Tony Cummings spoke to singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and music publisher Jim Brady of the JIM BRADY TRIO
In the world of Southern gospel music, Jim Brady is both as the leader of the Jim Brady Trio and as a composer of hundreds of songs which have been recorded by such acts as Gold City, legacy Five and the Booth Brothers. It was Jim's rich baritone voice first brought him national popularity with the award-winning Booth Brothers who he joined in 2002. During his 12 years with the Booth Brothers he received eight Baritone Of The Year Awards, wrote several number one gospel hits and was nominated for Dove and Grammy awards.
Him and his wife Melissa wrote numerous songs together, Melissa becoming a columnist in the hugely influential Singing news magazine and was featured on the Women Of Homecoming Gaither videos that were released in 2013. In the summer of 2014 Jim and Melissa started the Jim Brady Trio and since then albums like 'A New Chapter', 'Timeless', the CD/DVD package 'Live At Daywind Studios' and now their latest 'Hope Keeps Waiting For The Song' demonstrate Jim and Melissa's songwriting strength and attractive blend of voices. I spoke to Jim at his home in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Tony: You're pretty well known as a songwriter.
Jim: I've been writing for many years. It's my passion: I love to write. Thankfully, the songs have gone all over the world. Through the internet and YouTube - different things - the songs are being heard. We've never been, but, through the help of Bill Gaither, it's making it over to your area. We have travelled to Jerusalem with Bill, we have travelled to South Africa, we've travelled all over the US, to Canada. It's amazing that we can go to different places and they know who we are, and it's because of the power of television and the internet. Bill Gaither has taken the Gospel and the music around the world.
Tony: Were you born and brought up in a Christian home?
Jim: Absolutely. My dad was an evangelist and my mom was a great support to my dad. We travelled most of my life. I always joke and say I was born on the road. Basically that's true. My dad was an evangelist when I was born, and from the time I was very little we were travelling together as a family and we would sing for my dad's revivals. When my dad would preach the Gospel, our family would sing together. I did that up until I finished high school, then after finishing high school I continued to travel with my family. When I was 22 I married Melissa. We knew each other because her dad was also a preacher and evangelist, and they did the exact same thing our family did. I met Melissa when I was young, about 12 years old. After I got married I began to travel with her father, and it was Melissa and I and her father, and her mother for a little while before she came off the road. We travelled together in an evangelistic ministry.
Tony: How did you come to join the Booth Brothers?
Jim: Well, I sang with my family, and then I sang with Melissa and her family, and then it was during that time that her father decided to come off the road I got a call from the Booth Brothers. A little under 13 years we sang together. After that, I began to feel like I needed to start the Jim Brady Trio. The time I spent with the Booth Brothers was some of the greatest moments of my life. I enjoyed that so much. But I knew that Melissa and I wanted to minister together. It was in December of 2014 that I sang my last date with the Booth Brothers and then started the new group on January 1 2015. It's a great ride, I'm blessed, and we're having the time of our lives.
Tony: You've had a personnel switch with the third man in the trio.
Jim: Yes. We started with a gentleman named Tim Parton, who has been with a lot of Southern gospel groups, and Tim is a great piano player. He was on the road with us for a year. Things got much busier than he expected. He was very, very, very busy. The first year was crazy-busy. After that first year he decided to come off the road and then Bill Gaither recommended a young man from Anderson University to me. He was 23 years old at the time. He has been with us for almost two and a half years. His name is Layke Jones, and he's doing a great job.
Tony: Do all three of you take some of the leads on the new album?
Jim: Yes. We switch it up a little bit. Bill Gaither, who was kind of our mentor, helped us through this project. We're switching up the melodies - Layke takes the lead, Melissa and I switch it off. Actually, the new project has a couple of songs written by Bill. There's one called "Living In The Rhythm Of Grace" written by Bill Gaither and Larry Gatlin, and there's one called "The Season When God Breaks Through", which Bill and Gloria wrote with some friends of theirs, Don and Rebo McGuire. We were delighted to have Bill's wisdom and direction on this project.
Tony: "Hope Keeps Writing The Song" is wonderful. What inspired you to write that?
Jim: Melissa and I were on a flight. We were writing about the bus and we were not even on the bus. I guess we were missing our bus because sometimes the flights are a little bit difficult. We were sitting on a plane and we were talking about our life. We talked about how we could be home, we could be off right now, but what keeps us travelling and keeps us singing - even in the difficult times - is the fact that we have hope, and the fact that we sing hope to people. The songs help people in difficult times of their lives. We came up with that idea - hope keeps writing the song. We started it on the plane, and we got home and went to the piano and finished the melody and the lyrics. It's our life in pictures. That's exactly our life. If we're not climbing on the bus, we're getting on a plane or a ship - we're going somewhere to sing the Gospel. It's our life in a song, and it's really the reason we sing, because we want the world to know what Jesus means to us, and we want to give them hope and help in difficult times.
