10 Questions with ... Jimmy Needham
September 9, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Speak - 2006
- Not Without Love - 2008
- Nightlights - 2010
- Clear the Stage - 2012
- The Hymn Sessions, Vol. 1 - 2013
1) Jimmy - please give us a brief history....birthplace, childhood, schools, jobs, current hometown, etc.
I was born as a small child. ;) My family moved around a lot until 2nd grade when we settled in Houston, TX. I have done all my schooling there. In 2003 I left for Texas A&M where I graduated with a history degree, a record contract and a marriage license. Not a bad deal! Me and my wife Kelly have been married for 7 years and have 2 little girls under 3 yrs old.
2) What does a normal day at home look like for you? Morning to Night.
I do my best to wake up before the girls do, which almost never works. Some diaper changing happens. Then Kel, the girls and I do breakfast together. Usually I head up to my writing room to "work". This usually means spending some time in the Word and in prayer, getting some emails done, teaching a few songwriting lessons to fans online (I started courses through my website. Fun!) and if i'm lucky, i'll actually get to song-write. We're very social folks so often dinner and evening means folks are over at our house. The girls go to bed around 8-9. Then me and Kel can relax a little with each other before we pass out! We love playing games, doing puzzles and...wow...just writing that made me feel 60 years old.
3) What's the song that you just can't get out of your head right now? Why do you like it so much?
This morning I woke up singing "The River of Dreams" by Billy Joel. I just bought his greatest hits. That guy is such a songwriting stud! He's not afraid to take some musical risks. Guess it worked out for him.
4) How do you juggle life on the road with wanting to be home? How much do you travel, what are the challenges?
I just have to remember that my first ministry is to my family, not my job. If you don't have that mindset, you can begin to make excuses for why you're an absentee parent and husband. I don't actually travel a crazy amount though. Usually I leave on the weekends and get home on Monday. If my journeys are long, I will fly my family out to join me. We love traveling together even though it's a fair amount of work with 2 little girls.
5) What's the biggest "God moment" that you've ever experienced, personal or professional?
In 2002 I was in one of the darkest pits of addiction. Lust had such a stronghold on me and I couldn't keep myself from running back to the broken well of pornography. I was also a new believer at the time so my conscience was very burdened. I felt there was no way out and that God had surely abandoned me. I was in my room one night after failing again, when, interrupting my thoughts and sorrow, was a vision. I saw myself kneeling on the ground with Jesus at my side. His hand rested on my back. We just sat there together for a few moments. I remember bursting into tears at the thought of a God as holy as He was being so near to me. That was a huge and necessary step in my road to recovery, to know that despite my sin my God was near to me. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1)
6) What's the last book you read?
Right now I'm wrapping up a short book on parenting by a Ft. Worth pastor named Jim Essian called "Like Father, Like Sons". It's written to men about fatherhood. Essian's main point is to marvel at God's parenting of us as a model for our parenting. We ought to extend grace to our children because our Dad does that all day long with us. It's been a nice heart check before bed.
7) Tell me about how you became a believer. What caused you to want to serve God in full time ministry?
Jesus interrupted my life at 15. I was a porn-addicted, gluttonous, insecure high school kid whose friend had the courage and compassion to share the hope of the gospel with me. Shortly after that, a local youth pastor began teaching me about God and sound theology and I started growing from there. I consider myself a full-time minister, not because of my career but because of my mandate as a follower of Jesus. The Apostle Paul informs us that we all are God's ambassadors. Per my vocation however, I'm a musician and songwriter. My faith regularly collides with my art to be sure, but I wouldn't consider what I do the same as what my pastor does. Though, you may disagree if you saw my shows.
8) Take US thru 2-3 songs on "The Hymns Project" What's the "story behind the song", how is it impacting audiences?
The Gospel: I had originally written this song in 2003 for my very first record, "Speak". I tried to stay true to the language and spirit of those old hymns. For this record, I decided to rewrite the chorus and bring the production up to date a bit as well. This song is one of two that I wrote for the record.
How Great Thou Art: I had my buddy Trip Lee in mind for this project since before we started. Our chemistry has always been so good in the studio. When you find another artist who connects with your musical vision that well, you stick with them. I gave him an opportunity on this song to reinterpret the first 2 stanzas in his own way. Trip, as always, did a tremendous job. The result is a very current, hip-hop infused version of a classic hymn.
Rock of Ages: I believe this was the last song we did for the record. We were running out of time and short on ideas. So I thought it might be fun to experiment with some non-traditional percussion techniques. We originally started banging on desks and mic stands and clapping to create a drum loop. Because it was a hymn, which are often devoid of choruses, the idea for creating a sing a long type vocal chorale came to be. We landed on something really exciting, a la K.T. Tunstall even. This song is super quirky and fun to play live as well.
9) If you could go back and change three events/decisions in your life, what would they be, and why?
That's a hard one. There are so many things I've done to offend God and hurt others, it's hard to say which to choose. I've seen enough time travel movies to know not to tamper with the past either. I will say this though, I have solace in the fact that even the evil things I've done, and that have been done to me, God in his mercy turns them for my good and his glory. I marvel at His kindness to his kids and His sovereignty over all things, good and bad.
10) Person you'd most like to have a discussion with, living or dead.....Deities are excused from this question
Fred Rogers. Yep, Mr. Rogers. I don't know if you know much about him but he was a deeply committed Christian man with such a tender heart for people. He was also a killer jazz pianist. I really respect the way he carried himself in this life and would love for a little of his gentle-heartedness to rub off on me.
1) Favorite Bible verse....life verse. Why?
John 6:35 "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never hunger. He who believes on me will never thirst.'" It reminds me of the purpose of Jesus' mission on earth. It was not just to save us, but to satisfy us with Himself.
2) Funniest or most embarrassing moment? (details, details, details!)
In 2007 I was playing a show for 300 college students at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, FL. The Emcee was onstage welcoming me up. I was front row so I opted not to take the side steps up to the stage, but rather hop onto the front of the stage directly. It wasn't a high jump, but then again, I'm a musician, not an athlete. He welcomed me and I made my move. As I jumped both feet clipped the front of the stage and I completely face planted in front of the whole audience. What made it worse was no one laughed. It was more concern and confusion. Had they laughed I could have turned it into an icebreaker. No laughs meant Awkward-Town to the max. I laid there for like 30 seconds. Yeesh.
3) What artist or pastor has had the greatest impact on you, and why?
My dear friend and former youth pastor, Ben Stuart. Ben is now the executive director of the largest on campus bible study in the nation, Breakaway Ministries, but in 2001-2003 he was just my youth pastor. He and I began meeting every tuesday for coffee and he helped me grow in my knowledge and love of God. His investment has been paramount in my life and has inspired me to invest in the younger generations in my church as well. I hope he knows the weight of the impact he has had on my life.