"A lot of people in our generation have given up on themselves. The only way we can get away from that is to rely on God and to realize that each generation can make a difference. We can change that."


by Mike Nappa

"Has someone told you this already?" asks 16-year-old Ohio native, Danielle (formerly Joy) Kimmey, the youngest member of the hot R&B/pop group, {{Out of Eden}}. "'Cause if they have, I won't tell it again." Once reassured no one has beaten her to the punch, she launches into the story of "The Taxi Ride from Hell," an experience she shared with her sisters-18-year-old Andrea Kimmey and 21-year-old Lisa (Kimmey) Bragg-while the three were touring.

Danielle continues, "It's 3:00 a.m. in Baltimore, and we just got off the bus from New York. We needed to get to our hotel so we could sleep a few hours before flying out. Dumb as we are, we just got in this taxi without checking for identification, because we didn't know how to ride taxis."

The taxi driver took off immediately. A little concerned, Lisa asked, "Excuse me, sir. Do you have any idea where you're taking us?" The driver responded, "To the airport." Lisa carefully explained that they were headed to the Holiday Inn Express-not the airport. After giving the driver the hotel's address, the three sisters sat back for the ride.

And found themselves at the airport.

Danielle says, "The whole ride, [the driver] doesn't go over 35 miles per hour, and he took us to the airport anyway!" They finally convinced the driver to take them to the hotel only to discover it was the wrong one. After learning how to get to the right hotel, the girls volunteered directions to the driver only to be completely ignored as he searched the streets of Baltimore in vain.

Finally, in desperation, they suggested the driver just to take them back to the airport, which, of course, he now couldn't find. Danielle sighs as finishes her story, "I think it was like 5:00 a.m. when we finally got to the airport."

Road Signs

Make no mistake about it, though. That poor cabby is probably the only one around who doesn't know where Out of Eden is headed.

Since the 1994 release of their debut album ==Lovin' the Day==, all signs point only one direction: up. With just a few years under their belts, these sisters have already left their mark on Christian music, selling over 150,000 albums, touring with mega-band {{dc Talk}}, garnering a Dove Award nomination, placing six songs in the top 20, and more.

But a quick reminder of their humble beginnings on their first road tour is enough to keep them from big-head-itis. In what seems to be a recurring theme in their lives, a motor vehicle played a big part.

Lisa tells it this way, "We had a 1977 brown and yellow Chevy van. Very pimp. Carpeted on the inside. Eight-track recorder. Not tape recorder, eight-track. We had a blown-out engine that cost us $1,200 to fix. Every tire except one blew out on us. We had to get the alternator fixed, we had to get hoses fixed-all this in a span of about three months!"

Despite their struggles with motor vehicles (Lisa also burned out the clutch on her husband's car during a brief trip to the mall), the girls' real-life humility and remarkable talent were enough to catch the eyes of the {{Gotee Brothers}} (Toby McKeehan, Joey Elwood, and Todd Collins). In fact, they liked the Kimmey girls so much, they decided to make Out of Eden the band that launched their newly-formed Gotee Records.

Gotee President Elwood explains that decision by saying, "They take a genre of music, R&B, and make it completely palatable for anybody. That's the makings of a group that can reach a lot of people--their hearts were so wonderful. We said to ourselves, 'If we're going to get into this business, let's get into this business with people we enjoy being around. People we can call friends.'"

And those friends became Out of Eden.

More Than You Know

Apparently the Gotee Brothers still enjoy hanging with the Kimmey girls, because Out of Eden recently released ==More Than You Know==-their second album on the Gotee Records label. Elwood relishes describing this new album, "It's flat out funky! When you're wanting to kick back and hear some solid R&B, the bass kick, and snare. That's what Out of Eden is."

Lisa can't wait to talk about ==More Than You Know== either. "New album," she laughs. "This is my favorite subject! [It's] like a refreshing breath of air. Different, fun, but serious too. It ministers to your spirit." With a smile, she continues, "And it's fun because you can dance to it! You can drive in your car [and] pump the bass!"

Andrea agrees, "It's music that you can hear on secular radio without the secular meaning and secular words." And that brings up a sticky subject. Mainstream radio can't seem to get enough of phat urban/R&B groups like Out of Eden-but in Christian radio the trio is largely ignored.

