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It's All Downhill From Here: On the Road with Project 86
Author: Andrew Schwab
Publisher: Relevant Books
Most listeners of Christian contemporary music (CCM) think they have an idea of what life is like on the road for CCM artists. The common idea is that artists are well enough off that they don't have to worry about money. Life for CCM artists is always enjoyable since they get to sing and perform for a living. Members of CCM groups get along perfectly. _It's All Downhill From Here: On the Road with Project 86_ takes all those conceptions and others about how perfect life is for Christian musicians artists and throws them right out the window.
This book is a no-holds-barred look at the tough life of Project 86, a band that has seen amazing successes and horrible disappointments. Project has been popular enough to be on a mainstream label and tour with major general market groups, but they have also been low enough that they were performing for only a few hundred dollars and driving a van they acquired with already 100,000 miles on it.
Andrew Schwab lead singer for Project 86, presents stories from the life of the group, some good, most not, but all entertaining. The stories range from the entrancingly beautiful fan that Schwab let slip away to the merchandise manager who tried to steal a TV for the group. One of the most interesting stories was of the beginning of the group's first national tour. Schwab might always be on time but his fellow band members are not. The day started going downhill from when he arrives at a fellow-band members house at 7 AM to find him asleep and no one else ready to go either. They are finally ready to hit the road at 3PM, but first they have to stop and eat and then get gas, and this is not just any gas stop, this is the first gas stop before they leave for tour. Schwab writes about what he refers to as "an interesting enigma on the road...the gas stop phenomena." For the band, a trip to the gas station is not like a trip to the gas station for the average person; it is not only the home of the dreaded "trinket" (any type of snack), but also the "home of many a wasted moment." A full 10 hours after Andrew originally wanted to leave, they are finally ready to go at 5PM. Are things fine from there on out? Unfortunately, no. On the road, the guys decide to keep themselves entertained by shining a laser pointer at the passing cars and signs resulting in them being pulled over and handcuffed due to a report of a "hostage situation".
Other stories include the crazed mechanic, the worst dream ever, the fan who stole from them, and Schwab's opportunity to lead a young drug addict to the Lord. The book closes out with a chapter where Schwab explains why he does what he does, despite the trials and tribulations, despite the difficulties with their labels.
The book paints a picture of a band that is made up not of four celebrities with perfect lives, but four normal guys who face the same struggles as their listeners. These are people who do not always get along, who need that next concert to pay that next bill, whether it is for their rent or their car payment. These are four regular, normal guys. This book shatters any stereotypes that a Christian music fan might have about the supposedly perfect lives of Christian musicians. It makes the reader reevaluate what they think of Christian artists and the lives that they live.
Burton Wray 12/8/2004