Category Archives: christian music

After dropping out of partying, Mat Kearney took off in music industry

matannie1-350x233Skate-boarding teenager Mat Kearney spray-painted graffiti on trains and sold pot. He got into Cal Sate University Chico on a soccer scholarship but was a lackluster English major. Whenever his roommate wasn’t watching, he swiped his guitar and played for hours and hours — that’s how his musical career was born.

After shedding the vacuous party life and finding Jesus, Matthew William Kearney now has five top 20 hits on the Adult Top 40 Chart. He sings “Hey Mama,” “All I Need,” “Nothing Left to Lose” and more recently the haunting ballad about overcoming conflict in marriage, “Ships in the Night.”

d45f4838-11eb-41aa-8394-fe872d21df2c_575011_TABLET_LANDSCAPE_16_9-350x197“I guess I lived it up and did what everyone said you should do in college,” he said on CBN. “I discovered the depth of depravity, the bleakness of that lifestyle. It just wasn’t working. I finally started understanding there must be more to life.”

Kearney’s journey to success has been just as accidental as the misspelling of his name on his birth certificate that he discovered only in the eighth grade. He says the nurse got it wrong, so he spells it: “Mat.”

His grandfather ran a fake cigar shop in Rochester, New York, that was a front for a gambling ring. The mob shut down the business because it was encroaching on their territory, he said. This was during the depression, so Kearney’s father suffered hardship.

imagesHis dad served in Vietnam, followed the rock group Pink Floyd through Europe, and later became a lawyer in America. He moved to Hawaii where he worked as a deckhand on a boat and met Kearney’s mom, who was working as a mermaid for glass-bottom boat tours. They married and moved to Eugene, Oregon.

Kearney could roam freely as a kid in Oregon. He got into all kinds of trouble and loved soccer. By his own account, he “barely” was accepted into Chico State, which doesn’t have the highest academic entrance standards and is famous for being a party school. He received a soccer scholarship and was appreciated by his coach for intensity on the field.

But as he experimented for hours with a piano and practiced his singing pitch, he fell out of love with soccer.

A friend who would later become a music producer spontaneously asked him to go with him to Nashville, Tennessee.

Kearney could roam freely as a kid in Oregon. He got into all kinds of trouble and loved soccer. By his own account, he “barely” was accepted into Chico State, which doesn’t have the highest academic entrance standards and is famous for being a party school. He received a soccer scholarship and was appreciated by his coach for intensity on the field.

But as he experimented for hours with a piano and practiced his singing pitch, he fell out of love with soccer.

A friend who would later become a music producer spontaneously asked him to go with him to Nashville, Tennessee.

I helped him pack up his trailer and we put a mattress on the back of his truck. We basically drove cross-country and slept in the back.” Kearney said. “When we pulled into Nashville we slept in a school parking lot for three days until we finally rented this apartment where the roof was caving in and mice were crawling all over.”

Robert Marvin recorded with him all summer, and Kearney fell in love with the farmland surrounding the blue-collar city, so that’s where he stayed and made his fame. For his second album, he signed with Columbia Records.

It was in Nashville that he met and married his wife, Annie Sims, who was an actress but worked at Anthropologie. He was smitten by the Southern belle and wrote “Hey Mama!” after seeing her. Today they have a one-year-old, Olive. Read the rest of Mat Kearney Christian.

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Bullied as a child, singer Jamie Grace now invites everyone to her wedding

jamie-grace-bullyingJamie Grace knows about being bullied.

Her eyes and neck twitched, her hand involuntarily hit her chest – all a product of Tourette syndrome. Kids in middle and high school made fun of her.

Once at a youth rally, Jamie Grace, a mere 13 years old, approached a cluster of guys. Her first crush was taking hold.

jamie-grace-atlanta-georgia“They were having a lot of fun,” she said in a YouTube video. “But when I got closer, I realized they weren’t just making any kind of noise and weren’t just saying anything. They were actually mocking me and mimicking me. They were taking their hands and hitting their chests and slobbering at the mouth and calling me a retard.

“All I wanted to do in that moment was disappear,” she added. “I just stopped in my tracks. This was the worst. It was overwhelming.”

When she was a new adult walking around a mall, she saw teenie boppers pointing fingers at her and taking out cell phones to film her tics.

“Here I am like 19 or 20 years old running from girls in the mall because I was so overwhelmed and frustrated,” she said. “I was trying to get away. I was so embarrassed.”

