During 15 years together, the members of Audio Adrenaline have more than lived up to their super-charged moniker both on stage and off. Whether inviting an arena full of fans to sing along on such chart topping hits as “Big House” or riding ATVs in the Nevada desert, the guys have—to coin a phrase from bassist Will McGinniss—“sucked every ounce of marrow” from each experience.
Sadly much of that comes to a close with the stellar collection, ADIOS: The Greatest Hits as the band prepares to say farewell to its successful recording career and life on the road. Why would a GRAMMY-winning rock ‘n roll band quit at the peak of its success? “The real reason we are giving it up is because our lead singer, Mark Stuart’s voice is going,” says drummer Ben Cissell. “If he was still singing like an angel we’d probably keep going. A lot of people ask, ‘Why don’t we just find a new lead singer?’ It just wouldn’t be Audio Adrenaline anymore. Mark, is the best front man in Christian music, and for us to go out there with another singer and try to be Audio Adrenaline, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
Indeed with any other singer, it wouldn’t be Audio Adrenaline. Stuart and band mates McGinniss, Cissell and Tyler Burkum are exiting at the peak of their game, and they can proudly walk away having accomplished much. The band has sold more than three million records and scored 18 No. 1 radio hits, among them “Ocean Floor,” “Big House,” “Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus,” “Leaving 99,” “Hands and Feet,” and “Some Kind of Zombie.” They won two consecutive GRAMMY awards in the rock gospel album of the year category for Worldwide in 2004 and for Until My Heart Caves In in 2006. They’ve captured four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, including rock album of the year in 2003 for “Lift.” The band’s Bloom disc was certified Gold by the RIAA in 1999, signifying sales of more than 500,000 units, and they were awarded the prestigious “Song of the Decade” in the 90s for “Big House” by CCM magazine.
All that is not bad for a bunch of guys that have always considered themselves the underdogs of the Christian music industry. But even more important than the hit records and accolades have been the lives that have been touched by the music and ministry of Audio Adrenaline. Countless young people have looked to the band for encouragement and inspiration and have found a template for their own lives. Audio Adrenaline has always been known as a band that is heavily into missions, and they’ve encouraged young people to follow in their footsteps. Through their Hands and Feet Project, they’ve brought attention to the plight of orphans in Haiti and have opened a window to the world that showed their fans a new way to serve God.
Of course, great music has been the calling card that has paved the way for the band’s many endeavors. ADIOS will be the band’s 11th album on ForeFront Records. In addition to such Audio Adrenaline hits as “Chevette,” “Get Down” and “Beautiful,” the 17-song set will also feature two new songs—“Goodbye,” the album’s first single, and a cover of the Alarm’s “Blaze of Glory”--both potent tunes that fit comfortably among Audio Adrenaline’s classics.
There will also be a special ADIOS CD/DVD edition that includes a third new song, a cover of Charlie Peacock’s “Down in the Lowlands.” Additionally, the DVD will include eight Audio Adrenaline videos, an extensive interview with the band and some of the top artists in Christian music talking about the impact of AudioA’s music. Among those sharing their thoughts and some reminiscences are tobyMac, Steven Curtis Chapman, Relient K, MercyMe and Pillar.
Fans will get to hear Audio Adrenaline’s new songs as well as their favorites when the band hits the road for the remainder of this year. Audio Adrenaline is set to headline all the major Christian festivals this summer. During the fall, they’ll embark on a 35-city trek with MercyMe.
The band members admit that it’s a bittersweet time, but in hindsight, Stuart says he wouldn’t have changed a thing. “I don’t have regrets about the way that I performed or sang,” he says. “I think you have to go out and be who you have to be and if you lose your voice, you lose your voice. I think if I was to sing differently or done it differently, it wouldn’t have been the same.”
Giving audiences 110 percent every night is the way the members of Audio Adrenaline approached every show, and it’s that commitment to serving God with passion and unbridled energy that have helped shape the Christian music community, as well as impacted individuals around the world. “When we went on stage, we wanted to give the best show we could and with a lot of passion musically and spiritually,” says McGinniss. “We just wanted to impact as deep as we could and really not waste time.”
The members of the band see Audio Adrenaline as an example of how God can use people who are obedient. “I think that it’s a testimony to any one out there if you are willing to turn your heart and life over to God, that you can do many things,” says Stuart. “We certainly aren’t the best band. We have our weaknesses spiritually and we’re not the best musicians, but I think He works outside of all those things. He just uses you. I don’t think we ever really thought we could have gone this long, but we just wanted to be humble and serve God in a faithful way and He’s used us.”
