Tenth Avenue North Cathedrals Bio

Cathedrals are generally thought of as soaring, impressive structures that serve as a gathering place for God’s people to worship and enjoy community. Leave it to Tenth Avenue North to challenge conventional perception by reminding us that we are the cathedrals and wherever we are is holy ground.

The Dove Award-winning band’s fourth studio album, aptly titled Cathedrals, is a collection of well-crafted songs that inspire community, encourage accountability and celebrate the fact we are not alone.So many of us live in isolation and we really don't have to,” says lead vocalist Mike Donehey. “So the idea is: ‘Hey get in the boat with us, sail by the stars of God’s promises and reach the shore of community.’  We realize that when we start to live together, we become the cathedrals on earth. We are the place where the sprit resides. It no longer dwells in buildings but in each of us.”

The lead single, “No Man is an Island,” underscores the message of community and reminds us we are not alone. “The line that really hits me is: ‘I'm for you,’ which is something I think we need to learn to say more often because a lot of people that I know have never had anyone say that to them,” Donehey says. “To build community you have to let people call you out. You have to let people disagree with you or else you don't really have community. You just have a bunch of people who agree with you, which is not the same thing. And whenever you start to call someone out, immediately their fists go up, but it’s amazing how you can see the fists come down when you just say, ‘Hey I'm for you. I'm not trying to tear you down here. I'm trying to lead you to life.’”

Spreading truth and leading people to life is exactly what the members of Tenth Avenue North have been doing since launching the band during their college days in West Palm Beach, Florida. The group made its national debut in 2008 on Reunion Records with Over and Underneath, which spawned the hits “Love is Here,” “By Your Side” and “Hold My Heart.”  Tenth Avenue North won the Gospel Music Association Dove Award in 2009 for New Artist of the Year and in 2010 “By Your Side” was named Song of the Year.  The band gained  further momentum with 2010’s The Light Meets the Dark and The Struggle in 2012 which  continued to populate radio and the church with such memorable songs as “Healing Begins,” “You Are More,” “Losing” and “Worn.” Donehey, drummer Jason Jamison, bassist Ruben Juarez, keyboardist Brendon Shirley and guitarist Jeff Owen have forged a unique sound that has made them one of the Christian music’s most successful young bands. But for Tenth Avenue North, it’s never been about awards and industry accolades, but about reaching people with the truth.

“We hope that every record we make leads people on a journey,” says Donehey. “We are not just putting out a group of songs that doesn't have any connectedness to the songs before. So if you took our records you would see Over and Underneath* that's this belief that at the height of our purity, Christ went higher, and at the depths of our depravity, Christ went lower. It’s this humbling from our pride and lifting up from our brokenness that causes us to fall in love. That love is here,* love is now. God is by our side,* He holds our hearts.* And when we get that, that's where the healing begins.* It's when the light meets the dark.* You can actually be honest about how messed up you are and you can be honest that you don't have to save yourself. He’s strong enough to save you.* You are more* than your mistakes. You are more than your failures. And when you get that, then you are able to admit that you struggle.* You can say I'm worn.* I feel like I'm losing* and in the next step there's this idea that we are not in the struggle together. Some people get to that point and they go ‘Yeah I'm honest about my struggles,’ but they never actually embrace the calling to live life in community with other people.”

It seems only fitting that in making an album that celebrates community the members of Tenth Avenue North worked more closely together than ever as a tight-knit creative unit. “This is the first record that we actually wrote completely together as a band,” says Donehey. “We had outside writers on all the other albums and this is the first time we just did the whole thing together.”

The band began writing songs or the record when they were on the Winter Jam tour. “We knew going into that tour that we were going to have a lot of downtime and that we had a mission to write a record,” says Jamison. “So we locked ourselves away in dressing rooms, buses and hallways. If the sun was shining, we would go outside and we would just try to write as much as we could. That was our life for four or five months and we came out with about 20-25 songs.”

“We were able to travel with a small little portable studio,” Juarez adds. “We were writing ideas and we were able to record them in our dressing rooms and develop them over the course of the tour.”

“Every song is a little bit different,” says Shirley. “It might start with a drum groove, guitar line, the keys, sometimes we just all jam together. Sometimes we are all sitting together. Sometimes it’s just one of us bringing something to the table. But the beautiful thing is, the song just gets built in different ways.”

