South Carolina's Grammy-nominated band NEEDTOBREATHE hooked me 14 years ago with their major-label debut Daylight, which featured the single "Shine On." My takeaway review comments were "Great album. Even better group."
Since then, the band has managed to improve their craft with each album, garner an opening slot for Taylor Swift, play on late-night television, and collaborate with Gavin DeGraw on one of their biggest hits to date, "Brother," from my Top Album of 2014, Rivers in the Wasteland. That album earned a Grammy nomination for "Multiplied" and features the standout song “Difference Maker.”
Something I take immense joy in discovering with each new NEEDTOBREATHE release is the incredible songwriting and musical excellence. Let's not forget the nuggets of lyrical connection weaving their way throughout the tracks. In their album H A R D L O V E—my Top Album of 2016—the band subtly includes the reference to the dance of life in a few contexts, taking us on the journey of life lessons learned in "HARD LOVE:" Hold on tight/what don't kill you makes you stronger/get back up/'cause it's a hard love.
After a four-year wait, the band is returning with the full-length album Out of Body in August 2020, which includes “Hang On,” “Seasons” and “Survival.” I had the great opportunity to interview the band's keyboardist Josh Lovelace about their new single, “Who Am I.”
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
"Who Am I" was written in a time of reflection and looking at ourselves and who we are in life. For us, speaking for us as a band, so many times we allow our past mistakes to define who we are today and I think when we look at our past through the lens of who we are as humans, we can get very defeated by things we’ve said or have been said to us, or situations we’ve been in.
For us, “Who Am I” is a reflection of us saying to God, “Who am I that You would love me?” Even though I carry all this baggage and weight into my story, to try to find ourselves in the picture of grace and how God sees us, and allowing ourselves to see ourselves through that light instead of telling ourselves, we aren’t worthy of that love.
That’s what all of us on our faith journey ask: whether we are worthy? Whether what we're bringing to the story is worth anything? The truth is that it's not. What we are learning in our lives, as we’ve grown older and have kids, what grace looks like in our lives. That’s where this song comes from, the heart of figuring out who we are in God’s eyes.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Psalm 139:14(NIV): "I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalm 139:17-18(NKJV): "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You."
Ephesians 2:10(NLT): "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."
1 John 3:1(NLT): "See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don't recognize that we are God's children because they don't know Him."
Romans 8:11(VOICE): "If the Spirit of the One who resurrected Jesus from the dead lives inside of you, then you can be sure that He who raised Him will cast the light of life into your mortal bodies through the life-giving power of the Spirit residing in you."
John 8:36(NIV): "So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
John 1:12(NIV): "Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."
What is the takeaway message?
Psalm 139 is one of my favorites. Just the fact that we would be on the mind of the Creator of the universe is spectacular and humbling. We're all on this journey together. And, just to know that we're on His mind enough to create us uniquely and in His image is powerful. This song, for sure, reflects that truth. It’s just an overwhelming feeling that He would care to love us at all.
It's such a crazy time in the world right now. There are a lot of people searching for hope and asking a lot of questions. As we look at our story, we see someone who has been on a journey with God for a long time. That’s different from someone who asks the question, “Who Am I.” Let alone asking the question, “Who Am I that the God of the universe would love me?”
I hope this song brings peace to people who have been on the journey with God for a long time and for those asking questions. This song gives people permission to ask “Who Am I?” Rest in knowing that God cares about us.
We’ve been a band for 20 years. One thing I feel confident about with this album is that we are understanding who we are as a band and as people. We're comfortable in asking questions in ways that make people think, like in “Difference Maker.” We take our experiences and put them into songs.
Out of Body is us being comfortable in our own skins. It reflects our identity as a band. We just want to relate to the people we are, especially during this crazy time.
White lights and desperation Hard times and conversation No one should ever love me like You do Sometimes my bad decisions Define my false suspicions No one should ever love me like You do
While I’m this road You take my hand
Somehow You really love who I really am I push You away, still You won’t let go You grow Your roses on my barren soul
Who am I, who am I, who am I?
To be loved by You Who am I, who am I, who am I? To be loved by You Who am I, who am I, who am I? To be loved by You Who am I, who am I, who am I? To be loved by You
Last night, confidence was shaken My wounds and my past was saying No one should ever love me like You do
The way I put You through it, what You had to see I’m a train wreck, I’m a mess You see the best and the worst in me Still I can’t imagine that I’ve earned Your trust I don’t understand where Your love comes from
God is love. We love because He first loved us. Have joy and worship loudly about the love of God in your life. His grace takes away anxiety, guilt, and shame. Know that being His is enough. In the vocals of NEEDTOBREATHE's lead singer Bear Rinehart, I hear a sincere yearning for the Lord. A thankfulness in his heart for God's mercy and grace.
I'm completely convicted by the strong lyrics and find immense comfort in this song. We're aware of many situations involving people taking their own lives after dealing with depression. Allow the Holy Spirit to "cast the light of life into your mortal bodies." If you're struggling with depression, especially now with our social distancing due to COVID-19, please know with certainty these life-giving words.
“Who Am I” is a daily prayer, asking God to come and change our hearts and our lives. Only Jesus can give us our identity. What a powerful expression of what it means to accept that God never leaves or forsakes us. He's all we need. I sing this song to God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
You can rest upon the wise words in Romans 8:31: "If our God is for us, who can stand against us?” Nothing can separate us from His love. For the Son has risen, and sin and death are conquered. NEEDTOBREATHE consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we're in humble submission to God. Don't play it safe. Ask for God to be real in your life. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God.
God pours out His mercy despite what we've done. And there's nothing we can do except trust in His son, Jesus. We can't earn heaven; it's only through complete surrender to Jesus and putting our hope in Him that we can be saved. He wants to give us life and never let us go. That's something worth singing about.
This song is a great reminder of the kind of heart we should have both as people valued by God and as Christians who can communicate our value to other people. For me, songs, such as "Who Am I," provide opportunities for God to whisper to me my identity. It's not found in what I do or don't do, but in who I am, and, more importantly, to whom I belong.
We can all celebrate the truth behind this song. We're fearfully, wonderfully and perfectly made, singing to God with all our hearts: “Somehow You really love who I really am/I push You away/Still You won’t let go…Who am I to be loved by You?” Amen to that.
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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