When Chris Rohman was 16 years old, he and some buddies started a Christian band in his parent's basement.
"We needed a name and our drummer, Mark, said he was looking in the dictionary and found the word 'sanctus,' which means 'hymn of praise.' We thought that was cool," Rohman said. "Then another guy, who was only in the band for a month, said he really wanted to have the word 'real' incorporated in our name to show that we were real people, authentic. We linked them together Sanctus Real."
Looking back, he said, they should have chosen a name that was more easily pronounced or easier to spell, but it's become more well-known as the band's hit singles have topped the charts including "Forgiven," "Lead Me," "Don't Give Up" and a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day."
The Grammy-nominated and Dove Award-winning band will be in concert at the Gallo Center on Thursday, along with guest artists JJ Heller, Unspoken and Bread of Stone. Tickets range from $14 to $44.
Three of the current band members Rohman (guitar), Mark Graalman (drums) and Matt Hammitt (vocals) grew up together in Toledo, Ohio. Pete Provost (guitar and keyboard) and Dan Gartley (bass) joined later.
"From a young age, I was always involved in church," Rohman said during a recent phone interview. "Just before junior high, my faith became more real to me. Junior high was hard because we had just moved, so I dug into church more. It's pretty cool because that was the catalyst into getting me out of that school system. I asked my parents if I could go to a Christian high school, and they said sure. That's where the band started. If none of that had happened, I probably wouldn't be playing music today."
The band began with an alternative rock sound, but has changed to more of a pop-rock genre over the years as the lives of the members have changed. Now in their early 30s, they are all married with children.
Rohman, 32, is married to Dominique and they have three children Josiah, 4, Penelope, 2, and Case, 7 months old. Maturing and becoming fathers have impacted their songs, Rohman acknowledged. They write most of their own music.
"It's kind of crazy to think we were kids when we started this thing," he said. "When we write songs, it's sharing something we've experienced or things we're learning about our faith, about who God is. We always try to write from the heart. We want to be open about how our faith comes into play when we experience hardships how we can praise God for the good things as well as the bad things."
The band's song "Pray" is on their sixth CD, "Run," which was released in March. It was chosen to be the theme song of this year's National Day of Prayer, which was held May 2.
"We threw it their way and they decided to use it," Rohman said. "That was really cool."
Prayer is a daily habit for him, he said, especially while touring. With 120 shows on the road each year, life can get challenging.
"Now with a family, I discover more and more how important it is to stay in God's word, to pray and to plug into other people of the same faith," he said. "Life hasn't gotten any easier as I've gotten older. I'm learning how to trust God more and more."
The band's touring schedule can cut into his role as a dad, he said. But the members believe their songs and concerts are a ministry for God, so it's sometimes hard to find the right balance.
"When I'm home, I just try to turn everything else off," Rohman said. "I'm just trying to be a good dad when I'm home, and we try to book shows so we're not gone for a long time. Maybe once or twice a year we're gone for a week or a week and a half. The rest of the time, we're gone for three or four days at a time, and then I might be home for a week."
Sanctus Real is on the final leg of its Promises Tour, which ends May 19 and has included the three other artists.
"We really like JJ (Heller)," Rohman said. She was in Modesto for a concert at Big Valley Grace Community Church in May 2012 and is well-known for her song, "What Love Really Means."
Rohman called "Unspoken" members "great musicians," and said his band also has enjoyed sharing the stage with "Bread of Stone," a Christian rock band begun by two brothers from Indonesia. Although each group has its own sound, he said, "we complement each other really well."
He said he was glad to hear that the ticket prices are reasonably low for a concert that includes four Christian groups.
"We love when it's possible to do that," he said.
The crowds they've been drawing, Rohman said, "are all over the map. It's a crazy thing; when we started out, it was mostly younger people. Now it's college age and families, too. I think it's natural. We're writing songs that mimic what we're listening to. We still have some harder rock sounds, but lately, we've been a little more mellow."
He said the band will play selections from all six of their albums, but will likely close with "Forgiven," one of his favorites. It includes the line, "When I don't measure up to much in this life, oh, I'm a treasure in the arms of Christ."
"It's a great song to play and feel the crowd's reaction," he said. "It's a special song for us."
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2012
WHAT: Sanctus Real, JJ Heller, Unspoken and Bread of Stone in concert
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Gallo Center for the Performing Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
TICKETS: $14 to $44
CALL: (209) 338-2100