Josh Wilson is releasing his latest album That Was Then, This Is Now this upcoming week, the follow up to the critically acclaimed and much loved Carry Me. With the new album full of heartfelt, poignant, emotional, explosive and impacting pop/rock/worship anthems, as well as inspiring and poignant ballads; That Was Then, This Is Now is our favourite album of the year thus far! I had the privilege of interviewing Josh via email, about the new album. We discussed the album, which songs mean the most to him, what he hopes listeners will experience when hearing the new songs, as well as the goals and dreams for the year ahead. Check out the interview below.
- Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how the new album That Was Then, This Is Now came to fruition?
I’m a pastor’s kid from Lubbock, Texas, and I grew up singing in school and church choir and playing guitar, drums, and piano. I fell in love with songwriting in college, when I realized just how powerful songwriting can be. Since then, I’ve realized that my calling is to share what God has done in my life through my music. That Was Then, This Is Now is the culmination of where God has brought me thus far. My last album, Carry Me, was me wrestling with anxiety I have faced for most of my life. A couple of years ago, because of panic attacks, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to leave my house, much less play concerts. But I’ve learned that God has and is and will continue to carry me, even when I don’t feel adequate. I don’t have to be enough, because He is. Even though I may always deal with some degree of insecurity and anxiety, I continue to move forward and say That Was Then, This Is Now. I’m going to lean into the truth of who Jesus is and who He has created me to be.
- You have been immersed in and actively participating in the music industry for a while now- you have been signed since 2007 or 2008 I think, and have been active since 2004 since your debut independent album Dragonfly. Is there anything you have learnt over the years that God has been teaching you about himself or yourself?
I’m learning that I’m not, and have never been in control, and that’s a good thing. I can’t do anything in my own strength. I can’t even take my next breath. In this new season, I’m learning to take very deliberate steps of faith into the calling for my life, which is to write and share songs that God has laid on my heart. Like Say Yes from the new album says, “Even when I don’t feel prepared, even when I’ve got to do it scared, I’m going to take a breath and I’m going to say yes.” I have the freedom to say “yes” to whatever God asks of me because He is enough and He always will be.
- As a singer-songwriter that has previously played almost every instrument on studio albums, and every instrument during live shows through live looping; what are the joys, delights, challenges and trials of creating a follow up album to the successful and respected Carry Me?
Let’s start with challenges. Songwriting has always been difficult for me. Like Billy Joel says, “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.” It’s daunting to wake up one morning and think that by the end of that day, you are to create something that doesn’t exist. No music, no words, no melodies. Blank slate. That’s a challenge for me. The trick is to just show up and do my best. Like I said in the previous question, I just have to say “yes.” Yes, I will show up and work on this song. Yes, I will be honest in my experiences and trust God will use them in the lives of others.
As far as the joys and delights of writing, that comes in the recording and the live performance of these songs. Once the lyrics and melodies are finished, the recording comes much more naturally to me. I love to get in the studio and see what happens with different musicians and instruments. Once the songs are recorded, my band and I have so much fun playing live concerts. I love being able to meet the folks who these songs are reaching and see how God is using the music for His glory. That’s always a huge encouragement.
- Can you tell us about the story behind the lead single and the title track, and how the music video was filmed? Also, how did the instrumental song “Ode To Joy” come to be on the album?
The story behind the lead single is simple. It’s a before and after picture. We were dead before we met Jesus, and we’re alive once we know him. It’s a 180-degree turnaround. The bridge of the song quotes 1st John 1:9 almost verbatim, and that verse reminds us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I think the music video communicates that cleansing in a beautiful way. The band and I start the song playing in a dark cave (filmed at Cumberland Caverns in TN), and we see three characters with flares, trying to find their way out of the darkness. Over the course of the song, more and more light begins to show up. Towards the end, the band and I are playing in front of a breathtaking waterfall in broad daylight. The cave, of course, represents then, and the waterfall scene is the now. Towards the end, the three actors jump from a cliff into a beautiful river, washing off all the dirtiness from the cave. The band and I had a great time jumping in the water at the end of our shoot, and that also made the music video.
