Tony Cummings reports on the latest album by Minnesota-born songsmith JASON GRAY
Jason Gray has made steady inroads over the last few years. The Minnesota-born singer/songwriter began releasing independent albums under his real name Jason Gay but it was the release of 'All The Lovely Losers' (2007), 'Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue' (2009), 'A Way To See In The Dark' (2011) and now his latest set, 'Love Will Have The Final Word' which have seen each release gain a higher position than the one before in America's Christian music charts. The first single from the project was "With Every Act Of Love". It was inspired by Surprised By Hope, a book by British theologian and bishop, N T Wright. It's an affirmation of the reality that this world is not our home. Said Gray, "Everything matters. The kingdom will come, but the kingdom is also coming right now and we are invited to participate in it. With every act of love we are allowing the kingdom to come into the little part of the world that we influence, whether we are building a home for the poor, or building a PB&J for our kid. Whether we are clothing those in need, or doing laundry for our family, if we're doing it as an act of love, then it's eternal, it lasts forever."
For the album Jason co-wrote every track with an all-star team of composers including Jason Ingram, Andy Gullahorn, Ben Glover, Josh Wilson and Nichole Nordeman. Jason told JesusFreakHideout that his favourite song on the project was "I Don't Know How". He shared, "I have a friend that's a music snob and he texted me and said, '"I want you to know "'I Don't Know How"' sounds as cool as anything else I have in my iTunes library.' And he listens to the coolest music, so I feel like that was a real compliment. But I love it as a song too. I don't think a lot of people are gonna like that one. I don't think it's emotionally satisfying. Like even 'Not Right Now' feels empowering to a person when you hear it. It's like, okay, I'm in pain, but this song helps empower me to tell people to shut up and leave me alone and just let me grieve, you know. 'I Don't Know How' is not empowering at all. It's the opposite of that. And man. . . we love to feel empowered. But I think it's important too. There's a wisdom that comes only at the end of our answers, and a help that comes only after we embrace the depths of our helplessness, and a knowledge that only comes after we say 'I don't know.'
"The way we tend to work - at least I do - is try to understand things in a way that I feel like I have a sense of control, and that gives me a sense of peace. So we come to conclusions in an attempt to understand and have control over something. Like, say I come to a conclusion about you, about who you are and all that kind of stuff. Well then, I'll only ever see the evidence of that conclusion in my interaction of you."
Jason has often been praised for his more melancholic songs so it was somewhat of a surprise to find the upbeat "Laugh Out Loud" on the album. He said, "I just like how it's almost corny. . . maybe it is corny, I don't know. But it's kind of a risky idea for a guy like me to write. I love how it's unabashedly hopeful and joyful. It's easy for me to write kinda moody, melancholy songs, so that felt like a real accomplishment to me, a real joy for me to write, and I like how it turned out, too, and how it sounds."
Jason talked about working with two producers, Jason Ingram and Cason Cooley. He admitted, "[Working with Jason] was stressful and great at the same time. I was stressed about cohesiveness. Jason Ingram, his work style. . . he's kind of a machine. He can just crank it out, y'know. I'm there for tracking and vocals, and then he gets it done. Which is great at this time in my life. Cason very much wants me involved in every little detail, and his process is a lot slower, a lot more demanding, a lot more inviting for the artist to be involved in it, which I love. That's ideally what I love, to have those personal, emotional resources to give to it. But I knew that he would care over certain songs in a really special way.
"A great example is 'If You Want To Love Someone', that I thought was just gonna be acoustic guitar and cello. The way the budget works is there's supposed to be like one stripped down acoustic song that we don't spend a lot of money on. And I thought that was gonna be it. And he was like, 'No, it needs to have a groove.' He took that and made it like really epic and majestic. So he cared over that in a way that even I wouldn't have, even though I thought it was one of the best songs on the record. So that was great.
"And it was great that Ingram was doing the other half where there weren't a lot of demands on me. And he produces with a lot of space in the mix, and Cason produces with a lot of. . . there's a density to his mixes. There's a lot going on. I think it was good to kind of go back and forth between that. Where I hear that in a great way is 'Not Right Now'. It's kind of this haunting soup of sound and textures, and it gets done and then 'Love Will Have The Final Word' is kind of simple, really sparse and open feeling. And I love how those two songs sound together."
The new album's anthem "As I Am" retells the emotions of Adam and Eve in the Garden, after they've sinned. Commented Gray, "They become aware of their vulnerability, their nakedness, and they become ashamed. Then they become afraid, and then they hide. What does God do? God comes to the garden looking for them, calling their name. He doesn't withdraw. We are the ones who withdraw out of fear and shame. We are the ones who hide our presence from him. He doesn't hide from us. God's part in the story is, he comes to the garden, he draws closer, he comes looking for us, calling us by name, in order to draw us out of our hiding places and make sacrifices necessary to cover our nakedness and to assure us that there's a way back home."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.