West Chicago, IL
STRIVE…a band that fuses soaring, meaningful bands like U2 and Switchfoot with the sweeping piano-pop of Billy Joel and Bruce Hornsby
They’ve toured internationally, earned fans on several continents and been compared to megastars like Coldplay and Josh Groban. It’s a highly impressive start for piano-rock band STRIVE considering that it all happened before signing a record deal. The Chicago-based band is proving that you don’t need a major record label—STRIVE recently released the album FIRE with the independent GoDigital Records—to take the first steps toward global acclaim.
“We have an international heart,” says singer/pianist Derick Thompson. “We’re getting radio spins [for the single “Smallest Things”] in 55 countries, and want to reach the whole world with our music. For us, it’s not a win to be successful only in the U.S. We’d like to see ourselves successful in places like Brazil and New Zealand and Uganda.” STRIVE’s international vision can be traced back to Thompson’s childhood. Born in Iowa, he moved with his parents to Russia in 1992, just a year after the USSR was disbanded. The five years he spent there influenced him greatly, and STRIVE has since toured extensively in Russia as well as in Brazil, which is where Thompson met his wife.
Thompson’s relationship with his wife inspired much of FIRE. “Love is probably the most inspirational thing on this album—and there are a lot of different types of love,” he says. “When we’re loved—by God or by people around us—we have a responsibility for our actions. The majority of the songs on FIRE are a response to the loves in my life.” Songs such as “Away from Here,” “Silent Like a Secret” and “Good” align with FIRE’s theme of love. The album’s title track keeps with the recording’s theme, but it’s certainly the most controversial song that Thompson has written to date. “It’s a celebration of the love, pleasure and intimacy a man and wife were created to share,” he says of the song. “Our culture paints great sex as happening with strangers, boyfriends and girlfriends. I believe culture needs the opposite message, which says great sex takes place in the context of a committed marriage. It’s not a soap box, just honesty.”
The song “On Our Way” returns to the band’s international vision, as it was inspired by a Zimbabwean friend and speaks to “the importance of people coming along side Africa as a brothers and sisters, not as rich saviors.” One way that STRIVE lived out this desire to “come along side” people is when they performed a concert for 1,500 orphans in the outskirts of Moscow. The show was a part of STRIVE’s participation in a 21-day tour throughout Russia for AIDS awareness. “The looks on those kids’ faces are what STRIVE is all about,” Thompson says.
STRIVE’s roots can be traced back to Thompson’s own childhood when he began playing piano and later writing songs at age 11. From there, he played in a number of bands in both the States and Russia. It wasn’t until he moved to Chicago to attend Wheaton College that he formed STRIVE, a band that fuses Thompsons’s love of soaring, meaningful bands like U2 and Switchfoot with the sweeping piano-pop of Billy Joel and Bruce Hornsby. “I’ve always been drawn to bands with strong melodies and lyrics,” Thompson says. “Those two elements are most important to me.”
The band’s inspirational message and anthemic music has hit a chord with music fans, and STRIVE’s audience continues to grow. Recently, the band has been voted one of the favorites in several music categories on OurStage.com, as well as a favorite at MyCCM.com, and they’ve had songs licensed for shows on MTV, E! and others. As the band’s buzz grows, so does the interest within the media and music industry. Billboard, The New York Times, PASTE magazine and numerous others have all expressed interest in the rising band. Both MSN and AOL have responded to STRIVE’s growing fan base by featuring the band on its sites and hosting online listening parties for FIRE during the week of its release. Yahoo!, AOL and XM Radio similarly jumped on board and are now all spinning the album’s first single, “Smallest Things.”
As excitement continues to grow for FIRE, the band is building momentum that will take them as far as they choose to “strive.”