Q: How did you get started in contemporary Christian music?
A: I've been singing in church since I was 3, the music director's kid on Sunday nights, then during church services Sunday mornings, church kids' programs, then adult choir. So church music has always been a part of my life. A few years after receiving my degree in music education (Secondary Choral at tfc.org) I took a worship leading position at a large church in suburban Atlanta (Perimeter PCA) and began to write songs for that congregation to sing or just listen to during the offering. Eventually a batch of those songs made it into an album recorded in a friend's newly refurbished basement (Mike Shamus), and a local label (Brash) signed me to keep writing and recording!
Q: How long have you been a member of your faith?
A: I've held the foundational belief that Jesus Christ was more than just a good teacher and a prophet but the very son of God all of my life. I was raised believing this was the truth, and as I continue to critically think for myself, I continue to believe it heart, soul, mind and strength. As far as being a member of a church, I do align with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a denomination that in principle believes what I just described.
Q: As a songwriter, tell us how the process works for you?
A: The most consistent process for me, although it's not always this way, involves my grasping onto a theme and singing a melody to it that seems catchy, playing a few chords around it, finding the key and doing a quick recording of it. If after trying to work on it for a few days or weeks [and] nothing develops, I'll take the concept to a songwriter I know and trust who has the ability to take a theme and run with it. I call them "finishers." At that point as we are working together, I'll play "quality control" and direct their brilliance to make sure their lyrics are in line with the original theme. It's a great collaborative process, and while it can take some time and effort, good things normally do.
Q: What's your favorite Bible verse and why?
A: I keep going back to Proverbs 21:31 in the Message. "Do your best, prepare for the worst, and trust God for the victory." Applicable in so many situations. We need to bring our A game whether it's a spiritual matter or a mundane effort, consider the obstacles and how we can avoid or overcome them, but at the end of the day, it is God's plan that will not be thwarted, and His plan is perfect. So if things didn't happen the way I'd planned, I can rest easy knowing I did my best and God will be glorified in the end, which is ultimately what I want anyway.
Q: "My Hope Is In You" off you latest album has been quite popular. How did this song come about?
A: I had written or cowritten about 20 songs and nine were chosen for the album leaving me with one more slot to fill. I was tired from a 50-date tour, during which my son, Nicky, spent considerable time in the hospital. and now it was the holiday season and I was mentally drained: the idea of writing another song blitzed me. I told Ed Cash, my producer, that if he knew of any songs that totally fit the theme of the album "This Is What We Believe," I'd love to consider an outside song (one I didn't write). He told me he had just the song; April Geesbreght wrote "My Hope Is In You" and had given it to Ed six months earlier and his wife and kids couldn't stop singing it! I played it for my wife and she loved it. "You have to put that on your record." My favorite lines are "Your Word throws doubt far away" and "I won't be shaken by drought or storm." Strong, strong song.
Q: Tell us about the miracle your son experienced. How did that experience affect your family?
A: Long story short, my son Nicky has anaphylactic food allergies. He was born with a hole in his esophagus allowing liquids to enter his lungs. His body created cells to attack the pneumonia that was trying to set it and eventually took over his esophagus, stomach and upper GI. Nicky was 1 year old at the time and his case was considered about five times worse than clinically "severe." His cell count fell from 120-plus per biopsy sample (25 being severe) down to zero overnight. There was no drug given to him as none were available for this as of yet incurable disease. Nicky is a gift, we always knew that, we never deserved to have any of our children. They belong to the Lord, just as we do. As parents, we are simply their caretakers and I believe God lovingly holds the measure of our days, so everyday with my family is a day I treasure.
Q: What artists in the industry have influenced you?
A: All of them, good and bad. I'll give you the good. Growing up I listened to Michael W Smith, Petra and some One Bad Pig thrown in for good measure (a heavy dose actually). Pop ballads, rock 'n' roll and punk, but with the love of their Savior as the common thread. In college my roommate loved classic rock and I was studying classical music, but I loved to listen to U2, Bob Marley and dc Talk, I was blown away by everything they created. When I became a worship leader in 2000, Chris Tomlin and David Crowder made a strong impact on me. It's been great to be able to rub shoulders and develop friendships with a lot of my heroes. I've been disappointed by none of them.
Q: When you perform, what do you hope audiences take away from the concert?
A: That the love of God for them is far greater than they imagine. I hope they get to experience the expressing of gratitude and admiration to the God of the universe who inhabits the praises of his people (a thing we call "worship") more than just experiencing another concert where someone makes you listen to songs they wrote.