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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

Pair found their Purpose by accident

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Matt Heart, left, and John Davis. Matt Heart, left, and John Davis.
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John Davis and Matt Heart traveled parallel paths for years without knowing it.

When they were kids Davis in Riga, Mich., Heart in Toledo both of them were holing up in their bedrooms, making music on crude tape players and acting out their fantasies of stardom.

Both were avid video gamers, which ultimately led to their first meeting.

Both discovered Christianity, relying on their deep spirituality to help them through their problems.

And both were unconsciously looking for a creative kindred spirit, bouncing from band to band or gig to gig while never quite receiving the kind of artistic satisfaction they craved.

Four years ago their search ended when they met by chance at a Funcoland video store and struck up a conversation that led to a full-blown collaboration.

Heart recently recalled one of the first sessions that led to the formation of their two-person band, Purpose. He shared a couple of unfinished songs with Davis, who seemed to instinctively know where to take it.

"He d start strumming away on his guitar and I said, Dude! How do you do that? That s exactly what I m talking about, " Heart said.

Their work paid off in February when their debut CD, "Eve of Temptation," helped them win the "Best Alternative Performer" honor at the Black Music Awards in Los Angeles, where they performed their song "Coming Home."

Purpose was nominated by other performers, music executives, disc jockeys, and industry representatives who are members of the Black Music Association of America.

"It s a really prestigious award and I didn t think we d get it," Davis said.

"Eve of Temptation" was recorded locally and released on the pair s own label. The musicians sent it to disc jockeys and industry representatives, and it found the right ears.

Their sound is a unique blend of country and rock thanks to the years Davis spent in Nashville playing in a couple of groups and soul, which can be attributed to Heart s Smokey Robinson-like vocals and years opening for acts like Brian McKnight and Mary J. Blige.

Heart said his wife, Lori, calls it "rhythm and rock" music.

"It s like a big musical chemistry experiment and thank God, it worked," Davis said.

The paths both men who are in their 30s pursued to get to this point are oddly similar with a few curious diversions. Davis said he was a painfully shy kid who would shut himself in his room and practice singing along with Billy Joel records. He worked on a farm when he was a teenager so he could afford his first guitar.

Heart was more outgoing a little too much so, he said, because it got him in trouble but he would also go into his room and mess with tape recorders and practice singing.

"To me, if it wasn t for music, I d probably be dead," he said. "I was a bad kid. I was into gangs and stuff."

(As incongruous as it seems, the tough kid who was into gangs also was a stone-cold Barry Manilow fan, which, despite teasing from Davis, he stands by today, offering up a spirited defense of Manilow s talents as songwriter. "I just really like that guy," Heart said. "He s a great writer, a great performer. Barry Manilow is bad.")

After high school, Davis moved to Nashville where he played in several bands. When his marriage broke up, he made his way back up here and kicked around until meeting Heart, who had spent some time living in New York trying to get his music career off the ground before coming back.

Since meeting, they ve been writing songs regularly and honing their sound. They ve also remained devout Christians and see their music as a chance to do some good. Ten percent of all the sales of "Temptation of Eve" go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the video to the song "Mary s Lament" includes pictures of kids who are missing with a phone number to call for anyone who has seen any of them.

Davis shrugged when asked about the charitable work.

"So many people don t do anything and they have all these multi-million dollars," he said.

"And they don t do crap," Heart added.

Their next step is to move to Los Angeles this spring to seriously pursue recording contracts and take advantage of the momentum they received from the Black Music Association award.

Heart s sister Minnie Foxx, also a Toledo native, is an actress in L.A. who dates one of Michael Jackson s attorneys. "It s nothing bad about Toledo," Davis said of the move. "But we have contacts out there."

Both of them are fortunate to have employers who agreed to transfer them so they can continue their day jobs while pursuing their musical career. Heart shook his head when he thought about all that has occurred for Purpose in the past year.

"It s really happened faster than I thought," he said.

"Temptation of Eve" can be purchased at Allied Records in Toledo, Finders in Bowling Green, or on the Internet at www.purposetheband.com.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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