Between the Liner Notes
Rick Cua: All for the King
By Jennifer E. Jones
I was surprised to get an email from Rick Cua. Then again, I’m always surprised when any one of note knows my name. In spite of my three years covering Christian music, I still know that my time in the industry is nothing compared to 25 years of experience. That’s what Rick Cua has. I considered it an honor that he wanted me to listen to latest album, Won’t Fade Away… and after one spin, I knew I had to get this legend on the phone.
When he calls CBNmusic’s offices, Rick is the vocal equivalent of “abundant life.” He is kind, laughs easily, and seems completely at ease. For a man who has worn so many hats (member of ‘80s rock band, The Outlaws; music executive; solo artist; husband, father, mentor, etc.), he appears to be awfully care-free.
“It’s been great to be able to do it all,” he tells CBNmusic. “I tell a lot of people that God’s got so much for you if you’re willing to shift your passion for whatever He has for the moment. For many years, my passion was all about writing songs and playing bass. The end result is ministry – being out there, encouraging people. At the same time, when the opportunity to go on the inside with EMI came up, I said, ‘Lord, shift my passion. Don’t take it away. Shift some if it over here so I can be as good at that and reach whatever level You want me to reach. It’s an exciting place to be as well.”
Rick spent more than five years as an executive for EMI Christian Music Publishing. While he admits that he was always more creative than administrative even in business, he still learned a lot from being on “both sides of the desk.”
“One of my roles was to look after the relationship [with] the songwriters that we had,” he explains. “As a publisher, we’d have to sit down with the writers and ask, ‘Why do you need a publisher?’ Whereas as an artist, many times artists are saying the same thing: ‘Why do I need a publisher?’ Having been an artist and being a publisher at the same time, I can sit there and say, ‘Well, let me tell you why.’”
Most people know that record labels and publishing is where music gets tricky. Many artists prefer to stay independent to avoid conflicts and maintain their creative freedom. As an industry pro, Rick knew the business well and always tried to be fair to both the company and the musician.
“I honestly believe that God wants us to be fair with each other,” he shares. “I don’t want to leverage all the positive aspects of one side or the other to accomplish the deal. I want to take what’s fair and what’s right and put it out there and have it be a win-win for both sides… If it doesn’t work for both, then it doesn’t work.”
Long before Rick championed the causes of music publishing and artistry, he was a rock’n’roller himself, out on tour in the early days of Christian music. Today, it’s nothing to see a Christian band with punk hair and tattoos. Back in Rick’s day, it was beyond edgy.
“They used to picket our shows at these churches years ago in the early days – literally walk around with picket signs,” he recalls. “Back then, even though there were bigger cities and modern churches, in many of the hinterlands, this was not God. One couple once came up to me and pulled me aside. I had a sweatshirt on top of a sweatshirt when you cut the sleeves off – one red one, one black one. They were laying hands on me to pray for me, because I had the devil’s colors on.”
Cua says he was always gracious and wanted to explain what it was his band believed in. More often than not, the “nay-sayers” came away with a greater appreciation for the message.
Today, Rick is set at a comfortable groove in releasing Won’t Fade Away on All for the King Music . At this stage of the game, he recognizes the value of substance over style and the importance of being authentic.
“I wanted to make a modern sounding record but not reinvent myself. On Won’t Fade Away, I wanted to take the DNA of who I am as a musician and make a great record using modern sounds. There’s a nod to the ‘70s and the ‘80s on these songs. It’s my kind of rock music. I needed to do that. I can’t go out and put on one of these Army hats and get a tattoo and a piercing. I’m 58 years old. I am who I am.”
He’s also very clear that even after 25 years in rock'n'roll, it’s still all about the message.
“Jesus has promised us that He will never fade away. He’s given us eternal life. The Lord is there, and He will never be out of our vision. With God working in and through us, doesn’t matter how old you are or what happens on the road of life; you're not going to fade away either. You’ve got something very special to do for the Lord, and it should only get better.”
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