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  • Amy Grant - The Wife/Mother/Singer/Songwriter

    Posted on April 10, 2013 by John van der Veen



    There’s nothing like life experience to provide a deeper, richer emotional palette for a songwriter to draw from when crafting new music. For Amy Grant, it’s been 10 years since her last full studio album and it’s been a decade marked by soul-shaking milestones. As she’s always done, Grant has embraced both the triumphs and challenges, distilled them to their essence and poured the lessons learned into songs that ache with honesty and reverberate with gentle wisdom.

    How Mercy Looks From Here is the soundtrack of a life well-lived. “A lot of major life changes happened during these past few years.” Grant says. “So on this record, there’s zero filler. Every song has a real story behind it.”

    In chatting with Amy, I saw, again, that here is a woman of deep faith. Deep love. Love for family. Love for art. Love for food. Yes, food. And love for God.

    John: Before we talk about the new record, do you want to talk a little bit about what you’ve been doing over the last 10 or so years since the last new record? Is that too big of a question?

    Amy: I’ve been… Ten years is a lot of life!

    John: That’s a lot of life.

    Amy: It’s not that I haven’t made music in 10 years. I’ve toured and just from a work standpoint, I never stopped working. Just had a little less energy for being in the studio. In the last 10 years, we’ve gone from four kids under the roof to one. It’s a big change. I have two daughters living in New York now, a son who’s getting his engineering and applied mathematics degree and then a lot of personal changes that you just never know when those things are going to happen.

    There was the death of some good friends and my mom. A fellow musician, Will Owsley, who I’ve made a lot of music with. A good friend of mine who’ve I’ve played music with, my gosh, for 15 years, passed away in 2009. Anyway, I think there are times that are just sort of more creative, and there are times to just hunker down and be in life.

    John: When you go through the process of creating art, is that something you more or less feel compelled from your own heart, where it just kind of flows from you? Or is it more structured than that? Do you sit down, and take the time to say, “Okay, now I have to work here.”

    Amy: As far as song ideas, those just appear because they’re triggered by something. I might hold onto a song idea for quite some time before I sit down to put it into a song. Probably what makes me focus on an actual project is a deadline. I don’t know how you are in your life, you’re clearly a writer, but I don't know much time you make to sit down and just write for art’s sake. Since this last year I knew I had a record due and sometimes the responsibility of a deadline makes you disciplined. I consider it a gift.

    John: Do you know how many songs you have written?

    Amy: I don’t write 100 songs a year or anything like that. I’ve written only a couple songs some years, but I’ve done this for a long time, so I don’t know. Maybe a couple hundred.

    John: Amy, you are a singer, you’re obviously a songwriter, you’re a musician, you’re an actress and you’re an author. How do you encourage some of the people that are reading this now, who feel like they have too much on their plate and they don’t have time being a wife or a mom or a daughter or a co-worker? How do you manage all of life?

    Amy: I have to go back and say that I would use the term actress very loosely. I can’t speak for a man, but for a woman it might feel like we’re juggling all things at all times. But I think in reality that different things take priority, kind of in a revolving pattern. If you’re a working mom, there are times that a deadline at work forces you to put that on the front burner and there’s no rest until it’s done. I think maybe it’s good to say occasionally what matters the most, either to write it down or to talk about it with a good trusted friend.

    If how you’re spending your time never matches up to what your priorities are, then I think we need to be honest and say, “This is my priority.” If something is a priority and it never matches up with the time that you’re spending on it, there needs to be a change in how we’re spending our time. I have done all those things, but someone told me that one time. Everybody’s life is so different that it’s hard to say what’s going to give someone more time.

    The list of things I’ve done doesn’t tell you how I spend my time on a daily basis. For instance, we don’t eat out very much. You might think I do. Maybe it’s because when I’m on the road, I’m never digging into my own refrigerator. But I think the kitchen is the hub of the home. And because I travel so much with work, when we’re home, I’m almost always cooking something. I’m not a great cook, but I’m decent, so I always make sure there are good things in the refrigerator.

    When I get really overwhelmed with work or I feel very scattered, I will go into the kitchen and start cooking. Easier said than done sometimes, I know. For someone who has a 9 to 5 job, that might not work so well. But you can do it on the weekends. I find that when I start cooking, I have time to think. People walk through the kitchen because they smell something good, and they go, “Hey, what’s that smell?” So there’s the social side of it too. And if you don’t have an idea at first of what you’re going to cook, just cut up some onions and put them in a little olive oil in the skillet and then it starts to smell good. My family may ask, “What is it?” I go, “I don’t know. I’m just buying time.” That’s just for me.

    Cooking’s a very centering process. Somebody is always hungry and I’m cooking in mass, and so I know one of my friends is not going to have had time to make dinner or somebody I know might be sick, but I will just go, “Oh, man. I am feeling so scattered and really sad. I feel like I’m untethered. I can’t figure out what’s wrong,” so I start cooking. We all have our trigger points. For me, if I can start cooking, it gives me time to think, and then people come into the kitchen. My daughter will come in, sit on the kitchen counter and we just start talking. Anyway, those are some of the reasons I like it.

    John: Who’s the better cook, you or Vince?

    Amy: He only really cooks one meal a year, Christmas breakfast for the whole family. He loves to eat and so it’s nice to cook when you’ve got someone in the house who loves to eat.

    John: Does he make the same Christmas meal every year?

    Amy: It just kind of anything breakfast-y that you can think of.

    John: He goes beyond just, “Here’s bowl of cereal.”

    Amy: Yes. It’s like sausage, bacon, sometimes waffles, eggs. He started doing that years ago. It’s so nice to just sit there with a cup of coffee and watch him work. I like that.

    John: That’s a nice gift. Amy, let’s talk a little bit about the new record, How Mercy Looks From Here. What went into that title as a theme?

    Amy: It’s the title of one of the songs. I had that phrase floating around in my head for quite some time. I was anxious to write a song. I think the great thing about living for a while is that the longer you live, the less quick you are to say, “This is a good thing, this is a bad thing.” I just say, “Well, this is what it is, and now we live with this.”

    John: In one of the lyrics in that song, I think you sang, “I would have given up drowning in my tears if it wasn’t for your voice all these years.” What’s behind that?

    Amy: That song originally came from a really difficult time. I think the idea for that song was born in the first week of May, 2010. A lot of really awful things happened that week, and some really beautiful things as well. But with each extreme, what I experienced alone and what I experienced with my family was that we encountered a kind of gentle grace and mercy.

    Some within, with each other. I’ll tell you what happened that week. It started off on a Friday, Will Owsley, a good friend of mine, a musician, killed himself. It was awful and I went to his home that night. His mom and dad had come up from Anniston, Alabama and we were all just in shock. Then it started raining on Saturday, the next day. The biggest flood that’s ever been in recorded history hit Nashville. I guess it crested on Monday. Like a lot of people, we were not physically hurt, but we lost a lot of things.

    A lot of guitars that were at a storage facility and a rehearsal hall called Sound Check; probably all of our road cases and guitars. Of course in the wake of Will’s death, that seemed like nothing, but it was actually very difficult to even get in the car to go to his funeral because the roads were still flooded. Then it was also beautiful being with his family. And it was beautiful watching the community of Nashville come together to help each other out with the flood.

    Then, as a family, we were anticipating the wedding of our oldest daughter, Jenny, which was that Saturday. We were forging ahead with this outdoor wedding in our yard and making those plans, putting up tents. The woman who was the wedding planner, and handles all the decorations, said her home was completely destroyed. She was living out of a hotel and we said, “What can we do?” She said, “You know what? I can’t get home until the water recedes.” Her car was, I mean, the whole thing was under water. She said, “I’m living in a hotel and I just want to lose myself in this celebration. At the beginning of a married couple’s life and I’ll just deal with the mud later.” Watching that, we were going, “Oh, my goodness!” It was the most beautiful, joyful coming together. All week there were preparations and it was just so great. My mom and dad were over every day. Then on Thursday, a cousin of mine was killed in Afghanistan. Friday morning I’m at their home mourning again. Extremes.

    We were just talking about what a blessing he was. And his four siblings had sat around and made this recording with a friend of ours for several hours, reminiscing about family history. Just the timing of it was so merciful. Everybody was thankful for Skype, and that it hadn’t been months or weeks since they’d seen Adam’s face. Just processing, but feeling this sense of love and the mercy in the middle of it.

    Then that night, we had Jenny’s rehearsal dinner in our front yard because the location had been rained out for her rehearsal dinner. Our house is at the top of a little hill on the street. She got married in the front yard, I mean the rehearsal dinner’s in the front yard and the next day the wedding was in the side yard and the reception was in the backyard. I got to tell you, that was such an emotional rollercoaster week, the whole thing. I came away from that week saying, “I feel like from every angle I have seen how mercy looks. “ It took a couple of years to write the song, but I kept going, “I’ve got to write that song ‘How Mercy Looks From Here.’”

    John: I don’t want to say that all of your other records are not spiritual, because they certainly are, all of them are, but there are songs on here that go really deep. The one you were just talking about, “How Mercy Looks From Here,” which is the title track, and the first single “Don’t Try so Hard,” are quite spiritual. Has there been a spiritual awakening or a deep rootedness you’ve felt? You obviously have been talking about the various things that have happened in your life in the last few years, has God done something amazing?

    Amy: Well, I think He always does. Whether you’re writing about it or not. I think that on this record, in particular, I wanted every song to matter. That came directly from a conversation I had with my mom. My mother passed away in April of 2011. It’s February, I was home from a road trip, kind of an extensive tour with Michael W. Smith, from Fall 2010 to the Spring of 2011. Anyway, I had gone by to see my mom and dad, they both suffered with dementia.

