Skillet will be at the Paramount Theatre Friday, Nov. 7 for a 7 p.m. show. Tickets can be purchased at tickethorse.com or 866–461-6556. Photo by Eliza Marie Somers
By grabbing the attention of the NFL, Skillet is bridging a large gap in the music industry. It’s the chasm between mainstream rock and the much maligned Christian rock sector. And it’s a bridge the band’s lead singer John Cooper enjoys walking.
“It gives us credibility,” Cooper said of the NFL using the band’s song “Hero” to promote its Sunday night football games. “Some people think that Christian music is cheesy, but with the NFL picking us up, maybe it will change some people’s mind.”
The thunderous, hard-rockin’ style of Skillet also drew converts from the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference, with the ACC playing clips and interviews with the band during conference football games.
“I really don’t know how it all came about,” Cooper said. “But rock ’n’ roll and sports are meant to be together. It’s like chocolate and peanut butter. It’s destiny.”
Cooper and his wife, Korey, who plays keyboard and guitar, didn’t know about the sports connection. They heard about their band’s commercial success by accident.
“We were packing for this tour and the TV was on,” John explained. “And this commercial comes on for the NFL and we hear this song, and for a split-second it was, ‘This sounds familiar. … Oh, that’s us.’ It was surreal.”
Skillet guitarist and keyboard player Korey Cooper. Photo by Eliza Marie Somers
Some might call it instant success, but the band has been around the Christian rock scene for 13 years, and its music has evolved with the times, moving from industrial rock to electronic and back to its rock roots.
“As a band you try to break new ground as you grow – to give your fans something new to hear,” said Cooper, who describes Skillet’s current sound as “hard rock with symphonic touches. It sounds a little more glamorous than stripped-down rock.”
The symphonic touches can be heard on the band’s latest CD “Awake.” Strings and piano are interspersed throughout the album.
“I grew up with classical music. My mom was a music teacher,” Cooper explained. “And the strings are something that takes us over the top. It’s not what people expect.”
Skillet performs at HeavenFest, bringing a touch of a classical music instrument to rock ‘n’ roll. Photo by Eliza Marie Somers
During its performance at HeavenFest in Brighton in August, the band complemented its concert with a violinist and a cellist — even giving the band’s fans, known as Panheads, a strings duel while both musicians were carried above the stage on hydraulic platforms.
“I think part of our mission is to change people’s mind about Christian music – to educate people. And to make Christian music more creditable,” Cooper said. “It’s been a tough road. And that has nothing to do about being a Christian. I’m not embarrassed about that.
“It’s that people judge you based on a label. We want people to hear the music first, then judge. That’s our challenge.”
“We don’t play music to Christians. We sing songs to people,” Cooper said. “After one of our concerts, this girl comes up afterward and says she is an atheist but that she doesn’t care what we stand for, because the music makes her feel good.
“Hopefully, we can plant some seeds and change some minds on what it means to be a Christian. You don’t have to dress a certain way or listen to certain music. You don’t need to take your piercings out.”
One song that sticks out in the current CD is “It’s Not Me, It’s You.” A tune that screams, “Let’s get the story straight. You were a poison. … With the pain you put me through. And now I know that it’s not me, it’s you.”
“That’s my favorite song on the CD,” Cooper said. “A lot of people say it’s not very Christian, but it’s about self-improvement. It’s about someone, something or even yourself bringing you down and then all of a sudden, you realize that it’s not you. You are OK. It could be a relationship, a friend. … It’s something a lot of Christians don’t like talking about, but we need to.”
A cellist adds an “over the top” quality to Skillet’s sound. The band was nominated for a Grammy Award and is a Dove Award winning band. Photo by Eliza Marie Somers