Rewind- Rick Cua

Devlin Donaldson
It's a long way from Syracuse, New York to Nashville. It's an even longer trip from the "Outlaws" to a career in contemporary Christian music. Yet both journey's have been successfully navigated by bass player Rick Cua.

{{Rick Cua}}, son of a musician, grew up playing music in his hometown of Syracuse New York. "Those days were great," Cua says with a touch of nostalgia in his voice. "We were all like sponges. We were listening to everything. We couldn't wait for the new Chick Corea record or the new Steely Dan record. We learned and learned. We were also working (playing) seven nights a week many times."

Cua's final band before breaking out of Syracuse was given the moniker C.R.A.C., named using the first initial of each of the four primary members. "I had a road manager who went on to work with a national rock band, The Outlaws," Cua says recounting the story. "He called me one day and said the Outlaws needed a bass player. I ended up flying to Tampa from Syracuse, did the audition, and by the time I got home that same day there was a message on the answering machine saying I got the gig and to get back to Tampa as soon as I could."

Joining the Outlaws was a move that would later baffle some Christian fans who learned that Cua had become a Christian in 1977. "As I have said many times, those of us that got saved, at least in New York at that time, we just got saved," Cua explains. "We cleaned up our life, we loved the Lord, but we kept doing what we were doing career-wise. We were professional musicians. We went, we played music, we went home. I didn't know about contemporary Christian music at all until I heard Joe English's first Christian record. He was an old friend of mine. That led me to his label, Refuge Records."

Continuing his story Cua relates how he hooked up with CCM pioneer Ray Nenow, founder of Refuge Records. "I was doing a gig in Nashville and Ray came to the show," says Cua. "Afterwards he came up to my room and in three hours we had a record deal hammered out. We started right in."

And once Cua started he didn't stop. Over time he released two records, Koo-ah and No Mystery with Refuge. Next he released You're My Road and Wear Your Colors for Sparrow. Hitting his stride Cua then did Can't Stand Too Tall, Midnight Sun, ==Within Reach==, and ==The Way Love Is== for Reunion Records.

At this point in his career Cua felt led to start his own label. "In 1993 Diana (Cua's wife) and I started UCA records," Cua continues. "We did a compilation called Songs to Live By. Two years later we released Times Ten."

Between 1995 and 1997 Cua joined with longtime songwriting partner Bob Halligan, Cactus Moser (Highway 101) and Emedin Rivera (from Cua's Syracuse days in C.R.A.C.), and Tony Hooper (guitar player from Cua's own band), among others, in a new group called Celli Rain, a Celtic, pop/rock band that played often and gained much critical acclaim in the Nashville area and beyond. Cua played his last gig with Celli Rain in September of 1997. "That band was a great band. When I got on stage it felt like I was on a Harley without a helmet going 90. The band was a breathe of fresh air. It was fun. It was a delightful thing."

In 1997 Cua formed "the ah-koo-stiks." "It was a different record but I think folks liked it. The only way we could describe it was by calling it 'aggressive, percussive, almost-acoustic, retro-beatnik pop!' I noticed very early playing together that the audience reaction was pretty amazing. We could do a youth concert and the kids would go crazy or we could go into a church on Sunday morning and have these people on their feet. I just felt something was going on. We would not only do the music we write, but we would do praise and worship. We created a vocal style as well as a musical style that I think was fresh and unique."

Then in September of 1998 {{Rick Cua}} made another dramatic career change. Weary of the road, Cua made the decision to opt for a job that allowed him to marry his love of music and his interest in business. He became Creative Director for EMI Christian Music Publishing. The position allows him to continue working in the creative realm, working with writers to polish their songwriting abilities and to also work at getting songs recorded and placed into movie soundtracks. "I love this job," says Cua. "Now I know why most people in the world opt for a regular job. I am having a great deal of fun. And I also still get to go out and do the occasional gig. It's fantastic."