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John Elefante Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and John Elefante lyrics)
John Elefante Biography
Remember when you used to play musical chairs in kindergarten? Round and round and round you'd go, hoping that when that scratchy music stopped, you'd be one of the lucky ones standing directly above the chair. Believe it ornot, John Elefante still plays musical chairs, and he's really good at it. So good, in fact, that he's been playing for the last 17 years or so, only the music never stops. He does, though, find himself sitting in a variety of seats.
John Elefante's career in music began in 1981 when lead singer Steve Walsh left Topeka-based progressive rock group Kansas. John a new Christian at the time, auditioned for the spot. To his surprise, not only did he land the gig, but he also found all four songs from his demo tape included on the band's subsequent album, Vinyl Confessions. Hid four-year stint with Kansas not only resulted in the recording of another album, Drastic Measures, and three years of whirlwind touring, but also launched the educational process that he believes prepared him to be a producer later on.
Kansas, one of rock's phenomenally successful bands of the late'70s and early '80s, was unique in that the overly spiritual lyrics written by fellow-new-believer and Kansas co-founder Kerry Livgren found their way into such megahits as "Carry on Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind." And while John Elefante wouldn't trade those years for anything, when asked if his notoriety as Kansas' lead singer ever obscures what he is doing now-some 13 years later-he confesses that it sometimes does.
"Out of everybody that I talk to, all the email I get, all the people that I meet at bookstores and at my concerts, everywhere I go, probably nine out of 10 people want to talk about Kansas . And although I loved being a part of the whole Kansas thing. I want to say, 'You know what? Forget Kansas! Let's talk about what I'm doing these days,'" he says with a light-hearted chuckle.
And what he's doing now keeps the raspy-throated vocalist busy indeed.
John-along with his brother Dino-holds production credits on albums for artists such as Petra, Greg Long and Scott Springer. In addition the brothers Elefante are co-owners of the Sound Kitchen, a Nashville-based recording studio that caters to such clients as Wynonna Judd, Alison Krauss, Julio Iglesias, Barry Manilow, Gary Chapman and Point of Grace. Add to that a solo career that has spawned two albums-Windows of Heaven (1995) and the recent Corridors-and you have a guy with a unique perspective on the process of making music.
One might wonder-much like the old proverb-which came first, the singer Elefante or the producer Elefante? Did he set out first and foremost to be a producer? "No, absolutely not," he remembers. "Dino and I were asked to work with Petra and my reply was, 'You've got to be kidding me. I don't know how to produce a record." The response was, 'Act like you're in the band, share your ideas, and let's see what happens.' Now nine albums later, here we are.
"After we finished one of the early Petra albums, I said, 'Okay, now we're done with the Petra project, when can I start my solo career?' Dino would say, 'Well, we just got a call to work with so-and-so, so let's work on that, and then we'll do your record."
Of course, after we finished that one, there was another one, and then another one. You wake up one morning and realize that it's been six years. During that time I never quit writing for myself, and I never quit looking at the expression of my own music as my first love. [But] I was comforted when I would see the reward of something I was producing. Scott Springer called me on the phone in the middle of the night one time and said, "John, 250 kids came forward tonight to accept Christ.' Suddenly, my solo career meant nothing."
Although he won two Grammys and one Dove award for his work with Petra, Elefante's solo career moved to center stage in 1995 when the single "This is What Love Is" (from Windows) landed in the Top 5 on Christian radio airplay charts.
Now, his new release, Corridors, combines certain elements of edgy pop and rock, successfully creating a sound that is off the beaten path. Such themes as spiritual mystery and redemption run deeply through this sophomore project. In a Christian subculture that is furiously determined to figure God out. Elefante's ideas of resting in the questions themselves is refreshing indeed. Perhaps there is no greater glimpse into that idea than in "Where Does Our Love Go," a song in which a couple is pleading for direction in their relationship. Says John, "That song was not really autobiographical, but part of what's cool about writing is creating a situation in your mind that illustrates what's on your heart. Dino and I wanted to write a love song, but it turned into a song about the question: 'Where do we go from here?' We didn't want to bring this song to a conclusion. They could have gotten counseling, and everything could have ended-up hunky-dory. But sometimes asking the question is in and of itself enough."
But is it? Is it enough for the record-buying public? Is it here that the integrity of a 17-year industry veteran shows its true colors.
"Believe it or not, I had one person strongly encourage me to put more Christian words in 'Where Does Our Love Go' so that it would be a hit on Christian radio. My feeling was that if I wouldn't take out spiritual content to make a song more palatable to the general market, why would I add it just so I can sell records in the Christian arena? I want to do the songs the way God inspired them, and let His spirit use them as He sees fit."