    My dad’s still living and he has full blown dementia, but my mom … If you’re going to have to vote for a kind of dementia to have, Lewy Bodies is a good kind to have because it doesn’t change your personality. It just changes your relationship with reality. Sometimes it comes and goes, sometimes it seemed almost like she was in time travel or something like that.

    One time my niece was visiting her and my mom was so excited. She confided in my niece that she thought she was pregnant, which would have been a nightmare since she was 78. But she was so excited about … My aunt Gracie said, “Doe, you’re 78. There’s no way you’re pregnant.” My mother’s like, “I am? That’s awful.”

    And there was the time I had gone to see her in February. It was nighttime and we had our visit and then I said, “Mom, I’ve got to go pack and get back on the bus.” And she said, “Oh, you’re getting a bus.” I’m like, “Yes, I’m going to do a show. I’m traveling with Michael W. and I’ve been singing so much this year.” She went, “Ah, you sing?” Okay here we go… I said, “I do.” I’m so used to that pattern of her being there and then not being there. I said, “I do, I sing.”

    “What kind of songs do you sing?” she asked. I told her and she asked, “Will you sing something for me?” So I did and she was so adorable. Then she said, “Can I go with you?” I pictured my mother crawling into one of those bunks and I said, “Maybe not this time. We’ll talk about it when I’m back in town.” I kissed her on the cheek and I was heading out the door and she said, “Hey, will you do me a favor?” I turned back and I said, “Sure, what?”

    She said, “When you get on that stage, sing something that matters.” I said, “I will do that.” That was not our last conversation, but it was in the last eight weeks of her life. I’m dedicating this record to her. Gloria Napier Grant. I believe that was probably a driving force in the song choices. They’re not all of the spiritual nature, but they all matter.

    John: Amy, on the song, “Deep As It Is Wide,” you have some quest vocals.

    Amy: Yes, but that’s the only song on the record that I was not a part writer on.

    John: Who are the other singers?

    Amy: Erik Paslay. He wrote that song six years ago and I have loved it. I’ve had a copy of it for four years. I’ve loved it.

    John: It’s a great song.

    Amy: I’ve listened to it incessantly in the last months of my mom’s life. He is the one that gave me the permission to sing it with him. He wanted to do a group thing. Erik and Sheryl Crow and myself. I’m just crazy about that song and they’re both dear friends of mine. Erik and I were both at the studio, because we were working simultaneously with the same producer, Marshall Altman. I said, “Erik, either say yes we can do the song or no we can’t.”

    He was really dragging his feet because so many people had asked him to record that song. Little Big Town wanted to record it, Lady Antebellum wanted to record it and he kept saying, “No.” I said, “Just say no, it’s okay.” He said, “No. I think I want you to be singing on this song,” and I said, “Okay, well great. What else? Do you want it to be like a group of singers?” He said, “I guess so.” As a songwriter, what you write, those are your gems. That’s clearly a great song. Erik will, hopefully, have a great career in country music.

    I have good audience in the Christian music community and so I said, “Why don’t we ask Cheryl, because she’s more of the rock-n-roll background. That way we’re really speaking to three different communities. He said, “I like that. I like that.” Because really it’s about the song, especially that song. We called her up and she said, “I’m getting ready to lie down for a nap. I’ll listen to it as soon as I get down, and I’ll call you back.” She called back and said, “How did I get lucky straw to get to sing on this song?”

    John: That’s great. Amy, do you have a passage in the Bible that you’re particularly close to right now?

    Amy: That’s a good question. I spend a lot of time memorizing Scripture. I would say the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is swirling around my head currently. Really the whole thing, I think, because it dove tails with this book that I’m reading right now called The Epic of Eden. Who’s the author of that? Let me see. Sandra Richter is the author. She’s a professor at some seminary.

    The songs on How Mercy Looks From Here represent a season of growth, yet as personal as they are, they are also universal. Everyone can relate to love, loss and the passing of time. “At some point in life you realize that some things really matter and some things don’t,” Grants says. “Living matters. Celebrating life matters.  Seeing the value in hard times matters.  Relationships and people matter.  Faith matters.  I feel like that’s where my head has been while writing and recording his project.  I feel this is a very positive record. I hope it is life affirming. Life prepares us for the journey. You don’t know what’s ahead and that is one of the great things about getting older in a framework of faith.  Faith is the one thing that stands the test of time.”

    Amy Three Caregiving Tips
    In this video, Amy talks about caring for her father who has profound dementia and what families can do to make this time one of meaning and spiritual growth.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Hebrews, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Death, Dementia, Christian Music

  • New Teaser Video from Skillet

    Posted on April 4, 2013 by Family Christian



    New song from the upcoming Skillet album, Rise.
    What do you think?


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Skillet

  • Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Posted on April 1, 2013 by John van der Veen



    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who you are. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that time frame when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the Delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services. This is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records.

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

     

     

     

    MATT MAHER INTERVIEW Edited by JLF

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who Matt is. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Matt: Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that timeframe when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    John: What was his name?

    Matt: His name was Tom Boos. He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    John: If I put you on the spot there, I apologize.

    Matt: I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin-Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin-Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services like Spotify; this is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now. You know? Now you go to sites like Noise Train, and find that a lot of independent artists are giving away their music.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too. If you ever come to East Nashville, there’s a great coffee shop right around the corner from my house, and I will gladly take you there. It’s a really fantastic cup of coffee.

    John: I may have to take you up on that. I used to live down in Springhill.

    Matt: Oh really?

    John: Yes. I was there for six years but now I’m back up here in Grand Rapids.

    Matt: That’s funny. I was in Michigan last weekend!

    John: You were?

    Matt: Yes. I played … where was it Friday night? Flint, and then Saturday in Holland.

    John: You were that close man!

    Matt: I know! I actually flew out of Grand Rapids airport Sunday morning!

    John: We could have chatted face-to-face!

    Matt: It would’ve been great!

    John: Oh, well. Next time!

    Matt: I’m going to be back. I know I’m going to be back in April with Chris August and Bella Reid.

    John: Oh. Well, that’s cool.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records. I don’t have your Indie records so maybe one day I’ll try to find those somewhere!

    Matt: (laughs).

    John: The records that you have done, honestly man… terrific!

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

    Burning In My Soul - Lyric Video


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Brandon Heath, Third Day, Rich Mullins, Michael W. Smith, Audio Adrenaline, Matt Redman, Divorce, Louie Giglio, Young Life, Ed Cash, Matt Maher, Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Mitch McVicker, Delirious, Franklin Graham, Kristian Stanfill, Bach

  • Four Questions with Britt Nicole

    Posted on March 28, 2013 by John van der Veen

    So Britt...

    Britt Nicole

    1. Your song, ‘All This Time,’ seems to be dealing with the loss and brokenness of this world and God’s grace to overcome it. Would you mind sharing the story behind the lyrics?

    This song is very personal to me, but people relate to it in all different ways. For me the song is all about the moment that I realized I was not alone, but that God was right there with me. I was seven years old and my family was going through some hard things and I didn't know what to do, or where to go. I remember running to my room, with tears rolling down my face, and grabbing my bible. My grandfather is a pastor and he told me that Jesus would always be there for me. The song talks about how God sees our heartache, He sees our broken dreams, and how He's right there with us through it all, It's a reminder that we don't have to walk alone, God is right there and He always will be.

    2. In your song ‘Ready or Not,’ you did a collaboration with Lecrae. What was that like?

    I really look up to Lecrae, for his talent but even more for who he is. He is truly speaking into the lives of young people all over the world, so it was amazing to be able to work with him! The song is one of my favorites on the record.

    3. Britt, you’re an entertainer, an evangelist for the Gospel, a wife, a soon-to-be-mom; how do you handle “life?”

    Ummmmm..... Sometimes it's crazy! :) No, honestly by the grace of God and taking one day at a time. I focus on not worrying about tomorrow but trusting that God knows and has everything I need for today, whether that is joy, patience, rest, a pedicure..... He knows, haha! Life has only gotten sweeter since I have become a wife, and I can not wait to be a Momma! :)

    4. Who are your influences? What authors do you follow? What artists do you listen to?

    I look up to people like Heidi Baker, Mother Teresa, Esther in the Bible.... These are woman who changed and are still changing the world. The courage, grace and love that they have for people and God is hard to put into words, I just know that I want to learn from their life and be that hope for my generation that they were for theirs!

    I listen to a lot of worship, Jenn Johnson, Bethel, and Hillsong United are a few of my favorites.

    Britt Nicole - Gold


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, Hillsong, Britt Nicole, Heidi Baker, Mother Teresa, Jenn Johnson, Bethel Music

  • Jeremy Camp on Family, Art and Fame

    Posted on March 28, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Jeremy Camp’s seventh recorded studio album Reckless needs a warning sign: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

    Jeremy

    Camp explains the concept of recklessness through the life of Paul. In Acts 14, Paul returns to Lystra to share the gospel—a city where he had been stoned and left for dead just days before. Sounds crazy that he would return to a place like that. But as Camp explains, it’s more reckless than crazy, and there’s a difference. “[Paul] wasn’t being crazy for crazy’s sake, saying ‘I don’t care what’s going to happen. I just want to go.’ No, when you feel God calling you to do something, you have to be obedient. And that’s the difference. Paul was just obedient. That’s what reckless is.”

    I caught up with Jeremy before one of his concerts. Sitting across the table from this man, you can certainly see his genuineness.  He is a real man that has a heart for God. For his wife. For his kids. And for the church.

    John: We’re here to talk with Jeremy Camp about the new record coming out, Reckless. But before we talk about the record, I just want to hear a little refresher on who you are today and what’s been going on with you. We know you’re married, that you have three kids, and that life is good and that you’re basically having fun.

