“As soon as I found out ‘Beautiful Day’ was going to be a radio single, I prayed that it wouldn’t go No. 1,” laughs Sanctus Real singer Matt Hammitt, referring to his band’s contribution to the benefit/U2 tribute album "In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa" (Sparrow). “Our song ‘Say It Loud’ made it to No. 2, but we’d never had a No. 1; and I knew I’d be bummed if a song that wasn’t ours got to No. 1 first.”

Not only did it reach No. 1, “Beautiful Day” stayed on top of Radio & Records’ Christian rock chart for five consecutive weeks and landed a 2004 GMA Awards Dove nomination for “Modern Rock Song of the Year.” Still, the band’s lament over its cover song success is truly halfhearted, considering how much the guys believe in the cause.

“Changing lives is all we care about, and anything else is secondary,” says Hammitt, noting that the album helped raised money to fight the AIDS epidemic. “There’s a crisis in Africa; and if our song helped give support, that’s all that matters.”

Charities aside, Sanctus Real might not be waiting long before one of its own tunes cracks the coveted top spot. While its Sparrow Records debut, "Say It Loud," was critically acclaimed and sold more than 30,000 copies, the group’s latest, "Fight the Tide," shows that these Buckeye State rockers clearly raised the bar. Working with producer Tedd T (Delirious, Rebecca St. James), the band — Hammitt, guitarist Eric Rohman, drummer Mark Graalman and four-stringer Steve Goodrum — worked and reworked songs until they crafted an album that represented its very best. In fact, the disc’s lead single, “Everything About You,” radiates an energetic spark that could very well make the song a No. 1  lock. Still, the musical vision for "Fight the Tide," as the title implies, transcends the radio dial and any other marketing concerns.

Hammitt, mentioning the many radio formats in Christian music, notes, “There’s pressure for Christian artists to make albums with songs that fit into this or that format. There is some spoken, and more unspoken, pressure to fit into certain molds, and sometimes it’s as simple as looking too closely at what’s popular at the time.”

The title "Fight the Tide" is about resisting such forbidden artistic fruit. “I don’t want to say we’re control freaks, but it’s very important that what comes out of this band is us,” continues the singer. “We want to make sure we’re making music that’s honest to who we are. We must be passionate about the music because it addresses what we go through in our lives.”

Sanctus Real clearly found a meaningful album title to reflect the songs within, but the group toyed with a different title that’s also, umm, relevant. “When people see our band name for the first time and try to say it,” laughs Hammitt, “our name always gets butchered. You’ll hear stuff like ‘Sanctual Rio’ or ‘Sanctious Real.’ Since the first record was called 'Say It Loud,' we thought about calling this album 'Say It Right!'”

Though a fairly new band on the national level, Sanctus Real has already made its presence known in quite a veteran manner. Case in point, the group’s three Dove Award nominations this year came from involvement in three different albums: its debut disc, the U2 tribute and the "!Hero the Rock Opera" project (for which Hammitt contributed vocals). Sanctus Real also participated in several major rock tours, including two “Festival Con Dios” outings and the “See Spot Rock” and “We Are Tomorrow” tours. The Christian music market embraced these rookie rockers, which fittingly corresponds to an early choice the band had to make.