Sidewalk Prophets’ Dave Frey: One Great Big Family (Part 2) | Inspiration
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Sidewalk Prophets’ Dave Frey: One Great Big Family (Part 2)

by John Farrell

Dave Frey is the lead vocalist and one of the founders of the hugely popular contemporary Christian band, Sidewalk Prophets. Dave and fellow founder Ben McDonald formed the band while attending Anderson University in Indiana before moving to Nashville. Once in Nashville, their career began to take off. They have four full-length albums, beginning with their debut album, These Simple Truths, in 2009. Sidewalk Prophets’ song, “You Love Me Anyway” reached No. 1 on both the U.S. Christian Songs list and the U.S. Christian Airplay list in 2011. Other high-ranking songs include “The Words I Would Say” (2009), “Live Like That” (2012), “Help Me Find It” (2013), “Come to the Table” (2017), and their newest hit, “Smile” (October 2019).

I had the opportunity to talk with Dave about Sidewalk Prophets’ origins, their highs and lows as a band, his walk with Christ, the beautiful sounds of a bouzouki, and food fights in heaven. I hope you enjoy.

 

JF: What is the message you want fans to take from your music?

Dave: When fans come to a show, I hope they feel like they’re a part of a great big family. I really do. I hope when they walk out they’re like, ‘that was a lot of fun. I need to tell somebody about this God. I need to tell them about this feeling I have and it’s deeper than just a feeling. This is a life lived well for Christ.’ I hope when they listen to our records that they feel the same thing. That life isn’t easy, but it’s doable. There’s hope there. There’s joy there if only we were to listen to God and praise Him. I know it’s hard sometimes to put a smile on your face or go out the door when you feel overwhelmed. I hope when people listen to our records it gives them the opportunity to take a step closer to the loving arms of Jesus and realize that He’s with us always.

JF: How did you come to faith and what has your walk with Christ been like?

Dave: When I was a young boy, I grew up in the church. I was baptized at the age of four. So, I knew God from a young age and I knew that’s who I wanted to follow, but it wasn’t really until my Junior year of high school that God became real in a mighty way. My parents divorced. That’s never an easy thing. It kinda blindsided me. I ran out to my car that night and drove off. I was sixteen and I had my license. It was a terrible idea because I was not in a state to drive. I should’ve not been on the road, but at that point, you couldn’t stop me. I just took off. I was blessed that in that time of insanity and that time of chaos in my life God sent friends around me and pastors and people that reminded me that Jesus loved me. That I still had friends and family no matter what.

My mom and dad still love me so much. They show me that, but at that time I didn’t want to hear it. I was grateful that at that moment God did not give up on me. He unlocked my singing then. I was given the gift of a guitar that same Christmas and I don’t think that was an accident because I began to write my first songs. God was planting these seeds. He knew this thing he didn’t want to happen was going to happen. God did not cause my parents to divorce, but he prepared my heart to be able to handle that trepidation, that trial. In doing so, I was able to be more creative and express my anger as well as my frustration, my doubts, my fears, and my joys when they came around. I’m so grateful that God didn’t give up on me even when I was at my lowest and doubting him and asking ‘why does this even happen?’ He still was there.

JF: What is your favorite book or verse from the Bible?

Dave: Isaiah 40 is one that I often go to because it’s about the beauty of God. Isaiah 40:22 says, ‘He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.’ I could probably quote the whole thing, but it goes on and on. It paints this picture of God as this powerful, beautiful Creator and then at the end, of course, it brings it back to us:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:30-31

It’s like this God of the universe who created all this beauty and glory knows you. Knows when you’re weakest and gives you the strength to keep going. It’s just such a great reminder. One time I heard it read and then the song, ‘God of Wonders’ – that old worship song – was played. I was like, ‘What a perfect companion to this Isaiah 40.’ From then on that was one of my favorite chapters of all time.

I also love James 1:2. The scripture says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” That’s always a hard one to swallow, but probably my life verse.

JF: Which of Sidewalk Prophets’ songs is your favorite?

