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Intersection of Life and Faith

"Higher Power"

  • Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 May
"Higher Power"

Between his time in the recently reunited Christian metal band Stryper, his solo career, and his remaining time as a dedicated family man, Michael Sweet's schedule appears to be maxed out. But a recent invitation from Tom Scholz—co-founder/guitarist/songwriter for classic rock band Boston—started a chain of offers that were simply too amazing to refuse. Fans of Boston may recall the death of frontman Brad Delp in early 2007, which was followed by a concert featuring surviving members paying tribute to the powerhouse vocalist behind hits like "More Than a Feeling," "Don't Look Back" and "Amanda." After participating at that show, Sweet was officially asked to join the band, celebrating Boston's 30-plus-year career with a worldwide tour. Sweet shared with Christian Music Today what it means to him to be part of one of his all-time favorite bands, especially during a difficult time for his wife and family.

You were last seen and heard after reuniting with Stryper and then releasing your solo hymns project Him in 2006. What have you been up to since then?Michael Sweet: It's been an interesting year or two to say the least—a lot has transpired that's good and bad. The hymns record did quite well and a lot of great things came from it. But not long after that, in February 2007, my wife was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. She immediately went through surgery—on Valentine's Day—and we've been going through the ups and downs of treatment over the last year. We just keep praying, believing, and remaining faithful that God is going to get her through. I've since recorded the solo CD Touched for my wife, a compilation of covers like "You Are So Beautiful" and "Without You" to really speak to her heart. It's been an incredibly emotional time—the most frightening time of our lives, through there have been a lot of incredible things as well.Such as being asked to step in as lead singer for Boston?Sweet Right, during that time, I received an e-mail from a gentleman asking if I wanted to comment on the passing of Brad Delp, the lead singer of Boston [who committed suicide in March 2007]. I wrote a few paragraphs about his passing and what his music meant to me.Boston was a big part of my musical background and I still remember when I first heard the self-titled album back when I was 13 years old—I would play it over and over again.Though I was a Christian at the time, I've never really been one who only listens to Christian music. Boston's had a strong musical influence on me, shaping the way I approach writing, arranging, guitar sounds, etc.—their debut just floored me.So after I wrote that paragraph about Brad, I received an e-mail from Kim Scholz, [the wife of founding guitarist/songwriter Tom Scholz], inviting me to participate in a tribute show last August in Boston. It was a night of everyone coming together to raise funds for charities that Brad was a part of, plus it was a celebration of Brad's life. And Tom Scholz had told me he heard [Stryper's 2005 CD] Reborn and really enjoyed it. He liked my songwriting and my voice, so the door was opened from there.How did this opportunity factor in with your personal strains?Sweet It all came at probably a point in my life where I was emotionally at my lowest. I was so fearful what we were going through with my wife being ill and was so very afraid, asking God why this was happening. It was a really difficult time and then I got this call, which I personally believe was God tapping my shoulder and saying, "I'm still here." I felt it was completely a God thing.Once I received the phone call and met up with Boston, we did a short rehearsal for "More Than a Feeling" and "Peace of Mind." I had also sang a couple [at the tribute concert], as well as other local fans and bands from Boston.So how did a single show lead to you officially being invited into the band?Sweet It was just an incredible night and I can't really explain it other than the fact that the band and I really hit it off together. I'm officially part of the band now and I'll be touring with them starting June 6. Just to clarify, I'm not the lead singer of Boston. I'm one of the singers, switching it up with [local fan and artist] Tommy DeCarlo, but I'll also be playing guitar throughout the set.Boston's always been a band with various vocalists.Sweet In the early days, it was Brad who primarily sang, though over time, the band has relied on other vocalists too. I view this as an incredible opportunity. The group Boston is full of amazing people, and I'm blessed to know them!Were they been familiar with your time in Stryper, especially with all of your band's mainstream success?Sweet I know that Kim purchased Reborn, and though she had heard of us, she really hadn't gotten into us until that record. She started listening to that and was really impressed, so then she started playing it for Tom and he was also very impressed with it. Here I am talking with Tom Scholz, who's part of the band that released the biggest selling debut album all time [with over 18 million in sales], and someone that had been such a big influence on my music, inviting me to come sing with him—if you could've seen my face!Boston is a band that rarely tours, and given the loss of Brad, it looked less likely that the band would continue. What do you think inspired their return to the road?Sweet [At the time of the tribute concert], there was no plan to continue on. It was just going to be a one time benefit show. But I think the band received enough feedback from fans to