10 Questions with ... Jon Guerra
January 18, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
2015 Little Songs
1. Brief history / synopsis
Born in California, grew up in Houston, TX until I was 12. Huge into origami, soccer and skateboarding as a kid. Moved to a suburb of Chicago called Wheaton at the beginning of the Summer. Sent on a two week missions trip to make friends. Heard worship music for the first time and asked for the chord sheets from my youth pastor. Went home, took my mom's old yamaha acoustic from the 80's and started learning to play the guitar. The next year I began playing in youth group and continued all through high school. Started a band called "The Scarecrow Garden" in high school. First job was at a car wash. Went to Moody Bible Institute for college, studied Historical Theology. Loved getting my head into the history of how our whole tradition of faith developed from the Apostles to the councils to the schisms to the reformation to the enlightenment to the puritans and to american evangelicalism. After school I stayed in Chicago, where my wife and I still live.
2. What does a normal day at home look like for you?
I function best when I'm routinized. This is my routine when I'm home. On the road it's still TBD.
- Ideally it starts the night before - making a to-do list for the following day.
- Wake up and make coffee. (Only on the chemex: This involves grinding the beans, measuring 50 grams of ground coffee, getting the water to 202 degrees, and pouring 100 grams at a time. Delicious ritual)
- Drive my wife to work at 8.
- Read, pray, study, journal
- Start tackling the to-do list (emails, demos, videos, interviews, groceries, laundry). I try really hard not to look at my phone until this time. Keeps the mornings sacred.
- Simple calisthenic routine around 12:30 or 1, while listening to a podcast. (Been listening to the mocking pulpit lately)
- Healthy lunch
- Keep going on to-do list - usually mosy on over to my piano and feel things out for a bit - see if there's a song that is begging to de-rail my regimented day.
- Pick up my wife from work at 4
- We come home and try to wrap up the days activities by 5:30 or 6.
- Figure out dinner
- 8-11 can be a variety of things depending on the day. Visit with friends, fold laundry while watching Fixer Upper, finish emails, etc.
- Read or watch some show before bed. Bed by 11:30 or 12.
3. What's the song that you just can't get out of your head right now?
"A little Bit Of Everything" by Dawes. The lyric and melody are insane. Here's a snippet:
Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations
To a wedding she has scheduled for the fall
Her man says, "Baby, can I make an observation?
You don't seem to be having any fun at all"
She said, "You just worry about
Your groomsmen and your shirt-size
And rest assured that this is making me feel good"
I think that love is so much easier than you realize
If you can give yourself to someone, then you should
'Cause it's a little bit of everything
The way you choke, the way you ache
It is waking up before you
So I can watch you as you wake
So in the day in late September
It's not some stupid little ring
I'm giving a little bit of everything
4. How much do you travel, what are the challenges? How do you juggle life on the road with wanting to be home?
This year I've been traveling so much. I'm starting to feel the weariness. Adjusting is always tiring. I do miss home quite a bit, but I also love being on the road. I miss being at church every sunday and I miss the regularity in home-relationships. Dousing the season in grace. A lot to learn and figure out but trusting God has us.
5. What's the biggest "God moment" that you've ever experienced, personal or professional?
It's really hard to pick the biggest, but my wife and I took a trip to Ecuador a few years back. The whole trip was a beautiful time of connection between the two of us, the people we were staying with and with God. We were walking along the streets of La Ciudad Antigua (The ancient city) in Quito and decided to walk into an old cathedral. We noticed a sign upon our entrance that said something about a concert. We inquired and were told that in 20 minutes there would be a concert with full orchestra and full choir. The pieces they were performing were by my favorite living composer Arvo Part. We sat and listened to the concert for an hr, in a beautiful old cathedral, marveling at the experience and at the grace of God who knew we would meander over to that spot on that day, at that hour.
