Words Beyond Music
...sometimes lyrics say it all...You Are Still Holy | Kari Jobe
Holy, You are still holy
Even when the darkness surrounds my life
Sovereign, You are still sovereign
Even when confusion has blinded my eyes
Lord, I don't deserve Your kind affecton
When my unbelief has kept me from Your touch
I want my life to be a pure reflection
Of Your love
...read the rest at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vwcVSLpEio
|Jesus In Disguise
All Things Possible
TODAY'S TOP 5 ARTISTS
Big Daddy Weave
Truly compelling music makes the personal universal. Few artists have done that more consistently or more movingly than Big Daddy Weave. Through more than a decade of hits like "In Christ,” “Audience of One,” "You're Worthy Of My Praise," “Every Time I Breathe,” What Life Would Be Like,” and “You Found Me,” they have shared the journey in a way that has won the ongoing respect of fans, press and industry alike. Their musical journey began with a Dove Awards nomination as New Artist of the Year in 2002 and includes a 2010 Dove Award for the album Christ Has Come. They have been honored at ASCAP's Christian Music Awards, were chosen for the WOW Hits compilations in five of the last six years and are one of the 10 most played artists at Christian radio over the past decade.
Most recently, they hit the top of the Christian AC chart - the fourth time they've done so - with "Love Come To Life," a song about the desire to have the love that Christ put in our hearts be more than words that we say, but a love that comes to life in actions. A song filled with passion and intimacy, and with the musical hooks and majestic sound that have marked so much of their work, it is the perfect introduction to Love Come To Life, their first studio album in more than three years.
Love Come To Life demonstrates once again the passion and energy that have made Big Daddy Weave one of Christian music's most compelling acts for nearly a dozen years. True to form, the project teems with real life and emotion, from longing and struggle to breakthrough and gratitude, with front man Mike Weaver's forthright songwriting and intimate and unmistakable vocals backed by powerful arrangements and stellar musicianship. It derives its power from the fact that life and music intertwine so fully.
"We've faced a lot of personal challenges and adversity during the past couple of years," says Mike, "Coming to the other side of that leaves us with fresh things to share, and in a place where we can share even more deeply than ever before." Those challenges, from the fatigue faced at times by musicians who spend much of their time on the road, to a devastating fire that swept through guitarist/producer Jeremy Redmon's house and studio, and health issues faced by some band members, produced a record that reflects two sides of the Christian life.
"You've got the ones I term the belly-achers," says Mike with a laugh. "Those are the hurting songs, which are way outnumbered by what came after that, the songs that say, 'We can't wait to worship God because we see even in tragedy, God, You are triumphant.'"
The bridge between the two was a spiritual breakthrough Mike felt about a year into the process of writing for the project.
"I was really at a low point," he says, "struggling with my imperfections. I was in my garage; my man cave where I work out. I felt like God said to my spirit, 'Why don't you let me tell you what I think about you and what I like about you?' He started with, 'I love your heart for people,' and went from there. I was like a broken heap on the floor of my garage. The things he was talking about are not future tense things like a lot of people, the I think 'If I could get to this point and look like this and achieve that I would be all right.' He has this 'I love who you are right now' mentality. 'I accept you right now. You need to accept you right now.' At that point, I couldn't write from that hurting place anymore. I thought, 'I've got to worship now.'"
The result is that songs like the title track and "Save My Life," a song Mike describes as "gut-level honesty," give way to others like "Magnificent God," whose spirit of worship is set amid a sound both intimate and majestic; "Jesus Move," a passionate call for Jesus' power to flow into believers written with Phil Wickham; "Different Light," a rocker that celebrates the way faith rewrites even the most troubled past; and "If You Died Tonight," a tenderly insistent request to a friend to consider ultimate truths.
"This is a record that's a lot more transparent," says drummer Jeff Jones. "It's one that all of us are super excited about. We can give it to people and say, 'This is what God has been doing in our lives."
In fact, the band's own breakthrough, born of a renewed emphasis on personal ministry at their concerts, is part in the record's feel.
"God has a plan with all of this stuff," says Jeremy, "and maybe it took that extra time and our journey as a band to really bring these songs to life. There have been big changes over the last couple of tours as we've allowed more time for ministry. It's been a season of growth and change for all of us, and the fact that Mike was able to write with worship leaders like Phil, Carl Cartee and Paul Baloche really helped bring all of that into focus for the record."
