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Remembering “Something Heavenly” – Notes From The Tour

October 23, 2009

10131_191039464965_747059965_3988659_6540221_nWhew! What a great time we had out on the road with Sanctus Real, Phil Wickham, and Addison Road.  I’m still recovering and catching up on sleep, but wanted to blog here about some highlights:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And even again: I’ve never encountered a kinder, more humble group of guys than Sanctus Real.  Not a bad apple in the bunch.  Every one associated with them is kind and sweet spirited: their sound/merch guy Kurt, their management, even their bus driver.  It was a joy to be with them.

Due to economic conditions, the company sending the tour out had to cancel the buses that were supposed to transport us.  Thank God that days earlier, Sanctus Real had a chance to buy their own bus for a steal of a price, making it possible for us to be on a bus and get some sleep between shows while we traveled to the next date.

Since it was a new bus for them, they kept apologizing that it didn’t have the usual amenities that a bus will normally have like satellite TV and on board internet, etc.  But I’ll tell you that it was the best bus experience I’ve had because of the lack of these things.  No TV meant we had to learn to entertain ourselves, and the lack of internet was hard at first because normally we would be working on web stuff every spare moment, but not having it forced all of us to talk to each other, and there were so many good and life-giving conversations that happened because of the absence TV and internet.   It also freed up time for us to write songs.

At some point while you’re reading this, you can check out my photo gallery from the tour at: http://jasongraymusic.com/#/sanctustourpics

Let me tell you about the guys:
Chris, who drove the bus for much of the tour, was always making sure we were cared for and that the bus was clean for us.  Taya asked him how he was doing with the added responsibility of the driving through the night and he said, “I love it, in fact I think of all the things I’ve brought to the band, I might be best at this.”  I would disagree with him about it being the best thing he brings to the band, but I love his servant attitude.  And he’s a great driver, too!  We never felt a curve while he was at the wheel.  He also gave me one of my favorite compliments on the tour when he told me we would have been great friends in high school.  If you’ve seen Chris, especially on stage, you know he looks like a rock star.  But his attitude is anything but that of a rock star.  Early on I wondered if I’d be intimidated around him, but he has a great way of putting people at ease.  One of my favorite memories from the tour was when his wife and son were at the show and his wife seated their little boy on stage right in front of Chris.  Watching him stare wide-eyed in wonder at his dad during their set was a beautiful thing to behold.

It’s hard for me to relate to you what I loved about Pete and Dan because there’s so much… One of my favorite memories is how Pete loaned me his PJs (or as I like to call them, Pete Js). The Sanctus guys all have a thing where they like to wear PJ pants on the bus to wind down after the show. In fact, I think they gave each other new PJs pants last Christmas. Not wanting me to feel left out, Pete loaned me his rodeo PJs with little cowboys on them.  We’d sit on the bus with our PJs after a show telling stories and laughing til the early morning hours.  It was good to laugh.  And though there are difficult and discouraging realities while being on the road, it’s hard to feel too down when you’re wearing rodeo PJs.

Pete and Dan made me laugh more than anyone else.  Pete is the master of the well-placed Nacho Libre quote.  And his enthusiasm for life is infectious and he cares deeply about things: food, music, etc.  He introduced Taya and I to the best Indian food we’ve ever had. But best of all he’s very generous spirited and has a way of making you feel like you’re the coolest person he knows.  And Dan is one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met.  I told him I didn’t like him because he’s funnier than I am, but that’s not entirely true. He is funnier than me, but I do like him, a lot.  He’s been through some difficult experiences, but there’s not a trace of bitterness in him.  Pete, Dan, and I were invariably the last ones to bed.  We had 3 birthday parties on this tour complete with bad teeth, “champ” necklaces, army action figures, and Chinese yoyos.  The yoyos were the big hit and hours were spent perfecting our yoyo aim.  Pete even set up an obstacle course with the army guys who we’d attack with our yoyos.  (check out the pictures).  More than anyone else, these guys were my “buddies” and I was always seeking out their company.  We laughed a lot.

