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March 6

Sawyer Brown’s “They Don’t Understand”

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Knowing Sawyer Brown

Sawyer Brown is one of the few bands in country music history to be thrown into the spotlight early in their career as winners of a national award—and then forced for the next decade to try and live it down. However, such obstacles didn’t stop the group’s energetic members from giving their all for their music.

Sawyer Brown’s “They Don’t Understand” 1

The band got its start when Ohio-born singer/songwriter Mark Miller hooked up with Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard while both men were studying at the University of Central Florida in the late 1970s. After moving to Nashville in 1981, Miller and Hubbard formed the band Savannah along with bassist Jim Scholten, guitarist Bobby Randall, and drummer Joe Smyth. The group members include Duncan Cameron (joined band, 1990), lead guitar, dobro, mandolin, steel guitar, background vocals; Gregg Hobie Hubbard, keyboards, background vocals; Mark Miller (wife’s name, Lisa; children: Aden Gunnar Agustus), guitar, vocals, songwriter; Bobby Randall (bandmember, 1981-90), lead guitar; Jim Scholten, bass; and Joe Smyth, drums.

How could a song affect that much?

Miller has written more “serious” songs in the last few years, so it was not shocking, at a recent appearance in Biloxi, Mississippi, that the band unveiled “They Don’t Understand”. After the first two verses, Mark Miller looked out at the people in the first few rows and saw many of them crying. Then he started singing about Jesus: “Literally 20 or 30 people came out of their chairs with their fists in the air. I mean, there was a roar–and this was in a casino.”

Sawyer Brown doesn’t use a set list in concert; these musicians have been playing together for so long that Miller just feels the mood of an audience and calls out the next song. But in Biloxi, after “They Don’t Understand,” he was at a loss. “This was a full house standing ovation–I just stood there,” he says. “I looked over at the band. They were shrugging their shoulders. We just had to wait.” Miller knows better now. After the ovation subsides, he tells the story of the song, and then the band roars into “Mission Temple,” one of their upbeat hits.

I even wondered early on why God didn’t put me in Christian music, growing up the way I did. Then I had to come to terms with God needs Christian bankers, God needs Christian teachers and Christian country rock singers. It really wasn’t a path I even wanted to go down. I had no intentions of ever being in a band or singing in public in front of anyone. That was not my dream. My dream was to be a professional basketball player. –Mark Miller

Dean Chance: The songwriter

Back in Nashville, Dean Chance hasn’t quit his day job. But his life has definitely changed. For one thing, there is a CD player in the store, and when customers reveal themselves to be friendly, he is likely to tell them what has happened to him. Then he plays the Sawyer Brown recording of his song. “And person after person hugs me, and they tell me a story about their lives,” he says. “It just blows you away, how they pour out their hearts.”

The other change, he says, it is his daughter, who is delighted by what she calls “the Katie song.” “I think she is being healed,” he says. “I believe her autism is going away.” And if not? “If it doesn’t do anything more for me, God has blessed me,” he says. “Only good comes out of this song.”

How about you, what song stirs you the most? You can share it with us. More inspiring articles are also found at our Country Gospel page.


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