#389 - "You Are" by Colton Dixon
The former American Idol contestant tells Kevin Davis about how his debut single was inspired by a bold declaration and a friend in need.

Colton Dixon's seventh place finish on Season 11 of American Idol was one of the most shocking Idol cuts of all time. Before that jaw-dropping night, Colton had never been in the bottom three before, and he seemed to have all the total-package elements of a potential Idol champion. But all was not lost for Colton, who wisely refocused his eye on another prize: recording and releasing an album right away. 
"I started writing immediately; I knew I wanted to put out a record as soon as possible," Colton recalls. "I wrote something like 13 songs in 13 days. It was just nuts. I wrote about 50 songs for this record, since I was eliminated. I kept myself busy and kept myself working toward the end goal."
Dixon's debut full-length album, A Messenger, released Jan. 29. The album, which takes its title from the Bible passage John 13:16 and is being released on the EMI-distributed Christian label Sparrow Records, is an alt-rock CCM crossover record (like Lifehouse and Switchfoot)—-something Colton may not have had the freedom to record if he'd actually won Idol and signed to Jimmy Iovine's Interscope Records, Colton admits. 
"With me wanting to do Christian music, it was definitely a blessing that I didn't win. I would have found a way, had I won, to maybe not be as lyrically pinpointing about my religion, but it would still have the same message; you would've just had to a dig a little deeper or whatever. I see it more as a blessing in disguise that I was cut so early, so that I could start writing. Everything was timed perfectly as far as that goes."
Working with his production team, Red Decibel (Adam Watts and Andy Dodd), as well as with seasoned songsmiths like Lifehouse's Jason Wade, Evanescence's David Hodges, and Busbee (Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Jason Aldean, Christina Aguilera, Keith Urban, Daughtry, Adam Lambert), Colton created exactly the kind of album he wanted to make. 
"Listening to my record and listening to other CCM records, there's a big difference. I'm definitely bringing an edge to Christian music--lyrically, and definitely musically. I just think it's something fresh for Christian music, so I'm excited. It's just a different style that I haven't heard in Christian music before. It's going to be interesting to see what Christian music fans think of the record."
As for whether A Messenger will cross over into the secular market, it certainly has that potential, but Colton, who is touring with Christian rock band Third Day, isn't concerned about that for the time being. 
"I would love the opportunity to do that [cross over], but it's not really what my goal is right now," he says. "If that happens, that's great and I will run with it, but I'm going to stick true to what I'm doing now. I'm going to write what I'm going to write, and wherever that fits, great, but most of the stuff that I write is pretty specific--at least to me it is. Someone else might interpret it differently, but that's the beauty of writing songs."
I had the great opportunity to interview Colton about his hit song "You Are." 
Please tell me the message behind the song "You Are." 
There were two different reasons for writing "You Are." The first was my friends Jared and Rhyan. We wanted to write a song that kind of summed up worship and what that meant to us. All three of us were raised in the Church. 
The chorus is very catchy: "You are the air I breathe in / You are the hope I'm needing." To me, that's worship. Whatever song I'm singing, I want God to be the focus and all around me; He's the hope that gets me through to the next day. So we wrote it for that reason. The other reason was I had another friend who went through some dark valleys and who was contemplating suicide at one point, and he needed something to get out of that slump and get his life back on track. He was in the back of our minds when we wrote this song. His situation took a toll on us, and we also wanted to write a song for him. 
We wanted the song to be a window for him to see God through and bring him out of his situation. The verses are coming from a dark place: "When I can't find the words to say how much it hurts / You are the healing in my heart / When all that I can see are broken memories / You are the light that's in the dark," and then that chorus comes out of nowhere and gives that feeling of light and hope and makes you smile. That light of God is never going to be covered.
Do you have a life verse or any Bible verses you used in writing the song? 
2 Samuel 6:14: "Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod."
…and the album title is based on John 13:16: "Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him."
How can listeners apply that message when they listen to the song and album? 
It's really simple and easy to sing along with, which is what I wanted. Whenever I'm worshipping, the words of this song are the thoughts going through my mind. God is there in the room with me. He is the air I'm breathing and He is Who I'm proclaiming. Whatever song I'm singing, it's to God. 
God is also the hope that keeps me going. The song is an encouragement to me, and the song has helped my friend as well. We want this song to minister to other people struggling with depression as well. I know I've been at low points, and we all have, that's called life. It's been really cool to see how people have connected to this song, and have seen God move through the song. That's the goal at the end of the day. 
The term "a messenger" started when we created our Christian rock band, before I was on American Idol. Yes, I'm a singer on a stage and playing an instrument, but I'm singing about a God Who is so much greater. Don't lose sight of that. That's why the album is based on that John 13:16 passage. 
I want to be known as "a messenger." I want to hear from God, "well done, good and faithful servant." I want to share the Good News. All I want to be known as is a messenger and a servant of the Lord. I would like listeners to use the messages of these songs and shine a light into a dark place, and be an encouragement to someone.
When I can't find the words to say how much it hurts 
You are the healing in my heart 
When all that I can see are broken memories 
You are the light that's in the dark 
You are the song, 
You are the song I'm singing. 
You are the air, 
You are the air I'm breathing 
You are the hope, 
You are the hope I needed. 
You are 
And when my circumstance leaves me with empty hands. 
You are the provider of my needs. 
When all my dirtiness has left me helpless. 
You are the rain that washes me. 
You are the song 
You are the song I'm singing. 
You are the air, 
You are the air I'm breathing 
You are the hope, 
You are the hope I needed. 
If I had no voice, 
If I had no tongue, 
I would dance for You like the rising sun. 
And when that day comes and I see Your face. 
I will shout Your endless glorious praise. 
You are the song I'm singing. 
You are the air, 
You are the air I'm breathing 
You are the hope, 
You are the hope I needed. 
I love the bridge of this song, "If I had no voice, If I had no tongue / I would dance for You like the rising sun / And when that day comes and I see Your face / I will shout Your endless glorious praise." That type of declaration of commitment and dancing with unashamed joy before the Lord is why David was considered "a man after God's own heart." I sing along with Colton at the top of my lungs in adoration of my king, Jesus.
This is a wonderful song of encouragement and prayer to ask God to break your pride, live redemption's story, and move closer to who we're meant to be in Christ. At some point, we all make mistakes and need to ask God for forgiveness. God wants to give us His grace and mercy, we need to fall down at His feet and pray. 
Believing the words of this song is a great way to work on the disciplines of self-examination and prayer. You can know Jesus personally. Reach out to Him and know with certainty: "perfect love casts out fear." This album is all about finding our true identity in Christ. He is the answer. This album encourages listeners to be a messenger. 
We serve a God who is much bigger than our struggles. What would your life look like if everything was taken away in this moment? Would Jesus be enough?" Corrie ten Boom said: "When we are powerless to do anything, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus." 
This song challenges us to think about whether we really believe that Jesus is "the hope I needed." This is an amazing song and really reflects the joy we receive when we don't rely on our own understanding, but instead fully submit ourselves to faithfulness and trust in the ability of Jesus to lift us up no matter our circumstances. 
For me, songs like "You Are" provide opportunities for God to whisper to me my true identity--not found in what I do or don't do--but in who I am, and more importantly to Whom I belong. Amen.

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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