Conyers resident Matthew Eldridge recently released, "Wide Awake," described as sounding like "U2 with a harder edge."
Matthew Eldridge is perhaps the closest thing Rockdale County has to a Renaissance man.
A Florida native who moved to Conyers five years ago, Eldridge is the author of seven books, has recorded five albums of original music and has worked on close to two dozen feature and television films as a stand-in, body double, actor and contributing musician.
"No, there aren't enough hours in the day sometimes," said Eldridge, who has also worked as a worship and youth minister at an area church. "I'm passionate about all the things I'm doing, but it would be great to be to have just one thing to focus on."
Eldridge's latest projects are his seven-song EP "Wide Awake," which much of which he recorded in his home studio (and the rest of which was recorded locally at Dogwood Studios) and the non-fiction book "Finding Sheep in Unlikely Places," which details his interest in community outreach.
"We're called to reach out and touch people's lives," he said. "For the last 15 years, my wife and I have been reaching out to homeless teens and we also planted a homeless ministry. When we started (the homeless ministry), we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and six guys. After a year, we were serving 100 people a night and within two years, we were helping 200 people a night."
In the early 2000s, Eldridge hosted a local cable television show, "Rocket TV," which eventually wound up on JCTV (a Christian youth network subsidiary of TBN) and helped solidify his concept of outreach.
"It was about finding people in unlikely places to reach out to," he said. "It was about touching lives and changing lives."
Eldridge self-published his first six books (including a Christmas book that has sold more than 5,000 copies and a "how to" tome on working as a stand-in for film projects), but said he plans to shop "Finding Sheep" to a traditional publisher.
"I started my own publishing company several years ago and was doing it all myself," he said. "But with this new book, I'm pitching it to publishers. I've found that it's probably easier to land a publishing deal with a non-fiction book."
Admitting he's a bit of a "shy guy," Eldridge said he began writing songs at an early age because that was the best way to express himself. He then taught himself to perform the songs he wrote, and now plays close to a dozen instruments and played all the instruments on five of the seven songs on "Wide Awake."
"Music has always been a passion of mine," he said. "And I never really enjoyed playing other people's music, so I worked hard to create my own sound."
"Wide Awake" -- which is available on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby -- is Eldridge's first musical release in some five years, which he admits is a long time between albums. Friends who have heard "Wide Awake" tell him the CD sounds like "U2 with a harder edge," which Eldridge regards as the ultimate compliment.
"U2 is probably the most influential band of my life," he said. "I love '90s rock and roll and that really influences my writing and my musical style."
Although he's been performing what is commonly referred to as rock for the past 15 years, Eldridge is in the process of making the most decisive style change of his musical career.
"("Wide Awake") is my last rock album," he said. "I've started recording my next album and it's going to be country music under the name Matthew Hawk. I've played out as Matthew Hawk a few times and it's been well received, so I've decided to go in that direction."
Eldridge describes his country leanings as a mix between Keith Urban and Darius Rucker, and adds that today's country is not unlike '90s rock and roll.
Eldridge -- who lives in Rockdale County with his wife Nicole and daughters Gabriella, 10, Makayla, 9, and Elisha, 7 -- said his most immediate task will be to promote "Finding Sheep."
"I hope to be able to speak at churches and talk about outreach," he said. "That's what churches are supposed to do. Too many people sit in pews on Sunday and then don't really do much else the rest of the week. I'd like to inspire people to get off the pews and find people who need love and help."
For more information about Matthew Eldridge, visit www.mattheweldridge.net.