Chris Rodriguez Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Chris Rodriguez lyrics)
Chris Rodriguez Biography
Whether you know it or not, you've probably already heard Chris Rodriguez. His voice, wide of range, rich of expression, has adorned hit records and enhanced live performances by some of the most successful artists of our time. Shania Twain, Kenny Loggins, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Wynonna, Billy Joel, Michael Bolton, Michael McDonald--all of whom know more than a thing or two about singing--have called Chris and made use of his impassioned vocals for backup in the studio and on the road. You might even have heard him on a jingle or two--next time a radio spot moves you to drive over to McDonald's for a Big Mac, it may be because Chris' singing proved so persuasive. (And if you feel like hitting Burger King for a Whopper tomorrow, don't be confused; Chris sang for them too.)
For more than a decade Chris has been the top-call studio singer in Nashville. It's a distinction he would acknowledge with pride, if pride were one of his vices. But even with gigs rolling in and recognition building among Music City's industry bigwigs, a feeling of dissatisfaction persisted and grew as the years passed. Its roots were twofold, tied both to an unrealized goal of reaching a broader public and his need to spread a message of faith and hope through music.
Both of these goals have been on Chris' mind since he became a Christian in 1985; yet only now, with the release of Beggar's Paradise, his debut album on Word Records, has the time been right for him to act on them. "I always wanted to do this kind of record," he admits, "but not for the wrong reasons. I had some offers from Christian labels back in the Eighties, but being a new believer, I didn't feel comfortable jumping right into this. I felt like I had to do my time first."
He was right to trust his instincts. Beggar's Paradise is that rare combination of fresh energy and seasoned insight. As a singer and guitarist, Chris had the chops to cut an impressive disc years ago, but waiting until now enabled him to add a depth of lyrical reflection that can only come with time. By flowing a deep testimony of faith into the upbeat, pop-oriented, Beatlesque style he has embraced since childhood, Chris defines a style that is both personal and commercial, accessible to the broad market yet especially meaningful to his fellow believers.
"I'm an unabashed lover of pop music," he laughs. "I love three-minute guitar songs that get to the point. I guess that goes back to the Beatles around '65, when songs had no fat and everything was completely tight. The guitar tone throughout the album comes from Hendrix, who was a huge influence, but the way my chord changes go is very White Album or Abbey Road."
Evidence of this approach colors every track, from the chamber-like balladry and string quartet texturing of "Magdelena" to "Mercy Day," whose gentle but persistent harmonic hook echoes the best of McCartney's work. But there's a rougher energy elsewhere, such as on "Your Love," a Hendrix-like ballad that's seared by Chris' burning Stratocaster lines and riveting, emotional vocal. "You get all of Chris in that song," he admits. "If I emerge anywhere on the record as someone who can belt, you hear it there."
The foundations of Chris' artistry dig deep into his Bronx childhood. He began singing at two or three; even as he began first grade, he knew he would dedicate his life to music. He began playing guitar at eleven, and shortly after eighth grade, when his family moved to Miami, he was working in bands. "That was a turning point for me," he recalls. "All the Bob Marley reggae that was breaking in the early Seventies funneled through Miami before making its way to the rest of the rest of the country. Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Hiram Bullock, and Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs were all at the University of Miami. People like Eric Clapton, the Bee Gees, and Stephen Stills were all coming to town to record at Criteria Studios. It was a magical time."
After graduating from a Catholic high school, Chris moved to Nashville, where he earned a degree in commercial music from Belmont College. Shortly after that, when he got his first major road gig with Michael W. Smith, he began his ascent into Nashville's highest music circles--but along the way, his life changed in a way he could not have predicted when he accepted Christ. Even while working his way up the session ladder and pursuing his aspirations in mainstream music, he learned to place his efforts within a framework of faith. In many ways, the requirements of building a career and sustaining his belief would prove contradictory--but for those who wait, to paraphrase from a greater wisdom, all things will come together.
"I love the Lord," Chris says simply. "He's the backdrop of my life. He's the reason why I've been able to stay married for thirteen years, to have two kids and build a home. I want to communicate that through my music. I'm very much committed to being as excellent a musician and songwriter as I can be, and I also want to glorify God. There's a lyric in the bridge of the title track, 'Beggar's Paradise,' which says, 'I'm a soul lost and alone/Until you take this beggar as your own.' If there's one lyric that says everything I'm trying to say with this album, that's the one."