In the cool, culturally minded streets of Portland, Oregon, Christianity, like much of the city’s music scene, is basically underground.
But for the Portland trio know as pop/rock act Above the Golden State, the sheer lack of Christian culture hasn’t been a problem. If anything it’s caused the guys to get serious about their faith in the trenches—and what it really means to be a follower of Christ.
“I feel like we got a fresh, clean, unbiased start to following Christ and understanding God through His Word,” Michael shares. “And that’s why we draw from who we are and share that message musically.”
For Michael Watson, here has never been an inkling of doubt as to why he is doing what he is doing. In no uncertain terms, he explains:
“Music is from God and for God. And I believe God is raising up a new generation of young musicians who want to see music being used for its original purpose—to glorify God.”
Lush, moving, and wildly infectious, you can sense that there is something beyond the ordinary surrounding Watson and his songs. Though admittedly he is a relative newcomer to the industry, his sound echoes with a seasoned quality that is rare. It takes only a thirty-second visit to the band’s Myspace page to experience it … accessible pop melodies with layers of instrumentation, driven by acoustic guitar but lifted by drums and various keys and programming. But don’t let the singer/songwriter tag lead you astray. These are not self-indulgent dirges, or art for art’s sake. The songs on Above The Golden State’s debut are as uplifting as they are accessible, as worshipful as they are radio-friendly.
Watson explains, “One of my favorite quotes is from renowned pastor and author A.W.Tozer: ‘The esteem of the world isn’t worth the effort.’ That sentiment describes my focus with this music. I know the only thing that carries on to eternity is God being glorified in and through us by the grace of Jesus, so we’ll put all our energy toward that.”
Watson’s journey began with unlikely circumstances. He was studying at Calvary Chapel South Maui when a good friend in another popular music act slipped his demos to an A&R representative with industry powerhouse Sparrow Records. Soon after, Michael received a random phone call from Sparrow. That was all it took.
The song demo that landed him a record deal— “Sound of Your Name”—has become the first single on his self-titled debut. And it’s more than just an obvious single; it is evidence of anointing. Watson proclaims, "Towers fall and Kingdoms crumble. Mountains bow and the earth will tremble at the sound of Your name. The strong man falls to Him who humbles. The plans he made were bound to stumble, and only You remain."
Watson is backed by Brook Mosser (drums) along with Tim Aylward (keys), and all three are familiar to the music scene. Each of the guys has partnered at one time or another with everyone from Telecast to Falling Up to Kutless to Shawn MacDonald to Paul Wright. This is a seasoned crew, to say the least, and one that complements each other through shared sonic experience.
Now on the heels of its critically acclaimed, self-titled debut in 2008 that yielded hit singles “Sound of Your Name” and “I’ll Love You So,” the band served up a new collection of catchy anthems with a decidedly West coast vibe on The Golden Rule.
With a back-to-basics approach, Watson says the album’s lyrics underscore the core elements of faith.
“The Golden Rule, to love God and your neighbor as yourself, is a commandment we’ve all been given,” says Michael. “Through our songs, we want to encourage the Church to return to that fundamental truth. We aren’t interested in competing with other bands for chart success or simply following the path that the music industry has set out for artists. Instead, we are constantly pursuing God upward, serving God within our community and going into the world to share His message.”
Not afraid to shy away from the complexities of faith, even in a three-and-a-half minute song format, Above The Golden State’s sophomore album isn’t fueled by pat answers and platitudes. Rather, it’s driven by an authentic desire to love the world as Jesus did.
Anchored by the prayerful and practical support of their local church, Solid Rock in Portland, the band is “humbled” and “honored” to share its Gospel-driven message with the masses.
When asked about goals, Watson simply states that he wants to go as far as heaven will take Him. With such a unique live show, though, it is not hard to imagine that Above the Golden State’s sphere of influence will expand quickly. One part worship, one part pop show, and one part spoken interaction, Watson and company plan to give audiences plenty to take home with them.
“Above The Golden State has no desire to bring glory to itself but to join in with you and everyone else to glorify God together. We know not to find our worth in anything other than Jesus Christ. We are in this together. We are the church, the body of Christ; this music is to fix the ‘gaze of our soul’ on Jesus, our Hope of Glory! These songs are meant to be sung in the heart and mind of the listener, like a soundtrack to our lives.”
“How Jesus is moving in our church locally is the lifeblood of our ministry,” Michael says. “Now I would like our next big push outwardly to have a clear message of the Golden Rule, which is already in our music.”
Listen to Above The Golden State Here
|Above the Golden State||2008||Sparrow Records|
|The Golden Rule EP||2010||Sparrow Records|