Independent pop/worship singer/songwriter Joshua Mills released his Christmas album Christmas Miracle a few weeks ago! Full of heartfelt, poignant and traditional Christmas carols, and a few original melodies, this album is one of our favourite Christmas albums of 2014! I had the privilege of interviewing Joshua via email recently, about the new album. We discussed the album, what he hopes listeners will experience when hearing the well known and not so well known Christmas songs, as well as his goals and dreams for the year ahead. Check out the interview below.
1. This is your first Christmas album and your first studio album since Spirit Spa 2 and No Limitations in 2011; can you tell us about recording this album and how God guided you through the process?
Well you know, doing a Christmas album had been in the back of my mind for about 6 years. I actually flew my producer, Jack Shocklee, out to California in 2008 to begin discussing the project with him – but the timing didn’t quite seem just right, and I believe that being led by the Lord is essential in the life of a believer…so we put it up on the shelf. And then I was with Jack again at the end of last year, and he brought up the project, and it felt right and God opened up some wonderful doors at Capitol Records and with some extremely creative people in order to create this album with excellence.
2. You recorded this album in many cities while on tour, inclusive of cities like Los Angeles, Orlando, Tampa, Vancouver, London, Ontario and Nashville- can you describe how travelling and touring challenged you as a writer and a singer, and what God was speaking to you around that time?
I think the only real challenge was trying to find a keyboard to sit down at long enough to actually write some music. I was able to record two original tracks for this album… and there probably would’ve been more originals if I wasn’t constantly touring. But being on the road allowed me to listen to a lot of holiday songs and carols while I was traveling… this whole year has literally been Christmas for me (and for my wife and kids!). So having that much time in cars and airplanes… I listened to many older Christmas albums trying to find songs that hadn’t been recorded for a long time, something that was unique. I really like the way that this album feels. It’s familiar but also very fresh. It has that warm and fuzzy Christmassy feel to it, but also gives people a lot of new songs that they wouldn’t normally have in their holiday playlist.
3. Can you tell us the highlight of recording Christmas Miracle? Was it your choice to include many traditional carols not normally known by many people, such as “Come On Ring Those Bells, “Light One Candle”, and “This Christmas”?
I guess the obvious highlight was being able to celebrate Christmas all year! That’s like a dream for someone who loves the holiday as much as me! But aside from that, getting to meet and work with so many different creative people was just brilliant. I love being in the studio and the creative process of creating new music. I wanted this album to be different than others I had heard in the past… it seems as though most artists either release an album that is very contemplative and worshipful… or something that has more of a light-hearted pop approach…but my vision for “Christmas Miracle” was for it to be both deeply spiritual and extremely fun. The essence of the holidays seem to capture both ends of the spectrum. So I pulled creative talent from many different pools…we have black gospel, EDM, traditional carols…and I feel like we were able to successfully create the “sound of Christmas” with this project. It’s gonna bring a lot of yuletide cheer to homes everywhere!
I never wanted to do a Christmas project that simply rehashed the same old songs… there’s so much good music out there. And every Christmas when I put together new playlists for my home, I’m always looking for the song that captures the spirit of Christmas, yet is hardly ever heard. I grew up listening to a lot of great holiday music…including Evie’s “Come On Ring Those Bells”…I actually sang that song in a Christmas cantata when I was about twelve years old. So being able to take some of these more obscure holiday classics, and breathe fresh life into them was a Christmas Miracle in itself!
4. If there is one song that describes the heart of the album, which is it? What is the take home message for listeners, that you want them to discover and explore from the album?
Christmas is a time for miracles. And I wanted to focus on that theme through this album. The songs “Christmas Waltz” and “Let the Season Take Wing” celebrate the miracle of Christmas wonder. Songs like “It Snowed” and “This Christmas” revel in the miracle of Christmas love. Celebrating the miracle of family (C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S), the miracle of heritage (Light One Candle), the miracle of heavenly glory (Angels from the Realms of Glory) these were all themes that were interwoven through the tapestry of sound within this album. But at the very heart of “Christmas Miracle” is the song “Gift of Love (Heaven’s Kiss)”… it really sums up everything. The greatest miracle of all is the sacrificial gift that God gave us on Christmas day, when Jesus came into the world as the only hope for humanity. The reason why we sing and celebrate is because of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls. He is the greatest Christmas Miracle.
5. For those who may not have listened to your style of music before, who would you say you sound similar to, so that potential listeners can know what to expect? Personally, I reckon you have an acoustic pop sound, similar to artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Jonny Diaz and Jadon Lavik!