Dave: It’s hard to pick. It’s like asking a dad who is their favorite kid. But for me, ‘You Love Me Anyway’ will always have a special place. That was the song we wrote before we moved to Nashville, before we even attempted to do the record deal thing. We wrote ‘You Love Me Anyway’ and that was the song that propelled us to make those big faith moves. To try it out. To come to Nashville. To see if we could get signed. That was also the song our record label representative heard and said, ‘I need to sign these guys.’ When it was released and went to No. 1, it was just a holy confirmation.

We knew when we wrote it that God was in it. We knew that this was way more special than the other songs. We were like this is something we need to try. ‘You Love Me Anyway’ is a little bit of my autobiography from the moment of my first sin up to that point. God would love me even when I felt like the kiss that Judas gave Him. That one will always hold a special place in my heart.

The other one I always mention is ‘Hey Moon’ from our Christmas record. There’s just something about it that makes me happy, makes me feel like a kid again. The Bethlehem star hanging out with the moon talking about the night Jesus was born was an idea that my buddy Sam Izell had. Ben, Sam, and I wrote that song with toys all around us. We picked them up and started cranking them for the rhythm of the song. That one is just a really special song. It gets requested a lot too, even in the middle of April. I love that.

JF: Describe the songwriting process.

Dave: My buddy Ben and I write all the Sidewalk Prophet songs. We usually have another person in the room. It’s just fun. We found that’s what works best for us. For me, I’m poetic and longwinded. I kinda get out of control sometimes as far as the lyrics and Ben will hone it in. It’s almost like where I’m weak, he’s strong and vice-versa.

Usually Ben is our idea guy. He has the idea for the song and then I take it from there. I start to write the lyrics. If there’s someone in the room playing a loop of an idea for the music I just go into a ‘Dave Cave.’ That’s what they call it. I start writing for minutes upon minutes without coming out. And then I’ll come out and say, ‘Hey, I got the first verse done. What do you guys think?’ And then we can bounce it off of each other and say, ‘Oh, I like that, but maybe this word could be a little stronger. Maybe we could do this line a little better.’ That’s kind of how they’ve all come about, especially in the last ten years.

Ben and I and maybe another great songwriter here in town just get together and talk about life. That’s my favorite part. You talk about what’s God telling you, what is it that we need to write about today? What are we trying to communicate? The talk before we even put pen to paper is sometimes my favorite part.

JF: You recently released the single, ‘Smile.’ What is the song about and how has it been received?

Dave: ‘Smile’ has been going great. It’s our show-closer and people are excited and joyful. That was our great hope. It goes back to what I was saying earlier that the motive of the song is hopefully people will realize that no matter what there is joy. There is joy to be found even in the midst of our worst day. Even when my parents divorced I was surrounded by love, my friends. Sometimes I didn’t even know how deep their care for me went.

When things would fall apart even on my worst days I could find the blessings in my life. Sometimes it didn’t instantly make me happy and that’s not the point of ‘Smile.’ You don’t want to fake a smile. The point is there is always a reason to choose joy. In the midst of your worst day or your best day, there’s something to be joyful about and because of that, you need to laugh a little more.

One of my favorite lines in the song says, ‘You can laugh or you can cry when it all falls apart, but I believe the more you laugh the more you heal your heart.’ I remember when I wrote that line, I specifically was remembering that sometimes when you get so frustrated at life and nothing is going right and you get to that point that you’re so angry. There’s a point where it’s gone so bad that you have to laugh about it. You’re like, ‘Maybe I wasn’t supposed to do this.’ You realize you can take it and shift the whole thing. Satan’s trying to weasel his way into your life to make it miserable and you’re like, ‘You know what, I can laugh in the face of Satan right now. This is ridiculous.’ You start to change your whole outlook on the day, on the month, on the year just by that simple act of finding God in each and every moment. Realizing he’s right there next to you.

I think with ‘Smile,’ the great hope is that people realize there’s always a reason to choose joy in the Lord. He’s always there with us. The more you smile, the more it’s contagious. People start to feel it.

JF: One of my favorite songs is ‘Come to the Table,’ so I’ve got to ask what’s the story behind that song?

