Hello to the world that I’ve been neglecting for some time now. I do truly apologize for my absence. I’m going to bring this BLOG to you REAL though… I mean I’m gonna let you inside some of my greatest fears and discouragements so that I can make some sense out of the struggles that I’ve faced for the last 15 years as a singer. The truth is that it has only been in the last year or so that I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m not just some guy who worked his tail off with less talent and therefore figured out how to create a viable career in music. Lets be honest, the people that I most look up to in this world are now some of my peers. I always hoped that in getting to know them I would find out that they were just like me…. limited in some way or another, but blessed with an amazing ability to work at their craft until they just figured it out. I am sad to say that the closer I get to these people the more I find that they are exactly what the public thinks they are…. AMAZINGLY talented. From Bart Millard, to Mac Powell, Steven Curtis, to Matthew West, Mark Hall, Russ Lee, Michael Tait, Matt Hammitt etc. etc. I’ve always been a little bit frustrated when I got close to them because they could do something easily that came with a lot of difficulty for me: SING.
I know what you’re thinking… “yeah but Jason, you’re a great singer too” and yes, I do believe that… but honestly not until the last 2 years have I started believing that I was great too. Why??? Because all of the other people mentioned above seemed so bullet proof. They never seemed to have off nights… and notes that I just can’t physically sing came out of their mouths like it was nothing. Obviously the closer I got to these people the more that I heard them night after night after night, the more in awe of them I became. Likewise, I became more and more concerned that I wasn’t really meant to do what I doing because obviously God hadn’t given me the natural talent that he had given all of them. I literally started thinking that maybe it would be better if I was just a guy off the stage who designed services and was a “Worship Pastor” who never sang and only did artistic development in the younger budding artists that would be in our churches worship program….. to say nothing of Building429. I literally believed that Building429 was actually held back by my inability to sound like the rest of the CCM world that ruled the radio… so it was a forgone conclusion that sooner or later we would be done and moving on… after all if God wanted us to continue to do this he would’ve given me the same natural abilities as the others artists in our industry RIGHT????
I used to get so frustrated that I couldn’t sound like Bart Millard… no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t do it. But God doesn’t need another Bart Millard does he? He’s got the one he wanted right now as the lead singer of Mercy Me. How about Jamie Grace? I’ve heard a hundred new versions of her recently… but none are going to work because God is interested in the unique. We are all made differently for a reason. He’s already got a Jamie Grace and she’s just plain awesome… why?? Because she’s not trying to be anything other than her… (just a quick lesson for all the budding artists). Coldplay knock off’s beware…. there’s already a Coldplay and God is an artists… not a replicator… he designs….. He begins…. he wants us to do the same.
Every year for the last 6 years I’ve had to go to a vocal doctor to make sure that everything is ok related to my vocal chords… it’s just something that every singer should do if they want to keep their voices long term. This day was like every other vocal doctor appointments I’ve had through the years… the constant fear that they’re going to say “YEP YOU’VE FINALLY BLOWN IT OUT>>>>> YOU’RE DONE” and if not that, then knowing full well that they would probably say something like …. “You’re vocal chords are swollen and you need rest”…. (which is always hilarious because B429 plays 150 shows a year and I was leading a ridiculous amount of services at my church as well this particular year. You can’t just start canceling shows or services because you feel bad… in fact Building429 has never cancelled a show, I’m proud to say, because of my voice)
Always the same fear accompanies the same doctors office… I HATE IT. Anyway, it came time for me to have my vocal chords “scoped” (which is the worst thing ever… picture gagging on a metal camera that is shoved down your throat… ugh) and as the doctor was taking pictures she suddenly paused. Then she said something horrifying… “OH, WOW” which in my head calculates as: “yep you’re done”. She asked, “Do you have a hard time singing high notes?” ….. “yeah???” “Well, you were made that way!” “What do you mean???” I asked. She continued: “You actually have a malformation of your vocal chords… they don’t form a straight line when you sing…. no matter how hard you try you will never be able to fully align your chords, which makes it easier for you to sing low and a LOT harder for you to sing high.” I thought in my head ….. ok so it’s official… I’m not supposed to be doing this. Then she said something that caught me off guard: “Yeah, but you also sound so cool because of the same issue….. The raspy sound of your voice is the way you were built too… air is always escaping through your chords even when you talk… which is what makes you sound so much like FM radio!”