As always, Jeremy's production is key in bringing the songs to life.
"We approached each song with a question," he says. "'Where can we take this that will make this sonically a new experience, something we haven't done before.' And I hope the way we did that will open up new ears to our music.”
That meeting of life and music has been part and parcel of Big Daddy Weave's appeal since their days. Formed at the University of Mobile, the quintet - Mike, his brother Jay, who plays bass, Jeremy, Jeff, and keyboardist/saxophonist Joe Shirk - released an independent album in 2001 and then landed a deal with Fervent Records, their label home ever since. "One and Only," the title track from their first Fervent album, debuted in SoundScan's Christian Top 5 and remained in the Top 20 for six weeks. "In Christ" peaked at #2, stayed for 24 weeks on R&R's AC chart, earned a spot on the Dove Hits album, and became one of ASCAP's most-performed songs of 2002 - a milestone also achieved by "Audience of One" in 2003. Then, Hurricane Ivan in 2004 damaged several band members' Florida homes and led to Mike's relocation to Nashville. The fact that the move led to Mike's marriage to a Fervent staffer still leaves him shaking his head.
"Even in the bad times, he's working it out," he says with a laugh.
The band has always kept a busy touring schedule and in fact often recorded parts of their early albums in hotel rooms, "literally using the turned-up mattress and box springs as sound baffles to record vocals," Mike says. The fact that those records touched lives and earned chart success is evident in their recent hits package, The Ultimate Collection.
"That was some closure in a way," says Mike. "We are thankful for those years, but in as much as we're seeing the things God has done, we are very full of vision for the future and in so many ways it just feels brand new to us right now."
Which is something reflected as the band hits the road with songs from Love Come To Life.
"We can go forward united as a band," says Jay. "We had been struggling to find balance as family men, touring musicians, and people following the Lord. But the Lord has given us healing and blessed us with being able to find the balance in him. It's been amazing to see God do that in us."
"We are excited about the album," adds Joe, "and I think fans are going to love it. It's an opportunity to point to something way bigger than the band, to the body of believers working together, bringing glory to the Lord. I tell pastors that Big Daddy Weave is the best church I've ever been a part of. When they raise their eyebrows, I say, 'Yeah, I spend more time in fellowship with these guys than any church members spend together. This is the church of the 45-foot bus going down whatever road it is today. It's the fellowship of my Christian brothers."
"This is as much a real family as anything else," says Mike. "The work that God has done in our band makes it all new again because of our sense of purpose, not just to make music but to be used of God. And that's the bottom line--what God wants us to do with this."
Courtesy of bigdaddyweave.com
There’s no denying the power of music to impact lives. During nearly two decades in the spotlight, the members of Third Day have seen that truth become evident over and over again and they testify to that power on their latest album Miracle. Faith, passion and rock ‘n roll swagger coalesce on the band’s 12th album, a simmering brew of potent rock anthems infused with the substantive, life-affirming lyrics that have always been the bedrock of the band’s music.
Produced by rock legend Brendan O’Brien, well known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Train and the Killers, Miracle finds the band exploring new sonic territory. “To have something new to say and to say it in a different way is really exciting,” says lead vocalist Mac Powell. “It’s reinvigorated us as a band.”
Miracle becomes the latest collection in a long, impressive body of work that has earned Third Day four GRAMMYs (11 total nominations) 24 GMA Dove Awards (42 total nominations) 1 RIAA Platinum album and 8 RIAA Gold albums. Over the years, the Georgia-based band’s music has provided a vibrant soundtrack in the lives of this generation of believers. “Show Me Your Glory,” “I Believe,” “Cry Out to Jesus,” “Mountain of God,” “Call My Name,” “Born Again” and “Trust in Jesus” are just a handful of the Third Day hits that inspired and uplifted audiences around the world.
In preparing to record Third Day’s new album, Powell, bassist Tai Anderson, drummer David Carr and guitarist Mark Lee knew they wanted to try something a little different and O’Brien was at the top of the list of producers they wanted to take with them on the journey.
