Tulsa-based Christian rock band Pillar back together, all grown up
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Sunday, December 09, 2012
12/09/12 at 4:53 AM
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If there's a good reason to put a juggernaut Christian rock act on hiatus, family would have to be it.
Tulsa-based Christian rock band Pillar has reunited its "marquee" lineup as it readies to enter the recording studio for album No. 7, frontman Rob Beckley said.
The influential rock back had reconnected Beckley with bassist Michael "Kalel" Wittig, drummer Lester Estelle II and lead guitarist Noah Henson as they start their first album work together since 2007.
"It's time," Beckley said.
The million-plus-selling rock act has taken time off to restore their friendships, families and futures, he said.
"We were on this course of great success," he said. "We thought that's what we'd always wanted, but it really took a toll on all of us."
Wittig and Estelle left in 2008, after recording but before the release of the band's most successful album to date, "For the Love of the Game," Beckley said. That album brought with it worldwide notoriety, the constant play of its title track on ESPN and a successful tour with more than 250 show dates a year and popular singles "Smiling Down," "Reckless Youth," "State of Emergency" and "Turn it Up." It also was nominated for a Dove Award, the Christian music version of a Grammy, for Rock Album of the Year.
"In everyone's eyes, we were going fantastic. We had everything we wanted," Beckley said. But it wasn't true.
When Wittig and Estelle left in 2008, Josh Gleave and Richard Gilliland replaced Wittig on bass, with a drummer rotation of James Holloway, Chase Lovelace and Taylor Carroll attempting to replace Estelle.
The following album, "Confessions," had a No. 1 hit single in 2010 with "Whatever it Takes."
But Beckley wasn't happy, he said. Things had changed too much.
The band was broken.
"We'd sold more than a million albums with the prior lineup. It's the band everyone knew. It just wasn't the same anymore."
Beckley said he had even lost touch with what drove him to play in Pillar way back when he started the band in 1998: His faith in God had become strained.
"I'm not knocking the guys we brought in to work with the band," he said. "It's just that it wasn't the same band anymore. I was the only original member left. Things just didn't feel right."
There's a point in life where a boy becomes a man and combines his own drive with his faith in God to set upon a path that fosters inner success and peace, Beckley said.
Wittig had cited his departure as a desire to spend more time with his family in Tulsa. Estelle moved to Nashville and soon was drumming for Big & Rich and Neal McCoy, he said.
"I stopped to reflect on everything," Beckley said. He realized what he was missing was his family - his wife, children and church.
Soon, Beckley and Wittig had reconnected here in Tulsa and "hang out a lot together."
He and Wittig are both "like brothers" now, too, he said. Many an afternoon is spent together with both families - Wittig has four children, and Beckley's fourth is due in January.
"I'm so thankful for our friendship. We're closer now than ever," he said.
He's also refocused his energy in the church and in his faith.
"I've always been Christian, the band's always been Christian. That's just who we are. It's real. It's not a show," Beckley said. He also admitted that nobody's perfect, and his drive to be a better Christian has also helped him to be a better man.
And, like the changing sound of the band from its Dove-Award-winning beginnings in rap-rock to its later soaring, guitar-driven sound, they're letting inspiration dictate how the new album will sound this time, too.
"We've never been a band to 'test market' our songs," he said. And, after six major-label releases, the band has joined with local label iDefi for its next album, which it hopes to release mid-2013. They've also pared their tour plans back - way back. They've committed to five live dates in 2013. One, of course, will be in Tulsa, he promised.
"We have more confidence than ever," he said.
"What's pleasantly surprising is that fans have blown us away with their support of all of it so far," he said. "That's the most humbling thing, to have fans that accept all of us on our terms and want us to thrive. They are truly amazing."
It's helped propel the band back into the studio, he said.
"We've all had seasons of struggles, but we're all back into good spaces.
"This is a time of restoration, hope and inspiration for all of us," Beckley said. "We've grown up."
Members of Pillar's "marquee" lineup:
Rob Beckley (1998-present)
Michael "Kalel" Wittig (1998-2008, 2012-present)
Noah Henson (2001-present)
Lester Estelle II (2002-2008, 2012-present)
2001: "Above" wins Dove Award for Hard Music Album of the Year.
2002: "Live For Him" wins Dove Award for Hard Music Recorded Song of the Year.
2003: "Fireproof" wins Dove Award for Hard Music Album of the Year.
2003: "Fireproof" is Dove Award nominee for Hard Music Recorded Song of the Year
2008: "The Reckoning" is Grammy Award nominee for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album
2009: "For The Love of the Game" is Dove Award nominee for Rock Album of The Year
2009: "For The Love of the Game" is Dove Award nominee for Rock Recorded Song of the Year
Original Print Headline: Back together, Pillar has grown up
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Michael "Kalel" Wittig (left), Lester Estelle II, Rob Beckley and Noah Henson are the original lineup of Dove Award-winning and Grammy-nominated Tulsa-based Christian rock act Pillar. The band is reuniting to produce album No. 7. Courtesy