When it comes to Avalon, the premier vocal group in Christian music, there is much to know:
- Five successful studio projects, a remix album, two RIAA-certified gold records
- 19 No. 1 radio hits, 14 of which were featured on a single album, Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon, a feat only an elite few artists have accomplished
- 20 Dove nominations; three Dove Awards
- Two Grammy nominations
- A 2002 American Music Award for Contemporary Inspirational Music
In fact, 2003 was a year of incredible momentum for Avalon. Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon was an out-of-the-box bestseller that stacked up two No. 1 radio singles. The group enjoyed many sell-out tour dates in 2003, even without benefit of a new studio release, proving that Avalon continues to be a Christian music mainstay and fan favorite.
But you can forget all that for now. What is most worth remembering is this: After three years of spiritual reckoning, Avalon has discovered that real life isn't possible until you surrender what you think you know and simply trust…like a child…in the One who created you. That difficult discovery is the soul of The Creed, an autobiographical, musical reflection on what it means to surrender, on what faith in the midst of the storm looks like. It's this group's most cohesive, most satisfying work in nine years of vocal artistry.
BEHIND THE CREEDIt has been three years since Avalon has recorded an all-new studio album. With the addition of the highly regarded solo artist Greg Long, who joined the group fulltime in the fall of 2003, and the incredible vocal experience of new member Melissa Green, Avalon was eager to get in the studio and break new ground. The result, The Creed, produced by the dream-team of Brown Bannister, Charlie Peacock and Tedd T., is the most vocally unified, lyrically and musically diverse album in Avalon's history.
"I admit I had a lot of fear and trepidation," Bannister says, "knowing that Greg was a hit-it-harder, power singer, but on the first song, on the first day, it was immediate. It worked great."
"God obviously knew what he was doing," Jody says of the recording experience. "It was so natural. And we enjoyed the process of singing together so much, I think you can hear it. There are places where it sounds like we're all one voice."
"All the members of Avalon are great singers with their own distinct influences, styles and vibes," says producer Tedd T. (Rebecca St. James, ZOEgirl). "Their whole sound is a blend of their collective vocal strengths," he says.
The songs on the album are the collaborative result of a team of writers working in tandem with Avalon to communicate a specific, vertical message. Songs about what it means to depend on God, to keep moving forward when you can't see what's ahead. Songs about the joy found in His presence, and the strength brought on by growing in intimacy with God. Songs that reveal the heart and soul of four individuals who have weathered some rough waters.
From the danceable fun of "Good Way" and "I Wanna Be With You," to hair-raising power ballads like "You Were There" and "Abundantly" and the title track, The Creed delivers the hopeful message that Avalon is known for and yet the level of honesty, passion and clarity is deeper than ever before. "I'm convinced that a huge part of how God has continued to use us as a group is found in the songs," Jody says. …Obviously, we still want radio success and album sales, but we do this because we want more people to hear what God is doing in our lives and what He can do in theirs.
That purpose, that motivation, is the driving force. "The maturity level of this album truly excites me," Melissa says. "We know what we want to say, and it's from our hearts, and it will bless people. No matter how many people buy it, we believe God will use it even beyond what we can imagine."
That artist/song connection so natural within Avalon, Brown Bannister says, is one of the key reasons why this group is still thriving after nearly a decade. "People may think, 'Oh they're the go-to-the-mall, fashion-plate people,' but they're not. They are really talented. They look for songs that move them. They get their ownership from being moved by the song in the first place. That's where they stake their claim. And they make it theirs in the performance. They all have such great hearts for the Lord. They have such a heart for truth and for the gospel. They are amazing people."
THE LONG HAULThe Creed is more than a title from a great song with a great lyric: it's a declaration of surrender, a demarcation line in the sand that says 'We finally understand that it's not about us or about our plans or about what we think we want to say. All that can go away. We know that it's all about you, Lord, the One who is living and breathing in us. The only reason we are here.'
From the beginning, Janna says, "There were all these ideas that we were this pre-fab, too-polished group that wouldn't last, but even after nine years, I look at everything we've been through, especially this season of change, and I see how God has been continually working things out in all of us. That's not to say that we're still without struggles, but so much has happened, and we've just tried to keep showing up and obeying what we feel God has called us to do. …I feel like we're in that spring, after the long winter, when everything begins to wake up, to come back to life. We're in such a good place."
"I am so excited to see what the Lord has for this group. Having been apart of a group during college I am reminded now about how much fun it is to sing with people whose desire is matched by their talents. It is an honor to be used of God in this ministry called Avalon," explains Greg.
That place, Jody says, is beyond the music. "I feel like Avalon has truly become a ministry. And personally, I'm at a 'come what may' point now. We've been through so much, and so much has changed, and obviously for some reason, God still wants this to be. If it's nine more years, I'm here for nine more. I'm here for the long haul."