Tony: I read a magazine article recently about a rock band who face the same sort of challenges as you in terms of making money, but they said it was alcohol and stimulants that keep them going. You don't have to turn to those things.
Jim: That's absolutely the truth. It can be difficult on your body and your energy levels. Sometimes we'll do more concerts than the secular and the rock bands, because we make less money. We have to do more to keep our bills paid. It can take a toll on your health and your energy. The thing that keeps us going is the Lord, and the strength that he gives us. In those difficult times you may be tired physically, but your heart and your mind are so energised by the fact that you can see that the songs are helping people. They're receiving hope. That's the encouragement and the strength that we need - it comes from the Lord - when we see God moving in the hearts of people. It helps us. That's why we climb back on the bus, even when we're tired. We know that we're singing something that will change a life. That's why we do what we do. As you get older - I've done this since I was really young - the miles get harder, and the road-life gets a little more difficult physically, but I think mentally and emotionally you'll understand more at this age that I am now. I understand more the importance of what we do, how it helps people for eternity. It's not just going out and having a great time, which we do; it's going out and singing the wonderful message of the Gospel, the message of hope. So we feel like we're helping people and we're changing lives, helping them for eternity, and that's what gives us the strength to keep doing it night after night after night.
Tony: If you're Southern gospel then presumably most of your concerts are in the Southern states.
Jim: We do a lot in the Southern states, but we do a great tour into Michigan and Illinois, Indiana. Then we go out west to California. We've been to Minnesota, Montana, up into Canada. We're going to be in New York in December - Brooklyn Tabernacle. We're real excited. We go to Maine and Wisconsin - we don't just do the Southern states, we go all throughout the US. This weekend we're going out to Texas, and Texas is great for us as well. We go out to a lot of different states, and we really love the folks in different places.
Tony: Your songs have been recorded by several other artists.
Jim: There was a song I wrote back in 2007 that a lot of groups recorded called "Truth Marches On". It was recorded by Gold City Quartet, Legacy Five, The Booth Brothers, The Talleys. That was a very good song for me. I had a song the Talleys did that was a big song for me called "Mountain Mover". One that was very popular was "Peace In The Shelter", recorded by the Booth Brothers when I was there. I think a fan-favourite was one called "Welcome To The Family". People really loved that. I've written a lot through the years, and that's my passion - to write. When another group takes the song and sings it, it's a real encouragement for the writer.
Tony: When you write a new song, is your first thought, 'I want to give this to so-and-so,' or is your first through, 'I can wait to record this ourselves'?
Jim: The way the song turns out dictates who can do it. Unless you're writing specifically for a group, you write the songs, put them into a catalogue, and then when we start to record we go through the catalogue. We write all year long. Whoever's looking - if I need to send some to The Booth Brothers or Gold City or Legacy Five or The Talleys - I'll send some out, and then what doesn't get cut or what is still available when we start to record, we'll go through and check that list out as well. Some on this new project we wrote specifically for our album. "Hope Keeps Writing The Song" was written specifically for us. Melissa wrote a song "Follow Me To The Cross" just for this album. That was something we're not going to give to somebody else. We had a focus on this album of hope, so we took this as an assignment and wrote specifically for the project. We have not done that in the past. Normally we just write and the songs will find their home.
Tony: It's interesting to write about hope, because a lot of people are looking at the USA and thinking, "This is a nation beginning to fall into crisis." So there's a message of hope that needs to come through to people.
Jim: Absolutely. We as writers and singers feel an obligation to continue to sing of hope, and help people in difficult times. We do have crises, we do have sad things happening around our world, our nation, our country. It's our job to continue to shine the light and sing the message of hope. In those difficult times, people are going to need something that will help them get through those times. We want to remind them that even in the darkness there is hope, and there is a light that shines bright, and that's found in Jesus. That's the simple truth.
Tony: Melissa is clearly a hugely important part of what you do.
Jim: Absolutely. We write a lot together, so we're in the ministry together side-by-side. There are times when I'll write alone, and she'll write alone, then we bring the song to each other and we put on a different hat. We're not co-writing. We help with the editing or the publishing. So we talk about that. Every word and every line that we put in a song is very well thought out and very calculated. We talk through it, we discuss that. God has given her a lot of wisdom and a lot of heart for people, so I do listen very closely to her ideas.
Tony: There's been a positive response to 'Hope Keeps Writing The Song'.
Jim: When we come out with a new project, it's very exciting to us. People don't realise we've been singing the old songs for a couple of years, every single night. They still want to hear those songs and we continue to do those songs. But it is kind of a shot in the arm for the artist when they get a new song they can sing and it works really well. We just want to continue doing what we've done. We want to take it to new heights. We're always pushing and striving to do better, to write more, to be creative with what we do so people will enjoy and appreciate the effort. The future looks bright. I think it's just a matter of us continuing to do what we've been doing, but do it with a new passion and a new fervency and a new excitement.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.