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Published: Friday, 9/10/2010

Tenth Avenue Band wants spotlight shining on Christ

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

When Tenth Avenue North is performing on stage, with shifting rows of colorful lights and fog machines pumping out smoke, it can feel both wonderful and slightly uncomfortable for guitarist Jeff Owen.

As much as he wants to be playing music of the highest quality and entertaining fans, he wants the focus to be on Jesus Christ, he said. The spotlight, however, inevitably draws audiences to the musicians.

"For a Christian artist, that is unique because it's kind of contrary to the message we're proclaiming - that it's not about us, but it's about God," Mr. Owen said in a recent interview.

The challenge he faces "is to deflect that attention upward."

Tenth Avenue North, which will be in concert Wednesday night in Monroe, was formed about 10 years ago by singer-guitarist Mike Donehey, and now features Mr. Owen, drummer Jason Jamison, and bassist Ruben Juarez III,

Named for a street in West Palm Beach where band members shared an apartment, the group went through several lineups early on, primarily playing worship music at South Florida churches.

Mr. Owen, 26, moved from Anderson, Ind., to Florida intending to study at Palm Beach Atlantic College.

"It's God's providence that I'm in this band," Mr. Owen said. "I moved to Florida to go to college but I had some enrollment issues and I just got a job at Starbucks. I started volunteering at church where Tenth Avenue North happened to be on staff, playing worship music, and also playing out."

The group quickly became "my favorite worship band," Mr. Owen said.

"I wasn't playing with them at the time, but the way the guys were communicating on stage, how they engaged in worship, it was legit. It was real. And it was true. I was actually learning things during worship," he said.

He filled in on guitar a few times, then joined the band full time for several years before leaving to work with singer Joy Williams, moving back to Indiana where Ms. Williams was based.

He said it was inspiring to see how Ms. Williams balanced her spiritual life and her stardom.

"Sometimes after a show, you'd be pretty exhausted and have to go sign for the kids for an hour. It seems glamorous but it also can seem empty, kind of detaching. Joy always seasoned her words with grace."

Mr. Owen got a call from Tenth Avenue North about 5 1/2 years ago, asking him to come back to the group, and he agreed, saying the timing was right.

The band won a Dove Award in 2008 for New Artist of the Year, and its national debut CD, "Over and Underneath," has sold 300,000 units.

The group's second CD, "The Light Meets the Dark," came out in May on Reunion Records and hit the Top 10 in the Christian charts with "Healing Begins" and "You Are More."

Tenth Avenue North will be in concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday, with Alive opening, at the River Raisin Centre for the Arts, 114 South Monroe St., Monroe, Mich. Tickets are $15 and $25. Information: 734-652-3865.



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