10 Questions with ... Jeromy Deibler
November 19, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Jennifer Deibler - vocals
- Jeromy Deibler - piano, guitar, vocals
- Michael Boggs - guitar, vocals
- Steve Croyle
- Jonathan Firey
- Brian Smith - bass, vocals
- One of These Days 1996
- Winter Wonder 1997
- I Want to Be Like You 1998
- Found a Place 2000
- Have I Ever Told You 2001
- Ready to Fly 2003
- Still the Cross 2004
- Voice From Home 2005
- Far From Home: The Best of FFH 2007
- Worship in the Waiting 2007
- Wide Open Spaces 2009
- One Silent Night: An FFH Christmas 2011
- The Way We Worship 2012
1. Give us some background on the band....how it got started, the early days, first time you thought, "we're going to make it."
Short version... Brian Smith and I started FFH in 1991 with two other guys at a camp in southeastern Pennsylvania. We were still in high school, so we weren't able to give much time to it, but even so, we kept getting invitations to play music from the churches that saw us perform at that camp. Eventually we began to devote more attention to FFH and touring, and by the mid-nineties we were spending most of our summers on the road. In 1994 I met Jennifer, and we got married a year later. At first, she went on the road with us to be with me and to help out (we desperately needed the help). Then when one of the original members left the band, we asked Jennifer to join us on stage. We continued to tour independently, playing almost every show that we were invited to, no matter what it was. Barn dance, birthday party, county fair - you name it, we said yes. During that time we recorded a series of independent albums, one of them being an album called One of These Days. Through a few relationships that only God could have orchestrated, the album got into the hands of a well known radio promoter in Nashville, and with his help, the record started getting played on stations around the country. Soon several labels asked us to sign record deals. One of those labels, Essential Records, offered us a contract where they would simply re-package the independent and release it nationally.
Some might say that at that point we had "made" it. It didn't feel like it though. We were busier than ever with no time to enjoy what was happening, and we were fearful that we'd mess things up.
I've come to realize that "making it" is all relative to our expectations. When I was a teenager, I began playing and writing music, and the more I did it the more I wanted to do it. I dreamed of being able to do it for my living, and in God's great kindness (and some help from my parents early on) he's allowed me to do that for the past twenty years. So in my mind, I'd already "made it" long before we got signed or became well known.
2. How early did you know that you wanted to be an artist? What was it that prompted that decision?
When I was twelve I started taking drum lessons. By the time I was in high school I was pretty good. Then one day I decided I wanted to pay the piano. Mom played, so we always had a pretty nice piano in the house. I got out a few of her pop piano books and started pecking out the notes. In a week or so I could play chords, and I started writing my own songs to those chords right away. Music made sense to me. Even when I couldn't play it, I understood it. I never had to choose music. I just kept walking in that direction and God kept putting more ground in from of me. It's still happening that way.
3. Tell me about your family.
Long story... mom's parents were Amish. Before they had their three daughters they left the Amish tradition and moved to another part of the now famous Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Dad's parent were German and settled in that same small town. My parents, both of them the middle of three siblings, met in high school and fell in love. Dad played guitar and Mom played piano, and they both sang, kind of like the Carpenters. They even had a Christian group for a while. I would guess from seeing pictures that they were hippies, being as it was the seventies and all. I was a surprise to them both and even more so to my grandparents. My mom's parents had some land, so dad and pa paw (mom's dad) cleared a patch of woods up the hill from theirs and built a little house. I have only a few memories of that house, but they are fond memories, and I felt safe there.
I think things were fine for a while, but mom and dad were young, and it was just too hard to make it work. Ma maw (mom's mom) was only forty-two when I was born, and mom's youngest sister, Cindy, was still in junior high, so even though my parents separated, I was surrounded by family. Dad's family was supportive too, and my parents stayed in the same town, which was probably hard for them but much better for me.
Things got harder as I got older, as they usually do for kids whose parents separate, but I was always with people who loved me, and I always knew Jesus was with me. I remember playing in those woods even after mom and dad's divorce and feeling secure. With the help of some great counselors, and Jennifer's support, God is healing the wounds for both me and my parents.
4. You've had quite a lot of things happen over the past several years, haven't you? Can you bring us up to date on the struggles with the house?
Yes, thanks for asking. It's been more than two years since our little town was flooded and, as is expected, most people have forgotten.
After months and months of conversations with insurance companies, and lawyers, and mold remediators, Jennifer and I began to realize that we weren't going to get help. Our lawyers did everything they could, but we couldn't afford to pursue a settlement any longer, and frankly, we didn't have the energy to continue to fight. So this past April, we decided to move on. Everything we owned had to be thrown away, and the parts of our house that were damaged by rain and mold had to be torn out and replaced. It was hard, but we'd been living in a rental house for over a year already without any of those things, so that may have softened it just a little. It was roughest for Jennifer because she was the one responsible for inventorying all of our possessions before they were thrown away. Only a few things were saved. That was an especially dark time for all of us, but Jesus is really giving us joy in the aftermath of the loss. We continue to mourn the loss of our "normal life" before the flood, but we are seeing how God is redeeming the loss.
