Grand Prize Biography
Last updated: 11/19/2005
Luke Caldwell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Steven Harder – electric guitar
Tony Caruso – bass
Nolan Mather – drums
When you think of the breeding ground for Christian music’s artists of tomorrow, you probably don’t initially think of Idaho. But Luke Caldwell, Steven Harder, Tony Caruso and Nolan Mather—better known as Grand Prize—may soon change all that. A power-pop rock band based at Calvary Chapel Boise, where lead singer Caldwell’s father is the pastor and Caldwell himself served as youth pastor for five years, Grand Prize has a fresh sound that’s being compared to current hit makers Switchfoot and Jeremy Camp. Caldwell says the band is “just four simple guys who love Jesus and want to serve Him” with their music. They hope to do just that with Identity, which releases on Apostrophe Records in January 2005.
Produced by local favorite Scott Pergande, Identity is full of 11 catchy, relentlessly hooky tunes—all written by the band—reminiscent at times of artists such as U2, Pearl Jam, The Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20. The follow-up to Reveal Your Love, the band’s well received 2002 indie debut which had several singles on the CHR chart and has now sold over 8,000 copies, Identity will be welcomed with open ears and hearts by Christian music fans everywhere, especially the band’s substantial West Coast fan base which has been nurtured by three years of nearly constant touring.
The album’s catchy leadoff track, “It’s Not Over,” is a made-for-radio future chart topper that stays in the head for hours. The song is a plea for the listener to surrender their will to the Lord: “You say that you love Him with your life/Yet you’re going your own way/You need to let Him have your rights/Let Him take control of your life/He’ll set you free tonight.”
The unforgettable first single, “King of Kings,” is the kind of song that entire careers are built on. With blistering guitars, this powerful, crunchy rock tune invites God to “Come and make my heart Your home.” The intense background chant, which Caldwell says is “different than anything we’ve ever done before,” is sure to help this single quickly establish itself in an increasingly crowded radio landscape.
Other highlights include “Break Me,” a modern day retelling of the Apostle Paul’s struggle to do right as detailed in the latter half of Romans 7, and the hope-filled confidence in the Second Coming of Christ found in “I’m Waiting.” Another standout track, “To See You,” finds Caldwell pleading for holiness while singing of his desire “to see you in my life.”
On The Road Again
Grand Prize is very excited to take Identity on the road this winter. Already playing around 150 dates a year, the band has shared the bill with a diverse list of some of Christian music’s most recognizable names including Kutless, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Camp, Jeff Deyo, GRITS, Skillet, and fellow favorites of the West, The O.C. Supertones and Telecast.
It was while returning from one such concert this summer that Grand Prize experienced one of their biggest challenges to date. Barreling down a Nevada interstate at 65 mph, they lost control and flipped their van and equipment trailer. Caldwell and the band’s roadie, Tucker Maile, were both thrown from the vehicle. Miraculously, aside from some bumps and bruises and Caldwell’s 30 stitches, there were no major injuries to anyone, though both the van and trailer were totaled.
Caldwell says, “It was the scariest day of my life but God proved His faithfulness to us and we know that He has an awesome plan in it. My faith was really tested that day; I was so scared that I honestly thought about quitting. But I realized once again that my life is always in His hands. God’s angels surrounded us that day and I can honestly say that it is a miracle that we are alive.” Since that fateful day, the song “I Remember,” has taken on a whole new meaning for the band. The song’s chorus speaks of “Stones of mercy, stones of grace” in reference to the biblical story of the children of Israel building a monument of stones to remind them of God’s faithful deliverance. Grand Prize now has its own stones of remembrance; after the wreck, one of the band members returned to the scene of the accident and picked up four stones covered in Luke’s blood. The stones now accompany the band members when they travel as a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness and protection.
Taking It To The Next Level
Grand Prize has had so much success on their own, they hesitated to abandon their “indie” status and jump into the big leagues of the music business. However, after much thought and prayer, the band signed with Apostrophe Records, a label recently started by platinum-selling Christian and Latin singer Jaci Velasquez and distributed by Word Entertainment, a division of Warner Music Group.
“I met some of the guys from Grand Prize at GMA Week in Nashville this year, and I told my team that we had to sign them. I hadn't even heard their music or seen them live but I knew they were right for Apostrophe! I got to know their hearts and thought, ‘So now, what do they sound like, and can they sing?’” Velasquez says with a laugh. “But I wasn't worried because I knew that if the songs were as incredible as their hearts then we had found something spectacular. And I believe we have.”
“Apostrophe Records was by far the best choice for Grand Prize,” affirms Caldwell. “We just wanted to be with a label that truly loved our music and wanted to partner with our ministry. When we started talking to labels we were actually pretty scared because it is such an important decision, but through the relationship we built with Apostrophe it was so natural and all the guys had a total peace. The team just made us feel welcome from day one. I believe Apostrophe is going to be a light in this industry because of their genuine hearts for people and their dedication to excellence.”
Reluctant “Rock Stars”
In an unusual answer to the standard “How did you get started?” interview question, Caldwell says “The Lord literally dropped this in our lap and asked us to be faithful.” He explains that he grew up wanting to play sports, not music. But while attending Bible college in Austria, a young woman walked up to him and handed him a guitar, saying God had told her to give it to him.
“I thought it was a little strange at first, because I couldn’t sing to save my life and had no rhythm at all,” he recalls. “So I had my roommates pray for me, that God would enable me if He truly wanted me to do this. And He has. I’ve never taken guitar or voice lessons; none of us have. The fact that we are doing this is a total miracle, and God truly gets all the glory, because I definitely never thought that we would be doing this.
“We have no desire to be rock stars,” he continues fervently. “Jesus was a servant and we want to follow Him, so Grand Prize will always be a ministry before we are a band. We want to bring hope to the discouraged, love to the lost and exhortation to the backslidden.” [As evidence of this commitment to ministry, the band members, who are all married, are more likely to exhort their fans to check out a particular passage of Scripture that is really impacting them than they are to try to hawk their album or t-shirts.]
Caldwell concludes, “We honestly believe that there is nothing good in us except what God has placed there. Being a youth pastor for the last five years, I have seen how desperately this generation needs Jesus Christ. We hope to be able to show His love in practical ways and be a voice for Christ in this generation.”