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Adele was wowed by her voice

Today, Jamie Grace Harper is a Christian pop singer, whose “Hold Me” featuring Toby Mac earned her a 2012 Grammy nomination and a Dove Award for New Artist of the Year. The Los Angeles-based singer is using her fame to fight bullying.

“Throughout “my middle and high school years, I would deal with a lot of people bullying me because of my Tourette’s Syndrome and because of having been homeschooled. It was a difficult thing to face,” she said. “There was never any hardcore bullying like kids hitting me or putting me in a dumpster, but anything where someone treats you badly, it hurts.”

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Jamie Grace and Toby Mac have parted ways

The solution for the victim? There are truths in being a “bigger person” to not take the cruelties to heart. There is emotional release in understanding that “hurt people hurt people,” she said.

But ultimately, she realized one needs to find acceptance in God.

“How do we recover? I believe I was created by the same God who created the mountains and the seas. I know that when I chose to focus on the rude teenager who called me retarded, I can get easily defeated and roll my eyes and watch a Law and Order marathon and not leave my room. But I instead choose to focus on what He thinks of me.

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Once she thought she never could be loved. Now she’s engaged to Aaron Collins and invites everybody to her wedding.

“There is Someone greater and more powerful whose words mean so much more. No matter what they say or do, realize that you are not their words. No human has the power to define your worth. Find your worth in the words of Someone greater, and know that your value has been established by Someone so much greater.

“It doesn’t matter who you are but whose you are. Find your identity in Christ, not about what other people say about you, not what billboards say you should look like. You were made in His image. Psalms says, ‘You are beautifully and wonderfully made.’”

Jamie Grace was born into a Christian family in the Stone Mountain suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Her dad was the jazz-playing pastor of the smallish Kingdom City Church, where the family showed a lot of love to people. She was precocious and breezed through school. But since she was sometimes isolated, she turned to the guitar.

Her talent was evident. Starting in 2006, she posted videos of herself on YouTube – and bullying reared its ugly head there too. In the comments, 50 of 70 were insults about her Tourette syndrome, being female and being African American.

“It does get to you. It does hurt us,” she remembered. “It’s irritating and agitating and it’s evil and it’s cruel.

Comments assured her she would never succeed in the music industry.

Then in 2010, Toby Mac saw her videos and signed her for his label, Gotee Records. Her career catapulted.

“Hold Me” was the first of slew of hits that got played widely on Christian radio stations. With happy-go-lucky lyrics and a candy-apple voice, Jamie Grace fused hip-hop, folk and pop to wow audiences.

In 2016, Adele called her out of the audience up onto the stage. Jamie Grace sang “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” earning Adele’s admiration. Read the rest of Jamie Grace on bullying.

6 albums, tours, pastoring, a family — and Trip Lee sleeps 18 hours a day due to chronic fatigue syndrome?

triplee_rise1In the middle of his sophomore year at college, Trip Lee got hit by overwhelming exhaustion that caused him to sleep 18 hours a day. He started failing his entire academic course load.

After seeing many doctors they discovered he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious debilitating disorder that afflicts a million Americans. Ultimately, he dropped out of college.

Trip-Lee-95% preacherIn spite of the ups and downs of his condition, Trip Lee has managed to grind out six rap albums, pastor a church in Atlanta, write books, tour and still have time for his wife and two kids.

The fatigue “is the hardest part of every area of my life,” he told Parle magazine. “It’s the hardest part of my marriage, it’s the hardest part about my music, hardest part about pastoring, everything.”

Born William Lee Barefield III, Trip grew up in a well-to-do family in a part of Dallas where everybody said they were Christian. He asked Jesus into his heart as a tyke but didn’t understand it until at 14, under the preaching of his youth pastor, he comprehended the concepts of sin, judgment and atonement.

trip leeHe confirmed his earlier decision to be a Christian and began to voraciously read the Bible to understand how it would apply to his life.

He had a knack for whipping out rhymes and gradually felt he should dedicate his hiphop talent in service of the Lord. In 2004, when he was in high school, he met Lecrae at a concert, and the godfather of Christian rap took him under his wings and mentored him. He signed with Reach Records and released his debut album, “If They Only Knew,” a few days after his high school graduation in 2006. He became a founding member of the 116 clique, a Texas group of rappers who took their name from Romans 1:16 in which Paul boasts he’s not ashamed of the gospel. “Unashamed” became a song name and a motif through their music.

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With his wife and kids.

He enrolled in Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where he enjoyed studying. “I’m a little nerdy,” he said.

But he was still afflicted by Chronic Fatigue. Sometimes his body would shut down and he was forced to lie prostrate in bed for long periods of time. His health challenges severely impacted his Biblical studies major. He wants to be more active, but his body rebels.