“They came to me and said, ‘We’re looking to make music that appeals to our fans and our spiritual side, but we want to break out a little bit and invite everyone in,” O’Brien says. “When I hear this music…it’s very inviting. It brings people in. It’s saying, ‘Come along and hear what we have to say.’ It really moves me. I really appreciate the hard work these guys have done. I think the song ‘You Are My Everything’ might be one of the best songs I have ever worked on. I’m super proud of it.”
That is high praise from the man who has produced some of the most iconic rock albums of all time, and it’s testament to the talent and work ethic that have placed Third Day among the most consistent hitmakers in any genre of music. Years of success, however, have not bred complacency and the band entered the studio with a desire to mix things up. “We wanted to make this something different,” says Anderson. “I feel like over the last five years we appreciate our fans and we appreciate the success we’ve had more than ever and that really becomes a driver at the beginning of a new album. We can’t settle. It doesn’t need to be ‘Part 2’ of any record we’ve ever done.”
O’Brien became a willing conspirator in their sonic exploration. “Brendan really became like a fifth member,” says Powell. “He played a little bit of guitar, a little bit of keyboards, a little bit of this and that, but a lot of background vocals and that sound is different than what we’ve done before. Even though we’ve done background vocals, with him doing it in the way he sings and his melodies it brought a freshness to this record. It still sounds like Third Day, but there are elements that are adding these new layers and textures.”
“We wanted [this record] to have a brightness, a grandness to it and Mac can certainly do that,” O’Brien says, “but we wanted to have a little different sound from the lead voice. I’m a huge fan of 70’s music that has great big background vocals.
I thought this music lent itself, so Mac and I did most of that and it was fun.”
The album’s title track, and first radio single, was inspired by a conversation the band had with a couple in New Jersey after a concert. “Their son was in a really depressed place in life. He drove way into the woods and was going to commit suicide,” Powell recounts. “But he turned on the radio and he heard ‘Cry Out To Jesus.’ It literally changed his heart and gave him encouragement to keep going.”
Powell took the essence of that story and penned the song “I Need a Miracle.”
The album is filled with music that rocks both body and soul. “Kicking and Screaming” is among the many standouts. It boasts a catchy melody, passionate lead vocal from Mac and ingratiating background vocals that immediately make the listener want to sing along. “It’s a song that says ‘I’m going to stand my ground and fight for the things that I care about,’” Anderson says of the empowering lyric.
“Hit Me Like a Bomb” is an edgy rocker with snarling guitars and explosive snares, and Powell’s signature from-the-gut vocal style highlight the compelling lyric about transformation. “That song is about your life drastically being changed, just a totally 180 turned around,” Powell says. “In the chorus
I say ‘And I saw it coming.’ It’s like you know there’s got to be a change or you’re going to end up in a bad place. You see it coming and you know there’s this anticipation that it’s going to happen. It’s got
to happen, but it’s almost like you’re fighting it. Then boom! All of a sudden it happens from out of nowhere.”
The songs on Miracle cover a rich musical and emotional landscape. “You Are My Everything” is a gorgeous mid tempo love song that spotlights the warmth in Powell’s vocals. “Your Love is Like a River” is a stirring worship anthem that is one of the band’s favorite new songs.
Another highlight on the album is Third Day’s beautiful cover of “Morning Has Broken.” A vintage Methodist hymn that was a pop hit in the ‘70s for Cat Stevens, the song gets a stunning new treatment here, anchored in Lee, Anderson and Carr’s skilled musicianship and Powell’s earthy vocals. Scotty Wilbanks, a longtime member of Third Day’s road band, provides the eloquent keyboard intro.
“The Victory” is a bluesy Southern anthem with a potent lyric. “It’s about pressing on and making a commitment,” says Powell who was inspired by a documentary he saw on evangelist Billy Graham. “He and his best friend went to theology school together and his friend is an atheist now because when he started going to school it was like, ‘Okay I’m learning all these other things I never knew before. I grew up in a little town and now I’m learning these other ways of seeing the world. I realized that wasn’t for me. I’m going to expand my mind.’ When Billy Graham saw himself going there, he went to a place that had this big boulder and prayed. He said, ‘This is what I believe and I’m standing on this truth and I’m not going to allow myself to think otherwise!’ That’s a strong faith right there to say, ‘This is what I believe and I’m not changing from it.’”
