If you have a daughter named Nevaeh, you might have Sonny Sandoval to thank.
The lead singer for the band P.O.D. is widely credited for the popularity of the relatively new girl’s name that is “heaven” spelled backwards.
“That’s what we were told by all these different newspapers. They had done this research and it stemmed all the way back to ‘MTV Cribs,’” Sandoval said of the episode featuring him holding his baby daughter and explaining her name to the world. “Before her it was only recorded a few times.”
His Nevaeh is now 16 and his metal band, P.O.D., is nearly 25, but the unshakable faith in God that inspired both remains despite it being a hurdle in the music industry.
P.O.D. stands for Payable on Death and is a reference to Jesus’ death atoning for human sin. The band’s hits include the Grammy nominated “Lost in Forever,” about the afterlife; “Boom,” on rising from south San Diego to world fame; “Alive,” about being grateful for each day; and “Youth of the Nation,” written in the aftermath of high school shootings. P.O.D.’s hard core, aggressive sound has been both embraced and despised by Christians, but Sandoval doesn’t make music for Christians. He’s playing for the lost. The 42-year-old singer, just back from playing a concert in Mexico City, spoke to Inland 360 in a phone interview from San Diego before the band headlines the 15th annual Rockin’ on the River.
Inland 360: When you were 18, you watched your mother die of leukemia and you’ve said that experience kindled your faith.
Sandoval: When she was sick I watched that faith. It was like wow, she is dying and yet her faith is huge, it’s strong. That was respectable. To observe it and watch her take her last breath it was a challenge to me. I wanted that strength, that courage, for me. I always had a problem with religion, I still do. I was praying, I want my mom’s Jesus. I don’t want the world’s Jesus. I don’t want this American Jesus. I don’t want that. That’s not what I see in her heart. The challenge to me was to find it in scripture and fellowship. It’s been a journey ever since.
Inland 360: Reading various comments to interviews you’ve given, some of the most vocal and hateful critics of your work are people who identify as Christian.
Sandoval: (Laughs) Yes. I didn’t know that Christian music existed or that there was a scene. The band was booked at bars when I was not yet 21. We’d sit outside until it was time to play. We were always so open about our faith. It wasn’t until this scene discovered that we were believers (that we played in a church setting). The first time we played, they shut us down. I guess once they saw us and our music, I guess it was a bit on the heavy side, and they shut us down. We played at skate clubs, parks and bars and go into a church event and we’re not received. (I thought) it’s like Jesus, I guess we’re supposed to go out into the world.
Inland 360: Is there a P.O.D. song you feel has reached more people than others with your message?
Sandoval: My faith is that God reaches the end of the Earth and it’s not for me to know or comprehend. … “Alive” is one of those songs that I get the most about from people at shows. There’s not a show that goes by that I don’t hear a story or testimony about it from people struggling with addiction, or in their own personal hells, where that song has really spoke to them. I’ve heard that from a lot of songs. I’ll be ready to give up and quit and a guy or gal will tell me, “I was going to kill myself until I heard you guys.” That’s a little extra fuel in the tank to keep going another 25 years.
Inland 360: Here’s a quote from you, “P.O.D. has crossed all boundaries when it comes to your typical rock ‘n’ roll DNA, four non-white guys open about their Christianity and not conforming to the cookie cutter mentality of this industry.” Have you found the music industry to be more prejudiced against your race or your faith?
Sandoval: Both, it’s like climbing one mountain and knowing there’s another behind it. We were open about our faith. We didn’t know we’d be ridiculed for it.
Inland 360: What can people expect at Saturday’s show?
Sandoval: We’re always raw. It’s five of us, we get up there and turn on our equipment and give it our all. For us, being together 25 years, this is the one thing that brings us together. We get to be unified as brothers. … I don’t change lives, the music doesn’t change lives, God changes lives. Whenever I play I have the hope it’s going to change people, whether it’s the thousands that are there or just one person. It allows me to give it my all, knowing something cool is going to happen.
If You Go
What: Rockin’ on the River
When: 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 30
Where: Dave’s Valley Golf Center, 725 Port Way, Clarkston
Cost: $32 in advance, $40 at the gate; kids 5 and younger free
Tickets: A&B Foods locations and Rosauers in Lewiston; Heights Family Foods and Rick’s Family Food in Clarkston and Tickestwest.com.
Of Note: Food and beverage vendors will be on site. No outside food or beverages are allowed. People should bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating. P.O.D is the night’s headliner.