Change, particularly unexpected change, can sometimes be a foundational crack that causes the whole structure to come tumbling down. Survival, it turns out, depends on what you do with the rubble. After 20 years of touring, 24 radio hits and full album sales exceeding 750,000, Sanctus Real cemented itself as a trusted brand in Christian music. But in 2016, original members Mark Graalman and Chris Rohman experienced a windfall of change that shook the foundation of everything they had built. They parted ways with their longtime label partner, their booking agent, and close friend and lead singer, Matt Hammitt, left the band to spend more time with his family.
“We started this band in our parents’ basement and never knew we’d get this far,” shares Rohman. “When Matt left, Mark and I just started praying and waiting to see what God had planned for us.”
Enter Dustin Lolli, Sanctus Real’s new lead singer and creative influence. When Lolli met Graalman and Rohman, he was working as a full-time worship leader in Michigan and performing in a folk duo with his wife.
“We immediately loved Dustin’s approach to songwriting and lyric structure,” says Graalman, “and knew he could be a refreshing addition to the band.”
For Lolli, the decision to join Sanctus Real seemed like an easy one, but getting to know the heart of the band tipped the scales. “I saw in these guys a real focus to write songs that move people toward an understanding of their identity in Christ. They’ve built an amazing platform to be able to share God’s love and I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”
With a new lead singer in place, the trio began writing songs for Changed, their first album together. Lolli’s soulful vocals are noticeably different from the band’s original sound, but the focus of the music remains - hope found in an unchanging savior. While the new songs are certainly influenced by the outward changes the band has experienced, the message is centered on how change can bring about personal redemption. Life is, whether good or bad, a series of unexpected moments. With Changed, the band communicates that nothing’s ever a lost cause in the kingdom of heaven. Stripping away what was and getting down to the one thing that matters has given the band a new voice and solidified the purpose behind it.
“We’re a group of guys making music together as opposed to a group of guys getting behind a song. We’re focusing back on the simple message of the gospel,” says Graalman. “It’s the simple message of God’s love.”
With a shift in focus and a new lead singer, the next season for the band is a clean slate, a transition, a rebirth of the original vision for making music together. In the midst of that rebirth, Sanctus Real is discovering when you focus on what matters, you open yourself up to even more possibility.