A Visit Along Tenth Avenue North

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Tenth Avenue NOrth Mike Donehey235Mike Donehey (center) and Tenth Avenue North Lead singer Mike Donehey, 34, of the inspirational pop-rock band Tenth Avenue North had a recent chat with West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer. Subjects included a bit of theology, some music and a surprising West Michigan connection. Here’s part of their conversation:

Terry: Your concert tour is coming to West Michigan on Oct. 25 (details below), and it’s based on your latest album, ‘Cathedrals.’ Tell me about the response so far to the new songs and the tour.

Mike: The tour is actually based on the CD’s last song, “All The Earth Is Holy Ground.” The idea is to fight the misconception there are ‘spiritual’ jobs and normal jobs in life. Our works don’t make us righteous, but our faith does. And works are a response to that gift. Thus whether you’re a pastor or plumber or lawyer, anything you do can be re-imagined as ministry if you do it to serve others and glorify God. And God’s spirit no longer dwells in buildings, but in us.

Thus we are ‘Cathedrals’….the title of the CD.

Yes – we don’t need to send someone to a building to experience God – you get sent out yourself to bring the Kingdom of God with you to transform all the earth.

The song ‘Stars in the Night’ is one of the favorites on the album – in fact it’s on the new WoW Hits 2016 collection. What’s the story behind that one?

It’s saying that in the dark storms of life – even when the daylight runs away from the sky – remember that God made both day and night. And he didn’t forget to make the stars. So no matter how dark it gets, no amount of darkness can ever overcome the light. Actually, the song says to fix our gaze on what is true, just like old time sailors found their way by watching the stars at night. And like them we need to sail by what we believe are the promises of God leading us through.

Did you do anything new stylistically on this CD? I know you used a new producer (John Fields, who has worked with artists such as Demi Lovato and The Jonas Brothers).

I feel like we went from basic standards on a menu to a lot of the chef’s daily specials on this one. We opened the doors and explored more things than in the past.

You guys have been doing this band thing a long time. Where is the band in its artistry at this point?

Yes, for 15 years now - I was a freshman in college we first got this thing going. We’re actually trying to figure it out. I know we tend to get validation from quantity as opposed to quality. I like to take a lot of time with my coffee in the morning. When people ask why in the world would I take that much time, I say, ‘Cause it’s better that way.’ So with our band we’re trying to go deeper with each other and with our content. Rather than putting out a bunch of stuff and doing all sorts of things, we’re trying to just take what we do and do it a lot better.

What’s your signature or best-known song from throughout your four studio albums?

I think it comes down to three songs – “By Your Side” from the first album, “You Are More” from the next one, and a song called “Worn” off our third record. Those are the three that we get the most personal stories about.

Your younger sister Kanene is in the popular folk trio The Lone Bellow. Did she take after you in terms of music?

I can’t take any credit for that – I didn’t even pick up a guitar ‘til I was 18. She just really got into singing when she was young. But The Lone Bellow kind of started on my wedding day. One of my best friends – Zach Williams – was a groomsman at my wedding and I asked him to sing with Kanene at the ceremony. That was seven years ago, and it was the first time they met and sang together. (Zach is The Lone Bellow’s lead singer).

And you’re somewhat familiar with Grand Rapids.

Yes, my wife (southeast Michigan native Kelly Whipple Donehey) went to Cornerstone University for a year. And I remember when our band played the Van Andel Arena on the Winter Jam tour (2014), it snowed during the concert and afterwards we were having fun in the snow and I fell and landed on my back. Luckily with all the snow it didn’t hurt that bad!

Note: A behind the scenes documentary on Tenth Avenue North (called “Lead Us Through The Fight”) is available for view online.

The All the Earth is Holy Ground Tour:

Tenth Avenue North, with special guests Sidewalk Prophets and Dan Bremnes
7 p.m. Sunday October 25 at Sunshine Community Church, 3300 E. Beltline NE.
Tickets range from $20 to $35, with group discounts available online or

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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