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Jason Gray Interview

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on May 19, 2017 at 11:05 PM

While I was interning for Crown of Beauty Magazine, I had the incredible privilege of interviewing Christian Music Artist Jason Gray. Since Crown of Beauty has made the decision to stop releasing magazine issues, including the issues we had already started piecing together, our team determined not to let any of the material go to waste

I know this interview was both encouraging and inspiring to me. My belief is that anyone else who reads it will gain something of the same. I'm grateful to Jason for taking the time to answer my questions, and I hope all of you take the time to enjoy reading his insightful responses. God bless!

When did you start writing music?

My mom was in a band when I was growing up, so I was always around music. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to make music and I remember making up songs on my way home from school when I was a 3rd grader. I don't know how much that counts! It was later in high school where I really dug in and started trying to write my first songs. They were all brooding, teenage angsty songs about pain and injustice and love :-)

But God was always a part of the picture, even from a very young age. I didn't grow up in the church, so there wasn’t anybody telling me to listen for the voice of God, and yet I still heard it. I had a very difficult childhood, and my first memory of hearing God speak to me was through Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The lyric goes: "like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down...." When I heard that song, it was like God whispered in my heart, "psssssttt... this is how I feel about you. I want to be your bridge over troubled water."

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There was no one in my life to tell me that God loved me, or that he wanted to speak to me, or that I could interpret songs like that in a spiritual way, so there was no reason for me to think that way... and yet, that's how I heard it. Which tells me that it had to be the Holy Spirit, right? Anyway, all of that to say that since then I've always associated music with the voice of God. And I was only ever interested in writing music that I hoped might help people hear the God who wants to speak to them.

Was music the path you always expected to take in life?

Frederick Buechner says that the place that God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger intersect. I've always felt very fortunate that I knew where this place was in my life since a very young age. I know that not everybody figures that out so young, so I feel very fortunate that I always knew that music was the place of my deep gladness and the world's deep hunger.

What does the song writing process look like for you?

It's so terrifying! And it doesn't get easier, it gets harder! But it's also fun and really life giving. I'm a slow writer and the battle for me is to not write from my mind, but to write from my heart. It comes naturally for me to write ideas that might make people think, but as Bono of U2 says, “a feeling is stronger than a thought.” So while I work hard to write lyrics that I hope will provoke deeper thinking, I also hope it makes the listener feel something. That’s always the question for me, “does this line, does this melody make me feel something?”

Aside from that, song writing is a lot like prayer. It requires a lot of silence, reflecting, and listening. I always have a sense that I’m more of a song discoverer than a song writer—that the song already exists and is entrusted to me… and if I listen really well, I can receive the song that is waiting to be born through me.

Who were your favorite music artists growing up?

As I mentioned earlier, I first heard the voice of God through a Paul Simon song, so his music has been and continues to be a major influence in my life. I believe he is the greatest living American songwriter. Peter Gabriel and U2 were bit influences. Later on it would be Rich Mullins and Coldplay. These days I learn a lot from OneRepublic and Jon Bellion. Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman has also been a consistent influence.

Where do you draw inspiration for your music from?

I listen to my own life and try to write the songs that I need to hear, trusting that if I need it, maybe someone else does, too. Generally, I feel like the biggest part of my work is listening: listening for what the Holy Spirit is speaking to and therefore through my life.

Which song that you've written do you consider to be the most pure representation of yourself? Why?

Oh gosh, what a great question! Maybe “Nothing Is Wasted” or “Remind Me Who I Am’—though the song I’m the proudest of is a song called “I Will Find A Way.” Why? Because I believe that hell’s greatest weapons against our hearts are fear (anxiety) and shame (that deep sense of unworthiness).

“Nothing Is Wasted” is my best effort at speaking peace to anxious hearts. “Remind Me Who I Am” has proven to be my most effective song to remind people of their essential belovedness. And “I Will Find A Way” is about the beauty of the way Jesus enters the world (and even our lives) to disarm both our fear and shame.

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What do you want to accomplish with your work?

In the movie “Shadowlands” about the life of C.S. Lewis, a character says, “we read to know we’re not alone.” I think that’s why we listen to music, too. It reminds us that we’re not alone… and that helps.

Music can be so medicinal. It can help us feel feelings that are locked inside of us but for some reason we can’t let out—maybe grief, anger, gratitude, or even joy. Music unlocks hearts.

In my own life the Holy Spirit has used music to help me understand my own life, to give me courage, to pour healing into broken places, to lead me into forgiveness, worship, and compassion; it makes me want to play and dance for joy. It’s just such wonderful medicine. If my music can be any of those things for someone else, then I will feel like I’ve done something worthwhile.

What advice would you give people struggling to find faith for their futures?

Do not be afraid. Do not be anxious about the timing of things. It’s in the times of waiting that God prepares our hearts to be able to hold the next thing he will give us. Take one step at a time. You won’t know tomorrow’s step until you take today’s step—it’s today’s step that will reveal and give clarity to what step to take tomorrow.

Dwelling on the past leads to depression. Speculating about the future leads to anxiety. So be present to the holy now—this moment is when the voice of the Spirit can be heard. If you spend too much time speculating about the future you will end up only talking with yourself. Seek the Lord now—today—and that is where his voice can be heard. You only need to take the very next step. Sometimes you need to wait.

Do you have any new plans or ideas in the works?

I think maybe the Lord is directing me to begin writing a book. I don’t know exactly what that is supposed to be yet, but I think I need to begin writing and trust that what it’s supposed to be will be revealed as I move forward with faith. Today’s step will reveal tomorrow’s :-)

And finally, because we ask this question of everyone we talk to with Crown of Beauty, who is your favorite Disney Princess?

Princess Leia of course.

Categories: Redeeming the Arts

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