“There was no radio support for Christian music, it was really kind of grass roots.” To those younger than thirty-five years of age that probably sounds more like words from an Apocalyptic novel by Tim LaHaye than it the words of one of the early pioneers of Christian rock music, Geoff Moore. As I visited with Moore recently he reflected back on his career.
He says one of the biggest changes he has observed in his 22 years in the industry is the overall acceptance by most evangelical churches of other genres of Christian music. “When I first started, when we played a church it was almost always a charismatic church such as the Holy Burning Tabernacle of Burning Fire and Hurtling the Pews of Joy”, he says chuckling. “These people were great, they were risk takers and people who were trying to reach the culture. As a kid who grew up conservative it was hard on me that the kind of church I grew up in would not let us play music there. Watching the change over the years has been dramatic. Now nearly all mainstream evangelical churches embrace Christian music at one level or another.”
He says another big change is today the majority of Christian artists also writes or co-writes their own music whereas when he was starting out as a songwriter in 1983 there was a big demand for good Christian songwriters because most artists did not perform their own material.
Due to the absence of much in the way of culturally relevant Christian music Moore’s style was heavily influenced by mainstream artists such as Bob Seeger, John Mellencamp and James Taylor. He says much of his early inspiration came from these types of artists because they were songs about people and their struggles. He refers to them as songs that moved people. He felt as a Christian he had something to offer because “I knew the guy with the answers. I could write songs from the perspective of hope.”
“Then I started going to some Christian concerts and I just couldn’t believe how uninspiring it was. I was used to seeing people singing about nothing like it was everything.”
Moore was first able to connect to Christian music when discovered other early rock pioneers like Petra, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy. He refers to them as the first generation of the Christian rock scene because they did not grow up listening to other Christian artists in a rock genre. If anything most of them were musically influenced by mainstream bands.
For those of you who think that you have a good voice while singing in the shower take heart, as unbelievable as it may sound Moore got his first taste of singing in the shower! A roommate of his at Taylor College was in a band and used to jam with his guitar and friends late at night in the empty shower of the dorm. Moore refers to it as a big communal shower with porcelain walls and great acoustics. His roommate couldn’t sing a lick, says Moore and so at the urging of his roommate and other friends Moore would sing along to the tunes.
The rest of the story has become a legend in rock music annals. A talent contest was being held on campus and the lead vocalist for his friend’s band took ill. At the bequest of friends who said they had literally heard him sing in the shower, Moore took to the stage. “I liked it but we were really bad, but apparently good enough because someone booked us for a youth event. That is how I got started”, he remembers. He likes to joke that, “It is one of those things that if you had the sense to know what was going to happen you probably wouldn’t have let it happen.”
In 1983 newly anointed singer and songwriter Geoff Moore moved to Nashville, worked in a shopping mall for six months and then landed his first recording contract. When he first arrived in Nashville, by his own admission he couldn’t read music or play a guitar. All that he knew was, “I could sing a little bit.” Looking back he says, “I don’t think there has been a two month period since then that I haven’t done a concert somewhere in the world.”
This is a man who has now played throughout Europe, Central America, Africa and Australia. He has performed with his longtime friend Steven Curtis Chapman at the Hard Rock Café ©n Beijing China during 2004, something the Christian community would never have envisioned in 1983. He says, “I visited the White House last year and did a bible study for the White House staff.” The Office of Faith Based Initiatives under the Bush administration invited him to come and participate. It is not lost on Moore as to just how far he has traveled on this journey of music, “You do stuff like that and you go how did I get to this joint?”
He has also not forgotten the people and places that helped establish his career along the way, “The truth is I have played hundreds of shows in little out of the way towns. Those shows mean as much to me and often times more than the big events.”
When asked how he feels about being played on retro shows these days Moore laughs and says, “I’m amazed at how many different ways our culture can come up without telling you that you are old.”
There is no denying Moore’s talent and his vocals are passionately dedicated to ministry. He is a big guy with an even bigger heart.
Today Moore is the co-owner of a management company with young upcoming artists. The most visible of the artists is a band known as The Afters which recently concluded a tour with Mercy Me. They have record deals in place for both the Christian and mainstream markets. Simple Records owned in part by Bart Millard of Mercy Me markets their Christian material. Epic Records signed them for the mainstream market. The band’s first Christian single You from their album I Wish We All Could Win charted at number two.
“I think my artistry equips me to work in management of artists. I may not know exactly what they are going through but I have gone through something like it. I really feel like it is a next phase in my calling.”
Moore has been married for twenty-one years to wife Jan and is the father of four children, two teenage boys Justine and Joshua and two adopted Chinese daughters, Ashley Rose and Anna Grace.
It is this heartfelt love for family that has led Moore to become involved in a ministry to couples sponsored by Dr Gary and Barbara Rosberg’s America’s Family Coaches Ministry (www.afclive.com/ ). Moore takes an active part in leading worship and performing in concert. Dr Rosberg, a noted author, radio co-host and key note speaker had this to say when I contacted him about Geoff Moore, “God first knit me to Geoff’s music. The day after my dad died someone gave me a copy of Geoff’s song “When all is said and done” and I was hooked! From then on I have used it to minister to thousands all across the Nation. Now my wife Barbara and I are knit to the heart of Geoff Moore. He is a man we wanted to partner with because of his love for Jesus, his integrity, his heart for marriages, his deep love for his own wife and they way he fathers his children. He is a top flight man sold out for Jesus Christ who effectively communicates his passion to his audiences.”
Looking back on his career and contemplating his current music career Moore sums it up this way, ” I’ve been saying this for twenty years, it is really a sweet time in my life and I am very thankful.”
Copyright © 2005 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague.
Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.