When Fusebox singer/bassist Billy Buchanan steps in the recording studio or on stage for a time of worship with band mates Guy Roberts (drums) Ben Rodriguez (guitars) and Justin Mackey (guitars) sincere passion resonates throughout a blend of vocal dynamism, diving guitars and overflowing energy. But more than just engulfing listeners with the band's brand new effort Once Again or during a live corporate praise experience, the dread-locked facilitator exposes his entire heart- wounds and all- to make the crowd connections extremely personal. And for a guy birthed out of a broken home (steeped in divorce, abuse, alcoholism and neglect) that's a pretty bold burden to bear.
"I was 11 when my parents divorced and that was after a long train of some pretty dark times," Billy reveals. "My only memories of my father as a child are of him being unfaithful or drinking a lot. Still my mom was always the one to try and hold the family together. Even though every other day of the week was filled with turmoil, she'd make a point of getting my brothers and me to church every Sunday she could."
Though fear and despair loomed through much of Billy's formative years, those short spurts of worship every week provided a glimpse of hope that would eventually become the catalyst for his current profession (and much of the content on Once Again). It also gave his mom the strength to get out of the situation's severity and break the chains of her husband's embittered control. "It finally boiled down to her having enough faith and courage to round us up and walk to a hotel in the middle of the night after getting beat up by my dad," Billy admits. "She never looked back and that's when the pieces of our lives started coming back together. But still, that rebuilding process was a slow road."
Billy's mom remained by his side throughout middle and high school (though he actually lived with his grandparents during junior high) but church took a back seat to his creative interests. After graduating high school, he won a voice scholarship to Cleveland State University after which he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to study bass and guitar at the Atlanta Institute of Music. Billy then joined a band called Skindeep as bassist/main songwriter and it became one of the biggest acts in town, playing sold-out shows in the city's largest clubs with the likes of Alice in Chains, Extreme, K.C. & the Sunshine Band and Chaka Khan.
Despite the notoriety and success, Billy still didn't quite attain the level of peace first hinted at during his churchgoing youth. Finally one night while sitting alone is his apartment, he opened his Bible for the first time in years and made a rock solid re-commitment to Christ after reading through the book of John.
"Having been exposed to it when I was younger brought me back to that place of wanting Him in my life," recalls Billy. "No matter what the world had to offer, it didn't fill the voids in my life and it didn't bring peace at the end of the day."
Following that decision, Billy's artistic footing landed in a Christian group called Beehive, which was scouted out by ForeFront Records. Though they never inked a deal, those connections eventually led to Billy touring as part of Rebecca St. James' backing band, who christened themselves Fusebox in 2000 to open the "Reborn," "Worship God" and "Worship God Encore" tours. Aside from having Rebecca's dedicated fan base back them from the beginning, Fusebox quickly amassed a following of their own by touring over 25 countries, releasing the record Lost In Worship (Elevate/Inpop) which spawned the hit single "Every Move I Make" (under the production guidance of DC Talk/Sonicflood mastermind Otto Price).
Besides Rebecca giving the guys a ministry protocol to follow, those dates also became the precursor to Billy's open dialogue about his testimony, which in turn drove him to greater depth as a songwriter. By the time the guys made it through half of the Lost In Worship tour, his incorporation of that message within the music resonated instantly with fans.
"It's funny because when we first started out and I was learning the ropes, I was very private about my story and the pain I felt growing up," Billy says. "But as I felt called to share it, I was shocked to see how many people would come up after shows and tell me about how their parents got divorced or about how they were abused as a child. I never realized my words had the potential to have such an impact on people, which has led me to the point of speaking and writing from the heart all the more."
Several cases in point can be found on the group's brand new effort Once Again, a contemporary rock collection that combines the worship focus of Matt Redman, the rawness of P.O.D, the funkiness of Lenny Kravitz, and the soulfulness of Seal with the desire to still venerate God regardless of one's circumstance. Such boldness on all fronts is evident throughout the disc's ten tracks, which range from arena filling rockers to momentum building ballads to reverent periods of praise. Much of that versatility can be traced to Fusebox's tag team with a wide array of producers: Third Day's Mac Powell for two tracks, Otto Price for one, Quinlan for one and the combination of Buchanan, Joel Smallbone and Ainslie Grosser for the remaining six tunes.
"Many of the songs are really vertical in nature, but they also have a lot of personal investment in them," notes Billy (who also leads worship at his home church when he's off the road). "Songs like 'Look What You've Done' and 'Thank You' are meant to pour out gratitude and thankfulness because God has delivered me from such dire circumstances. When we're lifting Him up with these songs, I'm feeling the words heal a little bit more of those past wounds every time they're sung."
Additional standouts include the Powell produced snarler "Gotta Have Your Love," the vertically slanted cruncher "Lord God Almighty" and the humble sparseness of "All For You," each of which possess the equilibrium of elevated artistry and radio accessibility. Buchanan is also particularly proud of the collaborations "Look What You've Done (a duet with songbird Donnie Lewis) and "I'm Yours" (featuring production by Quinlan). The three met last fall when Buchanan played the role of high priest Kai on the touring set of "Hero, The Rock Opera."
Aside from trying to prove the point of Fusebox's progression and increase its potential to cross new boundaries, it's the Gospel message perpetuation that wholeheartedly drives these guys and backs the subsequent ministry. Though Once Again definitely has the elements needed to turn around hits and record sales, Buchanan and company would much rather use the project to light a spiritual fire within listeners- both in and out of the church.
"The Lord rescued me from a difficult past and I owe my life to Him," concludes Billy. "Although it would have been nice to have a real relationship with my earthly father, my Heavenly Father is all that I need. God is everything a father should be. He's always there. He loves to hear me talk. In a loving way, He disciplines me when I'm wrong. He encourages me when I'm a failure... He is worthy of my continual worship and praise and I am honored to lead His people in worship through music."