Ian Eskelin, the 26-year-old pop star, snowboarding enthusiast and novice skydiver, has been making a name for himself within the Christian youth music scene since 1992, as both the solo artist, IAN, and as frontman for the newly formed quartet, All Star United. While attending high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, Eskelin played keyboard for the local band Business & Industry, which opened for dance acts like C&C Music Factory and Information Society. Eskelin’s involvement with the Christian music scene is pervasive. He has worked as both a producer and a performer, touring as keyboardist with Code of Ethics and Seven Red Seven. He has played with the bands Zero and Fell Venus and formed ICE Ministries. Ian Eskelin does not sit still. His newest incarnation is as frontman for Reunion recording artists All Star United.
Born in Springfield, Missouri on October 17, 1970, Eskelin grew up in Charlotte North Carolina. His family was always active in the Christian community. As a youth, Eskelin held his self-proclaimed ’worst job’ as “chicken gutting boy” for a Caribbean restaurant. He
Born October 17, 1970, in Springfield MO. Educa tion: Wheaton College, B.A. Communications
Has played with various bands, including Business & Industry, Code of Ethics, Seven Red Seven Brand New Language and All Star United.
Formed International Concert Evangelism, also known as ICE Ministries, in 1995.
enjoyed watching Real People and Gilligan’s Island, and listened to 1980’s glam rock. After graduating from high school, he attended Wheaton College in Illinois, coming away with a degree in communications. At Wheaton, Eskelin decide to play music with a message. From then on he wrote with God in mind. Eskelin took a four month hiatus from his studies to travel around the world. He played with Code of Ethics while pursuing his masters in communications. All the while, Eskelin was working on his own sound. “It was in that time that I just went where God led me—and it blew my mind!,” he recalled. “I finally felt called to something.”
Before Eskelin began spreading his brand of Christian techno-pop he played in the mainstream techno-dance band Brand New Language. Of his early experiences in the dance club scene, Ian has said “Those experiences impacted me a lot. I learned that people are people, and that they are almost always searching for meaning.” That search for meaning is something Eskelin soon began to address in his lyrics. In 1994 Eskelin released Supersonic Dream Day. “Those songs are meant as an encouraging call to get up and put faith into action,” he has said. “They’re fun songs about the body of Christ getting motivated and inspired.” Eskelin has spread his message to a steadily growing audience through performances at dance clubs, churches, roller rinks, coffeehouses, and schools. He strives to bring a deeper understanding of what living as a young Christian in the 1990’s is all about to a wider demographic than those reached by the more traditional hymn and gospel forms. His label, Reunion, is one of the top three in Christian music.
In 1995, Sparrow, Reunion, and Word united to create WOW, a multi-artist compilation series. The series features popular as well as newer contemporary Christian artists from each of the labels. Sparrow president Bill Hearn has said of the series, “We’re going after the general market as well as the Christian marketplace. We’re really trying to show people that Christian music is very quality oriented. It’s slick. It’s great and it really appeals to the masses.”
Eskelin has already shown a grasp of popular alternative music sensibilities, delivering two top-five Christian Radio hits. He has also released a three song video package featuring a liveperformance by Eskelin, an interview with the artist, and a little bit of skydiving. Eskelin has found a receptive audience among 12-18 year old Caucasian Christians. “I really think of my concerts as high energy praise and worship,” he has said. “I try to break down the barriers between myself and the audience - to make sure that everyone is participating.” That participation sometimes includes stage diving, dancing and singing along. Concert-goer John Turpin wrote in his October 1995 internet review of iAN’s show with The Echoing Green, “Not only did I pick up a new enthusiasm for my faith, but also some good stage-diving advice from Joey [Joey Belville, frontman for The Echoing Green].” This kind of physical accessibility and personally revealing lyrics makes these acts all the more popular. “Having fun is great,” said Eskelin, “but having fun under the curtain of Jesus Christ is so much morefun.” Talking about his 1994 Reunion Records release, Supersonic Dream Day, Eskelin summarized, “These songs are words that I’ve felt God saying to me… to hear the voice of God say, ’Come to Me, I know you well, I know what you need’, or ’Ian, this is what it takes to be free—staying close to Me when everything around you is crazy’, those very foundational things that are actually true, and they are a great comfort when I’m feeling frayed around the edges.”
Eskelin’s new band, All-Star United, sell their CD’s, t-shirts and other promotional wares themselves at a display after each show, talking and joking with the audience. Also on Reunion Records, All Star United is comprised largely of those musicians backing up. AN as a solo act. The current lineup consists of keyboardist Patrick McCallum, 20; bassist Gary Miller, 25, who, following the completion of their self-titled debut, replaced original member Rob Wayner; 26year-old Christian Crowe on drums, Dave Clo on guitar, and Eskelin as lead singer. Their self-titled debut was released February 1997 three months into their tour with Third Day and Seven Day Jesus and their sound is described as British rock which, according to Lucas Hendrickson of Contemporary Christian Music Magazine, is akin to Oasis, Green Day, and the Monkees. All Star United cites diverse influences The Beatles, The Kinks, Blur, Stereolab, and Ben Folds Five among others. “This record stretched me to write from a very personal point of view,” Ian said.
“I really had to find ways to be vulnerable with what I’ve learned about grace, freedom in Christ, and how God opened my eyes to so many new things,” Ian said, discussing his latest effort. “Over the pastfewyears I’ve realized that in many ways, I’ve been living in some kind of Christian bubble, where everything was polite, but fairly surface-y. God has broken that bubble and shown me just how big a world this is…”
In September, 1995, Ian formed International Concert Evangelism, also known as ICE Ministries. The organization is dedicated to introducing Christian music acts on an international scale. The mission of ICE Ministries, as outlined by Eskelin, is to unite the Christian community through concert events in those places where they are oppressed and/or at a disadvantage because of politics or discrimination. “ICE Ministries is set up for me to be a servant, a resource for local churches to use to get peoples’ attention.” After a concert is held, organizations like Youth With A Mission and Reaching Unreached Nations, along with regional church groups, pursue establishing a supportive Christian connection with the attendees.
In 1996, Eskelin and Brian Whitman, guitarist for All Star United, played for U.S. soldiers, Bosnian civilians and defense department civilians on a 12 day, 28 show tour through Hungary, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The tour was sponsored by the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office and took the duo to 20 bases by Humvee convoy or Blackhawk helicopter. Eskelin and Whitman participated in live performances, worship services and prayer breakfasts and were told to travel lightly in case of attack. Of the Experience, Ian has said, “This trip was really an amazing experience. It made me realize how big the world is and how many opportunities there are for bands like All Star United to have an effect on people around the world.”
Supersonic Dream Day, Reunion, 1994.
(With All Star United) All Star United, Reunion, 1997.
Contemporary Christian Music Magazine, 1997.
Additional info gathered from publicity materials provided by Reunion Records.
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