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AN EXCLUSIVE SONG BY SONG FEATURE
SONG BY SONG: Jason Lee McKinney Band
The songwriter takes us through the inspiration behind the tracks on his band's latest album, 'One Last Thing'
 


AN EXCLUSIVE SONG BY SONG FEATURE, SONG BY SONG: Jason Lee McKinney Band
Posted: April 25, 2022 | By: KevinMcNeese_NRT
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The Jason Lee McKinney Band, based in Nashville, emanates a unique sound that stretches across many musical realms. They embrace this diversity by producing music that incorporates the genres of gospel, rock, R&B, folk, blues, and country. Through it all, their focus remains on our Heavenly Father and the inspiration they derive from Biblical scripture.

They recently released their 11th studio album, titled One Last Thing. McKinney, who wrote all 16 songs on this record, comments on this album, saying "we brought both the musical style and the message of the gospel to the foreground."

We got a chance to dive into each song in-depth with the band. Read on to find out more about these new melodies and how the project as a whole is at its heart, one of praise directed solely back to our Creator. 

 

 

"Cross Over"
 
This song was lyrically inspired by and in the vein of old spirituals. Musically the juxtaposition of the acoustic guitar and the full band is meant to show the contrast between the singular hope of the individual for heaven with the collective reality of the host of heaven when the reality of heaven comes to fruition. The song references Deuteronomy 12:10: "But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety."

In spirituals, the Jordan represents death but the death that must occur for there to be freedom and justice. The Jordan represents liberation and the border that must be crossed to leave the hurt and pain of this world behind. The liberation is described in Revelation 21:4: "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

 
"Sing A Prayer"
 
Lyrically this song is a nod to Bill Wither's song, "Grandma's Hands." But it is also very autobiographical. The biggest spiritual influences by far in my foundational formative years were my paternal grandparents. I am not sure I would have known to turn to the Lord without the intentional spiritual influence of my grandparents. They played such a big role in my development. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 1:5 which says, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." Their influence is still felt by me today which again is affirmed in the book of 2 Timothy 3:14-15: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

This song is a simple acknowledgment of the profound influence that early teaching my grandparents gave me, and the lasting effects it has on my children today. Plus it is pretty funky and uplifting musically, so that is fun.

 
"Freedom"
 
I love the gritty dirty rock on this track. There is a tension in this song that really compliments the metaphysical nature of the lyrics. This song is another nod to the old spirituals that speak of liberation and freedom. Those lyrics are so profound because they are not just speaking of physical freedom but also eternal freedom. To have the depth of heart and mind to look beyond the terrible circumstances of our physical lives to the more transcendent realm is inspiring to me.
 
We're asking the question here: why does existence exist? For what purpose? The motivating cause for existence in Christianity is love. Love is only explained through the cross. 1 Corinthians 18:19 says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'"
 

"Unified"
 
I tried to get creative in the arrangement of "Unified." There is a clear verse and chorus but there is also this reoccurring half chorus along with a post-chorus. The idea is to show that God wants his church to be together in unison and yet not homogenous–rather in unison but diverse, working in harmony.
 
The chorus drives home how important it is to God for his people to be in unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 states, "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought." John 13:35 states, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." Finally, 1 John 4:20 says, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."
 
But how does the church have unity when there are so many doctrinal differences? Francis Chan says, "It is absolutely clear from Scripture that God passionately desires supernatural unity within His Church. Unity is what Jesus prays for, what He commands, and what He says will be our greatest witness to the world."
 
"Promises"
 
Musically, this song has that 16th note funky groove that just sets it off. The two instrumental interludes with the wah pedal give me a stank face every time. Lyrically, "Promises" is just about being faithful and being present for the things that matter like my wife and children. Sometimes it is hard to remember the most important things in life, but I've found that if I imagine my death bed, it all becomes clear. Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
 
My favorite book in the Bible is Ecclesiastes, and it states in 5:4-5: "If you make a promise to God, keep your promise. Don't be slow to do what you promised. God is not happy with fools. Give God what you promised to give him. It is better to promise nothing than to promise something and not be able to do it. So don't let your words cause you to sin."
 
"When I'm Gone"
 
I really dig the driving nature of this song and then how it breaks down into the big massive 6/8. I am most inspired by music from the 70s (of all genres) and the first half of the track pulls from Derek and the Dominos while the back half is as close to a Pink Floyd feel as you will ever get out of us. Sam Berce's solo is fire as are my daughter (Zakyra) and daughter in-laws (Juliana) background vocal answers. 
 
I have come to believe that all the talk you hear about legacy is a farce. No one leaves a legacy. But I do believe we can have a lasting influence. No one will remember your name or your achievements, but if you can make a person's life better and they can pass it on then you are cooking with grease. That can happen with a song, a medical breakthrough, a great sermon, or even a simple "I love you" to someone who needs to hear it, but it isn't you or the thing itself that carries on. It is the nontemporal effect that it has on another individual who then hopefully does the same for someone else. What remains of my grandfather is not the refrigerators he built at the Whirlpool plant or even the soldiers he gave medical attention to in WW2. All of that is gone. What remains is the transcendent truth of God that he taught. The temporal passes and the eternal is all that will remain.

Again, I drew inspiration from the book of Ecclesiastes which says in 2:12-16, "Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I said to myself, 'The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?' I said to myself, 'This too is meaningless.' For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!'" 

I also drew upon the book of Galatians which states in 6:14, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

 

"Paperback Novels"
 
Musically, this song might be the most nuanced I have ever written. It is part blues, part Americana, and part R&B but you can't tell where one starts and the other ends. Lyrically, this song leans heavily into what is probably the primary theme of the album. This song speaks of what really matters. We have a hard time discerning what is truly important. We only have one life yet we live day to day, almost like it will never end. 
 
