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Why did Drew leave Tenth Avenue North?

I find it interesting that the most popular search on this blog (my personal, family blog) is, “Why did Drew Middleton leave Tenth Avenue North?”

Perhaps because we bragged about our friend when he came to Nashville this past spring to claim his BMI Songwriter’s award for his work on the hit, “Love is Here”. After all, I’ve known Drew since he and the boys led worship for our church’s college group in Florida. As the female mentor for the ministry, I enjoyed worshipping with and watching the guys grow in the Lord.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I really got to know Drew.  I learned that he and some of the other ‘kids’ that I served with were getting married! Not only were they getting married, but many now held positions within the church. That meant that their new brides would be graduating college, moving out on their own for the first time AND becoming a pastor’s wife in a sense. Being a recent newlywed myself (just four years prior), my heart became burdened for these precious women (most of whom I’d not yet met!) and started a group to mentor these newlyweds. I met with the girls, my husband met with the guys, and we’d regularly all come together as couples…and it was awesome.

So while I’ve known Mike D. and the Tenth Ave gang for about ten years, it wasn’t until the past three that I’ve had the pleasure of really getting to know Drew and his precious wife, Shannon. You can imagine my surprise when, on a blog where I normally discuss funny things my kids say and my wonderment at the world around me,  there were daily searches on Tenth Avenue North, Drew Middleton and more specifically, why Drew left the band.

So I finally asked him.

It’s amazing how little I really knew about how the band got its start. I learned that it did in fact get its name from the road in Lake Worth where a few of the guys lived back when there were in college. I learned that Drew was not one of the original members of the band (he joined when they were all in college at PBA, not too long after he came in second place to their first place finish at a Battle of the Bands on campus). And I finally learned that Drew left the band because he felt God tugging on his heart to return to ministry at his local church.

“Through college, it was a good time – nothing that demanded our full time attention – if someone asked for a show we’d go play.” After he graduated, most of the guys worked part time at the church in the fall and winter and then the band went on tour in the off times and during the summer. However, after all the guys had worked at Christ Fellowship part time for a year, they went to the church to let them know they felt called to pursue the band full time. From that point in 2005 through 2006, Drew and the guys concentrated their full energies on the band, even releasing two full length albums and some EP’s.

So why did Drew walk away from it all?

“I felt this tug on my heart to go back to Christ Fellowship. I just knew it was what God was calling me to do, though at the time, I didn’t know why.”

Drew was engaged then and while he knew his future wife would always support him in whatever he felt God called him to do, Drew believed it was time for him to go back to the local church and lead worship. At the same time, his friend and fellow band-mate (Danny Zayas, who had just married his wife Renee a year earlier) approached Drew with a similar sentiment.

Ironically, things were starting to take off for the band. They had just met with some guys in Nashville and were considering what record label to sign with. “We were at a conference somewhere in Florida and were meeting as a band when Danny & I spoke up and said we felt called to bow-out of the band. Needless to say, the other guys were shocked.”

It was never their intent to deliver a double-whammy. They knew it would be a big deal to lose two members at once, but both Drew & Danny stayed on and played for several more months until their “Hello/Good-Bye Show” at City Place where they introduced Jeff (Owen) into the band and said goodbye to Drew & Danny.

Does Drew have any regrets about leaving the band?

“For the first two years after I left the band I had no regrets (even though they had a lot of success). I started feeling regret the last time I was in Nashville. Not because of the Dove Awards or the recognition or the hit song, I had regrets because being up there and hanging out with the guys again reminded me of the family nucleus we had as a band. More than friends, we were like a family church, constantly looking out for one another, encouraging each other and spurring one another on to do great things for God. Did we fight? Yeah. Were there times we wanted to rip each other’s faces off? Absolutely…but what a great group of guys. My regret is 50% because I know God has me here for this time and using me down in FL, but I think I’ll always vicariously live through them after being such a part of that band and that industry for 5-6- years. When that’s all you hang out with for so long, of course there’s going to be a tug.  All that to say my regret isn’t that I left the band and all this success; I miss the guys and that nucleus.”

So what’s next for Drew?
“You’re asking the wrong guy – it’s up to the Lord.
I can tell you what I’d like to be doing, but who knows if that’s what God has for me. I have some dreams and some ambitions, but God has his perfect will and I’m going to make sure I’m following that.”

Not to worry; the guys are still as close as brothers. They’ve sang at each other’s weddings, hang out together even when they’re not singing and are now welcoming children into the Tenth Avenue North Family.

While Drew isn’t welcoming any children of his own just yet, he does have some valuable advice for young ones looking to get into the music industry:
“Never give up playing or learning more about your craft. You constantly need to ask yourself, ‘How can I get better at what I’m doing – spiritually and musically?’”

To bands just getting started, Drew suggests the same as what kept his band so close: “Do whatever you can to encourage one another all the time. Get in the habit of speaking words of encouragement to your band-mates. It’s all too easy to get caught up in character flaws and focusing on the wrong (negative) thing.”

“When every band gets started, there seems to be a #1 goal of getting a record deal – don’t let that be your goal. That was never our goal (to be signed) and I think that’s why they (Tenth Avenue North) have achieved the success they have, because that was never our goal. God brought that to us, but we were never out searching for it. Don’t make getting signed your life ambition because:
1. It’s the wrong goal – your goal should be to uphold Christ above all else and pursue him.
2. What will you do after you get signed? Most have a plan but some don’t, so don’t get caught up in that rabbit trail.”

While he may be done with the road for now, music and songwriting is still an integral part of Drew’s life. He is now a worship pastor at Christ Fellowship church in Florida and is married to Shannon, a beautiful and talented girl in her own right (which I can say proudly because she’s such a good friend too!). Personally, I hope Drew continues to win many more awards for his amazing songs so that we get to see more of the Middletons in Nashville!

Thanks, Drew, for allowing me to dig a little deeper into your passions and for speaking so candidly. Ricky and I are so proud to call you friends and we pray many others will benefit and grow from reading your story and learning of your continuing faithfulness, both to God, your family and your craft!

To see some pictures of Drew’s winning moments (and his wonderful wife), click here to see my earlier post.