By Peter Cronin
Rhett Walker: Faith, Family & Country
His leadoff single garnered a GRAMMY nomination (the first debut from a Christian artist to achieve that distinction) and his star is rapidly rising with critics and fans on both the Christian and secular sides of the fence, Rhett Walker might look like one of those overnight success stories. In reality, the South Carolina native’s trip to the top was a long and bumpy ride with some serious wrong turns along the way, all of which provided inspiration for the highly personal and exceptionally powerful songs that comprise Come To The River, the debut CD from The Rhett Walker Band.
Growing up in the small-town southern community of Beech Island, Walker was torn early on between leading worship at his dad’s church and rocking out to favorite bands including Black Crowes, Pearl Jam and Lynyrd Skynyrd. By the time he reached his early teens, the rocker in Walker had won out, and the young musician was avoiding church and haunting the bars. He was settling into the high life when news of his girlfriend’s pregnancy brought things to a screeching halt.
“I had to grow up quick,” Walker says. “I was 17 and I had my senior year of high school left, and all of a sudden there’s this baby. It made me see the world differently. It was time to man up.”
For Walker, it was quite literally a “come-to-Jesus” moment. Working a day job and home schooling at night, he gained a new perspective on his family and his future, finding hope and solace in his faith and real inspiration in the autobiographical songs he began to write.
“I’d rather cut grass than go out and tell somebody else’s story in a song,” he says. “I want to tell my story. You can put the most fantastic words together, you can add the truck, the beer, the dog, the Jesus word, but what people want is a song they can put themselves into. That’s what I wanted to do, and nothing else.”
To that end, Walker packed up his new family and headed to Nashville, where he got busy, racking up co-writes, building contacts, and creating buzz at every turn. Along the way, he met the bandmates (guitarist Joe Kane and drummer Kenny Davis) who would help make Come To The River an artistic tour-de-force that has critics (including the influential-but-curmudgeonly blogger Bob Lefsetz) praising the album to the heavens.
With Grammy-nominated single, “When Love Found Me,” peaking in the Top 20, Come To The River is still riding high as the band hits the road playing anywhere people come together to hear music.
“Whether it’s a bar or a theater or a church, the main reason we get onstage every night is faith, family and country,” Walker says. “Once you find that faith, that’s when you find meaning in this messed up, screwed up world. God opens the doors, and then it comes down to hard work.”