Many musicians perform and record music to entertain and impress the masses. However, singer-songwriter Josh McCabe takes a different approach with his music. To him, music is ministry, an opportunity to impact people and to tell the world about Jesus Christ. McCabe shares his music through Caves, a joint music project with long-time friend Matt Shaban.
Originally, Caves was a musical outlet for McCabe to share his personal struggles in art form. However, his little worship project has morphed into a viable musical entity that is gaining traction with worship music enthusiasts. In summer 2015, McCabe and Shaban released their eponymous debut album, complete with collaborations from established worship acts such as Bethel Music's Amanda Cook and Underoath's Aaron Gillespie.
On August 5, 2016, McCabe and Shaban released the deluxe edition of Caves' debut album, including a cover of the John Mark McMillan song "King of My Heart." Under the Caves banner, McCabe has had the opportunity to tour with the likes of Martin Smith (former lead vocalist for Delirious?), Kari Jobe and Michael W. Smith. And the momentum continues.
Musical success for McCabe is hereditary. Josh McCabe's father, Dan, was lead vocalist of the legendary Christian rock act Daniel Band, and his sister Stephanie, a singer in her own right, is currently involved in ministry at Bethel Church in California.
Besides McCabe's promising music career, the 29-year-old works full time as Worship Pastor at the Olive Branch Community Church in Markham, Ontario, Canada. I had the opportunity to speak with McCabe about his music career, his family, and his life as a pastor.
Can you tell me about Caves and how this project came about?
Caves was a project I started in 2014. I had taken a year off of ministry and just began writing some honest songs out of that tough season. I had planned to just spend some time recording these songs as a "therapy" during this season and to call the album Caves. I called up my long-time friend Matt Shaban, and we started working on these songs together over the course of a year.
Why name the band Caves?
We got a call last minute to open up for Kari Jobe and Michael W. Smith in Toronto for a Franklin Graham event, which we totally jumped at. When we were at the event sound checking, we realized we didn't have a band name. As Matt and I discussed what to call ourselves, we felt like "Caves" was the name that resonated the most with us.
Your father, Dan, was a member of Christian rock pioneers Daniel Band. At first, you followed suit and formed your own rock band. However, you made the switch from rock to worship. What was the reason behind the switch?
Worship has always been my passion. I love rock, pop and other genres, but worship is really where I find my sweet spot. The thing that I love about Caves is that I don't really have to put any limits on it. Yes, it's worshipful; there are worship songs on our album, but there are songs that don't really fit into that box either. I've always admired how bands like Delirious? were able to tread that line so well.
Speaking of Delirious?, you have most recently toured with the band's former lead singer, Martin Smith. What's it like touring him, Kari Jobe and other big name Christian musicians?
Ministering with Martin Smith was particularly impactful for me. It was at a Delirious? concert that I felt the call to ministry in the first place. I was only 12 or 13 at the time. Getting to meet and chat with Martin about family, ministry, life and Jesus are some of the moments I cherish. He's someone whom I respect so much for his humility and his love for his family. Seeing the way he approaches worship each night is inspiring, and it's really encouraging to see someone who's accomplished so much serve so humbly.
Let's talk about your family roots. How has your father influenced you and your music?
I feel like my father has influenced my music career most from a character perspective. He has always approached music as ministry and not just as entertainment or a hobby, but also as a way to see God move in people's lives. When he was performing with Daniel Band, they were willing to step out and do something nobody else was doing in the early 80s: heavy metal music that talked about Jesus. I respect that he was someone willing to step into what he felt God wanted him to do, not just what would be popular.
I'll never forget when I was 13 years old. I was talking to my dad as he was cutting the lawn in the backyard, and I asked him for scripture that came to mind about why I should use my musical gift to serve God. He pointed out Colossians 3:17 which says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." That stuck with me and has become my life verse. To me, this moment revealed the true character of my father.
Music is only one facet of your family's ministry, correct?
Yes. I think the heart of our family has always been about serving in ministry, whether it be in the church or outside, on the stage or off the stage. Ask my dad as well; he loves rock and roll, but for him, it was always just an avenue to tell people about Jesus. He never cared to leave people entertained or impressed, just impacted. That's my heart as well. I think that impact has stuck with me.
Thanks to rock legends such as Daniel Band, Christian rock acts such as Red, Skillet and Seventh Day Slumber have had the opportunity to share their ministry through music. With your father being such a pioneer, a big name in the industry, you must have experienced some pressures trying to live up to his legacy.
Honestly, no. I actually don't really ever consider my father's success musically. He's accomplished some great things, no doubt. But for me, I want to live up to his success as a husband, as a father, as an honest hard worker and as a servant of God. That's the legacy I'm chasing when it comes to my dad. I look at his life, his consistency in marriage, his role as my father and as a pastor himself, and I think "Wow, I want that to be my story as well."
Your sister, Stephanie, is also a musician. What's it like being from a musical family?
It's been years since we all have led worship together, but those were always times I cherished. We were never the family to bring out the guitar and sing around Christmas; In fact, my sister hated it. Our family time was family time, and our music time was music time. We talked about music together, but we weren't like the Von Trap family or anything like that. Although I will say, watching the dynamic of two strong siblings and a strong personality in my dad debate the way a song should start or end is something to grab some popcorn and watch!
Have you ever considered a studio collaboration or a joint tour with your dad and sister?
I have definitely thought about it, but we'll see where time takes us. My sister sang on the Caves record with me, and I've always wanted to record a Daniel Band cover. But for us, we probably enjoy sitting around the backyard sharing a meal together more than we would enjoy working together in the studio.
Obviously, your father and Delirious? were musical inspirations, and as you have shown, you're a big fan of music as well. Any other favorites?
Bands like Switchfoot and Hillsong United have influenced me from a really young age, and I still love everything they do today. It's hard to really pinpoint a favorite. Right now, I'm really enjoying NEEDTOBREATHE's new album HARD LOVE.
How do you balance life as a pastor with your family and music career?
I think, for me, this is something I've gotten wrong over the years, and it's something I see so many others get wrong as well. My priorities are family, church and then music. I don't travel a lot with Caves; it's really just a hobby and something that's the overflow of the church ministry. At this very moment, I'm returning home from a tour. This particular trip is the longest period I've ever been away doing music--seven days. I can't wait to get home to my wife and kids.
How does God speak to you through your music?
God used some of the songs on the Caves record to really remind me of some basic truths of His character. But secondly, Caves was an outlet for me to offer my petitions from God. I figure, if I'm a pastor and feeling these things, somebody else might be able to relate. Music is a way God speaks to me, for sure. It's this emotional conversation I get to have with God. Many times as I sing, I forget there's people in the room and just worship. It's the best feeling in the world.
Phill Feltham is a Canadian journalist with over eight years of experience writing and editing content for print and digital media. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, travel, and the power grid. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus. Highlights of Phill's work can be found on his portfolio site PhillFeltham.com and his official blog, The Weekly Wanderer. Phill lives out his faith with his wife, Jodi, in the Greater Toronto Area.
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