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He loves rock and soul

JEFF CULVER'S NEW CD, "HE'S MY IDENTITY," is available at most music stores and online outlets.He will be performing and signing copies of his CD at The Rainbow Shop in Fargo this Saturday, Aug. 20 from 12 to 3 p.m.

On the Tate Publishing website, the biographical information for Jeff Culver describes him as a "singer/songwriter and musician."

But to the congregation of Detroit Lakes' Assembly of God Church, Culver is best known by another title: pastor.

Culver has served as pastor of the local church for the past seven years; before that, he spent several years in Alaska with his family, serving congregations in communities that were accessible only by airplane.

Being a minister was not a lifelong calling for Culver, however; he spent most of his formative years as an aspiring musician.

"I just wanted to be a rock star," he says.

He was gifted with his first guitar when he was just eight years old, and received his first paycheck as a working musician by the time he was 15.

Eventually, he even fronted a group of his own: "I was the lead guitar player for a speed metal band," Culver says.

Unfortunately, he adds, he also embraced the hard-partying lifestyle that went with it for a while.

"I had a couple of near death experiences," Culver says. "I decided maybe I needed to make some changes in my life."

Becoming a minister was, indeed, a serious change, but even though he left his old life behind, Culver never completely lost his taste for rock -- or his love of music in general.

"I just enjoy music as an art form," he says, adding that one of his goals as pastor at Assembly of God has been to get his congregation to "embrace every form of music."

Culver believes he's succeeded. As an example, one of the younger members of the congregation recently performed an original rap song that he'd composed, about Noah's Ark, during a church event.

The church's regular Sunday morning worship services include both traditional and contemporary musical elements, Culver added.

"It's a part of the culture of this church that I'm thrilled with -- they really embrace the whole gamut (of music)," he says.

So when Culver returned to his musical roots and was signed to a major record label (Tate Publishing), it came as no surprise to his flock that the first product of that partnership -- the newly released CD, "He's My Identity" -- had a heavy rock influence.

"It's a guitar-heavy album," he says. "It's made for people who just want to turn up their car stereo on a hot summer day and rock!"

Culver wrote and arranged all of the songs on his debut CD entirely on his own -- in fact, he even recorded much of it himself.

"I recorded all my own guitar tracks," he says. "I sent in 52 tracks to my (album) producer, and I only had to redo one of them."

Culver cites Guns 'N Roses and Lynyrd Skynyrd as strong influences on his music. In fact, he says, "I play the exact same Les Paul (guitar) as Slash," who was the lead guitarist for Guns 'N Roses.

Though he didn't inherit his musical talent from his father, Bruce -- who "couldn't play a radio in tune," Culver jokes with a fond smile -- they did share a love of rock.

"He was a massive Creedence Clearwater fan," Culver says, adding, "He was so excited about my album."

Unfortunately, Bruce Culver never got to hear the finished product: He passed away two days before his son was set to begin recording the vocal tracks for the album in Oklahoma City, where Tate Publishing's studio is located.

The dedication inside the cover reads, " the memory of my father, Bruce Culver, who went home during the recording of the vocals for this album. I'll see you on the other side, Dad!"

Even though it was a difficult time, however, Culver had plenty of support from his family, including wife Kathryn and their sons Dion, 18, and Stefan, 16.

"We just celebrated our 20th anniversary," Culver says, adding that Kathryn is, "my best friend -- and an awesome wife."

She even shares his love of music, being a talented drummer and keyboard player in her own right.

The last track on the album, "It's Still 'I Do,'" was specifically written about her and the relationship they have shared through the years, he adds.

And while there is a heavy rock influence on the 10 tracks contained in "He's My Identity," the album is also faith-based.

"My faith runs through my music -- but it's also an expression of who I am," he explains. "I'm a pastor who likes Metallica.

"It isn't your standard church music ... there are a LOT of guitars on this album," Culver adds.

For those who would like to hear more, "He's My Identity" is available at most music stores and major CD outlets.

Culver will also be performing and signing copies of his album at a CD release party set for this Saturday, Aug. 20 at The Rainbow Shop in Fargo, from 12 to 3 p.m.

In addition, he is planning a full-length concert for Saturday, Sept. 17 at The Refuge Christian Outreach Center in Detroit Lakes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454