    Jeremy: Yes, and this has definitely been a year of reflection for me. I’ve got three kids now. One of my daughters is eight, and she’s rocking the piano and even writing songs. She’ll sit there and I’ll walk in, and she’s singing worship songs that she’s learning. It’s unbelievable.

    John: I was going to ask, are any of the kids going to be future singer/songwriters? I mean, they have two artists as parents.

    Jeremy: Yes, I think so... My oldest is more of a Type A personality, but she’s creative too. Kind of like me. It’s the Type A personality with a creative side as well, and so she’ll be putting together the songs. She’ll sing harmonies and be the more structured one. Then Arie, my six year old, has the voice where she does the vibrato at the end already. I’m like, “Holy cow!” When she’s messing around, she does all these things with her voice. But she’s too goofy right now to really do it in seriousness, which is okay, of course. Let her have fun!

    John: She’s having fun.

    Jeremy: Yep, so I don’t care. But wow, I could hear her in a few more years when she actually wants to start singing... I could see the girls working together. Bella writing the songs, structuring things out, her singing the lead, and Arie holding down the fort and singing harmonies. That’s kind of what I see. but we haven’t pushed them that way.

    John: And your son on percussion.

    Jeremy: My son, he rocks! He likes to dance, so he gets down and he does this jig thing and then he’ll clap his hands. I mean, every once in a while he’s on beat. It’s because it just happened to be that way, not because he’s really on beat. So, I think it’s definitely something that has to naturally happen. We haven’t forced my girls to play anything or do anything. My daughter just goes in there and wants to practice, so I’m like, cool. Because I’ve always said, I want them to do what they feel like they are called to do. Not, “Hey, you should do music because we did.” So, that’s been a joy watching my kids grow up. It’s really cool to have a boy that I can play football with too. He loves watching me. He can’t grip the football, even the little kid’s kind yet, so he gives it to me and just wants me to throw it. He’ll get it for me and wants me to throw it again. So he enjoys that, you know, he’ll watch football with me and if I turn it, he gets kind of bummed. Which is sweet, because I love it.

    My wife is doing great. She’s home-schooling and a super mom. She’s been huge, just in the season too of saying, “Honey, let’s just do it. Even if we move somewhere random. If that’s what God has, I don’t care.” And these are her words. She told me, she said, "Listen, I’ll live in a shack somewhere, if we’re just ministering as we’re going, I don’t care." And she meant it.

    The Camp family

    It’s like one of those things that you just don’t say, right? Unless you mean it. And you’re like, I’ll do this. She’s like, “I really at this point, I just want to be completely in God’s will. Because I want God’s perfect will and we can step into that. Because I already know what I can be doing practically, but I want to be willing to move if He says move or go here if He says go here.” So, it’s been neat to watch my wife be so on fire, and it’s great that we’re on the same page. Whatever the Lord is leading us to do, I feel we can let each other know, and we can pray about it and that’s where we’re at.

    John: That’s really awesome. Putting your artist hat aside, how do you feel that both you and Adie have changed or grown by having kids?

    Jeremy: Oh man. We definitely understand, I know it’s very cliché to say, but it’s just true. The heart of a father. And for me I always understood Jesus as my Savior and I’m in desperate need of the Savior. And even His comfort and understanding when you read about Him washing His disciples’ feet and all these different things, but there is something to the heart of the father, the protector, the comforter, the encourager. And Jesus does all of that too. You know what I’m saying? It’s all one. You’ve got the Father, you’ve got the Son, you’ve got the Holy Spirit, but there’s that nature of God the Father that helps me see things when I make mistakes. How it’s not discipline and anger, or discipline and frustration. It’s like, “Hey, I’m disciplining you because I love you, because I don’t want you to make these mistakes.” I tell my kids, "Girls, the reason why daddy is disciplining you is not because he’s angry or frustrated, it’s because when you grow up, if we don’t instruct you in these ways, it’s going to be very difficult for you. If you don’t understand authority and stepping under authority, you’re going to have a very rough life. We’re helping you in the future because we love you. We want you to grow up and understand how to step into the world, and understand how to walk and how God wants you to walk." And so that’s a huge perspective that we have to have.

    John: Definitely. So, your new record this time is obviously about living out a “reckless” life.

    Jeremy: Right.

    John: Why don’t you briefly explain what that means, and let’s just start there. What does that mean to you to live a reckless life?

    Jeremy: I think it’s giving up all your rights and saying, “God, my life is not my own; it’s yours.” And I think there are so many times in the Bible that we see people that were used by the Lord in a great way. They made mistakes. Look at David. He did some crazy things. And you have Moses. He was like, "I don’t want to speak and God, I can’t articulate anything." And God is like, fine, he is arrogant, but God still used Moses and led him into the wilderness. And Moses is like, “All right God, here we go. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know I’m supposed to be going to the Promised Land, but there’s the Red Sea, there’s no food, there are all these different things.” Even people creating idols. I mean, all throughout the Bible we see people that just had this faith of, “All right Lord, I’m just going to recklessly abandon myself to you.”

    And so, I think what that means is: “God, I’m willing to go and do whatever it is—despite the consequences and what it looks like.” That is what faith is to me. You look at Esther. She’s like, “I’m going to go to the King because if my people don’t bow down they’re going to get killed. So, I’m going to go and say this is an awful thing. I’m one of those people. I’m just going to walk in, even uninvited.” And so she walks in. She could have been killed, but she didn’t care. She knew she needed to do it. And what happened? Something good happened in that case. But good things don’t always happen, of course. But here we have these people in different parts of the country that were willing to be martyred for their faith—that’s truly being reckless in the best sense! People don’t like hear that who live in America where it’s very comfortable, without much of challenge. But I’m not necessarily saying that in order to be reckless, we have to say, “I will die for my faith.”

    As I was saying earlier, it could be. I mean, I know people that right now are going into places in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan that are saying I literally could die for my faith, but I know God is calling me. Not that they should do it because they want to die for their faith, or just being crazy for crazy sake. But because they are being fully obedient even without knowing what’s going to happen. Paul was such a great example. Because how do you truly do that when we live in a bubble here in America. (Not that there’s not great things happening here, but it’s just a fact.) I live in it and get caught up in it. I get distracted. I am selfish and all that, but Paul is like, “Hey, my life’s not my own anyway.” That’s the whole point to being reckless.

    John: Yes. I think, to some extent, there are a lot of people within the Evangelical Church that when they go to church Sunday morning or Sunday night, Wednesday night, or what have you, like when they’re in a bible study, they’re more than willing to live their life in a reckless way there. How do you challenge them both as a Pastor and as a singer/songwriter to say, “Well, that’s good, but let’s move outside of that bubble”?

    Jeremy: Here’s a couple of things people say: “Okay, I’m ready to go do something, but what do I do now?” Well, the Bible clearly states—and this is what I love—the Great Commission, to go into all the nations and preach the gospel to every creature. So, whether it be in your community, your neighbor or others, we can actually just step out and invite them over and give them the love of Christ and preach the gospel. There are practical things we can be doing.

    Or, they’ll say, “I want to go and take six months of my life and go to this mission field—whatever it may be.” So, it’s another practical thing we can be doing. Well, the Bible also says to make disciples. That’s what Jesus says. There are things He says that we can be doing. So take that person that is Saved, and raise them up and encourage them; take time out and pour into them. Walk life with them. That may be rough. You may feel the pain that they may be going through. Because when one part of the body hurts, we all hurt.

    James said it. It’s from the heart of the Lord. It’s what is pure and undefiled religion to take care of the widows and the orphans. So, what do I do? I don’t know, Lord. I don’t know how to be of use. He tells us of practical things we could be doing all the time. I think we just have to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes and ask, “What’s the situation?” Like the people who are in church doing things, possibly even when they could be stepping out of their comfort zone. It might be a little rough trying to do that. I don’t know how to even do it. But, it’s okay. Be loved by the spirit. If you have a heart and spend time with the Lord and that heart is there, then He’s going to give you the wisdom and the ability to do things for Him. So, there are practical things we can be doing. Then, there are things that I think He might say personally to you. Give this up or go here and I do believe those things too. He just wants a willing heart.

    John: And sometimes those things are not huge, necessarily, like going to the other side of the world...

    Jeremy: Right. It doesn’t make you more spiritual either to do that. I mean it‘s just being obedient when he calls you to. Sometimes you don’t know what that really is, but He knows what it is. So, you just go, and that’s where being “reckless” comes in. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and it may not end up great. Paul kept having these struggles. But, it’s okay because our life is not our own anyway. It’s easier said than done, I know, trust me. I say this stuff and God’s challenging me with, “Okay, are you willing? “

    John: Yes, and the second half of that promise in the Great Commission is the fact that Christ, himself, goes with us. I mean, how beautiful is that? He’s not saying, “Go! Now I’m going to leave you alone.” He promises He’s going to be with us.

    Jeremy: Yes, take heart. “I’m going to be with you.”

    John: You have had many songs that have made a big impact on people. And, at times, I guess the things that people tend to do is put an artist like you on a pedestal, and make much of you. When you are at a show and people see you perform, there’s a tendency in a lot of hearts to worship Jeremy Camp. Up on the stage, how do you steer the audience away from that and say, “This is not about Jeremy Camp. This is all about Christ.”

    Jeremy: That’s a challenge, because you know people will say, you have a new CD coming out and I want to see you do that. It’s a reality, and you have record companies saying this too. So it’s like this: How do I get stuff out there but not make it about me? And still prompt them to go out and get the record or the ticket? It’s a challenge. But God gave us Scripture for this, and in Isaiah 42 it says, “I’m the Lord, that’s my name, and I will not share my glory with anyone else” (nor praise to idols).

