He’s a Little Bit Gospel and a Little Bit Rock & Roll
- Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Sitting at the piano onstage in the center of an empty, 20,000-seat arena, David Phelps softly plays a song. While a scurry of technicians are making last-minute audio, video and lighting adjustments near and on the stage, the venue staff is busy aligning chairs on the floor for the evening concert. The building is dimly lit on this particular Saturday afternoon, and Phelps is in his own world, oblivious to the events around him. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, he has just finished a jog around the arena during which he had an idea for a new tune and has now made his way to the piano to “play out” the idea.
But who is David Phelps, you might be asking, and why is he playing at a 20,000-seat venue? Phelps just happens to be one-fourth — and the youngest member — of the legendary Gaither Vocal Band. And now the questions are probably really swimming in your head: How did he get in the vocal group in the first place, why does he have a solo record out? And why would an artist who’s “got it made” in the southern gospel world want to cross over into the pop-rock/contemporary realm of Christian music?
These are all good questions. At the beginning, Phelps’ love for music developed at a young age, eventually propelling him to enter and win the Gospel Music Association’s 1988 “Seminar in the Rockies” talent competition in Estes Park, Colorado. He went on to pursue a musical degree at Baylor University in Texas, where, the native Texan explains: “I had a teacher who tried to lead me toward other styles of music; but when she finally accepted that Christian music was what God was calling me to do, that became a real turning point for me.”
In 1996, Phelps and his wife, Lori, made the move to Nashville, like so many other music hopefuls; however, after only six months, his hopes of landing a record deal waned. The two ran out of funds and contemplated moving back to Texas. Upon learning of the couple’s situation over Christmas that year, his family gathered around them and began to pray. And like a scene in a movie, the next day, a record company meeting, in which he had no hope of any positive outcome, turned into the opportunity the family had prayed for. Phelps was asked to audition for the multi-GRAMMY winning Gaither Vocal Band.
Two weeks later he shared a stage with Bill Gaither and the Gaither Vocal Band, singing to more than 15,000 people. “I didn’t know very much about southern gospel artists until Bill introduced me to them,” Phelps relates. “They have embraced and welcomed me, and my life is so much richer as a result of the impact they have had on me.”
And now seven years later with six albums, 27 gold and platinum-certified videos and countless appearances to his credit as a Vocal Band member, Phelps is finally realizing his dream as a solo artist. But does this release mean his Band days are over? Apparently not. “Bill has seen what my desire is, artistically,” Phelps explains, “and he’s encouraged that and given me a platform to sing songs I’ve written.”
And "Revelation" certainly isn’t another southern gospel record along the lines of the Gaither Vocal Band’s sound. With styles ranging from pop/rock to R&B to Latin, "Revelation" spans the gamut of Phelps’ early influences. “I was raised in a very eclectic household, listening to a lot of different musical styles; and I learned to appreciate them all. I grew up when contemporary Christian music was coming into its own. I listened to Sandi Patty, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and the Gaither Vocal Band (with Michael English). I also listened to rock bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon. My exposure to those varying styles has affected who I am and the music I enjoy performing.”
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