~ Reprinted by permission from Release Magazine April/May 2000 http://www.voxcorp.com/
By Lisa Zhito
opening notes of Mitch McVicker's self titled debut, one is struck by its
curious familiarity, a vocal phrasing and lyricism that sound oddly at
home on the CD player.
One is reminded, frankly, of Rich Mullins.
McVicker takes a slow, patient breath before responding to the critique.
"One of the struggles of the past two-and-a-half years has been people still wanting Rich to be around. Since he's not, I'm around. So they want and expect me to fill Rich's shoes."
Ah, expectations. Of all the crummy things we humans do to one another, those little bugaboos are sure to send one to the analyst's couch faster than you can say Freudian slip.
In McVicker's case, the temptation to make him Mullins' surviving legacy is especially easy because the two were so close. Mullins and McVicker met at Friends University in Kansas, were roommates on the New Mexico reservation where Mullins taught music, and collaborated on a musical, Canticle of the Plains. The day they finished recording what would become Mitch McVicker should have been a happy one, the start of McVicker's career as a recording artist and Mullins' as his producer. Instead, they were involved in a brutal wreck that killed Mullins and left McVicker with massive injuries.
That was two-and-a-half years ago; McVicker is still picking up the pieces.
"The biggest incident in my life has been that I happened to be the other guy in the jeep," he observes. "That's how people know me. If that's how they know me initially, maybe, maybe, they can get beyond that."
It can be frustrating. Manager Greg Carnes says they've heard some flak that, Oh, he's just trying to be Rich Mullins. McVicker is definitely his own artist, Carnes counters. "He's worked hard. Ever since Rich died he was thrust out there. People wanted his album, wanted his CD. Even though Mitch wants to get out there and establish himself as an artist, I think people are still kind of looking to Mitch to fill that void."
"I'm not going to fill his shoes, I can't," McVicker declares. "I'm not going to fill that void because that void is there, because of who Rich was."
McVicker speaks carefully, thoughtfully. In this cynical age where tragedy is often viewed as opportunity, one senses that McVicker is sincerely struggling to close the door on that part of his life. He's spent the past year touring relentlessly, playing to mostly crowds of 200 -300 people. It's not the thousands a big name act draws, but that suits him just fine.
"I don't aspire to be a big Christian artist. I aspire to keep doing this, and if it goes that route, well maybe that's good. But just because it goes in that direction doesn't make it good."
"I want to keep performing concerts for people, communicating. I want to keep proclaiming the Kingdom of God, pointing people toward Jesus, and music is a means that I've been blessed to do that with. If I can keep doing that in five years, that would be an amazing blessing."
Even winning Song of the Year at last year's Dove Awards for "My Deliverer," which he co-wrote with Mullins, was quickly put in its proper perspective.
"I know I'm supposed to say it was incredible, but it wasn't my award," he explains. "I came along for the ride, I know that. The award was for Rich and it was a song that we happened to write together. I was the only one left around, so I got to go up there and receive the award."
"People were like, Wow your life is going to change, you're a Dove Award winner! And nothing changed! I mean, I had trouble getting back into the arena after I won the award-security wouldn't let me in! I go through the media stuff, I go through the press conferences, and when I get ready to walk back in the arena they're like, Can we see your pass? I tried four doors and none of them would let me in!"
Even if it weren't true, it would still be a perfect literary device to present McVicker as Christian music's outsider. Oddly, it's a mantle Mullins bore so well.
"He's not your average [contemporary Christian] artist," Carnes says of McVicker. "He comes from that school of Rich Mullins where they're going to do what they're going to do, sing what they're gonna sing. It's not about the numbers, it's not about the scans."
Mitch McVicker survived a near-fatal car crash. But can he escape the long shadow of Rich Mullins?
"We'd be foolish to say we don't want to play to bigger numbers or sell more records, but living with Rich all that time on the Indian reservation, it's only to be expected that some of Rich's ideal was going to rub off. Out of everybody in that camp, I think Mitch is the one who will probably go and do what Rich was all about."
For his part, McVicker is ready to begin chapter two. He's already recorded a second album-let's not forget that Mitch McVicker, for all its emotional intensity, is nearly three years old. Understandably, McVicker is ready to move on.
"I love what I said in those songs, and I love the fact that I wasn't trying to say anything, it's just what came out. I didn't sit down and say OK, I need a song about this or that. Those are just songs I played in my bedroom, stuff I wrote when I was strumming the guitar."
"I would say the new album is twice the album [of the first one]. I think it's made better, I think the songs are better, I think the playing is better, the studio we were in-I think everything, top to bottom, is better. It's a different approach we're taking to it."
That album will hopefully be out this fall. In the meantime, McVicker plans to continue touring. A Christian since he was a child, he's learned not to put too much stock on his own plans. After all, having survived the loss of a friend, the near loss of his own life, and the near loss of his career, he's just glad to be at the party.
"I'm not sure why things happened the way they did," he muses. "I go, Wow, just maybe everything has gone according to plan. I know that it hasn't gone according to my plans, but those are just my plans, that's all."
Thanks to: Chris Well, editor in chief of VoxCorp, Inc. for allowing this
article to be reprinted. They have the copyright on this article.
obtained from mitch for sound/picture files used