Rarely does a rock band reared in Christian music circles receive an invitation to share the stage with major mainstream acts like Creed and Three Days Grace or provide the soundtrack for staple Tv programs like NFL Sunday Night, WWe and The World Series—unless you are talking about explosive industry mainstay Skillet. But even with all the hype, these heady career highlights and broad based appeal leave the band more curious than certain. “every time i find out we’re still sell- ing a lot of records, i call my manager and ask, ‘What in the world is going on? Who is buying this record?’” John Cooper, the band’s dynamic founder/frontman laughingly admits. Having experienced the success of 2006’s gold-selling Comatose CD and the Number 2 Billboard debut of last year’s wildly popular Awake release, many mainstream industry pros have advised the band to water down their faith-based verses. But staying lyrically congruous with the Gospel has somehow broadened the band’s reach. “We’ve done a lot of praying about it,” the popular lead singer says, “and we’ve been smart, but we’ve not stopped [talking about Jesus]. And yet,” he ex- plains, “the record is still selling, we’re still gaining new fans and getting more radio play. i think people like hopeful music.” Having opened for American hard rockers Shinedown, co-headlining a tour with CCM enter- tainer extraordinaire tobyMac, headlining a tour with Red as well as a Creed tour, the enterprising quartet’s range of performance expectations may wildly differ from night to night. So how does the band appropriate its spiritual stance without turning off an audience who may not be tuned in to the band’s beliefs? “We write songs that are spiritually viable but are set in a way that is easier for people to swallow. They hear it and don’t go, ‘This guy’s preaching at me.’ The way i talk about Jesus onstage is gracious, loving, more informative than it is hitting somebody on the head.” After all, Cooper says of the challenge, “it’s not what we say from stage, it’s the way we act on stage, [that makes an impact]. “if we are opening for a mainstream act, we may be the only band not cussing on stage, not drinking, not smoking cigarettes or asking girls to lift up their shirts. The audience knows there is something different about us.” —Andrew Greer Skillet CrossoVer highlights the act: Jordin Sparks the Site: the Sound: Soul-tinged pop the Buzz: 2007’s “American idol” champ made her Broadway debut recently as ‘Nina Rosario’ in the Tony Award- winning musical, In the Heights. the act: Brandon Heath the Site: the Sound: Singer/songwriter pop the Buzz: Country music superstar Carrie underwood surprised her husband, Canadian hockey player Mike Fisher, by having Heath play the couple’s song, Heath’s “Love Never Fails,” at their summertime wedding reception. the act: Hillsong Live the Site: the Sound: Arena-ready praise & worship the Buzz: The Australian mega-worship brand’s recent sold-out uS tour and top-selling CD made headlines on such notable mainstream media outlets as CNN. See the video here. CCM 51