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Sanctus Real

Matt Hammitt, lead vocalist for the Ohio band Sanctus Real, recently reflected back on this past year and discussed the album Fight the Tide after learning that the group had been nominated for Dove Awards Modern Rock Album of the Year (Fight the Tide), Rock Recorded Song of the Year ("Everything About You"), Modern Rock Recorded Song of the Year ("Alone") and Special Event Album of the Year (cover of U2's "Beautiful Day" for the album  In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa.  The later was the band’s first number one hit.
Sanctus Real combines an edgy rock sound with a heart that yearns to be drawn closer to God.  Think of the songs on Fight the Tide as the Psalms put to rock music and you begin to understand what this album is all about.
When asked what the band wants fans to take away with them when they hear these songs Hammitt replies, “First of all, I want people to listen to the record and really think it rocks!  I want people to think these guys really can jam and really write good songs. I want people to appreciate the music and then I hope in appreciating the music that they really will find the message. They are both important.” He believes that by writing and performing good music it provides a greater audience and therefore a greater opportunity for the band to share their faith.
Fight the Tide is an album that has many tunes that could easily be played on Christian or mainstream radio but Hammit says the intent was to meet the needs of a Christian audience with this CD.  He describes the recurring themes of the songs as being about relationships, how we communicate with one another and communicate with God. He says the songs are also intended to let the listener know that God is still seeking us even when we are trying to hide or may have turned our backs on Him. The song ‘You Can’t Hide,’ which he co-wrote with Chris Rohman, has a line that says, “When you think you’ve escaped He’s right there beside you.” Hammitt says, “He still desperately wants to know us.”
One song on Fight the Tide that speaks about relationships and communication comes straight from Hammitt’s marriage.  In the early days of their marriage, he and his wife had a disagreement over something he now refers to as small and got blown out of proportion but he needed to spend time soul searching and sat down with his guitar to do just that. Soon it turned into a prayer and eventually the song "Change Me" was born.   The message, says Hammitt, is that the singer is asking God to begin to mould him more in the direction of love and patience and to be kinder and gentler not just in his marriage but in all relationships. It is a prayer offered up from his own heart as he says he wants to, “become more kind and gentle like Jesus taught us to do.”
The creation of Fight the Tide took place at a time when Hammitt was going through a musical awakening of his own.  In his own words, “I actually started getting hooked on finding music that would be non-typical for me and I began falling in love with music again.” It may surprise the fans of Sanctus Real to learn that Matt Hammitt’s preferences in music run the gamut from Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band; to Johnny Cash, a country music legend; and include folk singer Mindy Smith. He does, however, still maintain a strong taste for rock Christian bands like Switchfoot.  He feels his eclectic tastes in music reflect his growth as an artist and the band maturing.
In speaking about In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa Hammit says”This project was a really cool way to step out and not just be a part of a project that raises money for aids in Africa but a project that has a real voice too and says to the Christian community, 'Hey, this is a real problem and we need to wake up.' I think there are people out there that if they knew more of what’s going on, you know that they would really be able to do more about it.“ He calls working on the album a real honor.  
The album also came with a lot of practical rewards as well.  It was through the production of this compilation CD that they met Tedd T. (Rebecca St James, Delirious) who would become the producer of Fight the Tide.  The cover of the U2 song "Beautiful Day" also became the first number one hit for Sanctus Real.  “In a sense it was very bittersweet for us because we wanted our first number one song to be our song but at the same time the awareness attached to the song also made people familiar with who we were.”
The band members, Matt Hammitt, guitarist Chris Rohman, bassist Steve Goodrum and drummer Mark Graalman are not only maturing musically but spiritually as well. They are learning to adapt to the rigors of touring without allowing it to interfere with their relationship with Christ or their families.  Hammit says, “We’ve learned in these past three years how to really open the lines of communication with our band mates, our wives and pastoral leadership in our lives and to really tap into the true source of our strength when we are on the road, which is Christ.” He goes on to add, “We’ve really started learning how to make all of these things work together and how to encourage each other.”
There doesn’t seem to be any concern that this new found success will cause the band to become complacent as Hammit is quite clear when he says, “I know every day how blessed I am not just to be a part of certain ministries that I wouldn’t have a platform to promote without my music but just the opportunity we have as a band to come in contact with people we have looked up to our entire lives and actually get a chance to learn from those people. “

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague.

Joe Montague is a  freelance Christian journalist / photographer who has been published in a variety of community, daily and Christian newspapers coast to coast in Canada and the United States.  Joe Montague's ministry of journalism is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven far too early at the age of 18. 



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