This song focuses on loving your family and the Lord which Ecclesiastes also points to 9:9: "Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun–all your meaningless days." 
 
"Sing On"
 
This was the very last song written for the album. The music just came out of a rehearsal jam. The feel of the song is a simple 6/8 blues/classic rock vibe but lyrically it is in pretty deep waters. It is perhaps the heaviest song on the album and tries to address what humans need and how to respond in the face of suffering.

Even if we could get God to explain to us all the reasons we suffer from evil and we could remotely understand them intellectually, that would not help us in dealing with suffering. What helps is the loving comfort of our father.  
 
2 Corinthians 4:17 sums up the meaning of the song nicely: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
 
"Doubter's Prayer"

This song is the most Americana song on the album. I love the pedal steel work from our friend, Jules Belmont. This song is absolutely autobiographical and relates to my own struggles with doubt.
 
Much is drawn from the verses Mark 9:23-24 when a man asked Jesus to heal his son. "Jesus said 'Everything is possible for one who believes.' Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!."

We often take this as a bad thing but I contend many, if not most of us, struggle with doubt and can feel this prayer. It is a prayer of faith and trust. 


"Liturgy"
 
A liturgy is a public pattern of worship. This song states my desire for my whole life to be lived as a pattern of worship and an example of how to worship the Lord. Musically, I love how it has that old-time Gospel feel but with that subtle rock slipping in with the half-time feel of the verses and the guitar answers that start in the second verse. I really dig Barry's piano solo in this song. This old-school gospel/country feel is right in Barry's wheelhouse.

The music is meant to complement the lyrics which paraphrase the prodigal son's story found in Luke 15:11-32, Galatians 6:2, and 
Psalm 80:5. 
 
"Lighthouse"
 
This song was written directly to, and for, my youngest son. The chorus actually came to me in a dream all at once one night. I woke up and the entire chorus was just there. I wanted him to know exactly what I desire for him and what duty and love requires I provide for him. My older kids all have a song about them, but this was the first about my youngest. I didn't want him to be left out!
 
I know my son will have questions and deal with doubts about his faith, but I hope he keeps searching until finds those answers. I never want my son to backup, backdown or become silent.

One of my favorite lyrics on this track says, "I dare you to hope, even after regret" and that is an acknowledgment that my son will fail, he will sin, he will let those he loves down but yet the only right course of action after failure is to hope. And as his earthly father, I will do my best to always be there for him and to point in the most wise and true direction. But as his Father in heaven, He will ultimately be a beacon for him. John 8:12 sums up the sentiment well: "Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life."
 
"Make No Mistake"
 
This song started as a straight-up blues number with a straight feel but about a week before we recorded, I got this half-time riff in my head and we switched it up. One Last Thing is the most blatantly spiritual album I have ever made but my faith has always been woven into my lyrics. I have always balanced my worldview and faith and there is no lyric that runs contrary to that. "Make No Mistake" is a simple statement that the overarching theme and mission of my entire music career has been to honor the Lord. I have often been more raw, honest, and authentic than what is comfortable for a lot of people at times but none the less, it is all been meant to glorify the Lord.
 
"Song of Songs"
 
Yes, this song is about sex. Yes, the lyrics are paraphrased straight from scripture. The song has an R&B feel which is on purpose as well. I hope married couples decide to put this song on in the background as they partake of one another. Christians have always had this strange quirk about sex. Everyone else talks about it so much that Christians have allowed the power of sex to be taken away. This is partly self-inflicted by the repressive history the Church has had with sex. I have written often about sex in my songs, but it is always in the context of marriage, from "Mississippi" to "Sacred Southern Soul," I have vowed never to be pressured into shying away from it, but also never to speak of it outside of a context of what aligns with God's design. Verse one references Song of Songs 1:8, 1:2 and 7:8-9, 4:15. Verse two references 6:13, 7:1-3 and 1:7, 1:12 and 4:10, 8:10, 4:16; 5:1-5, and 7:12. The bridge- references 5:1 and 4:16. It's a heavy influence. 
 
"Voice For the Voiceless"
 
This song has some serious classic rock vibes mixed with straight up Gospel. There is a clear tip of the hat to Joe Cocker's Space Captain mixed with some early Black Crowes as well. Lyrically, the song centers around Psalm 82:3: "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." 

I had the issues of the homeless, human trafficking, and the rights of the unborn in mind when writing this one. The verse describes the infinite worth of every person on earth. If Jesus died for everyone, then everyone is valuable. Let me say that again. Everyone. Literally everyone.
 
"Without End"
 
This song is the only truly acoustic track on the album. To put any other instruments on this song would only cloud the message and muddy the waters. It is super dense in philosophical references and concepts. The overall theme is that as transcendent and big as God is, his greatest work–his most shocking–is how he loves you and me. As the greatest lyricist of all time Rich Mullins said in his song "Nothing Is Beyond You," "I cannot explain the way you came to love me except to say that nothing is beyond you.
 
"One Last Thing"
 
Musically, this song is stanky funky and I love grooves that give you some stank face. Lyrically, the song is just a benediction. A way to end things with a blessing and well wishes. The chorus quotes the priestly blessing of Aaron and his sons found in Numbers 6:24-25, "'The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you.'"

Once again, we utilize the gospel choir as a way to signify togetherness. When we come and play for people we share that one night and sometimes just that one night, but for that night there is a temporary community where we are all in it together. The benediction is meant for us–all of us–and so the choir is really vital in portraying that musically. This one fade outs simply because with a benediction, there is no finality. It is a until next time. It's not goodbye it's, "see you soon."

 

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