“That song is about making a commitment,” says guitarist Mark Lee. “It’s about saying you’re going to see it through ‘til the end and I think that’s a big theme on this record.”
The members of Third Day have been given a platform and it’s a responsibility they take seriously. Of course, the band loves to perform and entertain, but most importantly they want to offer hope and encouragement. “If there is any over arching theme on the record, it’s about pressing on and holding onto faith in the midst of doubt,” says David Carr.
Music can spark a miracle. Listen and believe.
Courtesy of thirdday.com
Several years ago, when Matthew West invited people to share their stories to serve as inspiration for an upcoming album, he had no idea it would be the start of an amazing journey that would forever change his music, ministry and life. Armed with more than 10,000 stories from fans all over the world, the floodgates of inspiration opened and West crafted a landmark album, The Story of Your Life. Suddenly people were given a voice and a chance for their stories to be heard. It started a powerful wave that continues with even greater momentum on West’s new album Into the Light.
“On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I’ve had a chance to be a part of in my career,” West says. “It’s just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person’s story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I’m along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I’m going to keep making these kinds of records.”
Produced by Pete Kipley, Into the Light features 12 compelling songs from Christian music’s most gifted storyteller. A two-time Grammy® nominee, West has released five previous studio albums, populating radio with such hits as “Strong Enough,” “The Motions,” “My Own Little World,” “More,” and “You Are Everything.” One of Nashville’s most highly respected songwriters, West has also had songs he’s penned recorded by Rascal Flatts, Michael W. Smith, Billy Ray Cyrus, Casting Crowns, Diamond Rio and many others. “The Heart of Christmas,” the title track of West’s 2011 holiday album, inspired a television movie and provided him with his first foray into acting. His 2010 album, The Story of Your Life, burst onto the Christian album chart at No. 3 in its debut week in 2010 and has, to date, outsold West’s previous album by 20 percent. It also spawned a popular book, “The Story of Your Life,” which West penned with noted author Angela Thomas, and a church curriculum DVD series.
In writing the songs for Into the Light, West didn’t have the luxury of clearing his schedule and singularly immersing himself in the stories he’d gathered to work on the album. He was busy touring with Casting Crowns on one of 2011’s most successful tours. “I wrote every song on the road, all over the country. My songwriting retreat was the back lounge of the bus, the dressing room at the arena, every town and city that I traveled in,” West states. “I was writing all day and then I would hop on stage and sing in front of these audiences and get a good look at the faces of these people. I would tell them. ‘Hey, send your story to me if you want to’ and then I’d hop off the stage and go back to my dressing room and write more songs. It was a lot more challenging just because it was really hard to find that solitude. I was in 43 cities around the country writing songs all along the way. It was special in its own way.”
As West talks about the songs on Into the Light, his voice teems with energy and excitement as he shares the stories that informed the music. “There’s something that feels important when I sit down with the responsibility of somebody’s life story in front of me and I’m going to put that to music in some way,” he says. “It’s not important like, ‘Look at this awesome thing that I’m doing,’ but it feels important because this person has trusted me with their story and my responsibility is to them.”
It’s a responsibility West takes very seriously as evidenced by the powerful first single, “Forgiveness.” The song was inspired by Renee Napier whose 20-year-old daughter, Megan, was killed by a drunk driver over Mother’s Day weekend 2001. The driver, Eric Smallridge, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Not only did Renee forgive Eric, she also petitioned the court to let him out of prison early. He’ll be released this fall, after serving 11 years, and will join her at speaking engagements warning young people about the dangers of drinking and driving and sharing about the power of forgiveness.
“This woman’s act of forgiveness continues to be felt by everybody involved,” West says. “Eric’s life has been changed because this woman said those words: ‘I forgive you.’ Eric accepted God into his life as a result. I feel like her story and, hopefully, this song can unearth some life defining questions that all revolve around the one word, ‘forgiveness.’ Is there a grudge I’m holding towards someone and it’s time to let go? Is there anyone in my life who I have wronged, and my pride has held me back from asking for forgiveness? And the most important question of all: Has my heart fully embraced the forgiveness offered to me by a God who loves me unconditionally? These are the questions that we all must answer, and in doing so, we discover that forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door to true freedom in our lives.”
