God takes care of me'

On the road again: Topeka-born musician going it alone with his recordings

The Capital-Journal

Christian singer-songwriter Mitch McVicker looked rested and in tiptop shape during his brief stay in Topeka last month, when he visited his parents during a day off from his hectic concert tour.

 McVicker, 28, who nearly lost his life in September 1997 in the highway accident that killed Christian music legend Rich Mullins, is living in Nashville these days, yet he hardly has time to sleep in his own bed.

 He's on the road for 100 to 125 concerts a year, traveling with his three-man band to locations from Washington to New York and Minnesota to Texas.

"My stuff is in Nashville," he said. "I don't know that's home base, though. Whenever I stop for a length of time, it tends to be here. I still consider Kansas home, but slowly but surely, I've been in Nashville for three years. I'm getting to know a few people and a few places.

 "I don't know how long I might be there," he added. "Who knows where God might be leading me?"

 McVicker's latest album, "Chasing the Horizon," was released late last year as an independent project on his own Out of the Box label. McVicker hasn't pursued a record-label deal, saying the companies take a large cut of the profits and often exercise control of the artistic content.

This way, McVicker has more of a say in the finished product, even though it is marketed more on a grassroots basis.

 "Chasing the Horizon" was his strongest effort to date, without question. Not only did his voice sound stronger and more confident, his lyrical content was thoughtful and reflected McVicker's contemplative nature.

 A number of top Christian musicians had a hand in the project, including Mark Robertson, Steve Hindalong, Rick Elias, Phil Madeira and Riki Michelle.

 Robertson, who produced the album, had relationships with the other musicians and approached them about participating in the project. They consented, and the rest is a work of art.

 "I feel like I was stronger," McVicker said. "I feel like the songs were better. I felt like I had a clearer understanding of what I wanted to say."

 His greatest joy in the process of making the album, he said, was the way the veteran musicians took the songs and ran with them, breathing a new life into them that even McVicker didn't anticipate.

 Traveling across the country in a van with his band also has taken on a life of its own.

 Rather than being a drag, as some musicians complain, it has been a joy.

 "I'm definitely used to it by now," said McVicker. "I've been doing this for six years. This is all I've known. It wears me out, but it energizes me like nothing else.

 "I can't figure out what else I would or could do," he added. "I feel very fortunate to be able to use music to communicate with people about Jesus and expose them to the kingdom of God."

 Like other musicians who perform Christian music, McVicker feels the frustration that comes with the lack of radio airplay or exposure in record stores.

 "It's real frustrating, the fact that Christian music as a whole is an underground movement," he said. "To do this last record independently and move away from a record company -- it's hard for people to take you seriously or listen or give you the time of day. But it causes you to walk by faith a little more than you might otherwise."

 The faith element comes from the fact that money has to come in to pay the bills: "It's scary to think that in two weeks, am I going to be able to make a living?" he said. "That's where faith and trust comes in. God takes care of the birds and the flowers, and God takes care of me."

 One thing McVicker isn't interested in pursuing is fame.

 He's seen people reach the top of the charts one year, only to be forgotten the next.

 "I'm not sure that's something we should be too concerned about," he said. "Fame is fleeting. You can be the flavor-of-the-month for awhile, but then rust and moth is going to wreak havoc with that."

 Through his travels, McVicker is finding there are "great people" wherever he travels, a tangible example of the body of Christ, he said.

 His natural inclination is to be busy constantly, he says.

 "I have to make myself take time off," said McVicker, who was an all-city basketball player at Shawnee Heights High School before taking his athletic talents to Friends University in Wichita.

 "At the end of July, I took two weeks off. I blocked off my schedule and said, 'nothing here.' When I do have a few days off, I don't rest. I tend to fill it up with work."

 He purposely took the last year off from writing, saying he considers it "dangerous when you're always outputting and not inputting anything. It's like trying to get blood from a stone."

 Said McVicker: "I'm not sure we do anything that's more like God than when we're creating."

 McVicker recently contributed a month's worth of devotions as one of 12 authors for a book aimed at young adults in the 20- to 30-year-old age range to be released in August 2002 by Abingdon Press.

 Although he took a year off from songwriting, McVicker was reading. Among his most favorite books were: "Desiring God," by John Piper, which has to do with finding pleasure in God; "Dakota," by Kathleen Norris, about growing up on the Plains and the spiritual and faith issues that go with that; and "Traveling Mercies" by Anne Lamott, a book he described as "beautiful, really moving."

 McVicker can count his blessings every day, not the least of which is his return to physical health.

 A severe closed-head injury and collapsed left lung in the 1997 accident caused McVicker to have to start over in many respects.

 Yet less than a year after the accident, he was performing again, including a concert in August 1998 at Topeka's First Church of the Nazarene.

 Since then, McVicker has continued to progress physically, and to frame his experiences in light of eternity.

 "I consider myself all healed up," he said. "There are a few little things that are not quite right, but I don't notice 'em. I never thought I'd be back to this point.

 "My eyes aren't where they used to be. My voice isn't where it used to be. But somehow, they're better. They have more character. I'm really fortunate to be able to say I'm back."

 McVicker is running four days a week, and also doing pushups and other exercises.

 "It's really hard, but for me it's kind of a mental and emotional thing," he said. "I feel so much better about life when I've done that.

 "It really clears my head and allows me to be more open to life and what's coming my way."

 McVicker will be in concert with Satellite Soul at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at Heartland Community Church, 8301 Lamar in Overland Park. Tickets are $8 and are available at the church. Call (913) 341-5820.