us with our everyday decision-making because we can always come back to it and say, ‘Does this fit in with our plan?’ It was also something we could present to our new label and say, ‘Here, this is who we are! These are our priorities, and this is how we want to run our business. Will you come alongside and join us?’”  

And after several meetings with different labels, it turned out that the team behind Centricity Records was up for the challenge.

With a new record deal in place, Downhere was ready to begin work on its third album, "Wide-Eyed and Mystified," a title that vocalist Marc Martell says “actually describes our state of the band even more than it describes the album itself.

“The title hints at a more childlike and non-jaded approach to the way we do things,” Martell clarifies. “Our last album really pointed some fingers, and there are a couple of songs on there in particular that almost make me cringe – not because of the musicality but the way some things were said. We had kind of the Keith Green prophetic approach of saying, ‘Hey everybody! This is not right! Wake up! Let’s do better!’ Don’t get me wrong; I love Keith Green, and there’s a place for that. But sometimes those methods are abrasive in the wrong sort of way. I’m rarely inspired when someone’s standing there pointing out all my faults instead of going out and leading by joyful example.”

And with "Wide-Eyed and Mystified," which released earlier this year, there’s plenty of joy to be found, not only in the catchy pop/rock soundtrack that’ll have listeners singing along in no time but also in a new excitement about the saving message of the Gospel.

“Every believer remembers what it was like to first encounter the Gospel and surrender to Christ’s call,” Martell adds. “And the fact that we’re still mystified by Him is what keeps us going. It’s what keeps artists creating. As a perfectionist, it’s easy for me to be critical about every note of music I hear on the radio. But I still want to believe that, for the most part, people are writing from a place of true sincerity – a response to what they see in life – even if it doesn’t appeal to my music snobbery because it’s not terribly original sounding. Instead, let’s be the artists we were made to be, drawing from the source of eternal creativity. Let’s keep on romancing the church, and let’s keep on romancing the world – just like God is. That says a lot about our role as musicians. This is the direction we’re going, and we hope lots of people will come along.”

 
© 2006 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.   Click here to subscribe.