The tour also gave the band a chance to try out the new music. “We did one of the songs at the church and they had on Winter Jam, called Jam Church,” recalls Shirley of the day they premiered “The Spark.” “We were asked to lead worship one Sunday and so we gave it a go. Everyone said they loved it.”

The band also enjoyed playing special acoustic shows after the main event on the tour. “We would try out some of the new songs at those,” Donehey says. “This one time we had just written ‘Stars In The Night’ and weren't really sure if people were going to get it. But we got to the end of the bridge and we had to stop before we could go into the last chorus because everyone started cheering.”

Once they had road tested the material and knew they had the songs for the album, the band decided to try something different in the studio and enlisted a new producer John Fields, known for his work with the Jonas Brothers, Switchfoot, Demi Lovato and Pink, among others. “The last three records were with Jason Ingram and it’s phenomenal what he does,” says Owen,  “but  after the third record we all sat down and went, ‘What do we want to do now? We could go with Ingram and make a great record or we could try to do something different and push ourselves and just be outside of our comfort zone.’”

The band opted to step out of their comfort zone and they are all pleased with the outcome on Cathedrals. “It’s just be a better representation of our musical direction, our hearts, our musical hearts,” Owen says with a big smile. “John Fields is kind of like an open door. All ideas were explored and he very rarely just said, ‘No, we shouldn't do that.’ I feel  like it’s a better representation of all of us.”

 Donehey agrees. “It's a better representation of all of our musical interests and influences,” he offers. “It's more complex and yet I think the gist of lyrics in some ways to me are maybe even more simple, at least more heartfelt. Lyrically I can say this is the first record where there's a line in every song that made me cry at some point. I don't know how people will receive it but I know it's the most proud I have been of any record we've done so far.”

The songs on Cathedrals cover a lot of emotional territory and delve into topics that aren’t easily discussed, but need to be. “Stay” is a prime example. “We’ve all had people close to us who have gone through like marital issues, divorce and adultery, and all different kinds of crazy stuff,” Jamison shares. “And one of the things I kept coming back to is how does it get this far? Where is their community? Who is holding them accountable? Where are the people that can ask them difficult questions? It dives into the community aspect. That's what that whole song is about---marriage and being committed to someone, even when you are not necessarily feeling it when there's not an emotion that's driving you.”

Leading into the album’s title track is a hauntingly beautiful hymn sung by special guest Audrey Assad.  “When you say cathedrals typically your mind goes to old, beautiful, works of art, that were buildings for people to congregate and worship,” says Donehey. “And I said, ‘What if we did something very old and Latin mass-sounding to communicate that more than the beauty you see when you go into a cathedral, we have even more inside of us. His spirit lives there.  So there’s just this juxtaposition of the old Latin song going into this very modern sound that brings you to the dwelling place is no longer a building. It’s inside of us.”

Cathedrals is filled with songs that are musically vibrant and anthemic while lyrically calling believers out of complacency and into community. “We Won’t Numb the Pain” is musically inventive and lyrically pointed as it challenges society to really feel and engage instead of medicating with technology. ‘That's where I get that line: ‘We want the cure, not the medication,’” notes Donehey. “If I have a deep ache and a deep need I don't want to fill it with entertainment until I get over the hump. I want to deal with the loss.”

On Cathedrals, Tenth Avenue North continues to create music that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining and as soul nourishing as it is challenging. These songs remind us, as the single says “No Man is an Island.”  We were made for community. We are God’s cathedrals on earth. “The reason you are made for community is because we are made in the image of the community,” Donehey states. “We believe in the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit means at the essence of who God is, is relationship. And it also means we know if that is true, then God didn't make us because He was lonely or because He needed us. He made us because of an overflow of the relationship. It makes sense that we are not only made for relationship with Him, but as Jesus prayed, ‘May they be one as I and the Father are one.’ We have eyes open to one another because no man is an island. We are made in the image of a community.”

   

* Over and Underneath released 2008

* “Love Is Here” off Over and Underneath released 2008

* “By Your Side” off Over and Underneath released 2008

* “Hold My Hearts” off Over and Underneath released 2008

* “Healing Begins” off The Light Meets The Dark  released 2010

* Light Meets The Dark released 2010

* “Strong Enough To Save” off Light Meets The Dark released 2010

* “You Are More” off Light Meets The Dark released 2010

* “The Struggle” off The Struggle released 2012

* “Worn”  off The Struggle released 2012

* “Losing” off The Struggle released 2012   

 


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