Diamond Rio: Reason Enough
- Deborah Evans Price Senior Music Editor, GospelMusicChannel.com
- 2009 26 Nov
For nearly 20 years, Diamond Rio has been a fixture on the country music charts, picking up numerous accolades along the way, including four Country Music Association Vocal Group of the Year awards and two titles from the Academy of Country Music.
When they debuted in 1991, they became the first band in country music history to have a debut single hit the top of the charts. Over the years, they've become known for such inspirational hits as "I Believe," "Mama Don't Forget to Pray for Me" and "One More Day."
After years of wanting to record an album of songs expressing their faith, Diamond Rio is happy to be releasing The Reason via Word Records. Band members Marty, Jimmy, Brian, Gene, Dan and Dana have crafted a project that is near and dear to their hearts.
"They showed a lot of interest in what we were doing and they wanted to get our Christmas album out first and that was exciting for us," lead vocalist Marty Roe says of A Diamond Rio Christmas: The Star Still Shines, which hit stores last holiday season.
"We're all believers. We always have been," Roe continues. "I think our music reflected that somewhat, trying to be positive in what we do. A lot of our songs reflected that part of who we are, but this was a little different—actually [being] able to say in a stronger voice what our hearts are about. We have a story to tell about some struggle and about some victory and some things that have happened in our lives."
Instead of recording a collection of hymns or previously recorded classics, Diamond Rio opted to write new songs.
"When you are talking about faith and your spirituality, your connection to God, it felt less genuine to let other people speak for us," Jimmy Olander tells GospelMusicChannel.com. "So we've gone to great efforts to try to make sure we've written a record that's from the heart. These songs share what we believe in. This is who we are."
The title track was inspired by Roe's battle with vocal problems that nearly derailed the veteran band's career.
"It's a well-written song that applies to everybody, but it really was Marty's story that brought that song," says Gene Johnson. "It's a song about second chances and a song about surrender. You have to let things go into God's hands. You have to surrender all those arrogant feelings that we pretend we don't have sometimes, but they are there. When I hear that song, I hear it not just as Marty's story, but I think it will fit into most everybody's life. Good songs do. They just don't apply to one thing, they apply to a broad range of things."
The poignant "Into Your Hands" was also inspired by Roe's struggles. "This song very much reflects the theme of the record," Olander relates. "This song that we wrote with Chris Eaton is [saying] 'Man, I'm turning it all over to you. I'm giving it up. What I need and where I am, it's all in your hands—who I've become and where I will go from here.'"
Working with a vocal coach helped Roe get back on track, but he admits it was a scary situation. "I could still sing, but I couldn't hit the notes that I could hit in the past, and my accuracy, pitch and things like that weren't very good," he says. "The rest of my partners were having to deal with it too and they obviously began to bring it to my attention on a regular basis and it was a good conversation. I was kind of in denial for a little while. Then like a batter in a slump, all of a sudden [I just felt] like I couldn't do it anymore. It brought me to a point of kind of surrender."
Roe admits he was afraid he wouldn't ever get his voice back. "I felt like maybe I'd squandered my gift," he confesses. "There was a lot of prayer and just a lot of soul-searching. Then I went to this other vocal coach, Diane Sheets, and she's a believer. Things started to turn around immediately. I learned to take care of gifts that you have. I can't be more than what God made me to be and a singer is it."
Other songs on the album provide a look into other experiences in the band members' lives. Dana Williams wrote "What Are We Going to Do Now" after the death of his pastor.
"He had meant so much to our church," he says. "What were we going to do now? Then it hit me, we're going to keep doing what he's preached for 20 years. It ain't about him. It's about God and about us being faithful and us staying on the path and bringing people to the Lord."
Dan Truman penned "Moments" with Don Pfrimmer.
"It's always a lot of fun to write with Don," Truman says. "He's such a great lyricist and an interesting songwriter. I had the music that I really liked and this idea [that] there are certain moments that you have with a loved one that are amazing and those are what bond you with them and get you through some of the moments that are lot tougher."
I explained to him what I was talking about, and gave him some examples. I sat and hummed through my melodies and as I hummed, he jotted down ideas for about an hour and then he said, "Okay I'll get back to you.' He had so many great ideas that the second time we got together, we didn't rewrite anything. He had truly gotten what I was going for and did it a lot better than I ever hoped, so I have to hand it to him."
In addition to the new CD, Diamond Rio fans will be happy to know Thomas Nelson has just published Beautiful Mess: The Story of Diamond Rio, written by veteran Music Row journalist Tom Roland.
The band will be hitting the road this fall and shows no signs of slowing down. Just what keeps them going?
"I've been in the band 22 years," says drummer Brian Prout. "Jimmy, Marty and Dan have been together since I believe 1984 or 1985. A year after I joined the group, that's when Gene Johnson came in and the last personnel change was in ‘89 when Dana Williams joined the group, so we've been in our form right now going on 20 years.
"We don't know how to do anything else," he says with a warm laugh. "This is what we do and what we've always done. We still enjoy it."
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to Country Weekly, CMA Close Up, Devo'Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications.
A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.
Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and 19-year-old son Trey.
© 2009 GospelMusicChannel.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
**This interview first published on November 26, 2009.
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