Mark is maybe the humblest and most sweet spirited of them all, which is saying a lot.  He’s the quiet one and it seems to me to be the most sensitive.  I’d always catch him quietly taking care of things or people that we had accidentally overlooked. My favorite thing was to pray with him, because his prayers were sweet and prayed with great conviction, and often tears.  Sometimes I would corner him to have him pray for me before I went on stage.

And of course Matt. I’ve always been grateful for the way he invested himself in the song we wrote last Spring “Jesus Use Me I’m Yours”.  Matt is very kind and obviously very gifted.  I get the impression he doesn’t realize how gifted he is, which is probably a good thing. He was under a lot of pressure during this tour because they have to make a new record and he’s a few songs short of what they need.  The pressure to deliver songs is immense, especially when the record label wants that “hit”.  Add to this that he turned 30 on this tour – a birthday that is a mile-marker for most, but especially anyone I’ve known who is in the music biz.  We had some great conversations about not only our vocation and it’s inherent challenges, but about life, marriage, joys, disappointment, and gratitude.  Matt really cares about other people and about representing Christ well in all he says and does. Taya and I enjoyed watching him as he would go out of his way to make sure that whoever was hosting us was properly honored.  I remember a day when the food option wasn’t very good and Matt was tortured about how the promoter might feel disrespected if we chose something else to eat.  It’s just a small thing, but it’s this kind of care that extends beyond himself to everyone else around him that makes him a good and admirable man.

I could say as much about Addison Road and Phil Wickham, too, though we weren’t with them as much as Sanctus, and I’m afraid I’m running out of space as it is, but all in all everybody involved in this tour were people who love Jesus with their whole lives and take their vocation very seriously, as worship they offer back to God.

Some of my favorite memories:

The three birthday parties for Pete, Taya, and Matt, especially watching grown adults act like 3rd grade children whenever they had a Chinese yoyo in hand.

When commiserating over the financial challenges that go along with our profession, Smokey (the lighting guy) sharing that his dad always told him: “Money won’t make you happy, it’s the stories you get to tell.”

“Free Shot!”

Getting to watch a great concert every night of the tour.

Making up nicknames for Kurt Aschliman

Knowing the difference it made when 402 of the poorest children of the world were sponsored through World Vision during the tour.

Matt telling Taya while watching a volleyball tournament wrap up in the gym before we could hall in our gear. “I’m just going to imagine for a moment that one of these girls is my daughter and pretend I have a normal life where I get to come and watch a volleyball game on a Saturday afternoon…”

Finding friends who appreciate the brilliance of Nacho Libre even more than we do.

Getting to write with Sanctus Real.

Having real conversations about the big questions.

Enjoying the whole crew – thanks Kurt, Smokey, Zac, Brian, Danny, Brooks, and Stephanie!

Laughing more than I have in a long time…

Thanks everybody!

Check out my tour photo gallery here: http://jasongraymusic.com/#/sanctustourpics

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa Mongold permalink
    October 23, 2009 6:40 pm

    I very much enjoyed the last concert of your tour. It was great to meet all of you! Thanks so much for doing what you do. I’ve been blessed by your cd more times than I can count this last week. Not sure how many times we’ve listened to it since Sunday, and I even had it playing for my students during center time. Enjoy your time off!

  2. Emily permalink
    October 23, 2009 10:34 pm

    I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it to one of the shows. Sanctus Real is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and for good reason it would seem. It would have been a blessing to see you together in one night again. I’m happy to hear that this tour was so enjoyable for you!

  3. jia permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:37 am

    That sounds brilliant amazing! What a blessing to have met such wonderful people 🙂 Pity I couldn’t go to any of the shows

  4. saraK permalink
    October 30, 2009 4:05 pm

    Hey Jason! ( Pete Bloedels big sister Sara, here)
    Glad people are noticing your talent! Gods been digging it for a LONG time.
    Sanctus Real headlined the final ” Spirit in the Park” I was on the board for –
    in Somerset, WI in 2006 or so. YES< really a great group of guys to work with and hear.
    So glad youre working with each other.

    Hey really like your latest CD. — got it in the NW bookstore offer. Good stuff.
    Hope to catch you live e're long.

    Keep up the praise!
    SaraK

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