    So once you realize this, you have to walk a very fine line, knowing He won’t share His glory with anyone else. I think the best thing we can do is to steer people away from their natural tendency to worship me, as an artist, and get them into Scriptures and point them that way as much as I can. You can’t control what people do, but you can control what you do as much as you can.

    If I can share Scripture and try to leave them in a good place at the end of the night, then it was a great show. I know I can always count on the Lord. The biggest thing for me is that we have prayer time before we go on. Asking the Holy Spirit to move and do the work in our hearts and those of the people in the audience, allowing us to just be the vessels He flows through. People are going to be what people are going be. You have to do the best you can to point them to Christ, and let the Holy Spirit move letting God do His thing; all the while, praying that hopefully artist worship won’t happen. It’s part of the business, and honestly, it’s not always easy.

    John: Well, I’m sure you’re tempted along that road as well.

    Jeremy: For me, the temptation is more about how the song is doing on the radio? And how the album sales are coming along. If those things are doing well, it feels good because it seems to solidify what you’re doing—even though that’s not actually the case at all! But there’s still a battle. I still have that battle. So, it’s not that I want that praise on stage, but that I like to see them engaged, and hopefully I’m letting the Holy Spirit move. I think that can be a challenge.

    You can’t find your worth in how many sales you have or how a song on the radio is doing. You have to find your worth in Christ, so that those circumstances won’t determine your joy or happiness. Joy should always be there—in Christ. Your happiness can sway back and forth. If your worth is in Christ, those things won’t matter. Not that I always say to myself, my worth is in Christ, so it doesn’t matter ever. I battle it too, and that’s why every single day I pray and go, “All right, I blew it again Lord,” and I let that bother me. So it’s a constant battle because we live in a fleshly world and a fallen age where we do daily battle.

    That’s the hope of Heaven too. Personally, I can’t wait to not have to battle this anymore. I can’t wait until none of that matters anymore. So, I’m moving towards that the rest of my life, but I’m going to have to keep battling those things. That’s why we need Jesus. If we didn’t have those battles, we wouldn’t be desperately going, “I need you Lord.” That’s why we need Jesus. God kept showing people in the Bible that they couldn’t do it on their own. He pointed out, “See where you turn when you think you can do it by yourself? You start making idols. You start worshiping a calf!” He constantly shows us that we can’t do it on our own. It’s kind of discouraging to always face this struggle, but it actually just comes down to understanding that we need Jesus every day, desperately.

    John: What is the most important song you’ve ever sung for you?

    Jeremy: Honestly, I think “I Still Believe.” Because, here’s the deal. There’s honesty that we have to have, and David was very honest in the songs. How many times has he said, “Why are my enemies prospering? Why is this happening to me?” But he always resolved it. So, he was honest in what was going on because he went through struggles and saw things happen, but his resolve was this: “Your loving kindness endures forever. Your mercies are new every morning. You’re good. You’re a faithful God.” All these things are resolved at the end of that.

    So the reality of us in our lives is that we’re going to go through struggles and we’re going to say, “Why is this?” And that whole song asks questions in the verses. But I still believe that you’re faithful. I still believe that you’re true, and I still believe that your Word is still here. Even when I don’t understand, I still believe. It’s a truth that we can always hold onto, but the honesty of what happens in our life being here on this earth—the goodness—is that He is still faithful. That His Word is still true and that we have to hold on to that.

    John: It is a great song. And I think, to some extent, Jeremy, whether you would agree with me or not, that’s okay, but I think the idea of living a reckless life is a continuation of that song.

    Jeremy: Absolutely.

    John: Because the whole world is telling us to give up. Just like the wife of Job. She’s saying, “Just give up, curse God, and you’ll be fine. And to some extent that’s what the whole world is doing to us. But I think your call in this new record to live a reckless life is for us all to continue to believe.

    Jeremy: No matter what the circumstances. Amen.

    John: Who are your influences, authors, pastors, singer/songwriters, artists? Who speaks to you?

    Jeremy: My dad was a big influence to me growing up, and I also see a lot of things when I go out and meet a lot of great people. But to live with my father, of course growing up, and see him love on people and to see us have hard times, but then to watch him stay faithful was the greatest teacher I could ever have—because he was someone close to me. Nowadays, people like John Corsin, a pastor in Oregon, influences me. He went through losing his wife to a car accident and then two years later his daughter in a car accident. So two major tragedies. So those types of people speak into my life because I understand the pain they’ve been through. When they speak things, they speak through experience. As far as singer/songwriters go, I like Tim Hughes and Matt Redman with their worship songs because there’s just something different there. It seems deep. Or Steven Curtis Chapman. If you hear some of his songs and really listen, you can hear that he has a walk with the Lord. He gets it. And so I think there’s some good influences throughout the years that I have had, with musicians and others who I respect and have gleaned experience from.

    John: Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

    Jeremy: Thanks for having me.

    For more on Jeremy and his career, click here.

    Jeremy Camp - Living "Reckless"


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Jeremy Camp, Matt Redman, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tim Hughes

  • A Q&A With Finding Favour

    Posted on March 22, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Gotee Records signed the south-Georgia band, Finding Favour. On their new ep, they  collaborated with acclaimed producers Rob Hawkins (Building 429), Christopher Stevens (tobyMac, Sanctus Real, Mandisa) and Dustin Burnett (Kingsfoil) to produce the six-track release.

    1 - What is your background? Where did you guys grow up? What made you interested in music?

    My background is similar to what I do right now actually. I'm from a place called Vidalia, GA (the sweet onion capital of the world!) and I grew up singing in the church with my family. We traveled almost every weekend singing southern gospel music and that's where my love for music and ministry started.

    2 - What are your biggest influencers? Musically and spiritually?

    Spiritually some of our biggest influencers have been our families and pastors. We're actually pretty careful about letting any and everyone point us in a thousand different directions. In all things we try to be led by the Holy Spirit for our decisions and actions. Musically our influences range from Collective Soul to Chris Tomlin with everything else thrown in the middle!

    3 - What does your live show look like?

    Our live show are always a work in progress. We try to bring energy and honesty to the platform every single night with stories, songs and a corny joke here and there.

    4 - Coffee or Mountain Dew?

    Definitely coffee!

     
    Slip On By (lyric video)


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with TobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Sanctus Real, Mandisa, Finding Favour, Building 429, fea

  • Audio Adrenaline Strikes Back

    Posted on February 20, 2013 by John van der Veen


    After five years away, Audio Adrenaline is back - by popular demand and with a renewed mission. The faces may look a little different, but the heart and passion of this GRAMMY-winning band remains unchanged. Yes, that's Kevin Max of dcTalk and solo fame at the mic and founding member Will McGinniss on bass. The new lineup is rounded out by CCM vets Dave Ghazorian (Superchick), Jared Byers (Bleach), and singer-songwriter Jason Walker. Former front man and co-founder Mark Stuart remains very involved and contributed to many of the songs for the new album.

    This talented group of like- minded musicians share a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. Lead single, "Kings & Queens" is an orphan anthem that celebrates the transformation God can bring about.

    I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with both Will and Kevin one late afternoon. What follows is a real and honest conversation about where these guys have been and where they are going.

    All within and by the grace of God.

    John van der Veen (FC):
    First of all, I did send out a couple of tweets to the people that follow us on Family here, and there’s a few questions that came back to us, and I’m going to throw those out to you first and then we can kind of just build on those.

    First question is: Did you guys ever think about bringing Bob Herdman or Tyler Burkhum back to the band when Audio A was basically trying to rejoin back together again?

    Will McGinniss: Uh, yeah, I’ll take that—this is Will. I mean, basically, Bob has been out of the band for a number of years. He came off the road in the 90s actually to start a record label. He ran that for a number of years and then he also, of course, helped us start hands and feet and then worked for H&F for a few of years as well. He‘s on the board of H&F too, still permanently. So, Bob’s obviously in ministry with Mark and I and has been through the years and will continue helping us with Hands & Feet.

    He really probably wouldn’t have been one that would have been one of the core band guys. After he came off the road, the band kind of took on a whole new kinda shape and format and just kept on going. And so we did go back to the band members that we had on the road in 2007 when Mark’s voice went out and we shut it down. And we went back to Ben (Cissell) and Tyler and we asked them if they’d like to redo this thing with Kevin singing and they’re just at different places in their lives right now. Ben’s more in a corporate setting. And Tyler’s got his own band and is traveling around playing guitar for other groups as well, so he just wasn’t able to make it work. But both of them were very amicable, both of them love what we’re doing and that we’re getting back together, especially with the connection to Hands & Feet, which both of them helped start. So, very amicable and very excited for us and they wish us well.

    FC: Will Mark (Stuart) join you guys when you go on tour. I mean, how involved is Mark in all things Audio A right now?

    Will: Well, you know, he’s super instrumental. He was the heart of Audio A. He was the lead singer and kind of the main speaker for H&F, if you will. He and I spoke a lot on stage. He’s been writing a lot on this new record. He’s got writing credits on almost every song. He is the exec dir of H&F. He and I had plugged into H&F and were doing ministry outside of Audio A in Haiti. So, he and I are still in ministry together. I’m on the board and it was for that reason that Audio even got back together. I mean when Wes Campbell, who is our manager, came to us with the idea of putting Audio back out there, you know with this idea of putting Kevin at lead singer, you know, we didn’t go for it at first because just to go back out there and play our instruments again or to rock out or whatever for no reason just wasn’t that exciting to us.

