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Social Justice Spotlight: Press Play

  • Andrew Greer
  • Updated Jun 25, 2009
Social Justice Spotlight:  Press Play

With its debut record chiming in at No. 2 on the Christian sales charts and No. 45 on Billboard’s Top 200, high-profile media appearances like The Today Show and Fox & Friends and a massive digital presence, Press Play’s street week press release reads like a new artist dream.

But out-of-the-box popularity isn’t the only thing driving the high-energy pop/rock six-piece to perform. In an industry that is as much business as it is heart, Press Play is bucking the system, donating every penny of its debut, Life Is Beautiful, to the Los Angeles-based Dream Center. Meeting the physical and spiritual needs of inner cities across the country seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the outreach-oriented non-profit hosts hundreds of programs in an effort to restore hope in the darkest corners of the United States.

Lead singer and uber-nice guy, Dave Hanley, takes the time to give CMCentral a quick glimpse behind Press Play’s paradigm shift, proving there is more to the music industry than making a buck.

CMCentral:  How did Press Play get started?

Dave Hanley (Press Play):  All the players were either volunteers or workers with the Dream Center here in Los Angeles. A lot of bands connect themselves to a cause. Press Play was actually birthed from that cause—people that for years loved and served the people first.

CMCentral:  What is the Dream Center?

Dave:  It’s a 24-hour hospital for the hurting and broken people located in the Rampart District of Los Angeles, which used to be one of the roughest parts of L.A. The police department actually gave a billboard to the Dream Center for being responsible in helping homicide crime drop 73 percent right here in this neighborhood.

CMCentral:  You’ve had some tremendous success since the album’s release.

Dave: God has just blown our minds. As much as we have stayed steady in meeting the needs of this community and being faithful to the church, He has in return given us the desires of our heart. That’s why all the proceeds from Life Is Beautiful are going back to the Dream Center. The least we can all do is give everything back.

CMCentral:  So this is not about record sales then.

Dave:  To say it’s not about sales would be ignoring the fact that that’s exactly the tool we need so the world will take notice. There will always be another great song and another great band, but if you can put that together with people who are also all about reaching the people Christ died for and giving their life for that 24/7, then we believe that is something special.

CMCentral:  The music on Life Is Beautiful is very upbeat. Does that seem a bit out of place since the record is pretty much a direct derivative of the Dream Center’s down-and-out?

Dave:  The music had to be something totally opposite than what this community was experiencing. So the music is fun and as the song says, no matter what you’re going through or what is going on in the world with the economy and the wars, life can still be beautiful through God… Just really bringing out the total sound of hope.

CMCentral:  Is there a defined audience for the record?

Dave:  The Dream Center is about winning the lost. Everything we do has the lost, the unsaved, the secular world [in mind] first. So about half of the project is 100 percent positive and mainstream-minded so the audience we are trying to reach, it won’t be over their heads spiritually. The other half is straight-up worship, because the methods of rescuing them are not sacred; it’s the message that is sacred.

CMCentral:  Since your goal is reaching the “secular world,” is releasing the record through the Christian music industry a marketing disadvantage?

Dave:  Different people say, “Why don’t you do this in the mainstream so you don’t get pigeonholed?” But abandoning who we are would not be right. We don’t sidestep who we are. We are born-again Christians here with a new song of hope.

CMCentral:  With weekly commitments at the Center, are there any plans to tour nationwide?

Dave:  In addition to playing three worship services each week coast-to-coast (twice in L.A., once in N.Y.), we also have about 80 dates this summer and fall. We’re in the midst of touring, and it’s going great.

CMCentral:  That’s a lot of miles logged.

Dave:  [Laughs] We get a lot of frequent flyer miles.

CMCentral:  How do you guys keep your energy up?

Dave: Red Bull and Starbucks. [Laughs] We cannot let the dream get ahead of our hearts and walk with God. In other words, if we’re putting eight hours into rehearsal, we better be putting 16 hours into prayer, in the Word and being with the people God gave His life for. It does take a commitment, but it’s worth it when you see people come out of the toughest and darkest situations and totally turn around. That’s better than any Red Bull.

CMCentral:  So this music is born out of a lifetime commitment more than career aspirations?

Dave:  Yes. The first thing God has put us on this planet for is to make a difference in someone’s life. Music is definitely down on the list of priorities.

CMCentral:  So I don’t live in L.A. How do you encourage me to serve, reach out and make a difference? 

Dave:  Hurting and lost people are everywhere. They don’t have to be homeless, down-and-out and in gangs. If we just serve the people Christ died for, whether they’re the elite or the down-and-out, He’ll bring the dreams He gave to us to pass. No matter where you’re at, make it more about others and less about self; and then God will make all your dreams come true.

For more info, log on to And for more info on the Dream Center, visit

 © 2009  All rights reserved.  Used with permission

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**This interview first published on June 25, 2009.