We have become familiar with her writing through the voices of Kari Jobe, Phillips Craig & Dean, Selah, NewSong, Trica Brock, Newsboys, Travis Cotrell, Rebecca St. James, Shane & Shane, and JJ Heller to name a few. Now, Jennie Lee Riddle, top five CCLI writer, two time dove winner, and author of worship anthems like"Revelation Song" and "When The Stars Burn Down" is opening up to share more of her heart and life with us.
PEOPLE & SONGSTM is Jennie’s most recent endeavor, and is the brand that is releasing Opus 1, the first album in a series of albums. "It's a dream long in coming,” says Jennie. She calls herself a collector of people and is known for loving to network and promote those she believes in. It seems only natural then, that she would put together the fairly self-explanatory brand, People & SongsTM.
Opus 1 features the writing of Jennie and 13 songwriter friends. It contains 15 theologically rich songs, with 12 vocalists Jennie happens to greatly enjoy. Jennie was even talked into singing lead on two of the songs after a bit of arm twisting from her producer. She additionally sings backing vocals on all songs. Her friend Michael Farren produced the album with great care to see to it that the arrangements were everything Jennie heard in her heart and more. "I don't think I was very easy to work with, but Michael was an undaunted servant and friend. He saw to it that this album became truly all I could have ever wanted. I've been around enough artists now to know that is truly a rare blessing indeed," says Jennie. Jennie and Michael took a combined risk and jumped into what is a freshman project for both of them. "There is no one else that I would have wanted to produce my project. The fact that this is Michael's first project just makes it extra special to me. Our families have become life-long friends over it. I am really so proud of both of our work!"
The album is a fresh blend of congregational worship with alternative country nuances throughout. It feels like a sentimental mix of everything you've known in a good way. "it reminds me of home," says Jennie. An all-star cast of musicians participated on this project. Long time music industry musician Dan Dugmore brought his legendary sound to the album. "I fell in love with Dan's work when I heard him in a live performance a few years back. I remember sitting there in the pew at Grace Chapel and telling the Lord that I wanted him to play on an album for me, if I ever found the courage to record one. I didn't know until Dan walked out of the recording booth and we got to talking that he had played the pedal steel for Juice Newton’s, ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning’ and Linda Ronstadt's ‘Blue Bayou’. I'll never forget him showing us the beautiful dobro that Linda Ronstadt gave him,” says Jennie.
Also included on the album is Mickey Raphael, a long time harmonica player for Willie Nelson, Andy Leftwich on violin (plays for Ricky Skaggs), flat picker Bob Miner (plays for Tim McGraw), Tom Bukovac (electrics), Jacob Lowery (bass), Jeremy Lutito (drums), Kyle Lee (a swiss army knife of a musician), Paul Nelson, and David Davidson, just to name a few. A real answer to Jennie's prayers was the opportunity to work with friend and premier Nashville arranger, Don Hart. "He deserved the grand finale track. Working with him was worth the whole album for me. I've loved his work for many years, and to count him as a friend is a blessing I can't even articulate."
When asked about the motivation behind launching People & SongsTM and the album Opus 1, Jennie didn't hesitate. "It was a genuine step of obedience and faith and was also just one more opportunity to attack fear head on. Regret is not a companion that I enjoy entertaining, and I knew that if I didn't do it, I would be inviting it to live with me all my days. I have labored over my offering to the Bride. I wanted to give Her something that would help Her in this world and ready Her for the next. The word teaches me that ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ I wanted to love those in my sphere of influence with that kind of love. So many of the people I meet have more talent in their little pinky than I have in my whole body. They have more money. They have bigger dreams that smack of God. They have more everything. I wanted to do this project to help spur them on towards their Kingdom dreams. I wanted people witnessing the process to say, 'Holy smokes! If SHE can do it, by golly I know I can!' I'm hoping that an army of previously hesitant and fearful folks will tenaciously follow God into whatever adventures He prepares. There are still mountains to climb, giants to conquer, and fun to have. I don't believe God has any plans on us slowing down! He is the Grand Adventure."
Several years back, Jennie founded New Nation Music as a vehicle to help train leaders and strengthen the Church. She believesthat music is a gift from God that is capable of permanently engraving God’s truth on hearts; a powerful medium that can unite rather than divide. She states, “Music can literally train the heart and put the Church on the same page at the same time. In just five minutes, a song is encompassing enough to unite every denomination and generation on the earth as One Voice and One Bride for One King.” Jennie is the primary songwriter, teacher and visionary for New Nation Music, as well as one of the worship leaders. New Nation Music is a ministry that also serves as the covering organization for People & SongsTM.
In her own words, "those who know my story, know that the past few years have changed my world completely. I never anticipated God calling me out of the secret to such a public place.I had become so comfortable and content in my kitchen and school. Everything in me fearfully resisted. I felt God asking me to expand my comfort zone to include the world. What a seemingly presumptuous thought! However, my heart knew that I could not let fear hold me and I knew the Lord alone was to be my comfort zone and place of security. Thefamiliar words, 'the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it’ became alive in me as I considered Psalm 27. I remembered that I am my Father’s daughter and a co-heir with Christ Jesus. With that foundational trust, I agreed to embark on this crazy journey with the King of Glory. As a result I have experienced more in the past four years of my life than the sum of the first 40. He has been faithful. I’ve promised God that I would obey Him and not my fear or pride. That decision has led me to experience relationships in places in this world I never thought I would enjoy. I’m not afraid anymore. I’ll go anywhere with God!”
Jennie considers herself first and foremost a wife, mother, and teacher. It is without a doubt her teaching gift and mother's heart that informs her songwriting. Jennie credits her success to her husband. “God’s design of authority works. I am under my husband and he covers me. This is why I have liberty. God meant for loving submission to bring freedom, and I’ve found that to be abundantly true.” Darrin and Jennie Lee Riddle have been happily married for 23 years and they have four children, all musicians in their own right, (Daniel age 22, Emily age 20, David age 19, and Andrew age 14). Just ask anyone who has ever been around them and they will tell you that the whole Riddle family is masters of genuine Kingdom hospitality. The Riddle's even have a room in their country home dedicated for songwriters who want to come and spend time honing their craft. They call it theTuck Me Inn.
Jennie says if she could invite us all to live there, she would. She says, “Maybe I'm experiencing a little bit of what God was feeling when He created this world for us to live in as a family.”