    And personally I’ve gotten some great family rhythms and all that with my family and it would take something pretty special to get me back out there. And so that component that was the special piece of the puzzle was that we can broaden Hands & Feet’s reach. We can broaden the story of the orphan and widow in Haiti. We can broaden the work there and so for me that made all the difference in the world. My family is plugged into H&F at a deep level, my wife works for them and I take my kids there every summer, and so that’s the piece that really made sense and so Mark’s gonna go out when it makes sense for him to speak on behalf of H&F and to be able to represent [them] in that way. We’ll use Audio in that way whenever we can and he’ll have some comments in the album art about H&F and what he’s doing. We have several webisodes that are out there that kind of explain it in depth. How Mark’s handing off this thing to Kevin and how we’re all connected as one big family still.

    FC: Kevin, let’s talk a little bit about that. What are your thoughts as you’re stepping into the role of what Mark has done for a number of years. I mean, what is that feeling like for you?

    audio a.

    Kevin Max: It’s interesting because you know it’s familiar and yet it’s not at the same time. So if that makes sense. We traveled quite a bit together back in the day and you know I was friends with the band for many, many years. I’m a fan of what the band’s done and I’m a fan of all of the guys in band—all of the previous members. The only guy that I really didn’t know was Tyler Burkhum, but I know Bob really well and I knew Barry really well and I knew Will and Mark and of course Ben Sisal, and so I feel like putting me in the group was kind of an easy fit. But I feel like what Mark did as a lead singer is very different from what I do. But, in cool ways it’s different, you know, and I can learn a lot from Mark. I can really kind of watch what Mark does and what he says about what he would do in different situations. I’m still learning actually from hanging out with mark as a friend. Will and Mark still live here in Nashville, so it’s kind of cool to be able to hang out quite a bit and we’ve been doing a lot of radio tours together. And Mark has come out and has been there with us on all of these trips. So what’s going to be kind of odd in my opinion is to go out and perform without Mark being there, because he has been still even though he’s not singing like he was back in the day, been a part of this the whole way. But I take this job very seriously and I have absolutely wanted to be in a rock band since I was a kid, and I guess maybe this is the first time I’ve been able to do that.

    FC: Kevin, what is it like singing Audio Adrenaline songs? I’m assuming that once you guys go on tour, there’s going to be some catalog songs as part of that. How does it feel singing older, classic Audio A songs?

    Kevin: It feels great!

    Again, Mark and I have a very similar range, so when I’m singing these tunes, you know, they’re not out of my range. Actually my range is very strange. I can sing pretty low. People don’t realize how low I can sing. I’m kind of known as the guy who sings kind of high, but I’ve actually got kind of a low voice as well. So it’s fun to sing these songs and put my spin on them. And they’re all really great. I mean, Will is careful and so is Mark about picking what songs we do from the past. The songs that I’ll be singing for the new album and performing from the new album, I think that they’re also some unbelievably great songs on this album. So we’re all excited about what kind of packet we can throw together from a live standpoint, and, you know, uh, we’ll just shoot for the stars and hopefully hit somewhere on the horizon.

    FC: When does the tour begin, or has that been nailed down yet?

    Kevin: Wait, wait, that was a really weird quote. I apologize.

    FC: I liked it, actually.

    Kevin: Uh... I’ll let Will pick it up from here.

    Will: Yeh, no, you’re all good. We have the album dropping March Tuesday, March 12, so we’re finishing that up now to get it out. And then the tour, I believe, kicks off March 1st. We do have a handful of dates in January, uh, and then we move into summer festivals after a short spring run. It’s not gonna be too crazy, just wanta get some shows under our belt to refine and connect as a band and get some things nailed down and then I think that summer festivals are really the big kick-off. We’re headlining some of those, and also are opening for the mainstay acts that are headlining for some of those festivals and then looking to the fall after that, so.

    FC: Are you guys gonna be playing “Big House”?

    Will: Heh, heh. Yeh, actually that is one of the ones we’ve been playing. I’ll tell you the ones we’ve been playing. We’ve been playing “Ocean Floor,” “Our Hands & Feet,” “Get Down,” “Big House,” “Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus,” but we’ve also talked about including like “Mighty Good Leader” and maybe “Some Kind of Zombie,” “I’m Not the King” and a few more of the rock side, and remove some of those others, or “Chevette” that’s been one that’s come up. So that’s kind of the quiver that we have at our disposal of the old catalog. There’s tons to go through, I don’t know, we may go through more and come up with more. I mean the set’s gonna be, depending on the length of the set, maybe 50/50, or 60 new / 40 old, or 50/50, whatever, so we’ll have to play it by ear and see how much time we have to play and all that kind of stuff. If we’re doing an opening set of 40 minutes, then obviously we’re limited by that, but we’re going to give the fans old and new, things that they can relate to and connect with.

    FC: That’s great.

    I’m going to switch gears a little bit. I’m gooing ask some questions about how you guys sort of came back together again. Just, because it’s not just the reforming of a band, but it’s also, as we touched on earlier, Kevin stepping in and doing vocals. I mean, what was that like for either one of you guys? Uh, was it like this “Paul” kind of experience, where this bright shining light was being cascaded down on Kevin, and Kevin you were knocked off of your donkey and you said, “Oh, I have to start singing for Audio A now”? You were doing your own thing and successful with that, making a solo career and now this. How did this whole transition kind of fall into place?

    Kevin: I actually was kind of brought into the idea of it slowly and there were probably a couple of different scenarios. One was me singing on the Newsboy’s project, God’s Not Dead, I sang on two of the songs on that album. And when one of those songs started charting, they asked me to come down and go on the road with them for about six shows, and I was singing on stage with them for the Newsboys. And we had such a great time, I think the manager for the Newsboys at that time was just like, “Wow, I’ve been basically bugging Audio Adrenaline for some time to do the same thing, so we get Audio Adrenaline back up and running, because it’s such a great band. And it’s a shame—or, not a shame necessarily—but kind of a group tragedy that they’re not able to continue because of Mark’s voice and we wanted to get them back out there with another singer. And Mark has given his blessing, and we’re looking at guys to do it. So, well, my take on that immediately, was “Absolutely!” I’ve know these guys from the very beginning. At dcTalk, we found them early on in Kentucky and basically brought them to the label at the time, which was Forefront, and they went on to great success.

    Um, and so I feel like I’m a part of that story and after that, throughout the years we’ve toured together and we became great friends, and so it’s a very, very good fit, you know, even on paper. But I think that what really kinda got me was that mark was so passionate about making the right decision, and so was Will. And, also including Hands & Feet into the story of what’s happening now. So that when we go forward with albums, we’re actually raising awareness for H&F project, which in my opinion is much cooler than just being a rock band. So we’ve got lots of different things that are happening here that are just exciting and that just make sense to me.

    FC: Kevin, did this decision involve you saying, “Okay, I’m putting down my solo career for a time being, or this is just the new path that God has for me?

    Kevin: My solo career has been from one moment to the next both somewhat successful and completely tragic (laughs), in terms of success. In terms of personal gratification and what feel like I’ve been able to do, I’m extremely happy with what I’ve done on my solo career. Even though I haven’t reached even close to the numbers we did with dcTalk, I think that I’ve reached a completely different crowd. And that’s primarily what I set out to do as a solo artist. To create music that I wanted to create and not necessarily follow the rhyme and the rhythm of what Talk did from the beginning. You know? So, in way, personally, I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground and am extremely proud of what I’ve done.

    At this time when I decided to do this, I wasn't really taking my musical career very seriously because I'd been writing a novel. What a lot of people don't know – they will know at some point – is that I wrote a sci-fi novel about angels and basically it's going to publishers now. I spent close to two years writing this book. I'll be pretty transparent and say during those years I really wasn't interested in being on stage anymore. I kind of went through a period of not self-loathing but I just didn't want to be the guy on stage. I gained a certain amount of weight and I was just a family guy and I wanted to get into books and I didn't want to be the front man necessarily. So when this was brought up to me, I'd kind of written the book and was kind of going through a different period in my life, you know? When Wes approached me and Mark and Will, I had to go back to my wife and go, "How serious are we going to be about this? We have to do some major shifts in our life to make this happen. I'm going to have to go on the road." I've got four kids that are under the age of 7 so I really had to make a decision. So I got serious and I started writing songs and lost a bunch of weight, basically talked about getting back to Nashville. I've lived in Nashville for over 20 years but sold our house in East Nashville a few years previously, so we basically had to move back to Nashville. So, there's been a lot of changes, but It's interesting, you know?

    FC: Is Audio Adrenaline all about taking care of the widow or the orphan right now? “Hands and Feet” – is that the banner that is being raised up by Audio Adrenaline right now?

    Kevin: Yeah, it's one of the major we're raising. It is Hands and Feet because the idea of doing this in the first place was to raise awareness for Hands and Feet. I think Mark and Will were hesitant at first about even putting it back on the road of that wasn't a part of it, so of course, we're all extremely excited about raising awareness. Also, it's something that we can connect to on so many different levels, from the live show to Internet to merch stands. It's something that we're not ashamed of at all. In fact, we're proud of. And just to get people to understand what's going on over there right now is huge. So definitely, it’s a huge part of what's going on right now.

    FC: Will, are you back? (Dropped call with Will)

    Will: Yeah, I'm here. Sorry about that.

    FC: No problem. I was just asking the question if Hands and Feet were basically the banner for Audio Adrenaline. I think Kevin did a fine job in answering it.

    Audio Adrenaline - Kings & Queens

    What are you guys most looking forward to doing in 2013?

    Will: Oh man. That's a big one. I mean for me, I feel like what you're saying is true. I feel like the momentum we have right now is incredible, nothing short of miraculous. I feel like God is doing something way bigger than us. And just the favor I feel that we have…I feel like if you compare it to Michael going to The Newsboys…they were up against a lot more. They had a lot more criticism, a lot more opposition. It was a totally different scenario, I understand that, but this is similar in the fact that we're adding a lead singer to a pretty significant brand that's already been out there. And even new other members. I'm the only member of Audio A in this thing.