“‘Into The Light’ was inspired by a woman named Alice,” he says. “She wrote to me about the night that she escaped an abusive marriage. She had been too scared to leave for a long time and had believed the lies that she was telling herself—that it was better for her family—but then it got to a point where she was afraid for the safety of her two young sons. She said, ‘It was a cold, black, rainy night when myself and my two sons snuck out and escaped from our house. We ended up at a safe house shelter.’ The next morning when they woke up, the sun was shining, the rain had stopped and for the first time they felt safe.”
The resulting song is a vibrant pop anthem that exudes hope and celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and God’s mercy. West has a gift for not only sharing the poignant stories he’s been given in brilliant, life-affirming lyrics, he also wraps those stories in engaging melodies that underscore the emotion in the words. “Hello My Name Is” boasts a catchy melody that immediately draws the listeners into the song where they are hit with a powerful truth that reminds them they are the “child of the one true king.”
“The Power of Prayer” is a moving story song inspired by a 13-year-old California boy. “His mom and dad were fighting constantly and he didn’t have a good relationship with his dad,” West says, recalling how the young boy wrote his prayer for his father on a special wall at his church. “A couple months later the minister visited their home and his dad prayed and asked Jesus to come into his heart. The boy said, ‘Now we read the Bible together and I love my dad. He and I are really close and my parents don’t fight like they used to.’ I thought, ‘what a sweet, sweet story!
“Sometimes a lot of us wonder if our prayers just bounce off the ceiling. Maybe we don’t see the answers we want or we don’t see them fast enough. I just thought that was just a defining thing in that kid’s life to see, ‘Hey, I prayed for my dad and life got better and God answered my prayer.’ I just thought that was just a neat illustration for everybody else that’s maybe holding out and wondering when their prayers are going to be answered.”
“Moved by Mercy” is a powerful song about a girl who found a safe haven at Mercy Ministries in Nashville. The song features a special guest vocal by Caitlin Evanson, a touring musician who shares the stage with many mainstream artists. “I just wanted to find an amazing voice to bring life to that girl’s story, and I’d never really written a song like that on one of my records,” West says. I’ve written duets, but it’s a duet where the girl just takes over in the chorus. It was really an experiment creatively for me, but Caitlin sang the fire out of that song. It’s a goose-bump moment for me when I hear her sing on the record.”
“Do Something” was inspired by 20-year-old college student who is changing the world. “She went to Uganda for a semester to study and she found an orphanage where children were being neglected and abused,” West explains. “She single-handedly got the Ugandan government to shut down the orphanage and they handed over 40 kids to her. She started her own orphanage in Uganda and that’s what the song ‘Do Something’ is about. She said, ‘I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no clue I just knew I had to do something.’”
As he’s collected more than 20,000 stories now and turned many of them into songs of hope and inspiration, West has decided to take the entire endeavor a step further. He’s started a nonprofit organization called Population We. “My dad’s been a minister for 38 years and a counselor. He’s just loved on people in the Chicago area his whole life,” says West. “He’s joining Population We as our full time counselor. He’s going to be able to help us follow up and follow through with the stories that come across our paths that need help. We’re going to be able to plug them into the counseling that they need or addiction recovery program that they need to go to or the safe house that they need to find. We’re going to be building this network of resources to help become a conduit and to connect these hurting people to the help they need so that they can begin to heal. It’s changing everything about what I’m doing, not just the way I write music, but how we’re going to go about caring for this community of people that are connected.”
For those brave enough to share their stories with Matthew West, he’s given them a voice to be heard and is using their stories as a vehicle to improve the lives of others. “The title track really exemplifies what everyone who took time to share their story has done,” West says. “ ‘Into the Light’ is about that new beginning and really it just felt like the very fitting metaphor for what all of these storytellers are doing. They are bringing their story into the light and they are doing so in hopes that somebody else that might be going through the same thing can find the courage to step into the light like they have. That’s exactly what Alice said, ‘I’m writing my story not because it’s easy to tell, but I think there’s a lot of other people out there who are going through the same thing and need to know that there’s help that they can find and that their life can be better.’
