Joshua Brown enjoyed a level of success that most people only dream of. He was formerly the front man for Full Devil Jacket, a mainstream band signed to Island/Def Jam Records, touring with some of the hottest bands in rock music. Joshua indulged in all the excesses of a rock and roll lifestyle, searching for something to comfort the pain inside of him. His dreams of being a rock star were finally coming true, but as his fame increased, so did his drug usage. Finally, after a near-fatal drug overdose, Joshua found the answer that he was searching for.
It may seem a little too simple to believe, but God's message is not complicated. Joshua is walking testimony to God's promise found in Revelation 3:20 that says, "If any man hears God's voice and opens their heart to Him, He will come." Joshua responded to that call.
Today, Joshua Brown is the lead singer and principle songwriter of Day of Fire, a new band on Essential Records. Their debut self-titled album released on October 26th. Their first single, "Cornerstone" has a number one hit at Christian Rock Radio and they are enjoying a major opening slot on the Third Day/tobyMac tour. Things are going quite well for them.
But how do you go from rock stardom to rock bottom, then to being ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven? It's all part of the bigger dream that becomes a reality when you finally decide to die to yourself. Recently, Joshua sat down with Angel, our resident interviewer, to talk about how this happened.
I heard you were previously in a band called Full Devil Jacket that toured with Creed, Fuel, and Nickelback. Can you tell us about your experience with Full Devil Jacket?
We actually started Full Devil Jacket in Jackson, Tennessee when I was about seventeen years old. A few guys and I from Jackson started the band, but back then we used to be called Voodoo Hippies. All of us worked for about five to six years to get a record deal—you know we had big dreams of being famous, touring the United States, and making music videos. By the time I was twenty-two we managed to hook up with a record label and a good management team (same management as Creed), and we recorded a record and began touring. But at age fifteen I began using drugs, so when I started playing with those members, by age twenty-two, I was a mess—a hard core drug addict. I was smoking pot, taking pills, using acid, cocaine, crack, and heroine. By the end of my first major tour, I ended up overdosing on heroine in Orlando, Florida.
How long ago did you end up overdosing?
About four years ago (2000). After I overdosed, I went straight into rehab. In rehab I finally had time to clear my head and search myself, and I realized that I wasn't alone. I was able to see that there were a lot of other people in there that were going through the same challenges as me. I also remembered that Jesus was still with me. See, when I was between 8 and 10 years old, my father led me to the Lord, but in my future years he really wasn't walking it out, so when I got older I just forgot about it.
How did you come back to the Lord?
When I was recording our second record in LA, I had my own apartment there and I was caught up in some bad stuff. I was watching TBN a lot, and it was through TBN that I really gave my life to the Lord. I was watching TV about three o'clock in the morning when T.D. Jakes came on, and when he spoke, Jesus spoke through him into my heart. That night I really gave it all up. I prayed to God and said, "God, I want to give you a chance because nothing else I have done has worked." Before that night I knew that God was real, but I didn't want to follow him. That night I made a decision to follow Him.
Did this experience happen after you were out of rehab?
Yes, but when I was in rehab I asked God to help me through the drug problem. I really didn't want to follow Him then, I just needed help being sober.
What was life like after rehab? Did you use heroine again after you got out?
I don't think I did. After a year, I started to drink again and take pills. I never fully jumped back into taking drugs the way I did before rehab, but I was deceived. When you are saying to yourself, "Well, maybe I will just drink a little bit," or "I will just try this a little bit," it just doesn't work.
How did God start to work in your life after the night you made a decision to follow Him?
God really started dealing with me. I knew that my whole life was messed up—the way that I lived, all my relationships and all my motives. I had a girlfriend that I loved and I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, so we got married.
Where did you get married?
Actually in Las Vegas.
Were you still in Full Devil Jacket when you got married?
Yes, I was still in Full Devil Jacket, and my wife, only one month after we were wed, became pregnant. But after we got married, I started to fall away from the Lord again. I was still teeter-tottering on the edge. You see, I knew that God was real and I asked Jesus into my heart, but I didn't have the power to break away from my past, or to break away from the whole cycle of drug-addiction. I hadn't been delivered yet.
