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Former Lonestar Shines a New Light

By Chris Carpenter Program Director NASHVILLE -- Sometimes in life when you become too comfortable you become complacent.  Things are going well but the challenge is gone or long since forgotten.  Rather than coast through life in a haze of contentment you decide a change is in order.  A challenge is needed to help you realize your full potential.

This is a spot singer/songwriter Richie McDonald found himself in.  The lead vocalist for award winning country group Lonestar, McDonald and his band mates had reached the absolute zenith of success fueled by chart topping hits “Amazed”, “I’m Already There”, and “Front Porch”.

Rather than wallow in contentment McDonald decided to take a risk.  In 2007, he walked away, quitting Lonestar to pursue a solo career.  His first project, I Turn to You, is an inspirational Gospel album that serves as a vehicle for the Texas native to celebrate his faith in Jesus Christ. Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Richie to discuss why he left such a successful group, his desire to make a difference for the Kingdom, and why he thinks this is the most satisfying album of his career.

You were a major part of a highly successful group for 16 years.  In the music industry that is a long time.  What led you to leave Lonestar and set off on this new endeavor?

It was a couple of things both professionally and personally.  I just felt like as a group we had achieved a lot.  I just felt like it was time to move on, time to hop off that train and go do other things.  At the same time it was time to slow down and spend time with my family.  That was the main thing.  My kids were getting older and I kind of had my ten year plan.  The last ten years went by in the blink of an eye.  I just want to record positive songs that really mean something to people and really touch them.  That is what I am doing.

Was it hard for you to walk away or was it the easiest thing you ever did?

It was bittersweet.  It is tough to leave your brothers after 15 years and … I think they understood, not in the beginning but I think as time went on they did understand.  It still wasn’t easy on any of us.  It was my decision but I still think about those guys on a daily basis.  I just wonder about what they are doing and where they are playing tonight.  I wonder if Keech (Rainwater) is looking for a Starbucks in the middle of the day.  Things like that.

How has the feedback been from Lonestar fans who perhaps didn’t want to see you go?

People aren’t used to change especially when it comes to a band but I think time heals all wounds.  At first they may have been a little reluctant for a change but I think everybody has come to terms and have come to accept my decision.  They are supporting Lonestar and they are also supporting what I am doing.

At this point in your career, you can do just about any kind of project you want. Why a Gospel album now?

It is always something I wanted to do.  I have written a handful of songs over the years that I didn’t really feel like Lonestar would ever record but it was something that I always had a desire to do.  I just felt like with one door closing God was opening a hundred other doors.  I had an opportunity.  Someone called and asked if I ever thought about doing a Gospel or inspirational project.  I said, well, I’ve thought about it.  It is the right time but also the same with letting people know that I am still a country artist.  This is just another side of me that I want people to hear.

What is the significance of the album’s title I Turn to You?

I guess people could use it in a lot of different situations but I think it was intended for when things are going wrong or you are having a bad day you know you can always count on God and your faith.  He will always be there.  That is one thing that is guaranteed.

As far as the sound of this record how does it differ from the signature Lonestar sound?  Or is it similar?  You certainly have an unmistakable voice that everyone knows from the first note.

My voice is definitely the same.  I think production-wise it might be close to the Lonestar sound.  This is probably close to sounding like Lonestar music just because it is guitar driven.  Frank Myers was the producer on this.  He just had a vision about how he thought it should sound and how you shouldn’t marry the sound and the message.

The new record features 13 tracks, many of which you have either written or co-written.  One song that you did bring over from Lonestar was the song “Hey God”.  What was the significance of including that particular song in this project?

“Hey God” is such a personal song to me because it was written about some experiences I have had over the past three years with my brother being sick and then losing one of his sons, my nephew.  It was just a song that I was always really close to and just felt like I didn’t want to leave it behind.  I talked to the label and they gave me permission to cut it again.  It is just such a big part of my life.

If you had to pick one song that you feel captures the essence of the entire record what do you think it would be?

I think the great thing about this record is that there are so many different songs that have different messages.  I would say that if people listen to this they will be inspired.  My hope is that they will get something out of it.  But I think if I had to pick one song it would be “Faith”.  That song is all about having faith and having hope.  This song is about as straight ahead in its message as any song on the record.

You have been quoted as saying, “This is the most satisfying album of your career.”  Why do you say that?

I want people to know that I am a country artist but there is another side of me that I want people to know about.  I was a Christian long before I was a country artist.  And now I get to show that side of me.  It’s not like I was a “Closet Christian” or anything like that but it is just rewarding to know that I can sing about my faith and maybe make a difference in somebody’s life.

Final question, what has God been showing you lately?

You know, I remember when I made the decision and started struggling with the decision to leave the guys.  I think that with prayer and talking to God about what it is I am supposed to do -- to go from where I was with this group and the success we had to basically just taking a leap of faith.  I am basically starting over.  I am going down a new path.  God has shown me to lean on Him.  I will tell you what – there are times when I probably should be worried about whether I will be working tomorrow but I have had just such a comfort.  He comforts me and lets me know that I made the right decision and what I am doing is right.

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