As far as “Ode to Joy” goes, I’ve always loved singing and playing old hymns. I have previously recorded instrumental versions of “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well With My Soul.” I wanted to record another instrumental on this record, and I wanted it to be about the joy we have because of our new life in Christ. The band and I locked ourselves in the studio, and ended up with a recording that I love. There’s even a bonus clip of the first time we heard our child’s heartbeat. I pulled out my phone during the sonogram and recorded the sound, and it made the album the next day. Listen for that (it’s a swooshing sound) right before the full band comes in for the ending.
- Which song on the new album means the most to you? What was your favorite song to record?
“No More” is probably my favorite song, because it reminds us of the true freedom we have in Christ. It’s a direct reference from Romans 8, and the chorus says, “No more guilt, no more shame, no more thinking I can’t change, who I was is dead and gone, who I am is moving on, saved by Grace, held by Love, because of what Your cross has done, you’ve blown away the prison door, hallelujah God, I am condemned no more.” That’s something I need to be reminded of daily, and I’m glad I get to sing that at every show now.
My favorite song to record was probably “Ode to Joy,” as I produced that myself and used my live band to track it. We had a lot of fun dreaming up what it should sound like.
- Both musically and lyrically, how does the new album capture the experiences of you throughout the last few years of your musical journey?
Musically, I think I’ve settled into a sound that has taken some experimenting, but has finally gotten to a place I’ve been working towards. It’s a mix of acoustic instruments (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin) with programmed beats and claps. The first two tracks on the record capture this well.
Lyrically, I’ve always tried to write as honestly as I can, as people can relate better to someone telling the truth. I hope I’ve taken another step that direction on this album. There’s even a track called “The Songs I Need to Hear,” in which I tell listeners that these song are as much for me as they are for them.
- As you move into your next step in your Christian music career, is there anything you hold onto that God has spoken into your life?
I have a renewed sense of calling in my life. Despite my inadequacies and insecurities, I am more sure now than I ever have been that this is where God wants me. Because I’m sure this is my calling, I’m pouring my energies into my music and ministry more than ever.
- Who were your favourite artists you admired and looked up to musically in your earlier years, and is there any artist or band that you admire within the music industry currently, as a fellow artist, a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from?
Growing up, Switchfoot and Jars of Clay were two of my favorite bands, and they continue to inspire me with the music they release. Currently, my musical heroes are Steven Curtis Chapman and Andrew Peterson, and I have been able to tour with both of them in recent years. Those tours were everything I hoped they would be. Andrew Osenga is another artist I’ve always admired greatly, and he actually works for my record label now. He was heavily involved in making this album what it is, and I often ask his advice on anything music-related.
- Has there been a recent song that has been ministering to people on the road, and what are some of the encouraging stories you have heard from the impact of your songs on this upcoming album?
It’s been really encouraging to see how God is using the current single, “That Was Then, This Is Now,” as well as the third track, “No More,” to encourage listeners in their freedom in Christ. A big part of this album is not having to drag around a past that’s already been forgiven. My hope is that these songs, as well as many others from this record, will encourage us to “go ahead, put the past in the past, box it up like an old photograph, you don’t have to go back because that was then, and this is now.”
- Is there anything in your life that places things in perspective as you travel and create music?
My wife always says, “life’s too short to be too cool.” That’s super grounding for me. In fact, I put that exact lyric in a song on this album called “Blown Away.” It’s a reminder to slow down and take a breath and see what God is doing all around us. Job 37:14 says, “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” That’s a reminder I need to hear daily.
- Is there any song, or Bible verse, or even famous quote that reminds you about why you do what you do and why you chose music as a career and ministry?
CS Lewis, in “The Great Divorce,” says, “Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.” This is a sobering reminder to fall in love not with songwriting, but with the God for Whom I’m writing my songs.
- How can fans stay connected with you via social media?
To keep up with tour dates, you can visit http://www.joshwilsonmusic.com/ and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter: JoshWilson
Be sure to check out Josh Wilson’s new album That Was Then, This Is Now in stores July 31st 2015! Also, check out Josh’s lyric and music videos of the title track, as well as song stories, official audio slides and acoustic performances of some of his favourite songs as well!