|TWIN CITIES — Tom Hipps was in a rock cover band in the 1990s. It was during that time, however, that he experienced a revelation: “I just didn’t want to do the bar circuit anymore,” he recalled.
So he began writing his own songs and put together the Tom Hipps Band. The group consisted of a revolving door of musicians.
And even though the music Hipps was writing was Christian music, “[the message] was sort of … it wasn’t blatant, it wasn’t outright, it wasn’t forthright, it was just the message is there and if they happen to catch on to it, that’s cool,” he said. “I was afraid of not getting booked into a lot of the places I wanted to play” [because of the Christian content of the music].
Earlier this year, however, Hipps hooked up with longtime friend and fellow musician Kevin Schuyler and two other guys to form the Christian rock group From Ordinary.
The band, which felt like a fresh start for the guys, would be more open and upfront about its Christian music roots.
“Let’s just be who we’re going to be,” Hipps said the band agreed. “Let’s not try to hide anything or sugarcoat it or sneak it in there, be covert about it. We just said, ‘Nope, we’re a Christian rock band, and we’re going to advertise ourselves as such.’”
In addition to being more upfront about their Christian music roots, From Ordinary also wants to break down the barriers that often exist between Christian music and secular music establishments and clubs.
Many secular venues count on alcohol sales to make a profit, and the group wondered if those clubs would be open to inviting Christian bands to their stages.
Band members asked: “Do you think this would work? Do you think the typical bar owner is going to let a Christian band come in?”
So far, From Ordinary has enjoyed some success. Various secular establishments, Schuyler said, expect a band to bring in 40 to 50 people for a show. From Ordinary hopes it can bring in many more people and thus offset any concerns club owners might have about lack of alcohol sales.
“In order for us to be successful, we’re probably going to have to fill the room with our own people,” Schuyler said.
So since the group formed earlier this year, Schuyler has been working on the marketing side, getting people to “like” the band’s Facebook page and commit to attending concerts at secular venues.
Right now, the band currently plays about 25 percent original music and 75 percent cover songs. They typically play Christian radio rock, including music by the Newsboys, Third Day, Sidewalk Prophets and Hillsong UNITED.
“The idea is to give people a chance to go and hear some of the Christian music that they like, that they’re listening to on the radio and be with other like-minded people hearing positive, uplifting music,” Schuyler said. “We understand secular music is great. We don’t expect that people won’t go and see other bands. But every now and then wouldn’t it be nice to just say, ‘I’ve had a really great week as far as my faith is concerned, and I want to carry that through my weekend now.’”
The group includes snippets or hooks from secular songs in their music as a way to draw in listeners.
From Ordinary hopes that eventually more secular clubs will be open to hosting Christian bands, to maybe even hosting Christian music nights on certain days of the month.
“There is a really healthy music scene in this area, but they’re all doing the same thing,” Schuyler said.
Eventually, Schuyler hopes what From Ordinary is doing will serve as a legacy for other Christian bands, so that five or 10 years down the road there are several rooms and secular clubs across the Twin Cities that play Christian music.
“We just started,” Schuyler said. “There’s a thirst, I think, for [what we’re doing].”
Schuyler believes that if more people support Christian music in secular venues, then the marketplace will move in that direction.
“If we as Christians support what we want to see, we will have more of it,” he said. “We need to be more vocal in the marketplace and have our voices heard by speaking with our consumer dollars. There is strength in numbers and we can have our voices heard, but we need to collectively advance His kingdom and not be bashful or roll over in the face of adversity. We can change the cultural landscape if we all support each other.”
ACTIONPOINT: For more information about From Ordinary, visit www.fromordinaryband.com or find them on Facebook by searching for From Ordinary. The band will perform at The Red Sea Club in Minneapolis from 8:40 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8.