My wife and I started going to church, because I looked at who I was, and I knew there was no possible way that I could be a parent. I was a complete wreck. When I was growing up, all the men in my life didn't have it together, and I didn't want to be a husband or a father like that. After a few months of attending this church, they had a prayer service and asked everybody to come down to the altar for prayer. I went down to the altar, and people laid hands on me, and prayed for me. God touched me, and He instantly delivered me of drug-addiction and that whole mindset that went along with it. When I walked out of that church, I was a new person empowered by the Holy Spirit, set free from drugs!
Not only was I set free, but I was blown away by the power of God! You see, drugs like crack and acid are very powerful elements, and after you use drugs like that you think that it's the ultimate high. But when God touched me, it felt more real to me than acid, crack, heroine or pills. He filled me up. He filled that hole inside of me and I was amazed! I went around telling everybody about God and what He did for me, and people noticed that I had changed! I love to share my testimony now—not to prove how bad I was—but to show how big God is!
So you were instantly delivered from drug-addiction by God's power, and you haven't had a desire to do drugs again?
Yes, that's exactly what happened! I see people today and they are trying to get away from drugs through man made programs and systems—taking all these steps. I am not against the steps—sometimes deliverance is a process—but through Jesus we can be completely free from that addiction and torment.
That is such a beautiful testimony of how God delivered you from drug-addiction. I know the testimony that you just shared with us will help those out there who are struggling with so many problems, including drugs and alcohol. God's power is so much greater than any drug or any situation a person may be struggling with!
Can you share with us why you walked away from Full Devil Jacket?
I walked away from Full Devil Jacket about six or seven months after being touched by God. After that one experience with the Lord, I had many more. It was really intense, and God showed me pretty quickly that he wanted me out of that band, but at that point I didn't want to believe it. I didn't think that God would ask you to do something like that. I was just now learning the Word, and God's Word had come alive to me. He showed me in the Word many times what I needed to do. Eventually, after arguing with Him for six months, I just gave up. He clearly showed me there was no possible way that I was going to be able to follow Him and be in that band; either give it all up and follow him, or don't. What He had given me was so precious and there was nothing worth anything more than that. He became more real to me than a record deal, so I just let it go.
Have you had any contact with the previous members of Full Devil Jacket? Do you know where they are today?
I have talked to the guitar player occasionally. He also battled with drug-addiction and he knows the power of God. But I don't really talk to the rest of the band that much. It was a raw deal on their side because I just quit, but that was all I could do. I think in the future, just because of who God is, I believe I will talk with them again.
Tell us what happened after you left Full Devil Jacket?
After I quit Full Devil Jacket, I got a job washing dishes. I also went into the jails, and I started telling people about Jesus and giving them my testimony. I was serving God the best way I knew how.
What was your first encounter with Christian music? What Christian artists are you listening to now?
Third Day, tobyMac and Michael W. Smith were the first three Christian albums that I owned. It took me a long time to get back into the rock part of it, because I didn't know that God could move through rock music. When I walked away from the music scene, I wasn't into anything that sounded like that—I didn't want to be a part of it. But I kept on meeting more Christians, and I remember some of them told me to check out tobyMac's Momentum. They told me that he sounded like Kid Rock, so I listened to it, and it sounded great!
For example, songs like: "Let's Get This Party Started," "Extreme Days," and "Yours"?
Exactly! When I first heard Momentum I said, "Man, this is heavy!" Then I started to look for God's direction, and I felt that He was leading me out of the church I was in. I started looking around in different places. So, I went to a night service at this church that I attend now; they were playing P.O.D. and the music was really loud. The Holy Spirit was moving through the people, and that night God showed me that He can move through anything, even rock music! He also showed me that I should go there, so I did. I hooked up with Val Treece, the Pastor at Family Worship Center of Jackson, and he gave me this book on spiritual authority. It's called Undercover, by John Bevere. I read this book, and God spoke to me. He showed me that God puts people around us that have authority and they also know more than we know. If we will serve the people that He puts over us and sow into their dreams, He will give us our own dreams, and He will put people around us that will sow into us. When I learned about spiritual authority, submission, and obedience, I gave talent and my time to my pastor, and God just took us from there to where I am now with Day of Fire.
