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Awake and Alive with Skillet

By Jennifer E. Jones
Multi-Media Producer, The 700 Club – Norfolk, VA Skillet on stage is a thing of nu metal beauty. As I watch them perform hits like "Monster", "Hero" and "Those Nights" at the Chrysler Hall, I am just as impressed as I was the first time I saw them six years ago. It's still loud. It's still rocks.

So when I sit down backstage with lead singer and bassist John Cooper, I'm not surprised to see that he's fun-loving yet intensely focused on the task at hand: electrify audiences with a message of redemption for the "monsters" inside us all.

You’ve been at this now for about 14 years. How do you keep this fresh? Album after album, how do you not get ten minutes into writing a song and say, “This is 'Collide' again”?

“Didn’t we already do this?”

Exactly. How do you do that?

I really love writing music. I get excited about creating something and trying something new. I don’t mind chasing rabbit trails, and we have some songs that will be a little off. I think one of the things that makes it a little easier for me is that I play multiple instruments. I play piano, guitar, base guitar, and I’m not confined to the few elements of my instrument. A lot of times I find that I write differently if I’m writing in guitar than if I’m writing on piano. Just the chord structures start something new and fresh in your brain.

Kids who listen to your music are saying, "I was about to kill myself, and then I heard your song, and it saved my life." They have issues with self-injury and cutting, and say, "When I listen to your music, I don’t feel like I’m alone." This is saying that what you’re doing is quite literally saving people’s lives. How do you feel when you hear things like that?

You’re never prepared for somebody saying, “This song changed my life.” Somebody sent me an email saying he had made a noose in his room. “I had made the noose when your song came on the radio. I never heard it before ‘The Last Night’. It was a song that gave me hope.” You’re just not prepared for that. A lot of people say, "Why do you do what you do?" That’s the reason. Music affected my life. I look at people like Bono and think, if I could ever be a rock star, that’s the kind of rock star I’d like to be: somebody that made great music but used their platform and influence to help other people.

What are some of the gems on this new album?

I think "Lucy" is probably the best song I’ve ever written. It’s probably could be a shining moment. Now it’s yet to be known; it’s not a radio single. I don’t know if it ever will be, but the more the album gets known, I think the more people ask me what "Lucy" is all about.

When you’re playing tonight, what is one song that still, even though you‘ve played it many times, that you still get hyped?

“Rebirthing” is my favorite song we play live. It’s just the orchestra in the beginning. It comes on, and it sounds like it should be in a movie. I know the crowd knows it, and the best thing about being on stage is people singing your songs back to you. I get hyped about that song.

My favorite concert moment is when you feel the first couple of notes. Especially for fans who know the music, you hear those chords and you just lose it along with 10,000 other people. It’s exciting.

Definitely. I saw U2 on the 360 tour in Chicago. They start playing "Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For". The drum beat starts. Bono didn’t sing the entire first verse and first chorus, and 60,000 people sing that song. It was stunning.

I love that sound, when everybody’s in one accord and everybody knows the song.

It’s supernatural. What other time are you ever going to be around 60,000 people singing? Maybe you’ll go to a football game, and it’s a different thing. People are cheering, but not many people are singing. There is something very other worldly for sure.

It has to be something like what Heaven will be like.

It gives you that feeling, all kinds of different people from different walks of life. It was very inspiring.

Purchase Skillet's new album,

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Awake and Alive Tour

04.23.10 - Buies Creek, NC (Campbell University)

04.24.10 - Aiken, SC (USC Aiken)

04.25.10 - Pensacola, FL (Sanger Theater)

04.29.10 - Lafayette, LA (Canundome Convention Center)

05.01.10 - Greenville, IL (Agape Festival)

05.02.10 - Jonesboro, AR (ASU Convocation Center)

05.04.10 - Ft. Smith, AR (Ft. Smith Convention Center)

05.06.10 - Wichita, KS (Hartman Arena)

05.07.10 - Dodge City, KS (Dodge City Civic Center)

05.09.10 - Topeka, KS (Kansas ExpoCentre)

05.11.10 - Bismark, ND (Bismark Civic Center)

05.13.10 - Rapid City, SD (Rushmore Plaza)

For more Skillet tour dates, go to Atlantic Records.

Cooper on Skillet's Impact

"It’s very humbling. You kind of feel small. Music is so much more powerful than me and my particular song or my particular band. Music changes people’s hearts and lives. It has the power to change emotions."

Skillet's Message

“'You might not like yourself and the things you’ve done, but God loves you either way.'” That’s why I think that our message is not confined to Christian music, because we’re not a preachy band. We’re a band that’s just saying God loves you. It’s not telling somebody they’re wrong or they're evil. It’s about real life issues, and there’s a God that cares."