Grammatrain Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Grammatrain lyrics)
He's a down-to-earth, what-you-see-is-what-you-get blue-eyed preacher's kid from a tiny Washington town who sings his thoughts on tape. So what's so exciting about Pete Stewart? Once you hear the songs he sings-and the voice that sings them-you'll know. Stewart's singular voice has ground its mark into the fabric of Christian music for the last five years as lead singer of Grammatrain, which came to the end of its tracks with the mutual decision of the band members to disperse. Stewart continued writing and recording songs-nothing new for him-but this time the project was his own solo venture. Although he never had considered a solo deal, once presented to him, the self-titled record became an exciting experience. "I can't really think of too many male solo artists right off the top of my head who are doing more rock kind of stuff, more edgy music. So to be able to do something that would be perceived as unique I thought was a really cool opportunity," he explains.
The excitement increased as Stewart had the chance to produce the album alongside dc Talk's Michael Tait, who concentrated on vocals. And it's those stalwart vocals that Grammatrain fans will undoubtedly recognize as the same ones which crashed passionately into the band's forcible music. While none of the emotion has died from Stewart's voice, the new songs he wrote and co-wrote for his first solo effort showcase its versatility.
Stewart's voice is not the first of his talents that Tait has acknowledged. Stewart plays guitar on the project as he did on dc Talk's Supernatural, which is when the two musicians first connected. After that they co-wrote "Uphill Battle," a harmonious song the two recorded as a duet for ForeFront's Ten: The Birthday Album. With less grit than Grammatrain's rock, "Uphill Battle" joins the debut's 10 other cuts which constitute the thoughts of this 26-year-old man who recently uprooted himself from the Seattle area along with Donna, his wife of six years, to head two thousand miles to Nashville. Stewart has always been a thinking man, reaffirming his beliefs through a difficult struggle during his years at a legalistic Bible college that frowned on loud rock bands-even if kids did get saved at the concerts. On another level, his spiritual struggles were reflected in a lot of the songs he wrote for Grammatrain. Some of the themes of the new songs differ, but the depth remains. "Grammatrain was always introspective and this is introspective too, but I think this one's a little more like a celebration of God's love and salvation. Grammatrain tended to deal a little more with trying to die to our sinful nature," Stewart says. "The lyrics are a little more in your face as far as Christianity goes; they're a little more worshipful on some songs."
Musically, the songs reflect Stewart's interest in pop music. In fact, the disc's opening cut, "Out of my Mind," exemplifies the celebrative music and demonstrates the scope of Stewart's voice. Set to what Stewart calls "retro rock" mixed with modern sounds (including a horn refrain), lyrics co-written with dc Talk's Toby McKeehan speak of how constantly God fills the singer's thoughts, which to unbelievers seems crazy. Stewart's voice rises and falls without missing a beat, like water that rolls softly over pebbles and then gushes through gravel-filled rapids.
His voice also flows nicely in and out of low minor keys in "Better Off," a favorite of his depicting a scenario he can well relate to: growing up in a depressing town where life seems to be going nowhere. The way to truly become better off in life is not to seek out material things, but to know Christ. Stewart's wife inspired another of his favorites, "Don't Underestimate," by keeping her husband on track with what God wants him to do. The lyrics, again co-written by McKeehan, are sustained by solid and heavy, yet pleasant, guitars.
A song Stewart finds himself listening to often is another one he wrote for his wife: "Be the One." It's not a washed-out ballad; rather, it's a rocky declaration of faithful love to a person that has traveled many miles with him and supports him when he's away from home. "I just always felt like God blessed me with the right person," he says. "That song really sums up how I feel about our marriage." "It's amazing that God chooses to love us and accept us despite the fact that we struggle with our sinful nature - God's always offering us His grace," Stewart says, reiterating the message of "Spinning," a haunting melody with acoustic beginnings that blaze into a British pop sound reflective of the song's meditative nature. Similarly, "The Reason Is You" takes a pensive look at grace and wraps the quest for understanding God's choice to be benevolent into mellow harmonies and smooth vocals exhibitive of Tait's coaching. The song concludes: tell me why I should not give all I am to Him?
And Stewart's desire is to give all of himself to the Lord, resulting in the album's thanksgiving and worshipful themes. You fill my soul with peace and deliver me, and I will call upon Your name summarizes the reverent, acoustic ballad "Worship Song." Stewart's gentle vocals underline the song's pure honesty, indicating the influence of Larry Norman. Another evidence of Stewart's love for the simple authenticity of the early 70's music is the cover of "Little Country Church," going back in time to Lovesong-and to Stewart's childhood when he listened to his parents' "Jesus Music" records.
Musically, Stewart cites Led Zeppelin and The Beatles to be among his influences, but lyrically it's apparent that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth sings. And with such an inescapable voice proclaiming the depths of a Spirit-filled dwelling, Pete Stewart at the very least will awaken the complacent to the fact that walking with Christ is exciting.