Your testimony is truly amazing! You walked away from a band with a promising career. You went from touring with Creed, Fuel, and Nickelback to washing dishes and visiting convicts in jail! Jesus says in scripture, "No one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me." You gave up everything for Jesus! You made the right decision.
But something must have happened since then, because now you are on tour with tobyMac and Third Day, and you are signed to Essential records! Can you tell us how you got involved with Essential Records?
I was just being obedient to God, going into the jails and serving Him. Two years later, after I left Full Devil Jacket, I got a phone call out of nowhere and it was a guy named Michael Haggerty that I used to work with in the industry. He told me that Essential Records wanted to hear my music. See, I was standing on the word of God and I was also suffering persecution in certain situations, but God rewarded my obedience with a phone call from Michael.
I went to Essential Records, but by this point I had no desire to play music—I didn't even have the ability anymore to play music at that time. When God took me out of my old band, I had lost all abilities to write, sing, and perform. At Essential Records, I gave them my testimony and I played a few pieces of a song to them, and that was it. I didn't have any music and I didn't know how I was going to write. They said, "Cool, nice to meet you! We would love to do something with you, but you don't have any music." I said, "You are right, I don't." Then I said "good-bye." I went home and really didn't think anymore about it, but they kept calling me and checking up on me to see if I was writing, but at that point I wasn't. After a few months I started looking for someone to write with and form a band. I knew God had opened the door through the record label, so I got together with Gregg Hionis, one of our guitar players at church. You know if a record label is calling you, you might as well do it.
Were you able to write music once you got together with Greg?
We were absolutely dry as a bone. We tried to write music for three months but couldn't even come up with one song; this is because we were trying to write to get a record deal. That's all we knew! "We got a record deal, let's try to do it." But the motive of our heart was wrong. After three months of trying to write, we realized what we were doing was not working. God has shown us that He called us, and that there is a place for us in this industry, but we couldn't do it. At the same time, my wife was really encouraging me to start writing again.
So, I started searching the word, wanting to hear something from God. I went to my bible and I started to read about Moses and the children of Israel. I came to the part where they were at the Red Sea and their enemies, the Egyptians, were ready to capture them and take them back into captivity. God told Moses, "Take your stick and hold it over the water, and I will divide the water and the Children of Israel will be able to walk through." Then Moses and the children of Israel were able to walk through the Red Sea on dry ground. The reason why they were able to walk through is because Moses used what God gave him to deliver the children of Israel. God told me, "Josh, use what little bit you have; use your guitar and voice to bring deliverance to people and I will do miraculous things. I will deliver you, and you will get to walk through with them."
On that word, Greg and I went to God, because it made sense now! God gave us talent to serve Him by serving people. We also read the parable in the bible about the little boy with the two fishes and five loaves. Then we prayed, "God we know you opened up the door, and we know the reason why we are supposed to play music. Take what little bit we have and multiply it for your glory." We didn't know what the music was going to sound like, if it was going to be rock or not, but we told God that whatever the music sounded like, we would play it. That very week, maybe even a few days later, God started to give us music; it just started flowing. Greg and I started writing in faith that God was going to deliver and the song "Through The Fire," "Fade Away" and "Cornerstone" came about. We called the record label and told them in one month we would be down there with four songs. Eventually, we went down there and the power of God went before us, and they were blown away—not by our songs, but by the anointing of God.
What makes this whole story even more intriguing is the incredible lineup of artists that worked with you on your self-titled debut project. First of all, let's start with your producer, Scott Humphrey. Scott has worked on projects with Metallica, Motley Crue, Fleetwood Mac, The Cult, and Rob Zombie. Your album features Chris Chaney, from Jane's Addiction on bass, and drummer, Gary Novak, who worked with Alanis Morissette and jazz great, Chick Corea. Also included in this phenomenal lineup is guitarist, Phil X, originally from Triumph, who has worked with Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Andrew W.K., NSYNC, and Avril Lavigne. You even have Matthew Nelson, one of the Nelson twins, on back-up vocals. That's a much better lineup than anything you ever had in Full Devil Jacket. So how did some of the biggest names in rock music get involved with your new project?
