Rested and ready to playphoto: arts

Rising Christian music star will be in concert in Topeka, where he was a former all-city basketball player

By The Capital-JournalIt will be a well-rested, refreshed and rejuvenated Mitch McVicker who returns to Topeka for a concert on Saturday eager to perform with his three bandmates in front of a hometown crowd.

 McVicker, who grew up in Topeka and was an all-city basketball player at Shawnee Heights High School, is enjoying increased popularity nationwide on the heels of his fall 2002 release "Without Looking Down" on Spindust Records.

 "Without Looking Down" is McVicker's first record to gain nationwide distribution. Spindust Records is part of the Warner Brothers family of labels.

 The unassuming McVicker, who has been touring almost nonstop for the past five years, is taking his success in stride.

 "It was fun to do," he said of his latest album. "It was also a lot of work, but anything that's worth anything is going to be a lot of work. I'm really pleased with the result, and I'm really glad I have some national distribution with the new record label."

 McVicker, a Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter, has made an amazing recovery from severe injuries suffered in the tragic accident that claimed the life of Rich Mullins in September 1997. Mullins was among the most revered of modern-day Christian singers and songwriters.

 More than five years after the accident, McVicker not only has recovered physically but also is standing on his own in the highly competitive Christian music field.

 He has paid his dues the past few years, performing about 125 shows annually while crisscrossing the United States.

 McVicker doesn't seem too interested in getting caught up in the glitz and glamor that all too often characterize the modern Christian music scene.

 His is a more simple, no-frills approach -- one in which he invites listeners to consider who Jesus is with him.

It's a blessing getting to do this and make a living doing what I like," he said, "which is pointing people to Jesus through music."

 McVicker, 30, who calls Nashville home these days, turned a corner musically and professionally on his latest album.

 A joyful, playful sound imbues much of the music, and McVicker said his partnership with a larger music company did nothing to hamper his "artistic freedom."

 "I wasn't changing anything I was doing," he said. "They were just furthering the vision of what I was hoping to do."

 Several songs on his new album have received airplay on Christian radio stations -- including "Stargazer" and "Don't Let Your Heart Be Troubled," a tune that is near and dear to McVicker. "It's good for an anxious heart like mine to listen to the promises that Jesus gives us," he said.

 One tune that could prove to be McVicker's big break has yet to be released as a single by Spindust Records: the quirky "Take the Wheel."

 Already a fan favorite and fast becoming his most requested song in concert, the record label so far is balking at servicing it to radio because it is so different from the standard fare of contemporary Christian music.

 McVicker has a hunch the song could be a hit but allows that not everyone is going to like it.

 "It's kind of like a lot of sports teams," he said. "You either love 'em or hate 'em."

 McVicker said he has slowed down on touring the past few months, concentrating on songwriting and rehearsing with bandmates for his upcoming tour. He also is slated to play several major festivals this summer.

As for returning to his hometown to perform, McVicker said he has no jitters, and in fact enjoys every minute of it. He last performed here in April 2002 before about 500 people at Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene.

 "It actually is turning into one of my most favorite places to play," he said, "which is good."

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