“So that’s what Into the Light is about. It’s about bringing these stories into the light and realizing how contagious it can be. When people hear Into the Light, they are going to realize that maybe they aren’t the only one struggling, and I hope they’ll find the courage to discover the freedom that’s promised when we step into the light.”
Courtesy of matthewwest.com
It takes a very special gift to meld internal revelation with eternal truth and create songs that strike a universal chord with both enlightened scholars and struggling broken souls, but Jason Gray has that gift. Never afraid to look inward for inspiration and just as ready to analyze the world around him, Gray is called to create music that makes a difference and he continues to share that gift with passion and conviction on his new album.
On his latest Centricity Music album, A Way To See In The Dark, Gray once again exercises his gift for channeling complex emotions and bold truths into songs that resonate strongly with his audience. His songs are personal yet universal. Who among us hasn’t struggled with fear and wrestled with identity? Who hasn’t exhaled in exasperation and breathed the name of God?
Gray captures these vulnerable moments in such songs as No Thief Like Fear, Remind Me Who I Am and The Sound Of Our Breathing. “Author Frederick Buechner tells us that before we presume to proclaim the hope and the good news of the gospel we should look at the headlines of the day and acknowledge the worst of the world, otherwise nobody is going to believe the best of the hope we speak of,” Gray says. “With all my songs, I want to be conscientious of the person who feels like an outsider, excluded because of their pain. I hope by acknowledging difficulty, heartbreak, and pain that I can cast a line for them to hold onto and be drawn in.”
It’s Gray’s honesty and his willingness to explore both the valleys and mountaintops with equal candor that define his artistry and have made him one of the most compelling songwriters of his generation. While Gray draws from a deep well lyrically, what sets him apart musically is the diverse array of influences that make up his colorful palette. A Minneapolis native who has struggled with stuttering, Gray’s early years were filled with the pop sounds of Billy Joel and Duran Duran as well as the lyrical poetry of Simon & Garfunkel and the soul searching anthems of U2.
“I appreciate pop music, but I also want to marry it to a reflective, hopefully interesting and compelling lyric,” says Gray, who was also influenced musically by his mother. “I grew up on the road with my mom’s band, so I was always hanging out in the bars while they were doing a concert every weekend. In the 4th grade, in the midst of an ugly divorce, is when my mom became a Christian. She went from singing in the bars to singing at revival meetings and so at that point I was introduced to Christian music. Meanwhile, I was also navigating the challenges of being a kid with a speech handicap and this growing feeling of being an outsider. All of these experiences have shaped my music.”
Gray released four independent albums before reaching a national audience with his 2007 Centricity Music debut, All the Lovely Losers. The impressive collection prompted ChristianityToday.com to call him one of “Christian music’s best kept secrets.” Gray’s Acoustic Storytime album captured the stories and songs that have made him such a popular live act and 2009’s Everything Sad is Coming Untrue helped Gray gain momentum at Christian radio.
“My last record connected with radio, so in some sense there was the pressure to build upon that with this new record and not squander it,” Gray confesses. “You can get consumed by the anxiety of that kind of pressure, but every step of the way I felt like the Lord gave me the grace not to let this record be my identity and who I was in the world. I was better at that this time around than I have been in the past.”
In recording his new album, Gray once again worked with producers Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp, well known for their work with Brandon Heath, Tenth Avenue North and Sanctus Real among others. “I feel like I occupy two worlds in that I’m a singer/songwriter who loves contemporary folk music and music that makes you think, but I have this other side of me that desires to be accessible and enjoys making pop records. Jason and Rusty are great because they love both of those worlds too. They want to make a great pop record with hits for the radio, but they also want to have something of depth, something meaty, so they help me work that balance in a way that I’m really grateful for. They help me to bridge the two worlds---the artistic side of me as well as the side of me that wants to be accessible and serve a wider audience who might not typically be drawn to lyric driven singer/songwriter music.”
In writing songs for his fourth Centricity Music album, Gray took a less structured approach than previous projects. “I used to begin with a theme and write songs around it,” Gray relates. “This time around I just wrote whatever came and the themes emerged after the fact. A lot of the songs have to do with fear - that we aren’t enough, or that maybe God isn’t in control. I think one of things I’m trying to say with this record is that all of our fear, regret, and shame is answered in God’s love for us, His heart towards us. Fear loses its hold of me when I’m confident of God’s love for me and that He is in control. He’s always at work and especially in the most difficult things I experience. None of it is beyond His reach to redeem.”
