AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Pillar Reloads For The Love Of The Game
Lead singer Rob Beckley took some time to speak with NRT's resident interviewer Angel about the new record along with the events and stories that inspired a focused mission and purpose for the band.
 


Their fifth studio record, For The Love Of The Game, is being hailed as a return to roots for the Tulsa quartet rockers. The album is full of big, fun, infectious rock and roll that further solidifies Pillar's position as fearless leaders in the Christian Rock world.

Whether it's the band's raucous battle cries to get in the spiritual fight on "For the Love of the Game," "Throwdown," "Get Back," and "Reckless Youth"; their plea to engage in world missions in "State of Emergency"; their poignant message from the perspective of a deceased loved one in heaven in "Smiling Down"; their challenge to fence-sitters to make up their minds on "The Runaway" and "Forever Starts Now"; or the reflective reminder that God wants us to give Him the reigns of control in our lives in "I Fade Away”—there's no mistaking Pillar's passion for its message and its music.

Lead singer Rob Beckley took some time to speak with NewReleaseTuesday.com's resident interviewer Angel about the new record along with the events and stories that inspired a focused mission and purpose for the band.

The last line of your bio reads: "Consider yourself warned: This is Pillar reloaded." What has been the driving force behind this passionate renewal and reloading of Pillar?

My role in the band is kind of a leadership role. I have the privilege and the blessing to be able to lead the band in the way we should go. It started about a year ago when I realized I just didn't want anything to do with mainstream anymore. I was sick of being pulled in both directions, and I really didn't have a clear vision. You know, without vision you perish. One day, it just hit me. I was like, "Guys, this is what we need to do, and this is what I'm going to do. I'm not going to pursue or accept any mainstream offers. I just want to move forward and do what we're called to do."

For the longest time we were like, "We're a rock band!" Yeah, we are. I get to say we play rock 'n' roll for a living, and there are very few people who get to say that, which is pretty cool. But we also get to change people's lives, and for the first time, I feel like I've grasped the concept of "WE GET to change people's lives!"

The whole idea behind For The Love Of The Game stems from the fact that we've been doing this for ten years, and I personally love it more than I ever did! And after working for ten years, not many people can say that they love their job more now than when they first got started. For me, that spawned the idea: I love this game, I love what we get to do! When I really started to think about it and took it a step further, the revelation became very powerful to me. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul talks about going to the stadium. He writes:

"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. . . ."

I was unbelievably blown away by that! I was like, "That's For The Love Of The Game!”— that's it right there. The Game is the pursuit of Christ. It's the same as Paul's metaphor of the race. It's win or lose, it's heaven or hell. There are no redos. It's the game of life. It's the pursuit of Christ—and the passion and the love of it is what drives us!

I keep saying in these interviews: "I shouldn't have to wake up in the morning, drag my feet, and say to myself, 'I have to go read my Bible if I want to be a Christian.'" It shouldn't be out of obligation or a half-hearted attempt to do this. We should want to know more about God, and we should be excited to learn more about Him.

Obviously, Paul's words have had a huge influence in your life. Are there other influences that have recently motivated and encouraged you?

Sure. Right now, I'm thinking about Walter Payton who is considered to be one of the greatest running backs in the history of professional football. I love Walter Payton—just the way he worked out to get ready for a football season is quite inspirational! Even during the off-season he would run up a very steep hill, numerous times a day, to keep himself in shape. He would also watch films to study other teams and how they pursued the tackle. That's what he wanted to do. He wanted to learn more about the game and how he could become better at it. And he did that because of his passion and his love for the game. I think that's what we're lacking as Christians. We think we can just go to church, or carry a Bible and put it on our coffee table, and people will assume we're reading it. I would say, in general, there's such a lackluster passion in the church today. Of course there are some lit up, on-fire churches and some unbelievably Spirit-led individuals out there who love God with all their heart. Surprisingly, they feel as though they don't even know God, yet they pursue Him constantly. I want this record to be a way of encouraging a younger generation to [seek after God] while instilling into their hearts a passion that can last forever.

I personally believe we shouldn't put forth a mediocre effort in our pursuit of Christ either. That's why one of my goals in life is to strive for excellence and to be the best I can possibly be!

And it's hard, especially when you want that. I'm a very competitive person in general; I love to compete. In fact, my wife and I joined a church volleyball league, and sometimes we get heated up when we're playing. We love it! But in the end, it's just a game.

More importantly, I want to win in my relationship with Christ—I don't want to lose. Does that mean I'm not going to make mistakes? Everybody makes mistakes, but it's how you can recover. Can you be a Joe Montana and come back in the fourth quarter? Can you be a Michael Jordan and make the last second shots? You can always come back and get your life back on track, but you have to have the passion to want to do that.

