(RNS) His voice is strong, but soft. His smile is genuine, but guarded; his music syncopated, but melodic.

Even Alvaro Lopez's life story is a tale of contrast. In the release of his first English CD, "The Alvaro Lopez Project," this spring, the Mexican Christian singer is more interested in looking forward than in remembering the haunted years when anger and unhappiness culminated in a desperate suicide attempt.

It was 1991. Lopez, in his early 20s, was touring with Luis Miguel, one of Latin America's biggest pop music stars. He was also hooked on drugs and alcohol, convinced he needed them to feel accepted as part of the band.

One night after a show, he walked into his hotel room and found his fiancée in bed with another member of the band. Bitter, lonely and confused, he fled.

When Miguel found him later the same evening, Lopez lay unconscious in a bathtub full of blood after slitting his wrists. He was rushed to the nearest hospital.

There a friend and bandmate, Heriberto Hermosillo, prayed with him and Lopez became a Christian. He and two other members left the band, forming a Christian group called Torre Fuerte (Tower of Power). With Lopez on drums, Heriberto Hermosillo on keyboards and Hector Hermosillo on bass, the band toured Latin America and the United States. In 1993, Lopez was named one of the world's top 10 drummers by Modern Drummers magazine. In 1996, the trio won a prestigious Dove Award for Best International Group.

"My inspiration of God has become greater through music," Lopez said in a telephone interview from his Mexico City home. His friend Jose Garces of One Voice Records in Miami patched the call through and translated as Lopez talked in Spanish.

"As you know, when you are in music and a musician without God, you make music for your own vanity and exaltation," Lopez said. "What's more important than anything when you are like I am now is that the more you give God the glory, the more inspiration he gives you."

Lopez left Torre Fuerte in 1997 to perform solo, winning a 2000 Dove Award nomination for an album produced for Melodie Joy and a 2001 Dove nomination for Spanish Language Album of the Year for a record produced for Freddie Colloca. Since joining One Voice, he has released two albums, "Por Amor" (By Love) and "Suenos" (Dreams). His talent is more evident than ever on his first English-language CD.

"The Alvaro Lopez Project" showcases a curious and engaging blend of Latin-flavored jazz, funk and gospel-influenced cuts. In the song "Dreams," he praises a God who saved him from despair. In "Live Without Your Love" and "Your Love Fills Me," he offers listeners soulful rhythm 'n' blues similar in style to works of gospel great Kirk Franklin. Over and over, in music and conversation, Lopez reiterates his determination to talk about love and life.

"I'll never stop talking about those two things, for the Lord's love has saved me and given me life," Lopez said. "What could ever be more important to sing about?"

In 1997 after his faith had reshaped his understanding of life's meaning, Lopez formed the Res-Q-Band. It has recorded two albums, including the Spanish language version of "The Alvaro Lopez Project." Its mission is to "rescue people in need," Lopez says. Wherever they perform, he insists his tour managers work in time for a visit to a prison or a hospital.

Performing for people at such places is essential to his understanding of his mission as a musician.

"When we started our ministry, we started with a vision to rescue people from jails and hospitals," he said. "The second part of the vision is to rescue Christians that have fallen. Christians work together to do the work of God, but too often when a Christian falls, we criticize him rather than helping him."

Lopez, 32, has been performing since he was a youth, debuting as a drummer at the Degollado Theater in Guadalajara, Mexico. By age 15, he accompanied such well-known Mexican artists as Emmanuel, Jose Jose, Marco Antonio Muniz and Daniela Romo.

He tries to balance his music, his ministry and his home life today. In February, his wife gave birth to the couple's third child, a boy. Once again, Lopez saw a life event as a gift.

"The Lord showed me something very special. I wrote a song that said, `I looked for you and I could not find you.' The point is we come from God, but we left God. The Lord says, `I looked for you through the stars that I created, through every corner of the Earth, and you were not there.'

"When I saw my baby, I noticed that God was like a baby," he said. "So fragile and so unprotected and that these farmers, Joseph and Mary, they were under God's covering. That was a path I needed to follow to find myself."
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