As Right Hand Shade’s catchy and powerful single “Under Construction” builds with swelling guitars, declarative and soulful vocals, and a massive climax of full-band hits, Matt and Emma belt out, “You won’t leave me the way I am!” This proclamation encompasses Right Hand Shade’s mission: God is not done with me yet. Even when I face seemingly impossible circumstances, He is still at work on me and is refining me for His purposes.
If you ask the band members what their fans connect most with, they’ll tell you it has little to do with their vibrant rock/pop approach, their unique blend of different musical influences, or their skilled musicianship. It’s not their soulful and lush vocal harmonies over catchy guitar riffs, or their adventurous production that pushes beyond the expected boundaries of style. What seems to unite RHS fans most is the band’s willingness to present their songs while at the same time laying their souls bare with authenticity. Matt Jones explains, “We’re not pretending to have it all figured out. We’re just being faithful to the ministry that God has given us, and sharing our message wherever we can. I think people tend to relate to someone who has been broken, who has walked through pain and has asked God, ‘Why am I facing this thing?’, but who has also been redeemed and has found the hope and freedom in knowing that our God will never leave or forsake us. He alone will give us the strength to overcome. Our songs are written from the roots of those experiences.”
The journey for this New-England based rock/pop act started on their church worship bands. Having served for years as a gospel choir director and as a creative coordinator for one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the Northeast, Matt hand-picked a fresh, versatile group of experienced musicians who shared not only a love of music, but also a heart to reach hurting people with the message of hope that RHS proclaims at every show. Before forming Right Hand Shade in 2016, the members played extensively in other bands, choirs, and church teams, and some toured nationally and internationally. Their first year found the band practicing in garages and basements, developing their rapport and sound, as well as testing the waters with performances at youth rallies, coffee houses, and church concerts throughout the Northeast. RHS landed a performance on the Inside Out Stage at the SoulFest 20th Anniversary festival, which proved to be a shaping and launching experience as they caught the attention of established artists in the Christian music industry. Further performances at larger venues before crowds on beach stages and festivals have further confirmed God’s intentional hand on the course of Right Hand Shade. But the band’s rise as one of the fastest-growing Christian acts in the Northeast has not always been an easy walk, as the members would attest.
A standout ballad in their set (and one of their favorites to play), “Greater Still” tells of the lessons Matt has learned through the diagnosis of his daughter Olivia several years ago with type-1 diabetes. “My wife Erin and I were newly married, young parents just starting our family, and we ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit one weekend with this diagnosis that we never saw coming, and we had no idea how we were going to care for our baby girl. I’m not going to lie, there have been some really hard days. This is a chronic illness; it never goes away. You don’t get to take a break or vacation. It’s always in the back of your head, and the enemy loves to nag you with the ‘what if’s’. But I know this to be true: We may never have all the answers to our ongoing prayers for Olivia’s healing in this life, but at the end of the day, where we are, right here and now, is where we were meant to be all along. We choose the perspective that we are not alone and that our God is greater still than this illness that we face every day. And even on those days when nothing seems to go right and we feel like diabetes has beat us, we can lean on Him and claim that promise in His Word that says He will never leave or forsake us.” Today Olivia is living an incredibly full, blessed, and healthy life. As a competitive ballet, jazz, and tap dancer, she is a living testimony that through God’s strength, diabetes is not going to beat her. And hers is not the only story of victory among the band members.
The fact that God brought this band together is not lost on the members of Right Hand Shade. Matt continues, “Today we can stand before you as examples of what God can do. What the enemy intended for evil, to take us out, or to pull us away from our purpose, God can redeem and restore and use for His glory. So if you’re facing something today that seems impossible, that seems like you’ll never have that victory or that you can’t even imagine overcoming, whether it’s an addiction or an illness - no matter where you’re at right now, He’s still there, right there behind you, waiting for you to lean on Him, waiting for you to claim that promise in His word that He really does have a plan to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future.” As Matt and Emma sing with their signature tight harmonies the words of “Greater Still,” listeners have described being able to hear in their vocals the deep joy born out of overcoming, through God’s strength, what the world would call seemingly insurmountable odds.
Out of this place of victory was also born the band’s name. The band wrestled to come up with a name that reflected their mission and that was rooted in scripture. It took some time and they had to go through hundreds of name possibilities, but then God led them to Psalm 121. Speaking partner Dan Elliott explains, “In this Psalm we see a picture of safety and security in the arms of our Father. So often we are ready to fight and win our freedom from the difficult circumstances of life, and as a result find that we are completely defenseless against all that comes against us. The name ‘Right Hand Shade’ was born out of a desire to see all people find their peace under the shadow of the right hand of God. We are freedom advocates strictly focused on proclaiming that Jesus desires to draw all people closer to Himself. Our prayer is that whoever finds themselves in contact with us in any way would experience a closeness with God that brings peace, safety and wholeness.”
Other notable tunes in their repertoire include “Bold”, a declarative celebratory cut written collaboratively around a tight electric guitar groove about boldly sharing faith. “Living Proof” features a catchy electric guitar riff with punctuated vocals, celebrating living life as a loud example of faith. “Just As I Am” is a vulnerable, stripped down plea for transformation and the resulting peace of finding redemption through brokenness. Each song tells a story, and that story points to a future and a hope: It’s not about how many times we’ve fallen down or messed up. It’s about how many times we keep getting back up and moving forward.
The future looks bright for the young artists who make up Right Hand Shade. The band is preparing for their first professional release, produced and recorded with Darren Elder and Kevin Billingslea at the award-winning premier Halo Studios, a relationship that resulted from the band’s performance at SoulFest 2017. This upcoming release showcases RHS’ signature rock/pop sound built around infectious guitar riffs, unforgettable melodies, and uplifting lyrics. “It’s Time”, the first single from the album that raises tough questions about forgiveness, has received frequent airplay on radio stations across the Northeast. The band played two slots at SoulFest 2018 and appeared at Connect Festival 2018 alongside national industry acts. They signed an agreement with Fuse Ministries in 2019 and are opening for national acts across the Northeast as a Fuse Ministries partner.
Despite RHS’ seemingly quick rise to legitimate status, when asked what the future holds, Matt is quick to point back to the scripture that defines so much of who the band is: Jeremiah 29:11. “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.’ This scripture was written as an acknowledgement of the difficult times the Israelites would face in Babylon. But God’s promise in this scripture remains. As long as He gives us this platform, we’re going to remind people that although we may face tough things, maybe even impossible challenges, if we fix our eyes on our God, not only will He redeem and restore us, but He will give us a testimony that only His work on us can produce. Our purpose is to remind everyone who will listen that God truly does have a future and a hope for each and every one of us.” As the lyrics of one of Right Hand Shade’s favorite tunes to perform point out, THE BEST IS YET TO COME!