Just 20 years ago in Smith Hall, student Ben McDonald interrupted student Dave Frey’s “Mario” game to begin a journey neither of them could have predicted.
When McDonald asked Frey to join a band he was starting, Frey put down his controller and the two began writing songs. They started writing in the Valley or their dorm rooms and recorded in their rooms with microphones hanging from the ceiling.
“God just kept opening doors, kicking them down for me,” Frey explained. “It kind of all started in that dorm room back in October 2001.”
No longer AU students living in Smith Hall, McDonald and Frey are now recognized as the creators of the well-known contemporary Christian band, Sidewalk Prophets.
After the two began writing together, they entered the Smith Hall Olympics and won the music competition. They were unknowingly entered into a competition for a student-led record label and won a recording session at Gaither Studios.
Frey, an English education major at the time, heard God calling him to a different path with the doors that were opening.
“All this stuff, to me, was just like God saying, ‘Hey, I know you’re an English major, I know you have these other dreams, but let me tap into the thing that you’ve wanted since you were a kid. Let me show you what I have in store for you,’” Frey said.
Despite the numerous concerns and uncertainty, the two decided to move to Nashville to follow God’s calling.
After playing some small gigs, the two put an ad on Craigslist to expand their band. They added a drummer and guitarist and the bass player who is still with them after 14 years, Cal Joslin.
Moving to Nashville was no easy feat, but amidst the fears and anxieties, Frey continued to trust the Lord.
“That’s huge: taking those steps of blind faith,” Frey said. “My mom hated it because she just wanted me to be safe. But now, looking back, she says, ‘Man, I’m so glad that you were faithful more than you were safe.’”
The blind faith has paid off, as the band has recorded three major studio albums, five No. 1 hits and eight top-five songs. Even after finding success in following God’s path for him, Frey continues to grow in his understanding and faith, inspiring fans to do the same.
“Lately, our pastor has just been harping on faith. And I know that love is the most important thing, but I think we sometimes sidestep faith because it’s scary,” he said.
Frey used a quote from one of his favorite plays, “Hamlet,” to further drive home the importance of faith.
“Polonius in ‘Hamlet’ is the fool. He’s the dumb one. But he says, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true.’ And I used to think that that was a really selfish thought: to be true to yourself. But I realize now that that’s the most godly thing you can do.
“He made you with specific talents that He wove inside of you to use for Him and I think that’s the key: if you do that, if you’re true to those things that God put inside of you that bring you joy, then you’re going to tap into His joy and it might not look like success to the world, but it’s going to feel like success to your soul,” said Frey.
The band will be coming back to the nest on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. to perform their tour show “Great Big Family Christmas” at Reardon Auditorium.
Frey explained that the event is more “half pageant, half concert” and interactive with present giveaways.
Tickets can be purchased at the Reardon Box Office open Monday through Friday, 12-5 p.m. or at sidewalkprophets.com.