His name is Graham Jones, a singer-songwriter living in Arlington, Texas. This up and coming artist serves as the worship pastor at his local church, the Fields Church. He also works with the non-profit organization, Texas Winds Musical Outreach. He even sings at nursing homes. Graham's aim is to live out the gospel in the grace of Jesus.
I had the opportunity to connect with Graham and talk about his creative influences and debut album, The Story's Still Alive. I also talked with him about the biggest challenges he faces being a new artist.
What are some of your creative influences?
I grew up listening to Switchfoot, Nickel Creek, Chris Rice, and John Mayer. And, in the last decade or so, I’ve also connected with the music of Colony House, Josh Garrels, and Andrew Peterson. My songwriting style sits somewhere in the middle of those influences.
But, I find myself inspired just as often by a host of other works across various media: the biblical stories of the prophet Haggai and King Josiah, Randy Newman’s score in The Natural, Hayao Miyazaki’s graphic novel and film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda games, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion—even a really good chocolate chip cookie.
All of these contribute to what I find beautiful and meaningful in my faith and life, so they all play a part in how I express that meaning in song.
How have your experiences as a local worship leader influenced your debut album, The Story’s Still Alive?
Such a great question. My life as a worship pastor—and even more as a church member—has shaped this album in more ways than I can count. Our focus on finding the truth of the gospel in every corner of scripture has inspired me to write songs that come from specific passages and stories: John 11 in “Resurrection Song” and Exodus 34 in “More Than the View” are great examples.
I have often used songwriting as a way of responding to the ups and downs of ministry life: “Small Things” and “In the Background.” But, the clearest example is the story behind writing “The Story’s Still Alive," which ended up becoming the title track and spiritual cornerstone of the whole album.
I wrote that song one afternoon after a friend from church told me they were leaving the faith. I remember coming home after that conversation feeling completely broken, because I not only cared deeply for them, but I also felt like we were kindred spirits. So, I was also forced to wrestle with my own faith at that moment.
Unlike my normal songwriting process, I ended up writing “The Story’s Still Alive” in its finished form in about an hour that afternoon as a personal plea and prayer for them, and for me. From these and other experiences in life and ministry, my hope is that this album will connect with listeners in the midst of their own unique valleys and shadows, and shine the light of Christ.
You say that you want to uncover the spiritual in the everyday. Can you expand on that thought? What does that look like for you?
Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God says, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” The irony of being a worship pastor is that I know that our true tests of worship are not on Sunday mornings at church. But, on Monday mornings at the breakfast table, on Tuesday afternoons at work, on Wednesday nights on our phones, you get the idea.
With that in mind, I don’t want to write songs that deepen the perceived rift between sacred and secular. I want to see the two unified. Because really, in the kingdom of God, everything is sacred. Ironically then, I find that the most meaningful songs aren’t the ones aimed at writing a grand treatise on grace, but the ones that pause for a moment to consider a seed buried in the soil and remember God’s grace there. Finding the spiritual in the everyday means remembering that the gospel transforms all of life, every day. That’s what I want to sing about.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a newer artist?
For me, it’s learning to juggle the various tasks necessary to make and share music with others. This modern era has made music almost infinitely accessible. But, cutting through the noise and connecting with others is really difficult—especially in a sustainable way that will enable me to continue doing this for many years.
As a newer artist, there are so many things I need to be doing effectively beyond just writing and recording songs. And, to be honest, I’m not very good at several of them. Thankfully, there are helpful voices out there—like New Release Today—and friends around me who are helping to lift me up and carry me along on this journey.
Talk about the song, “In the Background.”
I wrote “In the Background” during an especially low moment during ministry, and I found myself in this dark place asking, “God, where are you? What are you doing in this?” I sat down to play and write, and I found myself thinking of these little images of brokenness and longing in nature—a winding river, a crescent moon, a broken tree stump—and connecting them to the feelings of my own heart.
Slowly, I began to remember that what we perceive as the lowest and most broken place is exactly where God is. That’s when the song really took form for me, and I saw Jesus in heaven not only as of the place of his ascended glory, but a place where he, too, is waiting in the background.
I’ve been working on lots of video content recently for this new album, including a new music video for “I Am Here for You” that just released. I had hoped to tour this fall. But, like all of us, this pandemic has radically changed my plans. I’m still wrestling with what it will look like. But, I’m hopeful to get to safely share this music for some folks, whether online or socially distant and outside. Beyond that, I have a few extra songs that didn’t quite make the cut for this album, and a church Advent project I’d like to record someday soon.
How can we be praying for you?
Thanks so much for asking. Please pray for our church, our pastors and our people. Pray that we would walk in Jesus as we have received him and have been taught (Colossians 2:6-7). Pray for wisdom for me. Pray that I would work diligently and continue to grow as an artist. And, most of all, pray that these songs would encourage many in darkness and doubt to turn to hope in Christ.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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