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Tenth Avenue North ready for a big year of music

WANT TO GO?

Winter Jam 2014

With Newsboys, Lecrae, Tenth Avenue North and more

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Charleston Civic Center

COST: $10

INFO: 304-345-7469

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not everyone who plays a guitar is, in fact, a guitarist. At least, that's how Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North sees it.

Donehey, who performs with the contemporary Christian band Saturday night at Winter Jam at the Civic Center, said, "I play guitar, but I wouldn't call myself a guitarist. I have broken a lot of guitars. Does that count for something?"

The singer/songwriter added that, usually, he's not the one who breaks them. He blames that on the airlines.

"But I've broken a couple on stage, falling," he said.

Donehey said he's come to value durability in the guitars he buys.

2014 could a big year for Tenth Avenue North, a year of getting back to business. Donehey has it all mapped out.

"We're doing Winter Jam January through March," he said. "April, we're going to record a new record. May, we're going to the U.K. to tour. In the summer, we'll do festivals and then in the fall, probably headline another tour."

There are good reasons for the band to work so hard -- three of them, in fact.

"2013 was the year of the baby," Donehey said. "Our guitarist had a baby. The drummer had a baby, and my wife just had a baby back in October."

It's their third, he added.

All those babies made it hard to play a lot of shows on the road. There were diapers to change. There are still diapers to change, but there are also mouths to feed, and so, Tenth Avenue North will be on the road again.

It won't be that bad. At least, it won't be as bad as when Tenth Avenue North was just a group of college kids from Palm Beach Atlantic College in Florida touring for the first time in a borrowed school van.

"We slept on the floor of the van." He said, "We ate a lot of bologna sandwiches. Eating at Taco Bell was a nice night out for us."

Bathing, sometimes, was also luxury.

"About the apex of that tour was going through Colorado and the mountains," he said. "It was snowing everywhere, and all we had was peanut butter and jelly in the cooler. My drummer asked me to make him a sandwich, and we didn't have a knife."

So, he scooped peanut butter and jelly out of the jars and spread them on the bread with his fingers.

"I probably hadn't showered in three or four days at that point," he said. "I didn't tell him until after he'd consumed the sandwich."

Travel is much better now, Donehey joked.

The singer said the band has a lot of plans for the New Year, but added that he wasn't making any resolutions.

"I don't really make resolutions," Donehey said. "I can't help but wonder what the motivation is behind resolutions. I suppose my only resolution is to be motivated by love and gratitude, but that's not a tangible thing."

Donehey feels that most resolutions are fueled by fear and pride, by an ultimately unnecessary need for acceptance from the crowd.

"I made a decision a long time ago that I don't want to live my life based on that."

Instead, Donehey lives by faith.

"Here's the deal: everybody is trying to accomplish something when they're singing a song," he said. "Whether you're singing that she thinks your tractor is sexy or 'Amazing Grace,' you're saying something."

Of course, some performers aren't really saying a lot.

"They just want to entertain. They want you to sing along with them and then go home drunk and happy."

Tenth Avenue North aspires to bigger things.

Donehey said, "We sing about things that have given us joy and set us free, that have freed us from pride, guilt and shame. How could you not want that for other people?"

Not that Donehey necessarily writes entirely from the perspective of trying to reach other people. He starts where he is, with him.

"There's a really cool verse in the scripture, from Psalms."

Paraphrasing, Psalms 49:4, he said, "I listen to wisdom and with the music of the lyre; I will solve my riddle."

He explained, "A lot of people write songs to put on a record. I write because I write to un-riddle my heart and to really figure out what's going on."

Not everybody who writes songs looks at writing the same way, but that's the way he sees it.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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