“At times, it’s been a disaster,” he told the Washington Times. “My body’s wrecked. My family’s strained. Church life is strained. People don’t see me for weeks when my body crashes.”

trip-lee-press-2012-2There have been times when he’s gathered his favorite talent to help him in the creation of a new album — and he has to put them all on hold. When he’s sleeping 16 hours some days, how does he get anything done?

“He was a trooper,” Gawvi said in Rapzilla. “He really worked so hard where, there were moments when everyone in the studio would tell him, ‘Trip, you need to go take a nap. You need to go rest your body.’ … I haven’t seen a man work so hard on an album.”

While he didn’t pick up a degree in college, he did pick up a wife. Jessica took some of the same classes and walked in the same circles. They saw each other at church. He admired her passion for Jesus. He was passionate too — so much so that she was a bit taken aback by his commitment to purity and the steps he took to guard his heart. The couple married in 2009. They now have a daughter, Selah, and a son, Q.

Trip’s songs regularly rank in the top Billboard 200. He was nominated for two Dove Awards and won the Stellar Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2011, according to Wikipedia. His penultimate album Rise chugged through iTunes sales at 3rd.

Christian rap slaps you across the face with a refreshing candor. Rappers hit head-on the issues facing their communities; they confront sin without apology. And Trip is no exception. Read the rest of the article about Trip Lee Christian.

Lecrae escaped gangs and drugs through Jesus

57th Annual Grammy Awards

Lecrae backstage at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

As little Lecrae sat on his uncles’ laps, guns and alcohol were passed around. He never met his father, so he followed his uncles into gangs, drugs, sex and hip-hop.

But after he turned his life over to Jesus, Lecrae Devaughn Moore became one on the biggest Christian hip hop rap artists worldwide.

“I grew up wrestling with significance,” Lecrae said in a video. “I didn’t feel like I was gonna get it from being this manicured, good all-around person. My uncles were young and wrapped up in the streets, gangs and drugs and just promiscuous. I idolized that life and wanted to be just like my uncle. I chased power, pleasure, possessions – just something satisfying.”

lecrae-concert-768x512.jpgAs a little tyke in southern Houston, Lecrae listened to his uncles’ braggadocio, a steady stream of tales of shootings, stabbings and partying. This, he surmised, must be the essence of manhood. He decided his family members were heroes worthy of emulation.

His grandmother took him to church, but he quickly inferred that church services were for old people.

His mother, a single mom who had to work and couldn’t watch him, urged him to read the Bible. He defied her good wishes.

“I remember ripping the pages out of the Bible and throwing them on the floor, saying, ‘I don’t want this Bible,’” he recalled.

Still, Lecrae kept the Bible in his car as a good-luck charm. When a cop arrested him for trespassing, the police officer happened to see the Bible on the passenger’s seat and decided to let Lecrae out of the cuffs.

“I’m going to let you go,” the cop told him. “And I hope you discover the meaning of the words in that Bible.”

At the University of North Texas, a friend invited him to a Christian conference. In all honesty, he went for the girls and the good times, but he was taken aback by the Christian hip-hop and testimonies of ex-gangsters. He wound up giving his life to Christ.

“Someone got up and told me the story of Jesus on Golgotha, Him carrying the cross, Him bearing all of my sin on His back, and I thought, ‘Wow. Somebody thinks I’m significant enough to die for me.’”

Finally, he had found the Father figure missing in his life.

“God just loved me unconditionally even when I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved,” Lecrae said. “I feel very fortunate to have a huge family that is beyond race, creed, culture – and have a Father who shepherds us all.”

But Lecrae didn’t immediately walk in God’s grace very well. He was living a double life of partying and church – and he knew he needed to cut out the sin.

He cried out to God, “Get me out of this anyway. You need to. Just don’t kill me.”

When he failed to negotiate a turn, his car went over an embankment and rolled several times. The car was totaled, with mangled metal and glass shards sprayed everywhere. Even his glasses got “molded” into the car frame. But Lecrae walked away unscathed. Read the rest of the story.

They’re not really “stressed out.” Twenty One Pilots is reaching out to lost youth

twenty-one-pilots-stressed-outTop Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

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Tyler Joseph SAYS the black makeup on his hands symbolizes oppressive stress. But it’s likely more a symbol of sin for his adopted touring persona “Blurryface,” who is a representation of the Romans 7 alter ego.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

twenty one pilots concert energy
“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian. Read the rest of the article.