Dave: ‘Come to the Table’ was written with our buddy Ben Glover. The two Bens (Ben McDonald and Ben Glover) and I have written ‘Live Like That,’ ‘Come to the Table,’ and ‘Save My Life’ together. Whenever we write with Ben we know it’s going to be a special kind of thing. We were sitting there with him and we started to think about who Jesus hung out with. Who were the people? And we realized it was people we probably would not hang out with. People we would walk by: fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes. Those are the people he spent most of his life with.

We started to realize the disciples were a special group – a group that was probably cast out and we wondered if we would have walked right by them too. Then I started to realize that he welcomed everybody.

It reminded me of that scene in the movie, “Hook,” with Robin Williams. He’s Peter Pan and he’s sitting at a table with all the Lost Boys. In that scene, he’s wanting some food and once he starts to finally believe that he’s Peter Pan the food appears. It’s like this magical thing and the Lost Boys start cheering and there’s excitement and then a food fight breaks out. I just thought about heaven. I thought about when we get to heaven who’s going to be there? The disciples will be there. All these misfits will be there. All these people that we didn’t think maybe even deserved to be there. God will say, ‘No, no, these are My children. These are the ones you walked past. And these are the lost boys and girls that are finally found.’ So, I thought of that scene and I thought that maybe in heaven since there is only joy and there is no suffering maybe just maybe there will be a food fight that will break out and the Apostle Paul will hit you in the face with a roll. Just this unbridled, child-like joy.

Even in such a serious song as ‘Come to the Table’ there’s that element that someday the thief, the doubter, the hero, the coward will all be together sitting at the table of the Lord and He’ll say, ‘These are My people. I love you. You are My children.’ That was the spark for ‘Come to the Table.’

JF: Doesn’t ‘Live Like That’ have a similar message in that it doesn’t matter what you did or how you live that you’re all welcome by Jesus’ side?

Dave: Yes. With ‘Live Like That’ it was actually Hebrews 12. We were reading the Word and that’s what I was reading that day and it said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’ (Hebrews 12:1). That ‘great cloud of witness’ line really struck me. I realized in my life how many witnesses, how many people have testified to the love of Jesus even if I didn’t know they were Christian.

My History teacher was such an incredible, passionate dude and he inspired me so much. When I graduated from high school he gave me a gift of this beautiful book of history and he signed it. He put underneath his name a couple verses for me to look up in the Bible. I was like, ‘I should have known Mr. McGraff was a Christian. I should have known this whole time that that inspiration was coming from a holy place.’

For me, with ‘Live Like That’ we want to be out there making sure that we’re a glimpse of Jesus every day. That’s what’s going to inspire people to live like Him. To live like Him is a great thing to strive for. We might fail time and time again, but those little glimpses of Jesus might change someone’s life forever.

JF: What is Sidewalk Prophets working on now and when can we expect your next album?

Dave: The album’s done. We have a brand-new album. ‘Smile’ was our first single off of it. It will probably be early next year when we release it. We don’t have a specific launch date yet. The record label has it and they’re doing their promotional thing. We’re going to go out and get people excited for it and hopefully release it fairly soon. We’re so excited. We can’t wait for people to hear it.

JF: What do you like to do outside of music that helps you rejuvenate?

Dave: My wife is a big proponent of adventure. We were blessed; we got to go to Iceland a few months back and enjoy that. Even something as small as just walking around our neighborhood and just taking in the day. I love going out and doing things with my wife. I also love going to the movies. My dad was a movie theater manager when I was growing up and I love the movies. I love reading. I was an English Education major, so anytime I can get a good book I’m excited to do so.

JF: Where can people find your music and learn more about Sidewalk Prophets?

Dave: SidewalkProphets.com is the easiest place and you can jump to all of our places from there. Our Twitter handle is @swprophets. Instagram is @sidewalkprophets. We have the ‘Great Big Family’ page on Facebook where fans can hang out and get to know each other as well as what’s going on in our lives. It’s all over the place.

JF: Thank you, Dave, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk and share with us everything that is going on with Sidewalk Prophets. Good luck with your Great Bif Family Christmas Tour and the release of your next album.

Learn more at SidewalkProphets.com

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John Farrell is a Digital Content Writer / Editor of Inspiration.org

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: room28ministries (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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