All Star United's Second Wind
When riding in the car to his interview locale on a sunny Saturday afternoon, All Star United frontman Ian Eskelin doesn't simply sing along when John Mayer's hit song "No Such Thing" is playing. In fact, he doesn't even bother to mouth the correct words. Instead, he hums along while making up new melodies that perfectly fit what's already been written.
It's during this incident and later on in the interview process that it's quickly evident that even when Eskelin is technically "off the clock," his musical mind is always ticking in perfect pitch.
A Personal Revolution
When a band hasn't really registered on the Christian music industry radar for a couple of years, the probability of the end being near is usually inevitable. But in the case of All Star United, Eskelin spent the better part of the past two years taking time off from the road, feverishly writing songs and figuring out the future of his band. After selling more than 200,000 CDs in the Christian market worldwide, he wasn't sure what the logical next step would be, so he decided to venture outside of his familiar confines.
"After taking a little time off the road, I started to get antsy again. I knew I was built for this, and I didn't know what to do," Eskelin muses. "So I bumped up some credit on my credit cards, bought a bunch of gear, rented a cheap little studio and recorded a 10-song general market rock 'n' roll album."
With a couple of promising prospects available, Eskelin says he was "primed to saturate the markets in L.A., New York and London." With high-priced attorneys telling him this could be a foray into the big musical leagues, his future seemed nothing short of promising.
But playing showcases at well-known venues on Sunset Strip and in the Village District of New York didn't bring the satisfaction that Eskelin expected. "These songs didn't exactly have a huge Christian slant," Eskelin asserts. "I really started to think about why I was doing this. What would be the purpose? As I sang these songs night after night for these showcases, I got to the point where I didn't connect with them on a level that I needed to spiritually. It was almost draining me more than playing 200 shows a year in churches across the country."
A Return to Introspection
Despite all he'd invested in his new venture both personally and financially, an extensive time of personal evaluation quickly revealed that drastic measures would be required for Eskelin to find peace in his career's direction.
"After much thought and prayer and after parting ways with many of the people I'd worked with for years, I knew I needed to go on my own and completely can the record I'd made."
Believing "when God tells you to do something, you do it," Eskelin forged ahead and played the remaining shows on the ASU itinerary. One particular show at a festival in England eventually served as the catalyst for his return to the Christian rock scene. After chatting backstage with his friend Jonathan Brown, who helps run Delirious' label Furious Records UK and now Furious Records USA, everyone in the ASU and Delirious camp quickly realized that working together somehow made perfect sense.
And like U2's return to its lyrical roots on 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, Eskelin began recording the kind of introspective songs he enjoys as a music fan. One in particular, which is also the first radio single from Revolution (Furious) that releases November 19, is called "Sweet Jesus."
Written in about ten minutes on the rooftop of his apartment and recorded in one take with no overdubs, the song's lyrics reflect on how easy it is not to spend time reading your Bible and connect with God. "Sweet Jesus, wash over me/Would you come and sweep me off of my feet please/It's been two long weeks since you've heard me speak, and I was hoping that you might like to meet me."
The Future's So Bright?
After tracking Revolution in a mere 13 days with his new friends Jeremy, Matt and Mike, it would be easy to assume that Eskelin is exhausted from the whirlwind experience. But true to his overachieving work ethic and love for songwriting, he assures us that isn't the case. "I am always writing. I have a little digital recorder that I keep with me most of the time, and I've got 45 song ideas in it right now."
Based on Eskelin's variety of sonic inspiration, maybe if I'm lucky, this may be the first interview I've conducted where a song might result. But I guess we'll all just have to wait for All Star United's next record to see if that's the case. Until then, there's a "revolution" on the way that Eskelin certainly doesn't want you to miss.
Look for the band's 2003 itinerary in the coming months, and check out their official Web site at www.allstarunited.com for tour updates, current news and more.