So that's what For The Love Of The Game is about. Remember: the key word in it is Love. A lot of people are focusing on The Game, but the key words are—the love, the passion, the motivation, the determination and the dedication—to pursue Christ.

What message do you want to communicate to your audience when they hear the song "For The Love Of the Game"?

"For The Love" means the passion and "The Game" is to pursue Christ. So when you hear "For The Love Of The Game," think about the passion to pursue Christ.

The song, "Smiling Down," is a heart-rending ballad that finds a loved one in heaven singing words of encouragement and inspiration to family members who are still coping with their loss. Tell us more about "Smiling Down" and what influenced you to write it.

This song was inspired by two different couples who were both dealing with the tragic loss of their children. One family in particular, the Cleary's, who had two small boys, lost their 18-month-old son, Zander, when he accidentally drowned in a swimming pool during a church gathering.

Shortly afterward, they wanted to take their older son, who was 4, out to the burial site so at least they could say, "This is where Zander's going to be." On the way out there, their 4-year-old was pointing to the clouds and shouting, "Mommy, there's Zander!" His parents replied, "No, Zander's gone." They were trying to help him cope with the loss, because that was his little buddy. But he kept pointing to the sky, so they pulled the car over and took a picture— which is still on their camera—just so they could prove that they didn't Photoshop it. As they looked up into the sky, to their amazement, they saw the most incredible, pristine outline of an adult holding the hand of a little child. The boy said, "Look, there's Zander. He's with Jesus." After they took a picture of this image, they looked back up—but it was gone.

Now, I was one of those guys who was like, "Oh, yeah, you saw the Virgin Mary in the wood grain of a door!" Some people look for something in everything. But this story had such an impact on me. When I heard their testimony, I thought: You know what? You're right. Zander's in heaven, he's holding the hand of Jesus, and he is smiling down on you! We can find great comfort in knowing that he is now with Christ. This song is told from a perspective of a loved one who has gone on to be with Jesus.

A little while ago my cousin, who previously served in Vietnam, passed away from cancer. He was a crazy, tough old guy, and his wife was just the sweetest, most devout Christian woman I've ever known. She'd been praying for him the entire time of their 30-something years of marriage. Two weeks before he passed away, she called me and said, "I just want you to know your cousin Jim accepted Christ today." Then we both started crying on the phone. It was just an amazing thing!

When he passed away, a couple of weeks later, I e-mailed the song to them and said: "Hey, we just finished recording 'Smiling Down On You.' I'm sorry I can't make it to the funeral, but if you want to, you can play this song there." They decided to play the song at his funeral, and my dad told me there wasn't a dry eye in the place."

All of us will experience the loss of a loved some at some point in our lives. During this time we will go through some of the most painful emotions associated with death, yet God's word says to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. How in the world can we find joy in that? It really is a hard situation to cope with, because people want answers and sometimes there just aren't any—these are the things that test our faith. To me the joy in losing someone is knowing that they knew Christ and knowing without a doubt they are with Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Can you explain the meaning behind the song "Forever Starts Now"?

At first, I thought about the importance of developing a relationship with God, since we all want that eternal prize.

The chorus says: Tell Me What You're Looking For/Waiting On Forever/Forever Starts Now.

You may think that eternity starts when you get to heaven, but in reality, your forever starts now. It's amazing to think that when you come to know Jesus your forever with Him starts now! But then I thought, even if you don't start a relationship with God, your forever starts now—but in the opposite direction.

I felt like I needed to find another way to represent this song. As I started to dive deeper into the meaning and thought about it further, I realized it can be hard to have an eternal focus here on earth. We may feel like we're going to live at least 70 years or more, and that's a long time to live. We might say to ourselves: "I'm only 30—I still have over half of my life left. I got plenty of time." Well, when you start putting things into an eternal perspective, your life here on earth is pretty short in comparison to eternity!

That's why it's so important to have an eternal filter on your thoughts and actions! Ask yourself: Do I really need cable TV? Will I gain anything eternally from it? No! If I only had 30 days to live would I waste my time watching cable TV? No! If I only had 30 days to live, would I go on a shopping spree and spent $1,200 at the mall today? Absolutely not! We don't get to take any of that stuff with us.

So my emphasis on this song is for us to start focusing on eternal things—it's a way to develop your passion.

Can you tell us something about Camp Electric and your involvement with them?

I'm incredibly looking forward to Camp Electric! It's a summer camp being held June 29-July 3 in Nashville, Tennessee, for musicians between the ages of 13-18 years old. Camp Electric is unique. Instead of just going to band camp and learning about your instruments, you're going to have some of your favorite Christian artists at the camp as your music instructors. So not only will this experience be a great time of learning, you're sure to take home memories that will last forever!

