Jeff Deyo Traces the Road to and From Sonicflood
- Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
- 2001 28 Dec
Crosswalk.com: Let's go back to the beginning. What first brought you to Sonicflood?
Deyo: A group of the guys who were dc Talk's band on the "Jesus Freak" tour formed a band called Zilch. When their lead singer left, they asked me to come and fill in. So it was Otto Price, Jason Halbert and myself. And basically, we started doing "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" - a modern version of that song, the one that's on SonicPraise now - at our shows.
It was amazing for us because we'd go through 10 songs of what were kind of "performance Christian entertainment" songs. And then we would do this one worship song and we saw a difference with our own eyes, right there, with people's focus. It was like everybody forgot we were even on the stage. It was so powerful to watch. We found ourselves trying to take songs out of our set so we would get to it, because it was so awesome to see what happened.
I grew up in a church where everything was pretty ordered and structured, so people didn't come up to the altar unless you invited them to come, or had an official altar call. But while we were doing this song, "Lord I Lift Your Name on High," people would come up, run up -- crying and praying to God.
We couldn't help asking the obvious questions: "What if we were to do a whole album like this? What if we were to do a whole concert like this?" A concert of worship was a totally new concept for us because we had always seen worship as sublevel, as second class. It was something that we did to pass time in church. But this song started to change our perspective and Gotee, our record company, actually came to us and said, "Well, would you guys consider doing a whole praise and worship album?"
At first we were totally against it. We even had a meeting and said, "They're not going to turn us into a praise and worship band." But somehow, God got through to us - it's a long story - and we decided we were going to do this one album. So we actually started recording the Sonicflood album as Zilch.
Crosswalk.com: When and how did you change your name?
Deyo: We started doing it and it was just going to be a "Zilch Praise" album. But about three fourths of the way through, it became a whole different animal. God totally changed us; He changed our focus. Literally, we needed a name change, like Saul became Paul. So we became Sonicflood.
God totally blessed the album; it touched so many hearts. But the strongest thing I can say about the Sonicflood album is that it changed us. I was always under the understanding that I was there on stage to help people find God. I didn't realize that I still needed to learn about God too. So, it changed my life and changed my focus. We got into it so deep that I thought, "I could never turn back; I could never think of keeping this as only one album."
Crosswalk.com: So what brought about your departure then?
Deyo: I think because it all happened so fast and because it was such a new concept for us, there began to differences in the band. For example: "How should we do things, how deep should we go, how intense should we be?" That's probably the easiest way to explain the separation. Everybody kind of went their own ways. That was back in May of 2000. We tried to keep it together, but it just wasn't working out right.
With all that said though, I know God put me in Sonicflood for a reason, and I know he put the other guys in for a reason. For me, it was like I had uncovered a treasure. I knew all my life that I was going to be in music. I knew that God had called me to that, and gifted me, but I never knew he had specifically gifted me for leading worship.
And that became obvious with Sonicflood, because as much as I tried to make it in performance music, it didn't happen. I was an independent artist before Zilch. I had done three performance albums and had gone through the same old thing of trying to get a record deal for five years in Nashville. I was broken and cried out, "Lord what are you doing?" But, finally, I found my call.
Crosswalk.com: How did you feel as you left Sonicflood? Did you have a vision for what you wanted to do next?
Deyo: When I walked off the bus from the Newsboys tour that May, I really had no concept of my plan. What I can tell you is that this was not your typical "lead singer leaves the band to go solo" thing. I never wanted to leave the band, never wanted to not be in Sonicflood. I still to this day wish it had worked out, but I know that God has a bigger picture and a bigger scheme in this whole thing.
And so I was trying, as difficult as this honestly has been, to say, "Lord I know that you've called me to this, you've shown me what my purpose is." I walked off the bus and I said, "You know Lord, if you want me to continue to do this, then you're going to have to have people call me; you're going to have to give me a new band. I'm not going to go out and try to force the door open."
Crosswalk.com: And the Lord was faithful.
Deyo: Yes. When I left Sonicflood there was no job, but never once did we consider having my wife, Martha, go back to work or me getting a different job. Then the calls began coming in; people had recognized this thing that God did in me. So they were calling me to say, "I don't care what band you're with, just come lead us in worship."
That's when God began dropping some of the new guys in our lives. I know that it was God who brought these guys into the picture, because they are so gifted and so talented and so hungry, unlike the situation with Sonicflood, where none of us actually knew what we were getting into. These guys were born to do this.
Read Part Two of our interview: Jeff Deyo Finds His Calling After the Flood