5. Now, you're leading worship at a church in Nashville, correct? Have you always had a heart for worship? Tell me how that became important to you as a believer and an artist.
Like so many of my friends, I grew up in a traditional church having no idea what "worship music" was. As FFH's popularity grew and we began to travel the country playing music, we were exposed to the worship music movement in the many different churches we visited. At the same time, many of the songs I was writing were becoming worship songs that people were singing in their own churches. As we kept moving forward in music, we began to lead worship songs that we didn't write. Eventually we blended those songs into our concert sets, and all of a sudden some folks began seeing us as a worship band. We were frequently invited to lead worship at camps and conferences, and as we played those events, worship music became more and more a part of what we did. When our church, Fellowship Bible, asked me to become one of their rotating worship leaders, I was nervous, but I felt as though God had prepared me for it.
6. Are you comfortable discussing the challenges you've faced with your health? How is that going? How are you feeling? What hurdles has that posed for you in ministry?
It's been a little over four years since I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and again, in God's great kindness, I am doing very well. MS symptoms are a part of my life now, and I realize that my future with regards to my health remains very uncertain, but most days I feel pretty normal. The two rounds of chemotherapy that I received as part of a clinical trial I'm a part of seem to have helped to stop the progress of the disease, and the handful of pills I take in the morning help with the symptoms.
7. You have a new project finished and a song climbing the charts at radio. What can you tell me about the songs, and the radio single?
I sort of see our time in Africa in 06 and 07, and then the year off for sorting out my MS therapy, as half-time. It's kind of like God gave us the chance to get off the field for a while to rest and take a different look at life. Being away from the CCM industry for a while helped me realize that I was living off of the success of the band and not getting my life from the streams of Living Water. When all of that was taken away for a while, Jesus showed me that the only way I am going to have peace is through Him. As we have come back to music and back to FFH, different things have become more important to us ,and hopefully that is reflected in the new music.
The first single from THE WAY WE WORSHIP is a song called "AS FOR ME." The most striking difference in it from past records and singles is that I had no part in writing this song. In fact, several songs on the record are ones that Jennifer and I have heard and played over the past couple of years and, even though they aren't "mine," we decided that they are important enough to us that we wanted to record them. I've written plenty of new songs, but it's not about me. I think Africa, MS, the flood - all of it has made us see life and music in a different way. We are, by no means, better or more spiritual than anybody else, but we are different than we were, and I think that is probably reflected in the way we make music.
But it's not just the music that has changed. Almost everything is different now... the kids go with us almost everywhere now, so much so that they have begun asking when we have a show next. I remind them that we don't have a show, I have a show, they just get to come along and do cool stuff. They see it as our family's job now, which is exactly what we'd hoped for. Church is more important too. In fact, we made the decision that we wouldn't go back to touring unless we were deeply involved in our church community and had some friends outside of music and that we would feel sent out by them. Furthermore, some of the other stuff, things like huge sounds systems and lights and a semi with our faces on it, don't matter nearly as much. Our concerts have become a time to reconnect with audiences that we haven't seen in a few years and share our stories and new thoughts on life. People still want to hear FFH hits from the past ten years, and they seem to have new life and meaning now, but those people also want to know what all of this new music is about. We're having a really good time getting to share that.
8. What's one of the greatest "God moments" that you've experienced in your life?
I have no earthly idea how to answer that. I know this much - I'm more thankful now than ever for God's goodness and provision for me. Especially for the gift of such an amazing wife. Jennifer is truly the most lovely person I know. And I get to hang out with her every day! That's an ongoing God moment. (Is that a fair answer?)
9. If you had one "do over", what would that be?
Holy cow, another good question. There are three or four bad decisions I have made regarding relationships that I wish I could rewind and make again. Like everyone else, I make poor choices all the time, but these were especially damaging, and I know I hurt the people involved. It would be dishonoring to give details.
On a more specific note..there are a couple of concerts I'd like to have back. Celebrate Freedom is one of them. 150,000 people at South Fork Ranch in Texas, and we were terrible. Seriously laid an egg. And to make it worse, Reunion Records recorded it and released the performance. Oh, and I passed on "GOD OF WONDERS" when the record company asked me to front it on CITY ON A HILL. I listened to the demo and said that I thought it was just okay. Whoops.
10. Where do you feel God leading you for the next chapter in your ministry?
I don't know. I think we've been so future-minded for so long that not knowing is probably where God wants us. Right now we are making records, teaching and raising our kids, playing music, and trying to keep it light and have fun with it.
1. Synopsis of the last book you read, title and author?
AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD by Barbara Brown Taylor. I'm about half way through, but it's good. A lot of stuff about finding Jesus in our everyday lives and in creation and in relationships. It's good for those of us who live a good deal of our lives in church. We can sometimes begin to feel like church is the only place to see Jesus. But creation tells His story too, we just have to slow down long enough to see it.
2. Favorite movie of all time? Why?
"That Thing You Do." Other than the fact that it is a brilliantly fun movie, there are so many scenes in it that I can relate to. Especially the one where they are hearing their song on the radio for the first time, running around screaming. Jennifer and I had almost the same experience.
3. If you had the opportunity to sit an share with an up-n-coming, struggling young artist....what would you say to them?