The stories sound like happenstance, like coincidence. A band without a name is assembled at the last minute, comprised of college friends and acquaintances, because a gig has suddenly become available. Somehow, the members “click” and the music is noteworthy. Years later, the band has radio success and Dove Award nominations. While writing for a new album, they are contacted by TobyMac, who just happens to offer a song with this lyric:
“Will you walk away when the fire gets hot, or fight another day?”
Weeks after recording the song, the band must live it when the rented RV containing all their possessions burns to the ground. Coincidence? Happenstance? Certainly not. The history of Addison Road is a stirring series of stories that fit together so well, God’s signature is undeniable.
For an “accidental” band, Addison Road sure has had a purposeful impact on Christian music. Their eponymous 2008 release on INO Records garnered strong reviews and chart-topping singles, and songs like All That Matters, What Do I Know of Holy?, and It Just Takes One still resonate with listeners. But the success became intermingled with a season of struggle. Their van and trailer were stolen twice, along with their gear, and once the van was finally recovered it was soon totaled in a collision with a fallen oak tree. Add the RV fire and struggles with the health of aging parents on top of the typical challenges faced by twenty-somethings getting married and starting families, and it’s been a trying year for the band.
Through it all – actually before it all – God has faithfully prepared the hearts of Addison Road. Indeed, the songs on their new album “Stories” became part of a theme without the band realizing it, a theme the members would soon experience quite personally. Lead singer Jenny Simmons reflects. “These songs have been the picture of our year. The theme – fighting another day, persevering, getting to the end of your own plans and recognizing that God is going to do something beautiful – we’ve lived that out this year.”
The first radio single, Fight Another Day (that tune by TobyMac), is a good example. “We’ve never done anybody else’s song, ever, but he felt sure the song sounded like us,” Simmons recalls. “We had no idea when we recorded lines about feeling the flames when the fire gets hot that we would actually have everything we own literally burn up in a fire.”
The fire taught the band that it’s easy to say that material things are not important until they’re actually gone. In the midst of loss, though, the overwhelming response of Addison Road’s dedicated fan base reminded them of the goodness of God’s people. “I just saw this really beautiful side of people working together and reaching out. We were reminded that God is very faithful to move in the hearts of His people. Over and over again, our needs were met in abundance.”
One particular song on “Stories” affirms how God can use a series of life events like these to make His children better. A Change in the Making speaks from the hopeful perspective of a life under construction: “This is redemption’s story / With every step that I’m taking / Every day, You’re chipping away what I don’t need.”
Change is a fact of life for the band. Since their last album, Simmons and her husband Ryan have welcomed their baby girl, Anniston. Guitarist Ryan Gregg and his wife are getting ready to welcome a baby of their own. Newlywed drummer Jeff Sutton decided to leave the band and finish his teaching degree; a highly-publicized search for a new drummer was conducted on YouTube, with audition tapes posted from around the world. Bass player Travis Lawrence, has continued to expand his design work, doing artwork for all things Addison Road and other artists. He's also picked up banjo and harmonica, both of which are featured on the new Addison Road album 'Stories'.
It’s clear that the members of Addison Road will not retreat from all this change. Simmons sums up the sentiment well: “We’ve had to grow up. Life happened. But I don’t want to level off and end up in a life of complacency. I want God to be doing new things and healing old wounds and making me into this beautiful work of art.”
Witness Show Me Life, an anthem for the everyday warrior facing life’s challenges and becoming better off for the struggle. “Can I fall apart / And let go in Your arms? / Show me life, bigger than I’ve known / I want to feel more than alive.” My Story continues the theme, smartly borrowing a line from the hymn Blessed Assurance to ask God for a glimpse of the bigger picture and for guidance to get there.
Another standout that references a familiar tune is This Little Light of Mine. This stirring anthem written by Ryan Gregg could be recognized as a tender letter of encouragement from parent to child, but it somehow takes on greater significance for any child of God seeking hope to keep battling through life’s journey. The song has special significance for the band itself. It was the first song they performed onstage the night the fire happened, only 30 minutes later. Simmons remembers the moment well. “I got to the line that says, ‘There will be days when you want to give up,’ and I got choked up. I never get choked up!” Once again, God used a song written before an event to remind the band of His eternal providence and provision.
Grammy-nominated Chris Stevens (Matthew West, TobyMac, Big Daddy Weave) returns to handle production on “Stories”, and he has developed songs with memorable hooks and driving beats. Simmons’ vocal abilities continue to impress, lending an honest and authentic voice to lyrics that hit listeners with disarming relevance.
For all their tests and travails, the members of Addison Road have somehow found themselves in a pretty contented place. It’s as if God has brought them through an arduous mountain climb so they can deliver these “Stories” with genuineness, and remind their listeners that the climb may be difficult, but you can see a lot of good things once you’ve reached the top.