I had been intrigued by LeRoux’s latest album, which would turn out to be their last with founder/leader Jeff Pollard. I had requested a radio interview through the band’s record label, RCA, and had been told that no interviews were available. That struck me as strange – bands and record companies usually jump at the chance to promote a new album.
But here I was in Detroit, staying with a guy I had met through Paul Wilkinson, a friend from Toronto, who back in those days was my connection for hard to find Christian music. Paul had mentioned this customer in Detroit he thought I would get along with due to a mutual love of great music.
We headed for the concert hall in mid-afternoon. I think the idea was that we would line up early so that we could get prime seats for the show. I didn’t know Harpo’s (or any other Detroit venue for that matter) but I trusted my hosts.
As we were crossing the street in front of the bar we saw a group of young men getting out of a bus. LeRoux. I called out to them, introduced myself and the guys I was with. They were impressed that I had made the trip from Ottawa. We were invited into the hall with them – they were just about to do their sound check. We hung out with the band for the next 10 hours or so, through the sound check, back to their motel, out to dinner together then back to the hall in their tour bus. A nice bunch of guys.
As I interviewed Jeff Pollard about the new album (which he was most happy to talk about), I mentioned that RCA had stonewalled my interview request. He said he knew that was happening – the record company was trying to keep him away from the media. It seems RCA didn’t like the message that came out in interviews. It’s tough to explain why the singer/songwriter/lead guitarist of a band is not allowed to do interviews, so RCA just said no to all requests, rather than offering another band member as a substitute.
The problem was, Jeff told me, that whenever he gave an interview people would ask about his songs and their inspiration. Invariably that would lead to one subject: Jesus Christ. Jeff was a Christian and not afraid to let everyone know it. His songs could be taken on different levels, he said, and he was okay with that, but a lot of them were expressions of his faith.
It was Maundy Thursday when the band took the stage, but the clock had passed midnight and it was Good Friday when they launched into one of my favourite tunes: “Roll Away the Stone.” As Jeff started into the guitar solo he caught my eye. We grinned at each other. There was no doubt we were both thinking of a stone placed in front of a tomb on that first Good Friday, a stone that would be rolled away by angelic powers on Easter Sunday.
Jeff Pollard is no longer playing rock and roll. Not long after I spoke with him he left the band he founded and started a new career, one he still has. Not really a career, more of a vocation. He traded an audience for a congregation, his guitar for a shepherd’s crook (metaphorically anyway). He became a pastor. As a rock musician he touched a lot of people’s lives in a positive way, but he felt he was answering a higher calling when he left music behind.