    But, to me, God has orchestrated a thing here that's just crazy. You couldn't have wrote this. He's an amazing author. So many redemptive stories at play with the different guys in the band and our stories and our families and Kevin's story. So, for me, I think the Hands and Feet component is what's the most significant, I think by and large. Mark being so involved in this thing, so attached to it with Hands and Feet and also writing a lot of the songs, being a part of that process, being a part of putting the record together, being a part of the future. For me, I'm just excited to see what God does. Like I said, it's going to be bigger than all of us can imagine. It's gonna be great music and all those things as well, but I think there's gonna be surprises along the way that we couldn't expect. Little turns He'll write into the story that we didn't expect, you know? But for me, we're just going to try to, with as much grace and with as much love and mercy move into this thing and tour it and leave our families again and walk through all of those situations with as much grace and mercy as we can and just see what God does with it. I think each show we want to take one at a time and really be intentional about connecting with the people that are there backstage, the people in the crowd, whatever, and giving them our full attention and just doing it in a way that is excellent and that you know that we're there for you and to serve you that day.

    FC: Are either one of you coffee drinkers? Or is it Mountain Dew? Or Red Bull?

    Kevin: I'm huge into coffee. I'm drinking like my fourth cup right now. Just to stay awake during these interviews. You've done really well asking some really great questions. I will say sometimes the questioner can lead me down a path to deep slumber.

    FC: Well, I certainly appreciate both of you guys taking the time to talk with me today. And as I said, I just want to echo what the feeling is in our building and with a lot of our customers: we're anxiously waiting for March 12 to come around. I think it's going to be an exciting day. And then, of course, the tour.

    Will: It's crazy, the favor we have. I always liken it to the Bad News Bears, where we're so bad but everyone wants us to do well.

    FC: Oh, come on!

    Kevin: I don't know if I like that one either. Don’t sell yourself short, man.

    Will: Just trying to be humble. But "Kings and Queens" is the biggest single out of the box in Audio A history ever. So something big is happening and it's abnormal for even Audio things, so I'm just stoked.

    FC: Well, congratulations to you guys. God bless you and thank you again for taking the time to talk with me today.

    Because Mark is on a continual voice rest, I had the chance to email him a few questions.

    Mark Stuart

    They are listed here:

    FC: Mark, what is the transition like for you? Moving from you to Kevin being the lead singer? How do you feel that you were the voice for AA and now someone else is?

    Mark: It would be very strange for me to give the reigns over to someone else if I wasn't able to contribute to the record making process. I definitely miss being a front man and the excitement of leading an audience. But to be able to help craft a record and collaborate in writing is a huge thrill for me. I miss the creative process much more than being on the road. I feel as much a part of this record as any previous Audio Adrenaline album. It's a blessing to be in the mix!!!

    FC: Is your voice getting better?

    Mark: Unfortunately, my voice continues to get weaker, even though I'm not singing. It can be frustrating for sure. However, I truly believe that God is directing my path. My focus, on a daily basis, is no longer being in a band or getting my voice back, but becoming a better leader, and stronger voice for the orphans of Haiti.

    FC: What is your involvement with AA going forward?

    Mark: I will continue to partner with the guys in writing and producing records, but the bigger partnership is with the Hands and Feet Project. The heartbeat of Audio A moving forward is furthering the cause of the Hands and Feet Project and the children of Haiti. The Audio A guys and I are always dreaming of ways we can use our music and our platform to bring hope to the next generation of Haiti.

    A Message From Mark Stuart


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Kevin Max, DC Talk, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Orphans, Widows, Coffee, Will McGinniss, Mark Stuart

  • The Jason Crabb Interview

    Posted on February 20, 2013 by John van der Veen


    GRAMMY and DOVE Award-winning Jason Crabb has become one of the most respected names and voices in Christian music. Working alongside accomplished producers Jay DeMarcus (band member of Rascal Flatts), Ed Cash and Wayne Haun, Jason has delivered his sophomore studio solo recording, Love Is Stronger. A moving collection of down-home gospel and contemporary songs that feature Jason’s incomparable voice and heartfelt performance style, the release offers inspiring and challenging messages of comfort through the love of Christ that conquers all. Loved by audiences of every age and background, Jason Crabb is fast-becoming a prominent voice of hope for his generation and for generations to come.

    I had the privilege of talking with Jason over the phone recently to hear about his new album, his family and his heart for God.

    John van der Veen (FC): Hello, Jason. Thanks for talking with me.  How are you?

    Jason Crabb: Hello! Fine. We’re getting ready for a concert tonight.

    FC: Oh I'm excited to hear about that.

    Jason: Oh, thank you. I appreciate all that you do.

    FC: I'm not sure how often you check your twitter account, but I did send out a message earlier today asking all of our friends if they had any questions that they wanted me to ask you, and someone suggested, “What was the greatest advise Dottie Rambo gave you in your beginning?”

    Jason: Oh, wow! I will never forget that. When we first started out, we used to host a concert at the Executive Inn, on the river front there in Woodboro, Kentucky. One of the performers that came in was Dottie. We were on stage with her and Dottie—she was always polite, and she always messed with you, she was just so funny—well, she was getting ready to play a song. And she said, “Oh, Jason, can you come out here and get my guitar pick? It's in my shoe, and she was sitting down. So I had to go out, get down on my knee and get the guitar pick out of her shoe. And it was kind of a funny thing to be doing, and then, you know, we're sitting there and she said, “Well, now sing a song with me, and we sang together, and then she said, “Jason,” she said, “if you take care of these people (and she was pointing at the audience) and be there for them, they will always be there for you.”

    I took that to heart, and that's why during every intermission, after every concert, I'm the last one to leave the building because I want to be there for the people, and I want to hear what they have to say and listen to their prayer requests and things like that. You know what, I can really truly obviously say that was one of the best things that anybody has ever told me, because truly I believe that is why I am here today, doing what I'm doing. Because I'm there for the people... and they've always been there for me.

    FC: Jason, let me ask you a little bit about the influences that you have had in probably your personal life at least the way that you're talking about Dottie, but your personal life as well as your career. You have mentioned that Bill Gaither has been not just an influence to you, but certainly a mentor, and probably even somebody closer than that as well. Bill said once, “Jason Crabb is the real deal. I love his voice, I love his heart and I love the unique way he can connect people to the hope every human being needs to hear.”

    Jason

    Jason when you hear that and have people talking into your life like that, how do you take that as a man who is pursing Christ? How do you take the words from other people and then apply them to your own life? And then what does that mean for us, and how should we be looking for mentors and other people to speak into our lives as well?

    Jason: Let's go back to Bill and those people that are speaking into your life and influencing you. I have had so many in my life; of course, my family—all my family from my parents to grand parents to my siblings. They've been so supportive with encouragement and we've helped each other out, but I mean also people on the road and in different situations and things. Bill is one of those. He's one of those men that if you'll just sit, watch and listen, you can learn so much. I think people like that when they speak into your life and they truly mean it, if they say something positive about your life, what it does for me is it challenges me to be even better. It challenges me to live up to maybe what they might say. If they say, Hey, thanks for being there for me,” then it makes me want to be there for others as well. Those things feed the spirit of the person that is there and it feeds your spiritual side. If you use it the right way. Even bad things, things that people say—could even be in a negative way—can be turned around for the good. I think we have to use all of that.

    So yes, everybody needs that person to speak truth into their life, whether it's good or whether it's bad. Like, “You just have to watch how you treated this person,” or “I just couldn't believe that you went down and talked to that person and you didn't have to.” That makes you want to do those things, and so I think it's very important to listen and let those things help create who you are.

    FC: How does Jason Crabb—not Jason Crabb the artist or the actor or the author or the TV personality—but Jason Crabb the regular guy keep a continual focus on Christ in your own personal walk? When the rubber meets the road, Jason, how are you doing that?

    Jason: I think the Lord will find ways to speak to you. Of course, in His Word, He speaks to you on what to do in character building and those types of thing. One way that He speaks to me--I've got two kids and a gorgeous wife—is through parenting. He lets me know, kind of the role that He plays in my life, and in a similar way with my kids, such as being gracious and how to treat my children if they falter or fail at whatever they do. Those situations draw me to Him, and it's the same with my ministering on stage a lot of times. Even though I am ministering, I still get ministered to as well, and feel like I'm in the presence of God and being led by Him and those types of things.

    Even the times that we are on the road, people come up and say certain things that minister to me. And believe me, I do know who I am without Christ and it's a mess. I know who I need to be with and I know I need him to be the center of my life and so whatever way that I have to do that, whether it's reading or whether it's listening to one of my favorite ministries, church and all of those things, I just think that it has to be an every day moment in your life. And usually He'll show you how to get to the best ministry to where you need to be. I can also say there have been many times when I've failed at that, and I would be the first to tell you that I am not perfect, but when I do falter I'll learn from it, and that's the whole walking it out with Christ part, just to experience all those moments.

    FC: As you mentioned, your family and obviously the family that you grew up in, and of course now, you and your wife have some kids… The traditions that you had growing up musically, I'm picturing like the Crabb Family Pray album where there is that little girl, I think, in front of the white church and you just kind of have this picturesque family all together and periodically you guys have these moments where you are bursting out into song. I'm not exactly sure if that's true or not, but that's just what I had in my head as I listen to the Family records. Do you and your wife have that similar tradition with your kids? Are you incorporating those traditions that were passed down to you as a child onto your kids?

    Jason: Well, yes and no.

    FC: I guess more specifically, when it comes to music?