Camp Electric is all about instilling excitement for music into the hearts of a new generation.
It's a way to get kids to appreciate music and to learn how to use their talent in a way that honors God. And they'll be learning from artists who have been doing it for a long time. I happen to be the lead vocal instructor at Camp Electric, and I have ten years of experience in the studio and on the road. I feel like I've put together a pretty good team of vocal instructors to help people learn how to take care of their voice and how to push themselves to a place they've never gone before. Our vocal instructors include Rachael Lampa, Matt Hammitt of Sanctus Real, Lu Rubino of StorySide:B, and John Cooper of Skillet. We've just have an incredible line-up of vocalists to come in and teach their point of view on how to use your voice and how to get into "character" to really pour your heart out. The students will also have the opportunity to attend nightly concerts and watch some of their favorite musicians perform. Guest artists include tobyMac, Skillet, Leeland, Britt Nicole, Phil Joel, David Nassar and, of course, we'll be performing. It's going to be awesome! If anybody would like more information about joining us at Camp Electric this summer you can go to www.campelectric.com, but please hurry as spots are filling up fast!

There are many aspiring artists and musicians who look up to the members of Pillar as their role models. How do you feel when you encounter fans who put you on a pedestal, and what message do you want to present to them?

It's completely humbling. Two of my biggest influences and heroes in the music world are Johnny Cash and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Obviously, I won't get an opportunity to meet Johnny Cash, but I recently met Dave Grohl at the Sony BMG Grammy after-party. Talking to him was a huge highlight for me! The experience put everything we do as a band into perspective. Now I understand that in the same way I look up to Dave, there are all these kids who play music that look up to me. Many of them come up to me and say, "You guys are a big influence on me, and you got me started in a band!" I don't see myself like that, but when I put things into perspective, I realize I am being used to make an impact on the next generation of music that is going to go out and touch people the way we've been touching people.

Pillar is heading out for its ninth headlining tour. What can fans expect on the new tour?

We wanted to figure out a way to make this one different. First of all, we're doing some fun stuff with the production. On stage we have eight flat-panel TV's which will give it a cool look. We also have five albums to represent, so we'll be playing the longest set we've ever played. Since people keep asking us to play songs off of Above, we'll be doing a medley of our older music, and we'll also be playing songs we've never played before. This is going to be the most fun we've ever had on stage for sure! If anybody wants more information about our tour they can go to www.myspace.com/fortheloveofthegametour.

Are you still helping to raise awareness about the harmful effects of porn with XXXChurch.com?

We knew Craig Gross before he even started the XXXChurch and have always been avid supporters of those guys. Since this is such a swept under the rug topic in the church in general, we made sure we added a link to their Web site, just for anyone who is struggling with pornography.

The XXXChurch has helped so many people. However, their approach to reaching people is completely outside the box because they just don't reach out, they reach all the way out to meet people where they're at, which is exactly the way it should be—but completely opposite of how many churches work. People tell us all the time: "Hey, this is an outreach concert!" but it's at their church. Well, who are you reaching out to? It's like your trying to reach in and get people to come to you, but we need to go to them and reach people where they're at. And these guys set up booths at porn conventions and adult expos, and pass out thousands of bibles. I'm like, "Yes, you're awesome!"

Their outreach is amazing! Recently, I was approached by someone who asked me why the XXXChurch is one of my top friends on My Space. I started to explain why but they didn't seem to understand.

We get that all the time! They're like, "Why do you guys have a porn site in your top friends on My Space?" My response is, "Do you really think we would put a legitimate porn site on our top friend list? Why don't you click on it to find out what that particular organization is all about—and then start persecuting!" The biggest bummer with a lot of Christians is that we jump to conclusions too quickly.

Since you've encountered persecution in the Christian community, could you please share your perspective on this subject?

It used to make me mad because I couldn't understand why some people who call themselves Christians would spend their time persecuting me when I'm out here doing something to reach those who need Jesus. Why do Christians waste their time by adamantly seeking out other Christians to put down and condemn, when there are so many people in the world who need help and need to hear the message of Christ? I became so upset because we encountered this so often, that I actually reached a point of bitterness toward Christians. But then I realized, for the most part, it's just their ignorance to what we're doing and my ignorance to what they're doing. I don't understand what God has called them to do, and they don't understand what God has called me to do.

I've learned that I can't possibly please everybody. So, instead of trying to tiptoe around people, answer all of their e-mails and please everyone, just do what God has called you to do wholeheartedly. Seek the truth! Do exactly what He's called you to do, and He will bless you. And you don't have to answer to anybody else but Him.

Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.

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