It was the late John Lennon who wisely observed that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And when God’s perfect sense of timing figures into that equation, well, life tends to get even more interesting -- just ask Patrick Ryan Clark.
Growing up in the Bible belt, going to church was seemingly nothing more than a ritual for the Oklahoma native. So Patrick easily brushed off anything faith-related and got busy making plans for his future. If anything, Patrick had plenty of his own talent to rely on since he was a natural on the basketball court. While he was actively focusing on his jump shot, however, one post-game party was about to change everything.
In many ways, the party was nothing out of the ordinary -- just a bunch of college guys drinking beer and cutting loose after a hard-fought battle on the court. But when Patrick started flipping through a bunch of CDs in his friend’s living room, he was intrigued by a copy of dc Talk’s Jesus Freak. The album happened to catch his eye and sheer curiosity took over.
“It’s funny because I thought, ‘Man, why would someone name a record Jesus Freak?” Patrick says. “But for some reason, I wanted to listen to it. With no one else looking, I stuck the disc in my pocket and took it home.”
When Patrick heard the fourth track, “What If I Stumble,” the lyrics not only connected with him, but they addressed his chief reservations about Christianity. “Here were these guys who already knew God, and their lives weren’t perfect either,” Patrick says. “They had the same worries that I did.”The realization that God really loves us just as we are, was ultimately the real game-changer.
“I pulled over to the side of the highway,” Patrick says. “I was crying and I knew, for the first time, that God was really there. Even though I didn’t know exactly what to say -- or how to say it -- I gave my life to Christ on that highway.”
That decision eventually paved the way for the life he never expected. A week later, Patrick gave up basketball and also happened to pick up his first guitar. At first strum, he was addicted.
“Looking back now, it’s providential that God would use that song -- and those circumstances -- to help lead me down this road,” Patrick says. “But because of how it all happened, I love that I get to do music that ministers to people since that’s how God grabbed my heart.”
With his national debut, Where Would I Be, Patrick drew from his life experiences and the personal stories of the people he led in worship each week at Watermark Community Church in Dallas. The songs on Where Would I Be are rife with encouragement, hope, and a grace-centered perspective. And, for listeners who appreciate a great pop hook like Patrick does, there is definitely plenty to go around.
Produced by Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin, Bebo Norman, Dave Barnes), Where Would I Be allows listeners a rare glimpse into the heart of the artist, particularly in the introspective title track where Patrick makes a bold attempt at telling his entire life story in the radio-friendly span of three-and-a-half minutes.
“When I got to Nashville to record the album, I really wanted to tell my story in song and how I fought Christianity for so long,” Patrick shares. “I was such a bad person in my eyes, and I was always worried about disappointing God. But I learned that I didn’t have to please Him by works alone, and that was incredibly freeing.”
On “Where Would I Be,” a praise anthem that’s already a favorite of the Watermark crowd, Patrick also digs deep into the subject of addiction, something he’s also walked through.
“We’ve got an awesome ministry at our church called Celebrate Recovery, and it’s a Christ-centered program for any addiction,” Patrick shares. “Every week I hear stories of people’s hurts, habits and hang ups and how God is pulling these people from their darkness into His light. As I started thinking about that, all I could think about is where we’d all be without our Savior. If He wouldn’t have intervened in my crazy life, I have no idea where I would’ve ended up.”
Taking the subject of addiction into an even more personal direction, “Mercy” was created out of Patrick’s time in Celebrate Recovery. “During my second year of marriage, I found myself addicted to pornography, something I had been hiding from my wife,” Patrick shares. “But like so many who struggle with the same sorts of issues, I got so tired of trying to hide it, living in darkness and trying to act like someone I wasn’t. So I eventually ended up coming clean and telling my wife everything. When I told her there were lots of tears, but in the midst of the hurt she said, ‘I forgive you. Let’s fight this together.’ Here, I was expecting her to divorce me on the spot -- and what she said was such an awesome picture of God’s grace.”
When Patrick shared his story -- and his wife’s response -- with his friend, fellow artist Cary Pierce, he encouraged him to share his experience through song. And after putting pen to paper, the result was the confessional strains of “Mercy,” a memorable track that Patrick hopes will encourage anyone struggling with addiction.
“I love to share my story because I want people to understand that there is freedom waiting for them,” Patrick says. “Plus, I think it’s important for everyone to be real and transparent. Let’s face it, we don’t always have it together and all struggle with something. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by confession at my church, and I think the Church at large is moving toward a place of authenticity. But not everyone has that, so I hope to be an advocate for being honest about where we fall short.”