Gotee owner, Toby McKeehan, thinks racial bias plays a part in that. He says, "I think it's time contemporary Christian music wakes up and becomes the land of equality it needs to be. I don't want to make that a flat racial issue, but I still think that if this was an adult-contemporary group selling those kinds of numbers, the industry would be more heads up to what's going on."

After first declining to talk about this issue, Lisa reluctantly agrees. "You have to work twice as hard to prove yourself," she sighs. "Every magazine cover in Christian music is usually white, every compilation is usually [mostly] white...It's like {{Kirk Franklin}} has to go platinum before he can get that same type of recognition. I just pray that [people] can catch the vision and that radio stations will start taking chances."

Andrea pauses thoughtfully, then admits that being young and female can also be handicaps in Christian music. "When we first started," she says, "a lot of people gave us unequal treatment and thought we wouldn't notice. I think that it had something to do with the fact that we are women. [And] because we are all pretty young, some people tend to think of us as just a kids' group. They sometimes try to limit us...instead of seeing our full potential."

Danielle is upbeat about the situation. "I love a challenge, and that's exactly what it has been...but it's nice to be recognized as someone God is using."

A Christian TLC?

Being someone God is using is another recurring theme in the lives of the Out of Eden girls. Lisa makes it clear that they're not in the business of simply being an alternative to mainstream music or "a Christian TLC." She explains, "We're not just promoting a positive message, but the message of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, and what he's done in our lives, what he means to us, what he can mean to you and our audience."

McKeehan adds, "These girls are very mature for their age, they care about the right things, they're very passionate about spiritual things and about sharing their faith through their music."

Elwood can't mask his excitement when talking about the ministry of Out of Eden. "These are three girls who want to reach kids with their music, it doesn't matter who they are. This is not a white or black thing with them. They are absolutely focused on making music and creating such a fun atmosphere around Christ that kids just get on their knees and can't wait to run to church. I think God has really, really put his hand on them."

Danielle emphasizes, "We're really serious about what we do. We want people to be touched by the words of our music." Andrea agrees, saying, "A lot of people in our generation have given up on themselves. The only way we can get away from that is to rely on God and to realize that each generation can make a difference. We can change that."

Lisa continues, "[Jesus] is just the reason I do everything. My whole point in existing is because of Him. I can't exist without him. It's not going to be about how many Dove awards I got or how many albums I sold. It's going to be about God and what my attitude was towards him and how much I loved him and the people around me."

Sweet Reunion

It's love for people around them that provided the Kimmey girls with a unique opportunity a few years ago-a chance to become reacquainted with their biological father.

While the three sisters were very young, their parents divorced. Lisa, Andrea, and Danielle moved with their mom to Virginia, and before long they lost all contact with their father. While touring with {{dc Talk}} in 1994, Lisa discovered her father (who had since remarried) was living in California. With the help of her step-family, Lisa orchestrated a surprise Christmas visit to re-introduce herself to her dad.

Of that happy meeting, Lisa says, "He was crying--it was really awesome. [The following September] he came to my wedding and gave me away. That's when he and Andrea and Joy were reunited."

Meeting their dad again was a little nerve-wracking at first for Andrea and Danielle. "We met again at Lisa's wedding," Andrea says. "At first I was really nervous and was desperately trying to think of something to say!" Danielle had much the same experience. "It was pretty weird!" she laughs. "My parents divorced when I was like one or two and we moved away so I didn't have any memories of my father."

But it didn't take long for that nervousness to fade. "Now we're making memories," says Danielle. "The feelings I have are ones of joy, security, and love." Andrea also feels her dad's love, saying, "After 10 years, I didn't know what he thought I'd be like, and I didn't want to make a bad impression. But now I see that it doesn't matter to him, I realize he loves me for who I am--I'm so glad that he's in my life."

The Road Ahead

The Gotee Brothers are glad to be a part of the lives of Out of Eden as well. McKeehan gushes, "Out of Eden is a very special group to me. They grabbed my heart at the beginning... I fell in love with them--so to speak!" And so have at least 150,000 fans.

Sure sounds like they know where they are going. And it's a trip they hope will be filled with meaningful times. For that reason, {{Out of Eden}} will continue down the road toward hit records, packed-out concert halls, and ministry along the freeway of life. Lisa sums up the girls' perspective this way, "We want to do what we do [and] just want you to enjoy it and be blessed by it."

Oh, and that goes for Baltimore cabbies too.