That humble, self-effacing view of their own talents has spawned an underdog mentality among the members of the band that has made them work harder and never rest on their laurels. “The last fifteen years of music, ministry and mayhem have been an incredible blessing,” says Stuart. “In fact, we look at the existence of Audio adrenaline as nothing short of a miracle. Everyday we spent writing, recording, traveling and performing together are dear memories. And to be able to live out our dreams together with the greatest fans on the planet was indeed a privilege. To say ‘goodbye’ is never easy, but knowing were God has brought us from makes us so excited about where He's taking us.”
For Audio Adrenaline it all started in Bible college. Stuart and McGinniss met at Kentucky Christian College (now Kentucky Christian University). Stuart and his brother David were putting together a rock band and McGinniss’ mother told Stuart he needed to meet her son. The two struck up a friendship and along with David and Barry Blair launched the band, originally called A-180. The band recorded two independent albums and eventually the single, “My God,” along with Bob Herdman, which garnered the band a record contract with ForeFront Records and launched the band Audio Adrenaline.
McGinniss admits they were a little hesitant initially. “We thought we should be teachers and play rock and roll in the summer,” he recalls, “but after we prayed about it for awhile, we realized that it must be coming from God and he wanted us to go do this full time. We moved to Nashville in 1991.”
The band’s self-titled debut disc garnered attention and the band began building a national reputation for its high-energy concerts, innovative songwriting, and unwavering commitment to sharing the gospel. Audio Adrenaline’s sophomore album, Don’t Censor Me, was released in 1993, and the band hit its stride with such hits as “Big House” and “Can’t Take God Away.”
They continued with 1995’s Live Bootleg and the following year with the groundbreaking effort, Bloom. Produced by mainstream hit maker John Hampton, the album debuted in the Top 60 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and was certified gold by the RIAA.
Known as some of the music industry’s most dedicated road warriors, the band grew its fan base early on by touring with dcTalk and Steven Curtis Chapman, before they began headlining their own gigs. “I really felt like the first Jesus Freak tour was a pretty eye opening experience for us,” Stuart recalls of the band’s outing with dcTalk. “We were playing sold out shows in front of 15,000 to 20,000 people. When we played the first couple of notes of ‘Big House,’ you could just hold the mic out and see everybody singing. That was the very first time we experienced having a hit song and that’s when I knew we were in for a pretty good ride, just to see the reaction from that song and how people sang to it.”
Over the years, the band evolved with Blair exiting, and Cissell and Burkum joining the ranks. Herdman came off the road in 1999, but continued to contribute by writing songs for the band, and heading up Flicker Records, an independent label started with Stuart and McGinniss. The label launched several new acts, most notably Pillar, before the partners sold it to Sony/BMG’s Christian arm, Provident Music Group in early 2006. McGinniss and Stuart will continue to work for the label in an A&R capacity.
In addition to creating great music and nurturing others to share their God-given gifts, Audio Adrenaline is well known for mission work, having established the Hands & Feet Project. Through this project, they have constructed an orphanage dedicated to attend to the health, welfare and education of orphaned children in Haiti. Even though the band is winding down it musical career, the commitment to missions through the Hands & Feet Project will continue with plans to grow by starting other orphanages involving other Christian artists.
Though they’ve always been serious about their music and ministry, the guys in AudioA also have a healthy appetite for fun. Whenever they had a day off on the road, they could be found in the midst of some great adventures. They tell tales of catching and eating a shark in Australia, boogie boarding in Hawaii, and an ATV escapade in the desert outside Vegas.
Audio Adrenaline isn’t just a band; it’s a brotherhood. They all admit, the night they take their final bow and walk off the stage together for the last time will be hard.
“It feels weird,” Cissell says of trying to process emotions as they are winding down. “It feels like you’ve graduated high school, like you’re ready for a new chapter in your life, but you are also kind of scared to death because you don’t know what you are supposed to be for the rest of your life. We all know strongly that we were called to do Audio Adrenaline. I don’t think there’s any of us that could say without a doubt that they feel like they were called to do something else.”
It’s obvious with one listen to ADIOS: The Greatest Hits that the band is leaving behind a powerful musical legacy that will be enjoyed for decades to come, but what do they think they’ll most be remembered for? “I hope people remember us for being real,” says Stuart. “I think we were a band who lifted up the hands of those who were weak; who encouraged those kids who thought they had nothing to offer. Singing about our shortcomings helped connect us to a generation that needed hope, and we were able to point to them to grace.”
Addressing his fellow band members Tyler adds, “It’s an honor to even had the chance to be a part of this. All I can say is it’s been a pleasure. I love you guys!”
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