Reggae/punk/rap-rock band P.O.D. has always been upfront about their faith and message in their music. With the release of their new album The Awakening, the God inspired music is continuing to push their envelope of music. Frontman Sonny Sandoval spoke to BREATHEcast about Christianity, the church, and being part of a calling.
Sonny believes some of the success that makes P.O.D. so popular even among non-Christians is their transparancy and their willingness to admit they are far from perfect. Sometimes this eagerness to be real makes them a bit vunerable of "Christians" who put artists on an unreal level of expectations similar to sainthood or ambassadors for faith.
"They want their Christian superheroes and we've never tried to be that," said Sonny. "If anything we've just been real or honest."
To Sonny, Marcos, Traa, and Wuv, Christianity is part of their culture and lives just as someone being Hispanic, Asian, African American, etc. Sonny again says they are not perfect, but admits that perhaps they are tested more than the average person.
"All of our faith has been tested to the maximum and to the point of a lot of stuff, just reality. Questioning a lot of things and challenging a lot of things, making mistakes and slipping up. But there's never been a denial of faith," he revealed. "Everyone of us has been forgiven and saved by the blood of Jesus and we know that, but we're still actually living through that."
He emplores that people have to find their own relationship with Jesus, and you can still be an individual while doing so. "Christianity is defined in many different ways everywhere, and that's the problem, it should be one thing but it's not," said the singer. "There are people who think a good American Christian is Ku Klux Klan and Westboro Baptist, that's not me. And so if that's your definite definition of Christian, then I guess I'm not a Christian."
The only thing Sonny can do is just try to be like Jesus, and do the best he can to "finish this fight well." He wants to be the best husband, father, friend, neighbor he can be and also the best to the people who listen to his music.
"I always challenge people, live your life so that people know that you're all about Jesus because I'm sick of people just talking about it."
Quoting his friend, Sonny said our Christianity should always read "under construction" by God and the Holy Spirit. "We put out this notion that we figured everything out...the only way you are going to win people to the Lord is if you show your brokenness, show your vulnerability, even your struggles. That's what relates to the common man."
It has been said music is the universal language of everyone across the world as simply just a tone or melody has the power to change emotion and feeling. Sonny said going around the world is powerful because as they travel the world and play shows, no matter where they go people sing their songs even if they don't speak English.
"Music pierces the heart, the gospel pierces the heart, why not throw them together and let God do what he's going to do," said Sonny.
He continued, "Imagine me playing in front of thousands of Juggalos and saying, 'Hey God loves you guys, thank you so much for listening to our music'...whatever God puts on my heart to say," shared Sonny. "It's easier to get behind a big crowd of Christians and say 'Wow God is really moving' than to be some guy filled with the Holy Spirit, loves the Lord, wants to see people get saved, knows that the man next to him is unsaved, and goes, 'When POD plays with ICP, I will be standing in the middle of that pit loving God...letting my spirit shine'. Most people would be afraid to do that or they don't want to be lumped into a group of sinners."
Worship does not have to be confined to the four walls of a church or reserved for pianos, acoustic guitars, and choirs. Sonny finds the presence of God while on stage. Through the heavy distortion and yelling fans, he's worshipping, and when he can look out to the crowd and see the same thing, "there's nothing more powerful."
God challenges Sonny personally, and asks him 'Why do you still do it? Is it for album sales? Is it for paychecks?' It stops and makes him think about the importance of what he was put here to do. What makes it worth it for him is being able to hear fans' testimonies and them saying "I know the Lord because of your music."
Looking back Sonny is proud of everything P.O.D. has accomplished over the years and proud that they weren't signed to Atlantic Records because of their faith. He explained it was because of an A&R who believed in them, and they had a great following. It showed the industry that they were more than just Christians in a band; they had talent and a passion.
The labels would say, "'We have artists selling millions of records who can't even pack out a bar' meanwhile P.O.D. is having crazy turnouts locally. The power of unity."
It was risky business back in the late 90s to gamble on a Christian group for a major label. The market was largely untapped in the heavy rock scene for major mainstream crossovers. Sonny added, "When you're making money, it's funny how no one is offended by your message anymore and the labels say...'ok, we market and sell this'."
Once P.O.D. became successful all the labels started coming to ask them about other Christian bands who they thought would be marketable. P.O.D. remembers bands such as Blindside, Project 86, and a young Skillet drawing a lot of interest. Eventually, P.O.D. would help Swedish band Blindside get a record deal on an Atlantic Records off shoot label, Elektra. Until this day the bands remain friends, and Sonny cites them as one of his favorites.
Speaking on these Christian acts, "The moment people found out we were Christians we already knew we had to be 10 times better than the bands we were playing with because we are open about our faith and not your typical sex, drugs, and rock and roll," said Sonny.
Then there were detractors who felt P.O.D. was not Christian enough as a band. They would say, 'Why don't you say Jesus a million times on a record?' to which Sonny would reply "Dude I'm not marketing my Savior so you buy my record."
He joked that once a record gets the "gospel" or "Christian" label now all of a sudden the record is "anointed by God."
"It's part of business and there's plenty to make in the Christian industry," he continued. "I know if I were to make a 'gospel record' I'd probably sell more than I did with P.O.D., and I'd probably make a lot more as an artist because I'm doing what you think I'm supposed to do. But a Sonny gospel record doesn't put you in front of thousands of unbelievers, at least they're honest."
Aside from touring, Sonny also works on his organization The Whosoevers. The organization includes other big names such as Brian Head Welch, Lacey Sturm, and speaker Ryan Ries. Together they seek to reach millions in an effort to tell the stories of those struggling globally to provide hope and the knowledge of a loving God.
Read part one of our interview with Sonny here where he speaks about the new album The Awakening and their tour with Insane Clown Posse.