Peoria resident Ron Walker was close to making it as a professional musician nearly 20 years ago when he stumbled and hit a crossroad that forced him to make a change.
Now, after a detour that brought him back to religion, he has released a Christian pop album titled “Detours” that is garnering him musical acclaim.
“I played in bands for years and was in a band called The Stumbles that was this close to getting signed to a major label when I went through a crisis that changed my life,” Walker said in a recent phone interview.
Walker, who has lived in Peoria nearly 13 years, was positioned to make the jump into the music business nearly 20 years ago as part of the band The Stumbles. The band was named one of the top five unsigned bands and was ready to perform for major labels at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in New York.
“We had some local success and were getting buzz from the music industry when we went to perform at ASCAP,” Walker said. “Not sure what happened, but we didn’t have a good show.”
He said the band continued for a while, then his life hit a “speed bump” and took a turn as he searched for answers and began a personal journey that forced changes in his life.
“I had been doing music most of my life and when the ASCAP gig didn’t go well, it was just a turning point in my life,” Walker said. “I came to a proverbial crossroads in my life and it took a different path.”
Walker said the band not getting signed actually made him reflect on his life and he went through a personal crisis. He said he got back into religion and became a pastor.
He then started Generation Life Church in Peoria and ran the church for nearly eight years, playing worship music, but he stopped pursuing a music career for years.
“I was out of music and got back in touch with God and was doing music in the church when it helped me restart the musical fire,” Walker said. “I was doing the worship music in the church, and while I had done a little writing, I thought I was done with professional music.”
While working on the worship music, he began writing and decided he needed to return to his musical roots.
“I was always around music since my family has musicians that played around and toured with bands,” Walker said. “I started with drums and that was what got music in my blood.”
Walker said that while he continued to write songs, he never thought he would return to recording. After early musical success and in his ministerial outlets, Walker’s passion for music and songwriting returned.
“The fire was always there for me, I just wasn’t recording any music,” Walker said. “Then, I just kind of had an epiphany and decided to get back into what I love, music.”
In 2016, Walker began to actively write and record, which ignited his passion for creating music that appeals to all ages and generations.
He decided to combine his love of religion with his love of music, which produced a wide variety of fresh songs he recorded.
After months of work, Walker released the album “Detours,” which he calls a blend of all his musical inspirations with a Christian angle.
When asked why a 53-year-old man would produce a new album, he said it was simple.
“Interestingly enough, the name ‘Detours’ is why a guy my age would do a new album because I have had a lot of detours in my life,” he said. “Both good and bad in my life along with inspiration from God to say I am here and I am trying to do what I feel is the good things I was created to do.”
He said his biggest inspiration in music is the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, although he said he loves numerous styles of music and hopes it shows in the album.
“Musically, it is a lot of the influences of what I grew up with — a pop sensibility that I have always loved,” Walker said. “This album is influenced by everyone I love from The Beatles to Ed Sheeran and tells a story from my perspective.”
The first single from the album, “Because You Loved Me,” gained radio airplay on mid-market radio stations and the second single, “You Are,” was released Aug. 1 and was also earning early praise.
“(Walker) has a ton of talent,” music industry veteran John J. Thompson said. “(The song ‘You Are’) is really, really cool and has the right blend of Beatles and power pop psychedelia and a very sweet worshipful tone to be really charming and engaging.”
Walker said the song is about “how God comes crashing into our world, during our darkest times and, regardless of the circumstances, can help.”
While Walker continues to promote the album, he is focused on local performances while looking for possible touring opportunities.
“We are checking into possible touring while checking for some local live shows,” Walker said. “I have had some local churches reach out and some festivals that we may be performing at, but it is still in the planning stages.”
He said he will continue recording and hopes for success, but he will continue doing what he loves.
“I love music and I love God, but if I can inspire people to do something to keep the arts alive and have fun, then I will continue recording and performing music that will inspire people to do the same and have fun doing what they have passion for, then I will.”