Singer-songwriter Chuck Dennie's former life looked perfect from the outside – he had it all; he was a successful pastor and had been the frontman for a superstar-level Christian band (By The Tree). But then the facade crumbled – and truth and pain were left in the rubble. His new band Aledo's album, Gypsy Heart, out August 26, tells his story of healing through vulnerability with 5 tracks that examine the healing process from breakdown to transformation.
Gypsy Heart evokes the weary beauty of classic roots-pop from artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Dire Straits, and early U2. There's a clear sequence in the creation of the album – the journey opens with Breakdown, an emotional foray into an unraveling. Gypsy Heart tells the story of Dennie's childhood and his search for peace and love; a spiritual life raft of sorts. Other standouts such as Don't Let Go and Water Into Stone address Chuck's transformation. The gorgeous piano ballad Don't Let Go is a plea to his wife not to give up on him as he heals.
"When I started working through everything, I didn't have a place to let the darkness out and be vulnerable, but music used to do that for me," Dennie said. "It became my life raft again. These songs are about me peeling back the layers, being honest with myself, and admitting I'm scared."
The band's name, Aledo, is after the town Dennie grew up in, in Texas – his childhood appeared American pie sweet, even if it wasn't. In the late 90s, Dennie was Christian music superstar with his band, By the Tree. They released four albums, won two Dove awards, scored multiple Top 5 singles, and for five years toured 200 dates a year. Dennie settled down, started a family, became a pastor; but something never felt right. He preached love, but hated himself – he hadn't let go of childhood pain, and eventually hit bottom.
He checked himself into a therapy and personal growth program to get help, where he remembered the outlet music was – but it had been a decade since his success. Not only did music feel like a lifetime ago, now his intentions were different. He wasn't coming back to music for a career, but because he had to: music was the only medium he could make sense of what he was experiencing. Dennie called his buddy from his music career days, successful singer-songwriter and producer K.S. Rhodes. He asked if Dennie was kidding. He wasn't, of course, and the two worked together on the project – it was the first time no one was pushing buttons to satisfy the music industry. They wrote honest songs, assembled a real band, and hit record.
"To move forward, I needed to go back and address that inner child," Dennie said. "I needed to find that kid and say, 'It's going to be alright, you're going to be loved and feel safe.'"
"I think a lot of people feel the way I do," he said. "I believe that if I'm being really honest with people about how messed up I am then others may feel safe doing the same. My hope is that is we can feel safety and love at the same time. And that's hard to find in this life."