continue, and I look at it as a way of honoring Brad. He was, in my opinion, one of best vocalists of all time and a one of a kind person. None of us are trying to be Brad or fill his shoes, but the group wants to go out and continue to honor him and the music.A lot of classic rock bands like Journey, Styx and Queen are still touring these days without the original lead singers, and still drawing sizeable crowds. How are they able to pull it off without the star power?Sweet Because I think the songs have touched so many lives. You remember first and foremost the songs, at least speaking for myself because that's how my mind works. When I'm humming the melody, I'm not necessarily remembering all the members and what each guy did. I think it starts there, and in the case of Boston, these songs are all over radio even today—they've become quite powerful. There's always going to be some fans who don't want to accept change, but for whatever reason, there are also a lot of people out there who want the group to carry on. As far as press with Boston, it's been a very positive response. We've gotten a lot of offers for shows and there seems to be a real excitement for this tour.Being a man of faith, were you ever concerned about any of Boston's lyrics or simply being associated with such an iconic rock band from the 70s?Sweet I have never felt that they were questioning my faith or that it was going to cause a problem. As matter of fact, Kim sends emails all the time to encourage us with Bible scriptures in the email, which is quite an encouragement regarding my faith. They are probably some of the nicest people I've ever met—so giving, so polite, and not your typical rock scene backstage with booze or drugs. There's none of that stuff. Plus they give a lot to charities, and from my perspective, are doing the right things in their lives. They've been a very refreshing example to me my family and I'm certainly not going to judge them—nor are they judging me. The good thing with Boston is they certainly aren't a band where most people would go after them lyrically, compared to other bands from the '70s. The only one [I find questionable] is the song "Smokin,'" which refers to "tokin' [pot]" but I'm not singing that one. I think it will all work out in the end and if anything becomes a moral comprise for me, I certainly will make them aware of that, but it hasn't been like that at all.Do you think joining Boston will help your career in the long run?Sweet I haven't really thought that much about that. The icing on the cake is that before I even met Boston, Stryper was interested in covering "Peace of Mind." Now that I've been in contact with Tom, we wound up covering the song with Tom playing guitar on a great rendition for the next Stryper record.How did your Stryper band members initially react to the news of this new gig?Sweet They were a little bummed at first. Their first reaction was, "Oh no, Michael is working with Boston! What's going to happen with Stryper? Are we done?" After we got through that, they've been very supportive and it's been nothing but good vibes.So what does this mean for the future of Stryper?Sweet Well, I'm not leaving Stryper or calling it quits! It will continue. When exactly, I can't say, but we just finished the new record and pushing for it to be released this year.I really enjoy playing, writing, performing and recording, and I feel that's my calling—to express myself through songs that I believe God has given me. [Being in Boston] is certainly going to open some doors and it might be an opportunity for Boston to introduce itself to Stryper fans who don't already know them and vice versa. I've enjoyed every minute of making [Stryper's forthcoming CD] Murder By Pride and it's going to be released sometime soon, hopefully supported by a tour in 2008 or 2009. It's all brand new original material, along with the cover of "Peace of Mind," and back to our roots as far as vocal harmonies and guitar solos. But at the same time, it's very current as far as song structures and arrangements. I think it's our best record.And what about a new Boston record?Sweet I think they were working on some new material before Brad's passing and I believe they are planning on doing some new material at some point, but I don't know that for certain. I would hope so and Tom has mentioned a number of times that I should sing on the new record if they ever do something. But I don't want to give false information and say "Michael Sweet will be on a new Boston record," and then it never be released. But I'd be honored and it would be a thrill of mine. For now, [Sony Legacy] is only planning to release the remastered Greatest Hits [this summer].What is your biggest prayer request to fans at this stage of your storied career?Sweet My biggest prayer request would be for my wife. Please pray that she would be healed, restored, and strengthened. She's been very down physically and emotionally, and really needs the Lord's healing. But I've gotta say that [her support of me] is the primary reason for deciding to do all this. Of course I've been a big fan of Boston, but my wife is also 100 percent behind it. If she wasn't, I wouldn't do it, because my priority is my family and I wouldn't put her through that. She's very excited and thrilled with the opportunity—she'd be upset if I didn't do it! So that's really been a blessing amidst these treatments. We're looking forward to [her healing] and she'll be coming out to see a few shows in what's going to be a great summer!Keep up with Michael Sweet's latest news at his web site, where you can also find his tour dates performing with Boston© Andy Argyrakis, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.