Q: For those who do not know who you are, can you give us a background to how you came into Christian music, and how you signed to Centricity Records?
A: Ever since I was a boy I always had a sense
that God put me on earth to make music—this was long
before I was a Christian or had any kind of “official”
relationship with God (I didn’t grow up in the church).
What makes it even more unlikely is the fact that as a
stutterer I was very shy and quiet. And yet music was
always very important to me, and having grown up on the
road with my mom’s bar band I was always around it.
After high school (and while I was a youth pastor) I
started playing concerts in churches and local coffee
The best way I know how to explain how I got to where I am now is that I tried to not kick down any doors but rather walk through the doors I believe God was opening for me, and after many years and miles, all those doors led me to Centricity Music’s door! And now they’ve led me to this conversation with you. So it’s all grace.
Q: You’ve had quite a career, Jason, and this has been accomplished despite a ‘speech impediment’! Can you tell give us an indication of the struggles that you have faced as an artist, and the things God has showed you along the way that has drawn you closer to Him and His plan for your life?
A: I think it’s the same struggle that we all
have, which is trusting in the love of God—especially
when things aren’t going the way we wish. I spent many
years working very hard in obscurity wondering why—if
this was God’s calling on my life—it was such a
challenge. But I can see now how the Lord was preparing
me in those times to be the kind of minister I am today.
In a recent conversation with my mentor I told him that
every time he opened his mouth he blew my mind with the
deep wisdom he possesses.
I said, “I want to be you when I grow up! How did you become you?” I said it kind of jokingly, but he gave me a real answer. It was one word. He said, “pain.” I think it’s good for all of us to hold on to the hope that God is making us—in every circumstance — into something beautiful. This is always the greatest challenge when fear, shame, and hurt tempt us to despair.
Q: I love your most recent albums, A Way To See In The Dark and Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue; with ‘More Like Falling In Love’, ‘Remind Me Who I Am’, ‘Good To Be Alive’, ‘Sound of Our Breathing’ and ‘I Am New’ all being my favorites. Can you tell us what excites you most of all in creating and writing a new album?
Q: I write the songs that I need to hear myself,
and I often think of Frederick Buechner’s quote
that “the story of one of us is in some measure the
story of us all,” which is to say that if I tell my
story truthfully, others will hear it and say, “me too!”
This is what drives my ministry, the thought of people
like me who need to be reminded of who they are, that
they are new, or for those who for all their head
knowledge have lost touch with the heart of the their
faith, or who might be moved by the generosity and
graciousness of a God who places his name on our lips
with every breath we take. I believe my calling is to
love the people I’m called to serve, and one of the ways
I get to do that is in the songs I write.
I’m also always amazed at the power of music and how it never ceases to move me. I was just watching a series of interviews with Paul Simon on youtube and was struck how at 70 years old, he’s still writing great and interesting songs. A lot of that is because he maintains a childlike curiosity. I try to bring this to making a record, looking for what kinds of sounds excite and interest me. I think an artist’s passion and excitement comes through on a record, and so I serve my audience well when I pay attention to what brings me delight musically and try to share it. Delight and joy are infectious.
Q: When one makes a Christmas album, it can either be good, mediocre, or not so good, and that is partly due to the arrangements and choices of the traditional and not-so-traditional Christmas carols, but also due to the originality and creativeness of the new Christmas melodies. Out of this 14 track album, 10 are originals penned by you. Can you tell us about the story behind why you chose to write most of the Christmas songs on this album, and which one resonates with you the most?
A: Again, Buechner’s idea that a human story told
honestly will connect others to their own story was the
guiding light for these songs. I decided to write songs
about the characters in the Christmas narrative
believing that if I told them truthfully, people would
recognize themselves and find themselves in the
Christmas story in a very personal way.
There is the innkeeper who is so busy and burnt out that he misses the miracle on his doorstep. And there is Joseph whose heart has been broken by someone he loves—will he forgive or do her harm? Or the wiseman coming with gifts of gold and treasure who begins to wonder if the newborn King of Kings may desire something even more precious: the gift of his heart. And so on.
The song that resonates the most with me personally is the song about Emmanuel called, “I Will Find A Way.” It was inspired by author Walt Wangerin’s “Advent Monologue” that is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. It’s worth looking it up!
Q: You have worked with many artists and writers throughout your established career, including Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson, Jason Ingram, Nichole Nordeman, Joel Hanson, and Derek Webb! Can you tell us about an artist, or many, who have inspired you as a singer/songwriter? Who have you admired when growing up? Which artists would you love to work with in the future?
A: Well all of those artists have inspired me, for sure. I have fallen into good company indeed! It is one of the great gifts of my life that I get to work with these artists and more than that call them friends. I get to work with my heroes. Other artists who inspire me are Paul Simon, the greatest American songwriter. His work is magical. I’m a huge fan of Bono and the way he writes that is so true and able to escape the walls of the church. The delicate balance of his faith, his artistry, and his rock star swagger is a wonder to watch.