    Jason: Yeah, kind of. Here was the plus for the home that I grew up in: My dad was a pastor, so we had to go to church. We were at church any time the doors were open. We were the music, we were the Sunday School teachers and more. When actually somebody should have been teaching us! (laughs) But we had to step in to fill the gap, which was alright.

    It's different for me, I'll leave the house and go on the road, and my kids are in school and they've got the normal routine. The everyday life of a child that is normal at that age. It is very important to have those one-on-one moments with your child, and what’s more, I've learned that it's very effective in parenting. We learned the works of God, the work in ministry, but the cool thing is now that I know that side of it (and they do get to experience that on the road with me sometimes), I've learned that it's the one-on-one thing that counts, or when everybody grabs each other's hands and prays. If you got a problem, then you talk it out and you say, “Okay how do we handle this?”

    Or when one of my kids prays for someone, I realize Christ is at work in my family, that faith is present there. My daughter was getting ready for a cheerleading competition and one of the girls got sick. And in a cheerleading competition, if one person is missing, then the whole routine that they have practiced is gone. So they were all nervous about it and my daughter walked over and she said, “Let's all pray for her.” I'm talking about like at six or seven years old, she's saying let's pray for this girl and so the whole cheer team is over there praying. That's when I knew that Christ was real in our lives. That what we are teaching, that what Christian school and church is teaching is working and that what she has accepted and believes in is alive!

    Even though our lives are totally different than what it was growing up in the church, her traveling full time with me on the road, that's how I knew it is still alive. You've got to know it in every day life, in what you do and in all those types of problems that Christ is present, and so it is truly cool to watch faith come alive in their lives.

    FC: I appreciate your honesty there. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the new record, it's called Love Is Stronger which comes out in March. When you go in and begin the process of putting together a new album, what does that look like? For instance, where do you begin with that process?

    Jason: We got together and kind of wanted to talk about direction and what we wanted to target and who we wanted to help us do that. I think one of the keys for me was learning how to let go and let people that are skilled and crafted at what they do help me hit that right target. You can practice and practice, but if you are not doing certain things right, then you are practicing the wrong way and so it doesn't matter.

    I think it was key for us we went in and said these are the targets we want to go after, now who can help us hit that mark. We started choosing different ones, different producers and we had three different producers on this record and that's kind of where it began, where we begin on the record.

    FC: A couple of these producers are new right? That you haven't worked with before?

    Jason: Actually I've not worked with all three of them. Ed Cash, Wayne Haun, and Jay DeMarcus, from Rascal Flatts, produced six.

    FC: That's great. So what is behind the title, Love Is Stronger?

    Jason: A lot of the lyrics in the songs deal with how we get through situations, and how we help others, and also what helps us get through times like that. The song called “Love Is Stronger” is one of my favorite cuts on the record, and that's hard to say because I love them all--every lyric on this record. But that is one of my favorites, and I just felt that was kind of the direction for this record.

    FC: The song, “What the Blood Is For”—Wow! What a powerful song. How do you approach a song like that? I'm not sure who wrote it, did you do write that song?

    Jason: No, I didn't write the song. Two men by the name of Ronnie Freeman and Tony Woods wrote that song. How real is that song? It is just as real as can be…

    FC: That's my question, when you sing that song how do you—in a rhetorical sense--how do you keep yourself from just falling apart? I was just blown away by the words and the power of that song. Unbelievable!

    What the Blood Is For

    I’m a mess today
    Cause yesterday
    I followed the desires of
    My foolish heart into the dark
    Feeling far away
    Need a couple of days
    To work real hard to hit the mark
    To get myself back in good with You
    Oh what a waste, what a losing game…cause
    That’s what the blood is for
    It cleans the dirty man I am
    Makes it possible to stand
    Before You Lord
    Cause that’s what the blood is for
    What if I fall
    One more time
    Or soon forget
    That You’re the light
    Where I am free in perfect peace
    And what if I can’t get my act together
    That’s what the blood is for
    It cleans the dirty man I am
    Makes it possible to stand
    Before You Lord
    Yes, that’s what the blood is for
    It’s Your blood that compels me
    Holds the power to my victory
    It’s still speaking, You Lord to me
    That’s what the blood is for
    That’s what the blood is for
    It cleans the dirty man I am
    Makes it possible to stand
    Before You Lord
    That’s what the blood is for
    That’s what the blood is for
    That’s what the blood is for
    It cleans the dirty man I am
    Makes it possible to stand
    Before You Lord
    That’s what the blood is for
    Ronnie Freeman and Tony Wood
    Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP) // Lehajoes Music (ASCAP) // Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing (ASCAP) // Songs From Exit 71 (ASCAP)

    Jason: It is so real--where we are and how people feel, you know… like, How can I fix this? or Where can I go? and, well, it's just by the grace of God. You've got to grasp onto that or you'll never live in Victory because we, as humans, boy, we make a mess of things, don't we? It's totally grabbing a hold of the mercy and the grace of God, and believing it, you know, that it works. That's what the Blood is for. It’s because of that that I am able to stand; it makes me alert.

    FC: Real quick, going back to the record here… There are a couple of duets, and a couple of guest appearances. You have Joyce Martin, Michael English and Kari Jobe. What was it like singing with those guys? I am assuming you've sang with Mr. English and Miss Martin before, but how about Kari Jobe?

    Jason: My time with Michael English—both with the Gaither Vocal Band and his solo efforts—and with the Martins were a huge influence in my life growing up. Those were the records that you just waited in line to get. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them. Couldn't wait to hear what the next thing was, what it sounded like, or what they did and pick out my favorites and listen to them vocally. So I was very, very excited about the songs they cut, and the records, and so now I get to do that and I have always just been very excited about that.

    On the flip side with Kari Jobe, now that's ... I had never heard a voice like that, ever. I remember the first time I heard her; I was just blown away. It was something that she wasn't just one of those voices where you just listen to how high she sings or something. It wasn't that. It was just the touch of God that is on her voice, and the anointing that is on her life that is just ... she sings in such a real place and I just don't know how to describe it. I am so honored that she would come and sing with me on this record. I was blown away and still am every time I hear it. I'm like, really, I can't believe this really happened. (Laughs)

    FC: Jason, what kind of music do you listen to today, that lately you've been listing to, that makes you go, Wow, this is some really good art!

    Jason: There is so much good stuff out there today. You know I love what tobyMac always puts out. Such great pieces; he is just so talented. And I listen to a lot of different stuff. I'm more of a guy that just likes the feel of good music, whatever style it is. It’s what I draw from and I just love it. I think tobyMac’s new record is great, and I love Kari Jobe's record, and oh my goodness, there are just so many great, great artists out there. The Vocal Band has just put out a brand new project, which is wonderful. My brothers have just put some new stuff too. Aaron has a new project and it's going great. I'm producing one of Adam's records and I'm excited about that also. I'm just wrapped in music all the time, I just love all of it.

    FC: Are you a book reader?

    Jason: You know what, I've just really kind of gotten into that a little bit.

    FC: What have you been reading lately?

    Jason: I've been reading a lot of Andy Andrews. I really like his books. I also, I just picked up a book that is an old book. It is really neat. It is about the Jubilee Singers, that was based out of Nashville and it's the Fisk University and it's about a group of African-American singers that toured around the globe and sang just about everywhere. I picked this up, I found it at a bookstore, and it's a real old book, an antique. Also, there is a writer that wrote hymns ... well, not really hymns just kind of lyrics and poems. He was a slave. He wrote about some of their lyrics—his name is Dunbar. I like history, so I loved the Jubilee Singers, that's just a really cool book and I'm just getting started in it. I guess I like a lot of different things.

    FC: Sounds neat. Now I have two random questions to kind of wrap things up. Are you a coffee drinker or Red Bull drinker?

    Jason: Coffee.

    FC: Coffee? Is it black or is it a king of frou-frou type of coffee?

    Jason: No, you know, I have moments where I like a little cream and sugar, but then there are moments where I just like black. My trainer tells me it's black, so… you know how that goes. (Laughs)

    FC: Last question, Jason Crabb. Just how Southern are you?

    Jason: How Southern am I? (laughs)

    FC: Yes.

    Jason: Oh my goodness! I guess if people really only knew, they would probably never come and see me. (laughs again). No, I absolutely love the Southern style living. I'm kind of a—oh, I don't know what you would call it--a hybrid, I guess. I love all of it. Fried chicken, the fried pork chops, I'm in the woods a lot, and I love the outdoors. I even like to hunt a little. That’s just the way we grew up. I grew up in the swamplands of Kentucky, with coal miners and different ones and that's pretty much who I am. But then again, you know, I love nice cars (that I don't have!) and the finer things in life as well. But if it ever came down to it, give me the rocking chair, the front porch and a cup of coffee and I'm in a good place.

    FC: Sounds good. Jason, thank you so much for taking the time. Man, I really appreciate it. I love the new record. I've loved your family for a long time. I love all the records. I have them all. I think they're phenomenal. Jason, you're a great singer, don't ever lose your voice, man. Sometimes when I think that you're hitting those notes, I think, Dude, it's going to pop one of these days--his voice is going to go.

    Jason: (Laughs)

    FC: I thank the Lord for you and for your gifts, and I am so thankful that you use it for Him and not for yourself. Blessings to you my friend.