I am a worshiper through and through. My musical background was formed within the framework of congregational church music. So worship is at the heart of everything that I do musically… but I certainly like to explore new sounds and styles. I’m not afraid to try new things. In the past some of that has been extremely successful and at other times a total flop… but you never know unless you try. I’ve written hundreds of songs but only a few handfuls have ever been recorded. My prayer is that people will be able to pick up on the worshipful tone of “Christmas Miracle” and it will resonate within them.
6. Are there any artists/writers/producers you would like to collaborate and compose music with in the future? 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?
Okay, so this is a loaded question, because there are so many amazing artists, writers and producers that I would love to collaborate with. But growing up in the church, listening to only CCM music, I have been a major fan of Amy Grant for years. She is a legend within the Christian music community, and I’ve been able to meet her on several occasions but it would truly be a dream to one day work on a song with her. For this record, I actually recorded a holiday song that Amy only released as a limited single back in the 90’s. It’s called “Let the Season Take Wing” co-written by Kevin Quinn and Robert E. Irving…and I always wished that it was available on a Christmas album…so now it is! And I think you’ll really like it.
So like I said, Amy Grant was a huge influence in my earlier years along with other artists like Michael W. Smith, Kathy Troccoli, Crystal Lewis and Carman. I grew up listening to a diversity of CCM music, but I was also always captivated by my parent’s old record collection of artists like Keith Green and Second Chapter of Acts. Early on there was definitely a worship foundation, but it wasn’t until my teenage years that I began to discover that side of me. I began playing piano and writing songs at the age of sixteen, and during that time I was greatly influenced by the modern worship movement of Vineyard Music and Hillsong, along with a few independent worship artists like Clint Brown, Steve Kuban and Scott Underwood. I really enjoy listening to music that is compelling and so much more than just a song. Kim Walker-Smith and Beckah Shae are some of my favorites.
7. Who do you look up to in the music industry (CCM, or mainstream), either as a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from?
For many years, I’ve followed the musical career of Crystal Lewis and her husband Brian Ray, from a distance. Admiring their music ministry and passionate love for the Lord. They have certainly been great examples when it comes to the music industry and raising a family. Now they are creating legacy with the musical careers of their children Izzi Ray and Solomon Ray (Solomon did the remix version for my single “It Snowed” which releases on November 18th!). I think that speaks volumes. Life comes with struggles and hardships. It’s not whether we have them, but rather the way that we handle them that speaks about our character and integrity. Watching other artists go through life and seeking the Lord along the way has been an inspiration for me. I want to live my life pleasing unto the Lord. At the end of the day man’s approval doesn’t really matter… what I do and who I am is because of the one that I serve.
8. If anyone reading this interview wants to move into the music industry, what would you say to them as advice- how would you succeed in the industry, especially worship, with your values intact?
To be honest, I feel much more comfortable in the church than in the music industry. I never set out to become a recording artist. It just naturally happened as I was pursuing the call of God on my life. What I do musically is more of a calling than a vocation. Whether I was being paid for it or not, I would still do what I do, because it’s what I was created to do. And I think that’s the key right there. People need to discover their calling, because when they do, and they stick to it, nothing can stop it from flourishing.
9. Is there anything in your life that keeps you grounded and places things in perspective as you travel and create music? 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?
One of my favorite verses in the bible is Jeremiah 29:11… there is so much hope and purpose in that one verse. Through those words I am assured that no matter what happens in life, God still has a plan. I think that’s amazing. Because sometimes things can happen, and you begin to doubt whether or not God still wants to use you, or whether or not you will make it… and in the midst of it all, He speaks plainly and gently reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
10. Is there anything else that you would like to add that hasn’t been covered in this interview yet? Any parting words, and encouragements that will impact the readers of this interview? How can fans stay connected with you via social media?
I want to encourage all of you readers to be true to yourself. God has a plan for your life that is better than anything you could ever imagine. You may not see it all right now, but just be faithful to take the first step. Let God lead and direct you. Don’t worry about the haters… they will always criticize. God understands and He will be the one that carries you through if you keep your heart pure before Him. Last but not least, I want to encourage all of you readers to get out there and support this Christmas music by downloading on iTunes or Amazon MP3. “Christmas Miracle” has a lot of great tracks that will add brand new songs to your holiday playlists and make your season merry and bright! You can also order the physical album on my website: www.joshuamillsmusic.com
My twitter and instagram handle is @joshuamills1 . Take a picture with the album during your holiday celebrations and make sure you include me in on it… use the hashtags #joshuamills #christmasmiracle
Be sure to check out Joshua Mills’ new album Christmas Miracle in stores now!