While Shaun Groves may look the part with his stylized wardrobe and messy hair, he certainly is the first to admit the spotlight isn't his preferred setting.

But in the “twilight” phase of his life, Groves knows he has a message of honesty — despite these struggles — to share with the church.

In an empty choir loft at his home church in Nashville, Shaun Groves stretches out in a chair, sighs and unenthusiastically tells me he’s off to the other side of the Atlantic tomorrow for a two-week tour with Michael W. Smith.

In faded jeans, a threadbare brown T-shirt, shaggy hair and three days worth of stubble, Groves looks as though he’s lost some of that “rock star swagger” his label, Rocketown, so eagerly promoted when he emerged on the Christian music scene in 2001 as a new artist.

At the moment, exactly two years after the release of his critically acclaimed singer/songwriter debut, "Invitation to Eavesdrop," Groves says he’s just craving time with his wife, college sweetheart Becky, and his two young children, Gabriella and Gresham.

Until now, he’s been on the road promoting his August release, "Twilight." And the sophomore album of his career finds Groves in a place he calls, as the title track says, “the dawning day and the dying night.” It’s the “in between,” described by Paul in Romans 7 and 8 as the battle between God’s perfect will and man’s selfish ways.

The space between his first and second record has been a time of testing for Groves, an era of instability, resentment and resolve. He talks honestly about the swinging to both sides of the pendulum and says it has been healthy for him. But at present, he says, he’s landed just about center.

Swing Low

In 1997 Groves made the big move from his Texas hometown to Nashville. With a degree in music composition from Baylor University, he was proficient on multiple instruments and honed his skills doing the praise band gig, playing percussion and saxophone with guys like sixsteps recording artist David Crowder at University Baptist Church in Waco. After being encouraged to write and perform his own material for the group and “hating it” after his first solo experience, Groves decided the best route for him would be to pursue a career in writing songs for other people.

He settled into Music City and soon landed an internship at Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing with the help of studio manager Jeff Morgan. Groves says his time as an intern, despite the lack of salary, was worth the payoff of the invaluable education he received from the esteemed songwriters who hung around the office.

While he struggled to land a writer’s deal, Groves took a paying job as a worship associate (“It was really kind of a janitor thing.”) with his home church where, ironically, we meet today. In the interim, a record exec offered Groves the opportunity to pitch a few of his songs to Caedmon’s Call, who was in the studio at the time and looking for new material. Though the band didn’t end up using any of Groves’ songs — among them the would-be hits “Welcome Home,” “Should I Tell Them” and “After the Music Fades” — Groves had the opportunity to record a few demos on that label/publisher’s dime.

Two weeks after recording, Rocketown, among others, heard the unknown songwriter and offered Groves a place on its roster. In almost no time, Groves went from being another struggling Nashville musician to a six-time Dove Award-nominated artist. His self-penned radio gem “Welcome Home” claimed the No. 1 spot on the AC chart for four weeks — the only new artist to accomplish such a feat in 2001.