Today, I introduce a friend of mine with a very similar passion for music and the industry. Meet Michael Reed, husband, father of three and one that I call friend and brother. Our paths crossed a few years ago when he was in the music industry. He was the manager of a band, and I was the booking agent. Not only did we work well together, but we instantly hit if off like long lost relatives. We understood each other, respected each other, and thought like each other. Shortly after that work relationship began, it ended. No matter though, we had formed a friendship that would grow into something neither of us ever imagined. No matter the circumstance (cancer, loss of job, new careers, mental illness, child illnesses) our friendship has become a rock for both of us.
Now, it is my pleasure to share with you part one of a two part blog about music, the never changing constant in the friendship Michael and I have. This two part blog highlights the music that has made us who we are. The albums that inspired us to live, to love, to breath, encouraged to carry on and more importantly, are part of what we are today as people, as husbands, as fathers. Enjoy Michael's journey through his top albums that have influenced him and his life.
Preface: I grew up in a traditional non-traditional home. On the outside we were a very happy family. On the inside was a whole lot of dysfunction. We were always the first ones at church. But as quickly as the church clothes came flying off on Sunday mornings, I found myself growing up with chaos all around me. I found myself lost. Dazed. Confused. I was constantly picked on due to my height (I have a growth disorder and have not grown since the 6th grade). I suffered from constant depression. I had very few friends. And I engulfed myself into one thing: music. I was a trumpet player. But my dream? I wanted to SING. So I blared my cassette tapes (yes, I am admitting my age) as loud as I could to drown out the chaos that was outside my bedroom walls.
I went through the typical teenage phases of rap and hip-hop and grunge. But nothing really satisfied me. That is, until the 7th grade. I went to a "Christian" summer camp for a week. And it was life changing. People accepted me for who I was, not for what I wasn't. It was at this camp that I was introduced to the world of Christian music. And it was at this camp that I heard album #1 for the first time.
#1 Michael W. Smith i 2 eye
This may be an "old" album on many aspects, but i 2 eye introduced the world to Smitty. The modulations, key changes, and the ability to make it all flow so simply attracted me to his style. Then, I actually listened to the words. One of the greatest songs ever written is "Secret Ambition". I played this song so much I actually ruined the cassette! The melody and the catchiness of the chorus all spoke to me in ways I could never imagine as a young man.
As I grew up my tastes changed. Smitty and Amy Grant used to be the only option for mainstream Christian music, but as times changed other amazing artists came forward. And using Smitty, Amy Grant, Carmen and Stephen Curtis Chapman as their foundation, Christian music EXPLODED into a more mainstream style. All of a sudden there were actually DIFFERENT TYPES of Christian music to listen to. Enter Casting Crowns.
#2. Casting Crowns Lifesong
Wow. You mean I can listen to music and praise and worship at the same time!!?? Yes, please!!! Casting Crowns came to the scene in the early 2000's and swept the world with their incredible blend of worship and pop. Mark Hall, lead singer, made it a point to only tour through the week so that his family could be together on Sundays for church. He, to this day, is still a youth pastor at his Georgia home church. With songs like "Who Am I", "Lifesong", and "Praise You In This Storm" this album is a constant reminder that God is with us no matter how impossible the obstacle seems.
With the "Praise and Worship" era in full swing, Christian music transformed again. Someone realized even though we are Christian we can still have our "boy bands." Hello Tenth Avenue North. We have been waiting for you.
#3. Tenth Avenue North Over and Underneath
Tenth Avenue North erupted with their first hit "Love Is Here" but as you listen to the album you realize that these guys have really experienced issues in their lives. "Times" discusses the struggles with depression. "Beloved" shows the immense love of a marriage. The hits go on and on with this amazing blend of pop and rock and no matter what stage you are at in your life, there is a song on this album for you.
There is an open argument about whether old school Christian music is better than today's Christian music. My opinion has always been this: It doesn't matter HOW someone gets to know God, as long as that person finds God. But, for the sake of argument, what if you could blend the old with the new? Thank you, Newsboys.
#4. Newsboys Restart
The Newsboys have been around for a LONG time. They have transformed many times over the years, and with each change their style has become something different. With the addition of Michael Tait as the lead man, the Newsboys engulf the old with the new, and a whole new generation has become Jesus Freaks. Their award winning song "We Believe" is an anthem to all Christians, young and old. "That Home" is a tribute to Michael's mother who passed away last year and shows the passion of a mother and her son. "That's How You Change The World" is a decree for all of us to stand and make a difference. It is a great album full of life, heart, and love.
So now what does the future hold? Christian music today is much different than it was 20 years ago. With bands like Red, for King and Country, and countless others the future looks bright for mainstream Christian music. But one artist, to me, sticks out. Not necessarily because of her abilities...but because of her life.
#5. Plumb Need You Now
Plumb has been around for a few years, but it was when she poured her life into her songs that people really began to take notice. The title track "Need You Now (How Many Times)" was written in a very dark place in her life where she almost lost her husband. "Lord I'm Ready Now" talks about letting go and letting God take over. Her music comes from deep within her soul and you can feel her passion in every note she sings.
So there you have it. My top 5 albums. I encourage an open mind and open heart when listening to this music. God DOES change lives through music. After all, he changed mine. God bless.
Thank you, Michael, for your contribution to the blog. For more of Michael's story, head over to his blog, It is a great blog, and a story of healing, entitled, "Being Mentally Ill Without Being Mentally Ill." Part 2 of this blog coming later this week.