Gray begins to make the case for this with the album opener, Remind Me Who I Am. The song is the lead single from the new album, and Jason cites it as one of the most important songs on the record. “It picks up where I Am New from my last record left off. It’s about identity,” Gray explains. “I began to wonder why exactly do I sin? I was raised to believe that we sin because of willful rebellion, but the thing is most of the time when I sin, I don’t want to sin, so it’s almost like I’m doing it against my will. I wonder if I sin less because of willful rebellion and more because I forget who I am. We run to all these other things – like relationships, materialism, career, etc. in hopes they will give us a sense of worth, but they can never fully name us. If we would only run to Christ, he would remind us who we really are. He says, ‘you are enough because I said so. You are my beloved bride. You are the adopted child that I chose. You are my treasure.’”
In addition to impassioned anthems like No Thief Like Fear, the album also contains such buoyant numbers as Good to be Alive, a summertime tune which finds Gray proclaiming, I want to live like there’s no tomorrow/Love like I’m on borrowed time/It’s good to be alive. The album closes with the worshipful Jesus We Are Grateful. “It’s significant that the last verse kind of takes us back to where the album began,” Gray says. “It goes back to resting in our identity as the one who God loves. There is security in that, deep, deep assurance of God’s love and knowing that His heart towards us is kindness and compassion.”
Gray finds as many opportunities to live these songs as he sings them. “In the early years of my music career, I was always so anxious about being rejected because my identity was so wrapped up in it,” Grays says of making music. “One of the blessings of getting older is that you learn to not care as much about what other people think. This time around in making a record, my identity wasn’t as entangled in the process. I didn’t feel like this album had to prove my worth in the world so I was less anxious over it and able to enjoy the process a lot more. I felt more free with this project and less afraid. This allowed me to have a lot more gratitude and I hope that gratitude comes through the record when people hear it.”
Courtesy of jasongraymusic.com
Listeners have come to expect inspiring and remarkable stories in songs from Mark Schultz, a 14-time Dove Award nominee and platinum-selling artist who touches hearts whether he sings about parents praying for a sick child (“He’s My Son”), or writes in honor of his great-grandmother’s sons who fought in World War II (“Letters From War”).
And with his latest effort, All Things Possible, Schultz continues to tackle matters of the heart and spirit with uncommon craftsmanship–though the past five years have impacted this artist in ways he could’ve never predicted or expected. He’s lived in Europe, started the Remember Me Mission with his wife to help orphans (Schultz himself is adopted), and became a father in 2012 to a boy, Ryan Samuel Schultz.
Produced by Seth Mosley (Newsboys) and Pete Kipley (MercyMe/Phil Wickham), All Things Possible has a joyous, infectious pop-rock feel that shows Schultz’ soulful tenor and tuneful melodies at their peak. Yet there’s added depth that comes as this compassionate storyteller dives deeper into using music as a vehicle for better things. Here, he quotes no less a source than theologian Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“All Things Possible means something different than when I was first starting out as a musician,” Schultz says. “When I first got signed, I thought that if 10 people bought my record, that would be ‘all things possible.’ But today, using this platform for myself to sell more records is not as inspiring to me. I can only accomplish good things if God is in them, and God shows up. I want to pray those prayers.”
As Schultz describes it, the road to All Things Possible began, quite literally, on the road. In 2007, he dipped his toe in the Pacific Ocean and began a punishing 3,500-mile bike ride across the U.S. to raise money for orphans and widows via the James Fund.
Here’s how Schultz recalls that bipedal leap of faith that kicked off a 14-date concert tour: “We took off from the Pacific and I thought, ‘God is in this.’ Forty miles into it, I’m out of shape, but I’m thinking, ‘God is still into this.’ And then I got to the first mountain and I thought, ‘I’m not sure God is into this anymore!’”
But if his muscles ached and doubts nagged, Schultz got over it at his first stop, a church outside Palm Springs, Calif. There he played for only 400 people, a modest crowd by Mark Schultz standards. Yet unexpected inspiration carried him up a mountain of another sort.
