#199 - "Closer" by Shawn McDonald
Shawn McDonald talks with NRT's Kevin Davis about how the lyrics of his latest single are truer to him now than they were when he first wrote the song.

After tremendous indie success in the Pacific Northwest, Shawn McDonald entered the national scene in 2004 with Simply Nothing. The singer/songwriter has since released two additional recordings--Ripen (2006) and Roots (2008).

Shawn's fourth album with Sparrow Records, Closer, released March 22, and is a collection of songs about the hope and redemption God brings during the storms of life. McDonald wrote most of these 13 songs while “going through it”–a painful few years that brought about the kind of brokenness that brings one closer to God. It’s a recurrent theme on the new album, one McDonald wrote mostly while in the midst of his struggles.

The project’s title, and first single, “Closer,” released to radio in October and is being played nationwide on a number of stations. McDonald hopes the songs, and his own mistakes and heartaches, can help others who are hurting, by pointing them to the One who heals.

I got the opportunity to interview Shawn about his current single “Closer,” and find out about the meaning behind the song.

Please tell me the message behind the song “Closer.”

Ben Glover and I were talking about what’s going on in our lives. We just got on this theme of our need for closeness to God, and this song came out of that conversation. It’s a pretty straightforward song about being close to God, and about trying to break free of the same old mundane things of life. The opening verses--“Looking for color in a shade of grey / Looking for love in a drop of rain / Trying to find a change in the old mundane”--are sort of like a plea to God to bring things into focus. I wrote this song, and a lot of these songs, when I was in a rough place. This is just my own desperation bleeding out. “Closer” has been one of those songs that has ministered more to me now than when I wrote it. God even uses my own words and my own songs to remind me of my need for closeness to Him, for authenticity.

Did you base the song on any Bible verses? Any life verse?

My life verse is Psalm 15:1: LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

How can listeners apply that message in their walks as Christians when they listen to the song?

I don’t ever wish anybody to go through what I’ve been through. But regardless of my pain--on days when I would ask, “Where are You, God?”--I would remember that He is faithful. Even in my brokenness, there was always a deeper feeling of hope. God was showing me immense mercy, even as he was rocking my faith to the core. It was like He allowed things to crumble just so he could rebuild it all. God has redeemed me, and He is healing my heart. So I hope this record can be a redemption story for people, that God can use it to speak and bring hope. Because that’s what He’s done for me.

Sometimes God has to break us down in order to build us into the art pieces he intends for us to be. I am very excited to bring you a very honest and vulnerable record about the breaking of the human condition and the healing of a mighty God. These songs have been and still are being used in my life as a tool in the healing and beckoning of my heart as I fumble my way to Christ. I hope and pray that these songs can and will be used in your own journeys, your own brokenness and in the lives of many others.

Here are the lyrics:
Looking for a color in a shade of gray,
looking for love in a drop of rain.
Trying to change from the old mundane.
Everything I do just feels the same.
Spending my life out of the desert.
Been gone so long feels like forever.

I just want to be even closer to You.
I just want to be even closer.
I am Yours.
You can have all of me,
Anything, everything.
I just want to be even closer.

A day without You is a thousand years.
A day without You is a million tears.
Tell me why do I run in fear?
Why do I run when You are so near?
Spending my life in the weather.
Been gone so long and I need some shelter.

Wherever You go, wherever You are,
I just want to bethere with You.

Looking for a color in a shade of gray,
looking for love in a drop of rain.

Here’s Matthew Henry’s commentary about Psalm 15: “Here is a very serious question concerning the character of a citizen of Zion. It is the happiness of glorified saints, that they dwell in the holy hill; they are at home there, they shall be for ever there. It concerns us to make it sure to ourselves that we have a place among them. A very plain and particular answer is here given. Those who desire to know their duty, will find the Scripture a very faithful director, and conscience a faithful monitor. A citizen of Zion is sincere in his religion. He is really what he professes to be, and endeavors to stand complete in all the will of God. Every true living member of the church, like the church itself, is built upon a Rock. He that doeth these things shall not be moved for ever. The grace of God shall always be sufficient for him. The union of these tempers and this conduct, can only spring from repentance for sin, faith in the Savior, and love to Him. In these respects let us examine and prove our own selves.”

The theme of Shawn McDonald's great new song is relatable and as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, this song is a great prayer to rid ourselves of worldly distractions and temptations that lead us away from God and instead pray to be “closer” to God. This song is really a great modern take on Shawn’s life verse Psalm 15:1, and truly has a David-like psalmist yearning for God. “Closer” is all about Shawn dealing with his own personal brokenness with a sincerity and transparency that for me puts this song and album in a special “gourmet” category. The musical brilliance and Shawn’s earnest crying out to God throughout this album creates a wonderful and introspective worship experience.

You can listen to this great song here: 

Kevin Davis is a long time fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. Kevin also writes reviews for

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