What???? Wait, you mean you think I sound good???
That day was the day that I realized that my perceived weakness was actually my strength.
I’m surrounded by people who sing higher notes and with more ease than I can imagine, but no one sounds like me….. I sound like me. God made me differently.. and why would he want it any other way? Ultimately if it were my talent that made me great I could try to take credit for it… or even if it was my hard work that made me me… I could take credit again. But it’s not…. God made me sound the way I do… and therefore… He gets the glory. The doctor had suddenly opened my heart to remember the many thousands of conversations and emails that I had received over the last 12-15 years when people when on and on about the “way my voice sounds”. It finally occurred that those people knew something I didn’t: I was gifted to be ME…not a copy of everyone else.
I depend on God in ways that most people can’t imagine because for me to do what I do night after night and sunday after sunday demands an “all in approach”. If you’ve ever seen Building429 in concert you might have even thought… Geeze that lead singer is like, really into it… YEAH I AM…. but why??? Because to sing the stuff that we write I have to throw my whole body into the process. I sound like me… which is cool, but to do what I am required to do (sing in radio range) I literally have to go full on. It’s not emotion… it’s reality that I literally don’t know if I’m going to hit some of the notes until they fly out of my mouth… EVERY NIGHT I DON’T KNOW. There is only one way to feel confident that I’m not going to screw up….. GO ALL IN. TRUST THE LORD… Believe that there I am here for a reason and BELT IT OUT.
I’m currently on tour with NEWSONG… and they are the most AMAZING singers on the planet… so you can imagine my excitement when I heard they wanted me to sing a part in a couple of their songs…. ugh… I thought: “I’m gonna get killed”. Then came the rehearsal…. I sang the part the way that I would… and when I finished it they gave me this compliment: “We’ve never had anybody just OWN that part like you”. I smiled to myself and thought…. well if it was easy for me I wouldn’t have to throw everything I’ve got at it every time!! Mission accomplished… I didn’t suck and I had held my own on the stage with these RIDICULOUS vocalists.
The more that I opened my eyes to the fact that my perceived weakness was Gods intended strength the more that I began to notice the same thing in other people all around me.
He’s not a shredder… never really got into that…. but he is a TONE MACHINE. Why…. he could’ve decided that he just wasn’t cut out for guitar, but he didn’t….. he began to dig to find his own gifting…. and guess what it is?? TONE. Honestly speaking he is a tonal genius and nobody… short of “THE EDGE” himself can come close…. Is he going to rip a solo… maybe from time to time, but that’s not his strength… his strength is in making 1 guitar sound HUGE and fill an entire mix.
“The Edge”… the only reason he is “The EDGE” today is because he couldn’t play like everyone else… so he developed his own strategy on how he could still be Formidable. Now every worship band in America tries (horribly) to imitate him…. (BTW it’s dotted eighths guitar players)
Dude sounded like a FROG ya’ll. (What a wonderful world) Most people probably thought his voice was horrible the first time they heard it…. but it wasn’t horrible. It was different and therefore he was a MONSTER.
Nat “King” Cole:
Famous for his massive records… the guy was like me… he could only sing in 1 and a half octaves….. which is NOTHING…. but he honed it and made it AMAZING.
So with that said, I now come to the challenge… has it ever occurred to you that the thing that you want to give up may actually be God’s will for you…. it’s just not meant to be easy? What if the reality is that we need to rethink and revision what we consider a weakness? What if you could begin to believe that God may have actually given you your imperfection as a way to make you unique? So you’re not perfect…. neither are the ones who you think are so good. We are all imperfect, but your weakness is what makes you unique enough to stand out.
My last question of this BLOG could change your life