"Music was just a hobby at that time," 27-year-old McVicker says during a phone interview from his Nashville home. "I never took it seriously for one second." McVicker, who grew up in Topeka, Kan., first picked up a guitar when he was 12 years old, but he shrugged off any ideas of playing professionally until his senior year of college. It’s a change he admits was largely influenced by his friendship with Rich Mullins. The two met during McVicker’s junior year.
After McVicker graduated from college, he and Mullins began traveling and performing together around the country. The two were nearly inseparable for the next three years, until an automobile accident in 1997 claimed Mullins’ life. The accident left McVicker hospitalized with serious injuries that required a lengthy recovery.
In 1998, McVicker released his first, independent, self-titled album nearly a year after it was completed, and, in 1999, the album was re-released on McVicker’s current label, Rhythm House Records. The album features songs written during his time on the road with Mullins. In February, McVicker finished recording his second album, featuring 12 new songs, which is scheduled to release some time this fall. With a style of music he describes as "folk/rock with a lot of pop," McVicker often draws comparisons to Mullins. It is a comparison he doesn’t shy away from.
"I didn’t set out to sound like Rich, but things rub off on you when you’re brushing your teeth out of the same sink," he says. "It’s flattering." McVicker hopes his music will not only entertain people but also give insights to his faith. "I feel so fortunate to be in this position," he says. "I want to approach it all with a lightheartedness and joy. Music shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
"But I want to point [the audience] toward Jesus and expose them to the kingdom of God," he says. "[That] I take that very seriously.
As a relatively new artist, McVicker notes that it can be tempting for artists to get caught up in their image and neglect their music. "If you think too much of yourself, you are not going to do much," he says. "A lot of people are trying to be CD covers rather than being communicators with their audience. But [being on stage] is always an amazing thing! I love it," he said. "I try to give people something to hang on to."
McVicker may tire of living in the
shadow of the legacy of Rich Mullins, but with
the national re-issue of his indie project, he is
going to have to wait a little longer to stand on
his own merits. Co-produced by Mullins,
before his death in 1997, and Ragamuffin Mark
Robertson, Mitch McVickeris a solo effort,
presenting the songs and voice of the
singer/songwriter. But listeners will likely be
enigmatically drawn to the songs where
Mullins co-wrote, sang or played piano.
There’s a crisp, folk/rock vibe throughout the
project’s 10 tracks, plus a very different
version of "My Deliverer," a song Mullins and
McVicker co-wrote; the song was later
recorded for The Jesus Record (Myrrh).
Robertson plays bass, Kenny Greenberg gifts
the record with his strong guitar presence, and
McVicker sings with unexpected confidence
and ease. His down-home storytelling style
works with the easygoing tone of his songs.
"Take Hold of Me" features McVicker on
harmonica in a song that suggests the
influence of Bruce Springsteen. There and
throughout tracks like "Hope," "The Lemonade
Song" and the lovely "New Mexico," McVicker
does find his own space—indeed, his songs
make their own space.
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