“I did a set list I’d never done before; I told stories I’d never told before,” Schultz says. “The minister took an offering and afterwards he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re used to, but for his little church, it’s really good.’ They had raised more than $20,000.”
While Schultz has always been a powerful encourager through his music, experiences like that took him to new places he wanted to express through new songs. Yet the Colby, Kansas native crafted many compositions for All Things Possible the way he’s always done it–at a chapel piano in Nashville where he’s written since his pre-recording artist days as a youth group leader.
“It’s right around the corner from my house,” Schultz says. “I go to the little chapel where I’ve written almost every one of my songs, and I just repeat a line, and usually tears are running down my face. My best songs are written when I don’t plan them out.”
Take “Haven’t Even Met You Yet,” a driving slice of organ-and-piano fueled country rock Schultz crafted for his then-unborn son: “This is where your story starts/ You’ve already stolen my heart … I don’t remember life before you at all, and the funny thing is, I haven’t even met you yet.”
“I just get tears in my eyes thinking about him,” Schultz says of little Ryan Samuel–and with poignant reason. “I’ve never met my bloodline in this world; it’s not like I’ve got my biological mom or my dad. I remember my wife saying, ‘He looks just like you,’ and I looked in his eyes, and he smiled. My knees just buckled. He’s the first part of me that I’ve ever seen in someone else. I play that in concert and it gets a standing ovation. The thing that’s so exciting for me is that I can’t wait until he gets older, and he can sing his song for his kids.”
Yet other songs for “Possible” took flight across the Atlantic, as Schultz and his wife Kate, an OB-GYN, spent a yearlong sabbatical after she completed her medical residency. Take the snappy tune “I Gave Up,” the first one written for the album: “We’d been in Europe for a while; everything was slower and relationships are pretty prized, while stuff is not prized. And my wife looked at me and said, ‘Everything we own is in a garage in Nashville. So do you miss anything?’ I said, ‘No I don’t miss anything.’ And right there was a shift: We have to pay more attention to the relationships, the things that matter, and less to the things that are gong to crumble in time.”
When the tune came, Schultz wasted no time catching it, though it took some late-night finesse. “I jumped out of bed and soon I was on the street in Florence, out in the street singing into a recorder at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Of course, it helps when you’re a songwriter abroad to find a piano, and Schultz (who couldn’t exactly ship one to Europe) found instruments in the most surprising places. “When we got to Florence I was climbing the walls. I had to find a piano somewhere. And Kate said, ‘Don’t worry if we pray about it, we’ll find one.’ So we were eating dinner and there was this very old church across the street, with frescos on the wall.”
Schultz went to investigate, and found out that the church not only had a piano, but also was holding a worship service for American college students the next day. The former youth leader stepped up; “I played one song, and then another, and one kid said, ‘Hey, you’re playing an awful lot of Mark Schultz songs.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’” Schultz eventually became the church’s temporary worship leader, and grew attendance at the youth service from 5 kids to 30 by the time he left four months later.
Another unlikely surprise awaited Schultz in Italy: He found out that his wife qualified for Italian citizenship, since her great-grandfather was an Italian citizen. “So she got a dual citizenship in Italy, and because I’m married to her, I was able to get one, too. And my kid is an Italian citizen, and he didn’t do any work at all!”
Some kids, though, have a lifetime of struggle ahead. Ask Schultz to sum up the album’s theme in one song, and he points to “One Day,” which got its start while he was on stage singing his hit “I Am.” “I’m looking out in the audience and halfway back, I can see kids in wheelchairs. There’s this one kid in a wheelchair with his fists clenched and his arms thrown up in the air and tears running down his face. And I got choked up. Right at that moment I thought, ‘Kid you’re going to get your own song.’”
The refrain, in typical Schultz fashion, spotlights bigger possibilities and hope beyond human limitations. “One day we will touch the healer’s hand/ One day we will be whole again.”
“When I sing it, I think of the kid in the wheelchair, and how when he gets to heaven, he gets to kick that wheelchair to the ground and walk away from it,” Schultz says. “No matter what you’re going through—cancer, a disease, or being in a wheelchair—it’s powerful to think there’s an endgame to that.”
Courtesy of markschultzmusic.com