Greg and I were planning on using a producer around Nashville because we thought that's what God wanted us to do, but our manager, Jim Scherer, who also manages Superchic[k], had faith that God may want to open up other doors. So he went to LA and brought the demo that we cut with Essential. We gave Jim a list of producers that we would like to work with, but we never thought we would be able to talk to them or work with them. God granted us favor, and we ended up talking to the top few producers on our list.
First of all, God opened up a door with a guy named Michael Beinhorn, who worked with Korn, Marilyn Manson, and Soundgarden. I got a call from him, and he told me that he wanted to do the record. I was blown away, because he is my favorite producer in the world! God was showing us, "This is my thing, and I will get whoever I want to produce the album." Another top producer on our list, which we were able to talk to was Howard Benson, the producer for P.O.D. We went to his studio, and he said he would like to do it, but he wasn't able to cut the record when we needed it. So we knew he wasn't the guy, but we were still blown away that God would give us favor with him! Then we talked to Scott Humphrey, and when we went to talk with Scott, I just felt God. I felt the anointing there, and I felt like this is the place we were meant to go. After a month or two of prayer, we decided to go record with Scott Humphrey. Scott is in the middle of LA, and he is friends with all the musicians there. He knows Gary Novak and Phil X, and he is really good friends with Chris Chaney. He used them on a lot of projects, so when we recorded with Scott, those are the guys that he had.
What was everybody's reaction when they heard the lyrics to the music and they discovered that you are a Christian band?
Their reaction was, "Wow, we are happy to be recording a good rock record!" And they thought the songs were great! Our witness was really just all of us walking the walk, and we spoke about Jesus often. For them, it was just playing good rock music, but God drew those people together to plant seeds, and that's what we did.
When I first listened to your album, Day of Fire, I knew you guys had something going on. I said to myself, "I can see these guys going places—they just have the right sound—it's polished and it's very professional." You could take a song like "Detainer," and it could be played on any secular rock station, and it would just fit right in. The funny thing is, I didn't even know who was working with you on your album when I first heard your music, but I knew it just sounded right! Then I happened to do a little research, and I saw the stellar lineup of artists, and I thought, "You know this has just got to be something God has orchestrated. There is no way you can get all these incredible artists all together to record a debut project like this, and get it to sound that good!"
I am a just a guy from Jackson, Tennessee and Greg is from Wisconsin. We aren't great players, we aren't even super-savvy businessmen than can negotiate this—it was just God! We went up there and played our guitars. God put together the album and that was it!
What are your aspirations for the band?
The number one vision is to spread the gospel to those who don't have it. When I look into the future of that, I see us going and touring the world, not as a Christian band, but as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. As ambassadors, we will go into the places where people need to hear the gospel and spread it through the music, and through the word of our testimony. We also like to be real with people. We don't like to force anything down anybody's neck, but there are people out there that are dying to hear the gospel. We will find these people and speak to them. That's one part of our vision, but the other part is for people to be delivered off of drugs and alcohol. To be delivered from the chains of sin and bondage through the music, and through the name of Jesus Christ. The only way those things can happen is through the power of God. God had me write down that vision and that's the true mission of this band.
What are you doing to protect yourself from the past, and how can others do the same?
I surround myself with Godly people and I stay in the word. Everybody that God has placed in my life is Godly, and I don't feel any of these people would really allow me to slip up without checking on me. There are just a lot of good people that will hold me accountable. You have to realize that God took the desire away from me to want to do drugs, and when I am on the road I stay away from situations that would be questionable.
I know what you are saying—stay away from temptation instead of going toward it.
(laughter) That's right. I try to be real with people. I try to be real with God, and He takes care of the rest.
Any final words for the readers of NRT?
We feel like our record is a tool to reach people with the gospel, and I even put my testimony on the inside cover of this record. We know how to rock, and we put on a good rock show, but all of this is to get people to Jesus. I want people, when they look at the record, to look it as a tool and use it to spread the gospel. Our mission is to combine with the church, to get everybody focused on the vision of going into the world and spreading the gospel, getting kids into bible believing churches, getting them into the presence of God and seeing lives changed for eternity.
Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.