Shake Word Promo
John Schlitt's new album, Shake, finds him with a gold album, two Grammy Awards, multiple Dove Awards, and numerous other accolades already under his belt as Christian rock's premier vocalist, Petra's lead singer, and former lead singer for Head East. Having sold millions of recordings with Petra and Head East, Schlitt doesn't rest on his past successes, nor does he play it safe musically. Instead this rock icon marks his own territory, mixing pop and rock music with a message!
Stepping out on his own almost three years ago, Schlitt began accepting requests for solo artist concert appearances. As his solo career developed, it caught the attention of Nashville-based Word Records. Word recognized Schlitt's capabilities as a vocalist and front man for their top-selling band Petra, and began to discuss solo artist possibilities. 'John wanted to make his own mark,' said Word Records A & R Director Bubba Smith, 'And this is no junior Petra recording. Rather, a fresh new recording that's all John Schlitt.'
In his first attempt at songwriting, John wrote the number-one hit 'Just Reach Out' on Petra's 1994 release. On his debut release, John showcases his versatility, not only as a vocalist, but as a songwriter, co-writing 9 of the 10 songs on Shake. 'I just felt that God has given me a lot to say, and being involved in the songwriting on Shake allowed me to communicate what's on my heart,' says Schlitt.
Relishing his creative freedom as a solo artist, Schlitt purposed to stretch musically 'I've had more fun on this record than on any other record I've ever done, because I was responsible for it. There is a lot to me that I've never been able to do with Petra, only because Petra doesn't need all those facets. But this was a chance to try different things and stretch it.'
To make his solo aspirations gel musically, Schlitt called on a diverse group of well-known producers and musicians. The producers recruited for the project included: Mark Heimermann, Greg Nelson and, two highly accomplished musicians turned producers, Dann Huff and David Huff. Heimermann, who played keyboards and sang back up on several tunes, teamed up with Dann Huff to produce four songs, Dann and David produced three songs and Greg Nelson produced three songs as well.
'While there are three or four very different styles of music on the record, and three different producer teams, the record still maintains a unified feel,' says Schlitt. 'This producer combination is absolutely the full spectrum of where I am. If you could look inside me and know my musical taste or musical genre, then this record is it.'
Expanding his musical identity, Schlitt set out to include on Shake styles of music that crossed several different genres. Teaming Mark Heimermann with Dann Huff to co-produce the song 'Let It Show' accomplished this goal and became one of the most intriguing songs on the album. 'The vocal style started out most unnatural for me, but the words came easy.' 'Let It Show,' with its driving percussion and its heavy rock guitar punches, encourages listeners to let their faith show:
when they shake you
Really try to brake you
That's the time to let it show
Inherent with John Schlitt's music there is a message. 'I'm an encourager. I want Christians especially to realize that we have more power. We need to cut through the bondage of what the world has conditioned us to think, act and do, and start functioning the way God wants us to. God's waiting for us to do our part.' And Schlitt does his part by participating in events such as the True Love Waits campaign for abstinence before marriage, by acting as a spokesperson for the relief agency Compassion International, as well as by encouraging hundreds of thousands of fans annually while in concert.
Even with his album title John sends a message. Schlitt entitled the album Shake, because he wanted it to convey the duel meaning of the energy of the music and urgency of the message. 'It's using music that gets people excited, but also shakes things up. I don't pretend it's going to change the world, but it may do its part.' John came up with the concept for the album title while reading in Hebrews:
'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens ... so that what cannot be shaken may remain.' Hebrews 12: 26 -27
A strong message is further found in the rock anthems, 'Carry The Burden' and the opening cut 'Wake The Dead.' 'Some people call this the dead generation. That dead generation is waiting to hear the life giving message that only these Christian kids can give because they know the answer. They need to let their light shine - let people know how being a Christian has changed their lives.'
Another area Schlitt wanted to explore with his first solo record was bringing his message through a more of a pop music feel. 'I didn't want the album to be all rock. Greg Nelson has always been to me the epitome of an inspirational, adult contemporary producer.' With Greg's guidance in the studio, John felt comfortable exploring his vocal range. 'I didn't even know I had that range,' claimed Schlitt of the lower range featured an the opening of the powerful gospel ballad, 'The Road To Calvary.' With so much energy and gritty power found even in his lower voice range, to his soaring rich voice on the song's chorus, John challenges us to contemplate Christ on that road to Calvary.
One of the highlights for John on the album was working with his daughter Kari on the ballad 'One By One.' 'I wanted my daughter to be part of this record. Not do I only love this song, but just to have her as part of that background team (made up of well-known studio vocalists Donna McElroy, Vicki Hampton, and Kim Fleming) is always going to make that song very special to me. I will I never forget it.'
Family is a priority to John. Residing in Franklin, Tennessee, John and his wife Dorla, are very committed to raising their four children, Kari, John Jr., Christopher and Krey. But family life hasn't always been an important element for John. During his stead as lead vocalist for Head East from 1973 to 1980, John says he went from a kid who just wanted to sing and entertain people to an alcoholic and cocaine addict who was willing to put music and his career before anything - including his own health and his wife and family. 'I was willing to sacrifice everything that was really important for the promise of fame and fortune. Head East and its success was my entire focal point for seven years,' John reflects.
In 1980 John left Head East because of the group's internal problems, but he did not give up his dreams of fame and fortune. After a failed attempt at starting a new band, John became so depressed that he considered suicide. During this time, John's wife, Dorla, started to attend Bible studies and church regularly. Soon afterward she led John back to the faith of his childhood. 'Not only did God for- give me for all I had done, but He also gave me back my life, my family and my chance to sing again,' said John.
For four years, John worked at odd jobs, including digging drainage ditches, sweeping floors, and working in an oil shale mine. After rising up the corporate ladder and becoming head engineer at a mining company in 1985, John received a call from Bob Hartman who asked him to join Petra as lead singer. Having heard the group, John knew it was time to combine his new found faith with the music and message of Petra.
After nine years and six successful albums with Petra and future Petra albums already in the works, John has now expanded his ministry to include his own solo career. 'This project won't take me any further than what God has planned, but it was what I was hoping for - from the album cover to the producers to the final project as a whole.'
Concert after concert in cities throughout the world, John Schlitt succeeds in connecting with exuberant fans who have come to expect from him a powerful performance along with a non-compromising message. Whether touring with Petra, or on his own solo tour, Schlitt continues to exemplify his faith and position as Christian rock's premiere vocalist, while the aftershock of Shake will be felt world wide.
Mike Keil & Assoc.
Jeff Roberts & Assoc.