Rick Lee James wears many hats; He's a worship leader Home Road Nazarene Church in Springfield, Ohio, a singer and songwriter, preacher, author, and host of the Voices In My Head Podcast. But first and foremost, he's a husband and a father. Just for fun, he runs the Twitter account @MisterRogersSay where he posts encouraging quotes from Fred "Mister" Rogers. We recently spoke to Rick. He talked music, life on the road, and his new album, Thunder.
What are some of your favorite artists and music that you listen to and why?
I have so many favorites, but I'll try to narrow it down to three.
Andrew Peterson: I believe he might be the greatest lyricist alive today, in any genre. He's also an incredible author, and just a really nice guy. "The Silence of God," "Nothing To Say," and "Is He Worthy" are my favorites.
Bruce Springsteen: I can't think of a musical storyteller whom I admire more. Take a song like "The Ghost of Tom Joad" that not only shows a depth of musicianship and has been recorded in numerous styles, but also mixes great American literature (The Grapes of Wrath), while spreading a message about the importance of caring for the poor. Who else can turn a lyric like that? He's also a killer guitar player.
Paul Baloche: I can't think of anyone who writes music for the church better than Paul. His heart for not only writing songs, but for training others is unparalleled. I know that when I lead a congregation in a new song by Paul Baloche that it will not only be singable and have a popular style, it will also have a rich message that goes deeper than a lot of what we hear in worship music. Plus, he has always been a great encourager to me.
You're obviously a huge fan of guitars and instruments. What is your favorite gear that you play with?
I'm blessed to have an endorsement with guitar manufacturer Breedlove. I genuinely love their guitars, especially the classical that I play throughout my new album, Thunder. It sounds sweet and plays like a dream. I usually travel with a Boss RC-300 Loop Station recording live loops with my Breedlove or my Taylor Guitars. I can't always travel with a band, but the Loop Station really makes a one-person band sound full by adding a lot of layers. My go-to electric guitar is my special edition Fender Stratocaster. With a switch of the knobs, I can change the guitar to four different tunings, or four different pickup styles. It's incredibly versatile. For microphones, it's hard to beat a Shure SM-58, which I'm always happy to see when I step onto a platform. They are cost effective and just work so well in a live environment.
How do you approach your songwriting?
In recent years, since I do so much leading in congregations, I've tried to focus on writing for people in worship. Often that leads me to old hymns that haven't had a lot of love recently. And, trying to find ways to make them more accessible to congregations. Oftentimes, I find prayer and theology books to be very inspirational in this task. When we're putting words into the mouths of people, we want to make sure they are worthy of being sung both from our mouths and our hearts. The more I write, the more I find fulfillment in writing songs for others to sing.
What was it like to get to record a Rich Mullins unreleased track?
I still can't believe that I was asked to release a lost track by Rich Mullins. It was exciting to be asked, but intimidating to actually record. It wasn't something I found incredibly easy. It felt like a heavy weight much of the time. Rich means so much to so many people in the Christian music world; I didn't want to be the guy that misrepresented him or did a poor job with one of his songs. I think the song and the music video both turned out better than I could have hoped. I truly hope that Rich would be pleased. The guys at Old Bear Studio in New York really went all in with me helping to create a unique, almost throwback sound.
What are you working on right now? What's next?
Currently, I'm just working to promote Thunder. Getting ready for its release has taken up a year of my life and I'm taking every opportunity that I can to share these songs on the road, in radio stations, and in churches.
How can we be praying for you?
What a wonderful thing to ask. I just want to honor God with my craft and also provide for my family. Being a traveling singer seems to be a famine or feast kind of occupation, with times when I'm incredibly busy and times when I'm driving Uber while I'm between gigs. If you could pray that God will show me how to be where I can do the most good for His Kingdom, and how to provide for my family, I would really appreciate it. I want to thank New Release Today for your generous coverage of my work and for your prayers. You are a blessing.
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