6. What's the last book you read?
"In The Name Of Jesus" by Henry Nouwen. I read it in college and picked it up on a whim before I left for this last tour. It's mainly about how popularity, relevance and power are unnecessary ingredients to an effective ministry. Incredibly nourishing thing to read while on the road. So many temptations to think your effectiveness is contingent on how the audience receives you, your merch sales or a host of other things. Wonderfully helpful reminder that every good work of ministry proceeds from the love of and for Christ. We are just different types of shepherds.
7. How & when did you became a believer. What caused you to want to serve God in full time ministry?
I don't remember a time when I wasn't a believer. The stories were always true in my mind. I've heard the call "Follow me" several different times in my life. Each new time has a new weight. Since high school I've wanted to live a meaningful, purposeful life. I didn't always know how that would look. Music open the horizons of God's love for me in ways that nothing else did, so I always hoped I would be able to do that. I always knew I would write songs but never knew if it would be a full-time gig. Through a winding road that involved elementary school teaching, jingle writing, and church planting God led me to this place where I get to use my music gifts in bearing witness to his love and serving people. It's a great gift.
8. Give us an overview of your latest project, "Little Songs".
The album is called "Little Songs" after the first track "Every Little Song." It sums up what I want all these songs to be: an offering. A lot of people don't think God sees them. "Every Little Song" is an implicit affirmation that God sees and cherishes what we bring to Him.
"Nothing Better" is a fun, joyful tune that tries to capture the moment when you truly believe, in your bones type belief, that you are unconditionally loved. Not "do this, don't do that and you'll be loved" type love...but unconditional love. Being on the road I've been able to see how it's connected with audiences. Christian music is abundantly earnest - not a lot is just over-the-top joyful. Every night I see people connecting with the song and channeling that exhilarating joy to God.
"Stained Glass" You can't have the beauty of a stained glass window without (1) broken glass and (2) discolored glass. Broken glass and discolored glass seem useless. But when appropriated, it's arguably more beautiful than regular glass. That image was stunning to realize. Anyone who has had a real experience with Jesus knows that this is exactly what he does. He puts our broken pieces together and makes us into more than what we were before. Night after night I see people resonating with this story and this image. It's an amazing thing to be a part of.
9. What service group are you affiliated with?
I'm actually not associated with any at the moment. My wife runs a music therapy group for kids in Chicago and we see a lot of fruit there. Music has healing, transformative powers and it's amazing to see if affect her kids.
10. Person you'd most like to have a discussion with, living or dead.....Deities are excused from this question.
The poet and priest George Herbert. He died 500 years ago but I relate to his work so much.
1. Favorite Bible Verse....life verse?
Ecclesiastes 3:15 "God seeks what has been driven away." So much in that verse. God doesn't sit idly by. He seeks, he runs, he goes after that which is unwanted, undesired. That which no one else wants, He calls His.
2. Funniest or most embarrassing moment on the road?
For the arena tour I just got off of, I would go out and meet people who were waiting in line. Good way to get to know them and have them know me. One afternoon there was a young kid, couldn't have been older than 15, passing out billion dollar bill gospel tracts. Nice kid, but I hate everything about billion dollar gospel tracts. He started following me around and sort of piggy backing off of my introductions. Naturally, people started to think we were together and one group of people asked me why I had him passing out billion dollar bill gospel tracts at a Christian concert. I tried to explain that we weren't together and that I didn't know him, but it came out all wrong and it sounded like I was disowning the kid. They were super unimpressed and I just put my sunglasses on and walked away. On my way out, the kid high-fived me and said "I gave out my last billion dollars!" I sulked away muttering "good job, buddy. good job"
3. What artist or pastor has had the greatest impact on you?
My dad has had the greatest impact on me. He's been a pastor my entire life. Many of my earliest memories are of him on his knees, or him in his study, or him playing with me. That foundation is priceless. It's impossible to measure the impact he's had on my inner life (which, of course, is the source of all public ministry). I'm so grateful for what he's taught me both explicitly through his teaching and implicitly through his life.