    Jason: Thank you so much. I give Him thanks and praise every day for allowing me to live this life and to get to experience the goodness of it, and what He is and what He has done for us. To be honest with you, from where I came from in life, I'm going, How am I getting to live this? How am I getting to do this? Thank you for allowing me to get to present your love and your dreams for our lives, Lord. Your desires for our lives you know, and it's just so, I am just overwhelmed every day and that's the truth. I'm thankful for it. I really am.
    Bill & Gloria Gaither - Until Then [Live] ft. Jason Crabb


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Kari Jobe, Jason Crabb, Jay DeMarcus, Rascal Flatts, Ed Cash, Wayne Haun, Bill Gaither, Dottie Rambo, Michael English, Joyce Martin, Gaither Vocal Band, Andy Andrews, Fisk Jubilee Singers, Coffee

  • And the Grammy Goes To...

    Posted on February 12, 2013 by Family Christian

    Congratulations to the following Grammy award winners:

    BEST GOSPEL/CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC PERFORMANCE

    Matt Redman - 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

    BEST CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC SONG

    Jonas Myrin & Matt Redman, songwriters (Matt Redman) - 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

    BEST GOSPEL ALBUM

    Lecrae- Gravity

    BEST CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC ALBUM

    TobyMac – Eye On It

     

     


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with TobyMac, Lecrae, Matt Redman, Grammy

  • A Chat With Jake Ousley

    Posted on February 4, 2013 by Family Christian

    Jake Ousley (photo by Eric Staples)

    Jake Ousley is a singer/songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. And you are going to love him, if you don’t already. Sure, it’s his voice and songwriting that got you here. Because his songs pull at you like the feeling you get when you pull up to your house from being gone too long, or when you have a good night with great friends. That kind of sentiment in his songwriting is what got him here. But it’s also the talent and the time and the way he glides words up to music and makes them dance together.

    FCS: Can you give us a little background yourself?

    I was born in Jackson, Mississippi. I Lived there for the first 11 years of my life and then moved to Henderson, Kentucky when my dad’s department at International Paper got bough out by another company. I moved to Nashville, TN in 2003 to go to school at Belmont University, then spent 2008-2009 living right near Grand Rapids. So, Nashville feels like home now, but Grand Rapids is starting to become a close second as much time as I spend here.

    FCS: What’s it like living in Nashville?

    I love it. It’s a big city with a small town feel. You can get all the action you want on a Saturday night but still sit in a backyard in some neighborhood just 2 miles from downtown and feel like your miles from the city. I love that about it. Did I mention that it’s also a music town?

    FCS: You’ve been involved for quite a while with Young Life; how did that start with you?

    If I really think way back, I have to credit my sister Lindsay for introducing me to Young Life. Young Life had already been started up in Henderson, KY by the time my family moved there. My sister was the one who plugged in the local area as a Wyldlife leader. I was conveniently in middle school at the time, so, my early memories of Young Life were large gatherings of middle schoolers at this entertainment center place across the river from our hometown. A Hundred or so middle-schoolers terrorizing this place with video games and go –karts and everything else under the sun. Really fun.

    As I got older I became close with the area director at the time, Chris Dillbeck.  I grew up in the church, so I was familiar with what it meant to be a Christian, but Chris was the first person that I had ever encountered that seemed to really think about what it meant to connect what he believed and how he lived. It was an on-going conversation with him. Not only that, but he was more real than I had ever experienced anyone else to be. More raw. That helped me process the idea that faith and life are connected. I credit Young Life for that.

    From there, I had lots of involvement with Young Life. I spent several summers volunteering at different camps around the country doing what they call Work Crew, and Summer Staff.

    The most profound of all those experiences for me, though, was probably when I found Wilderness Ranch in Creede, Colorado. I spent one summer at this Young Life based backpacking ministry in 2007 and was hooked. I came back 3 summers after that serving as a Trail Guide. Trail guides were responsible for taking high school students on 6 day back packing trips. You can imagine the stories

    All of those summers during high school and college were so full, but my favorite of all was being at Wilderness in the San Juan Mountains in late may. There’s often still snow on the ground then…and its beautiful. Some of my favorites times have been with the community there at Wilderness.

    FCS: There is some great history with Young Life and the artists coming from the organization – is there anyone you look up to that’s walked this line before you?

    Oh man. Well… All of them? Ha. Ha. I mean… I was a Bebo Norman fan. I don’t know who wasn’t after Ten Thousand Days came out. I still listen to that record every now and then. And I’ve had minimal interaction with Ed Cash. I love his production, again…who doesn’t?

    But the first person I ever met at a young life event that kind of introduced me to the idea of what a special musician was, was Dave Barnes. Dave and I met at a weekend in Indiana and hit it off from the get go. He was the older, way cooler, version of me in my own mind. Ha. Maybe other 16 year olds were thinking the same thing, but we stayed in touch and became pretty good buddies when I moved to Nashville to go to Belmont in 2003. If you know Dave, you know that there’s not many people, that don’t like him. But he had a significant impact on me both personally and musically in those early days. We still hang out today. So that’s cool.

    FCS: I understand that you’ve spent time touring as a manager for another friend of FCS, Matt Wertz.  Tell us about that experience.

    Yeah! Those are funny days to look back on. I wasn’t cut out to be a tour manager. Matt really put with a lot to have someone out on the road as young and inexperienced as I was. Ha.

    I took a leave of absence from Belmont my second semester – that was the official term for it if you didn’t want to say you were “dropping out” – and went on the road with Wertz. Again, it was comical because I am an obvious, right brained, dreamer, creative type. So, to have a job where I was responsible for a lot of logistical, moving parts and a lot of major, day-to-day details was quite a stretch for my personality. Matt had a ton of grace with me. We luckily – thank the lord -  can laugh about it today.

    If I learned anything about an independent musicians career during that time it was how much it helps to show people that you are thankful. I remember very vividly the nights where Matt would wear out his voice from talking to people after shows. It put something in me deep to watch that.

    FCS: When did you decide that music was for you?

    I’m not positive I’ve decided yet. Ha! No… I kind of fell in love with the idea of the acoustic guitar as soon as I saw it. My dad had one tucked underneath his bed in our house in Kentucky. I think I tried to figure out to play it about 1,000,000,000 times before he realized I wasn’t going to stop and bought me an official lesson.

    As far as listening to music, it was probably early Chris Rice songs and some James Taylor stuff that really made me fall in love with the singer-songwriter thing. (I’ve told Chris that, now just need to meet James Taylor somehow…anybody?) There’s something really honest about just one person and their instrument. Ya know?

    FCS: So let’s talk a little about your music.  How do you describe your music?  Where do you find inspiration?

    That has become a challenge. Sometimes it depends on who you’re talking to. The more I’ve played though, the more I’ve been told that I sound like the guy from Rascall Flatts, and then occasionally James Taylor, and Hunter Hayes. I take all of those as massive compliments. Gary LeVox is probably one of the better singers I’ve ever heard. And Hunter Hayes is easily as talented. If I can sing half the licks those guys can in a few years, I’ll feel pretty good.

    The country thing is funny to me because it really just happened. All through college I was much more in to independent Singer-Songwriters like David Gray, David Mead, etc. Also, it’s apparent that I was into singers named David. Ha. But guys like that were definitely not country music. So, it’s funny to get compared to people that I wasn’t listening to in the beginning. I have warmed up to a lot to Country Music though in the last few years.

    This new record, Counting Down The Days is really a blend of Americana, pop, and country influences. There are some songs on this album that were intentionally written to a pop audience and then some more written to an Allison Kraus kind of vibe too.

    I find inspiration from everything. That sounds broad. I know. I just to mean to say that I’m a passionate person that loves living. That also sounds very general. Hang with me…ha… Most of my most heart-felt songs seem to center around relationship. Whether its one ending or beginning, or struggling to survive…a lot of my songs come from my own personal experience or experiences I’ve heard about first hand from friends.

    And then a lot of the time I’ll hear a song that will make me want to write a song. I wrote “When It Rains” with Josh Robinson after listening to “Even the Rain” by Gabe Dixon about a thousand times. I love the idea and the word pictures he creates in that song.

    FCS: You have a new album out, Counting Down the Days – tell us a little about it.

    Well…for one it was a ton of fun making it. Just Robinson and Matt Campbell – the guys who produced it – are really talented and did an incredible job finding the right production for these songs. The 9 songs were written over the course of about a year in 2011.

    I am more proud of this record than of anything I’ve done so far. I listen to it like its not my own sometimes. Ha ha. AND I feel really blessed to have been able to successfully fund the whole project through Kickstarter, a website that helps people fund creative projects. There’s no way I would have ever been able to record an album of this quality without the support of all the people that funded it through Kickstarter.

    FCS: You have quite the tour schedule right now – what’s been your favorite venue to play at recently?

    I do. It’s exciting. Well, I mentioned loving Grand Rapids. So, the Intersection isn’t bad. But a few others would be Common Grounds in Waco, Texas and then Natasha’s Bistro in Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve got some great friends in both places, and it always seems to be a good time if we go through those cities.

    FCS: Alright – one last question – energy drinks or Starbucks?  Given all your driving for your tours, I have to assume it’s one of them.

    I’m a massive coffee fan. I’ve had to develop some self-control in the coffee arena lately. I do a ton of driving so its too easy to pull off at every Starbucks I see. But I love straight, black coffee from Starbucks. No red-bulls, No monsters, No 5-hour energy. Just black coffee.

    Endorsements:

    “Jake has been a dear friend for a long long time, so when he told me he had started to write and sing i didn’t know if he was joking or not. But it’s no joke, my friends. His songs get stuck in my head, as much, if not more than some of my favorite artists out there. He has the unique gift of having a voice that perfectly suits his songs, both of which I LOVE.”

    - Dave Barnes

    “Jake Ousley sings with an earnestness and longing that draw me in every time. His songs, like Jake, draw from a deep well that is instantly endearing and relatable- you’re gonna love him!”

    – Matt Wertz


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Bebo Norman, Jake Ousley, Young Life, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, Chris Rice

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