Ex-Crossfade rocker becomes United Methodist, inspires disciples through The Undivided
By Jessica Connor
GILBERT–Imagine belonging to a chart-topping rock band at the height of success, performing night after night to packed crowds screaming your name and your lyrics.
Imagine the noise, the lights, the feeling of majesty.
Now imagine leaving it all behind to follow the Lord.
That is exactly what Tony Byroads did. And today, the former Crossfade DJ/vocalist is about to do it all again–this time rocking for the One.
Byroads and his new Christian rock band, The Undivided, will release their album “Change” March 1, along with a video for the title track featuring his United Methodist pastor.
An active member of Pond Branch United Methodist Church in Gilbert, Byroads and the five other band members are doing all they can to connect with their audience and create disciples, one song at a time.
“We’re trying to lead people to Christ and further God’s kingdom,” Byroads said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
No silver spoon
It has been quite a journey for Byroads, who overcame an abusive childhood to ride the crest of fame and fortune before giving his life to Jesus.
Byroads’ earliest memories are about tears, about pain – about doing anything he could to escape the horror that had become his daily existence.
From infancy until he was 6 years old, his mother would go off on drinking and drug binges, leaving her young children to fend for themselves at the mercy of strangers.
“She would go off for days, leaving us with awful people, people who would abuse us physically, mentally and sexually,” Byroads said.
One day, his mother dropped him off at a boys’ home in Buffalo, N.Y., saying she’d be back in a few weeks when she got her life together. But she never returned. He went from boys’ home to boys’ home, foster home to foster home, eventually winding up on the street. It was rough; at times, he would sleep in Goodwill boxes.
“I made myself survive,” he said. “I fought and fought and fought.”
Some kids who experienced his brand of horror would fade away, self-destruct, wind up a victim. But Byroads clung to the one thing that got him through: music. It was his escape, and his saving grace.
“I’d walk the streets singing; I didn’t care,” he said. “I’d sing in the bathroom at the boys’ home.”
Byroads was one of the lucky ones. He not only survived, but also achieved the rare moniker of “rock star,” spending several years with the platinum-selling rock band Crossfade, whose song “Cold” shot to the top of the charts for more than a year.
Rock star to music ministry
Going from Crossfade rock star to leader of a Christian music ministry didn’t happen overnight.
In the mid 2000s, Byroads was living the ultimate rock star dream – on the surface. But trouble loomed – not only between him and the band’s lead singer, but also all around him.
“I had a really bad taste in my mouth,” Byroads said. “So many negative things had been going on – people were coming up to me after shows, saying, ‘Oh, you should be the lead singer,’ which was causing a lot of problems. The band had some run-ins, the soundman was doing things behind our backs, the tour man robbed us blind, then drugs got involved. It just got to be terrible.”
One night after a show, he walked onto the tour bus, and he was never the same.
The driver, a Christian, sat down with Byroads and told him he had been praying for him.
“He said, ‘God told me this isn’t where he wants you,’” Byroads said.
The words struck him to the core.
After a time of discernment and prayer, Byroads decided to leave Crossfade. He wasn’t sure where the Lord wanted him. He wasn’t even sure he was supposed to do music anymore.
But slowly, it became clear, and The Undivided was born.
The group comprises all Christians: Byroads as lead vocalist, Bill Jackson on keyboard, Nate Halydier (student pastor for Seacoast Church in Irmo) on guitar, Josh Hanner on guitar, Beetho Ardila on bass, Mike Kirby on drums, and Byroads’ wife, Corissa, as band management. “God definitely brought us together,” he said.
Leading to Christ
Now, they have one goal: to create great music that connects people and leads them to Christ.
Until people listen to the words, The Undivided could easily be mistaken for a secular band. Their music is heavy and light at the same time, all with a powerful, heart-wrenching connection to their audience and the struggles they are experiencing.
With songs like “My Escape,” “The Game,” “This Fire Burns” and the title track “Change,” The Undivided cross boundaries in a mission to help people get right with Christ before it’s too late.
“We hope to open our listeners’ hearts to positive influences and encourage them to make changes in their lives,” The Undivided’s guitarist Josh Hanner said.
“We’re rocking for the One,” Byroads said.
The song “Change” tackles the power of the cross for people struggling to overcome issues. The video depicts homeless and hurting people transformed by Christ’s infinite love.
“It’s about the world changing how they are about each other, putting a light on things we already know are there, but to get people to really stop and think about it,” Byroads said. “Homelessness, child abuse, drug abuse, the length of time it took for the disaster victims to be helped – it’s not just, ‘Can you spare some change,’ not just coin change or money, but change the way you think.”
Byroads said his church quickly became the band’s support network. Several Pond Branch members served as extras in the video for “Change,” along with others in the Gilbert community. Pond Branch’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Bingham, is also featured in the video as a stand-in for God.
“Tony has a real heart for music ministry, and he’s using it as an opportunity to get his testimony out there,” Bingham said. “He was abused and abandoned as a child, and he knows there are so many people who share that kind of pain and hurt; he also knows God’s been very good to him.”
Bingham said the band is incredibly talented, and he really appreciates how they want their music to be a beacon of light for all people, no matter where they are in life.
He witnessed that firsthand during the filming for “Change.” Bingham dressed in clerical robes for the video, and during filming breaks, real homeless people would flock to him.
“More than once a homeless person would say, ‘Are you a real minister?’ And we would talk. I prayed with one of them,” he said. “Who’d have thought we were playing parts in a music video and it immediately led to a ministry? And the video’s not even finished!”
Bingham said he hopes the hard rock edge of The Undivided won’t prevent more traditional music lovers from appreciating the beauty of the band’s ministry. He said great hymnists like Charles Wesley often set Christian songs to popular tunes – even, some say, drinking songs.
touches all of us profoundly,” Bingham said. “I think it’s a tragedy if those of us already in the church deny the young and the unchurched to make that music their own. If we can get somebody who bridges the gap and reaches the lost in that way, to me that’s what it is all about.”
He said that in addition to Byroads’ musical talent is his talent for spoken testimony. He said people are drawn to Byroads – his pain speaks to them.
“I made myself survive,” Byroads said. “My whole being is to help children who went through what I went through.”