Writing Bluegrass Gospel Music

Ever since I got the songwriting bug back in the mid 1980’s, writing Gospel music has been very important to me. I’ve always been a man of Faith, and became fascinated by some of the Bluegrass Gospel songs I’d hear on recordings and at festivals back in those days. Bands like Doyle Lawson and the Bluegrass Cardinals, among others, were putting out some great stuff and were a big influence on my early writing. It was that Southern Gospel sound that really did it for me, and inspired me to write in that style. 

My approach to writing Spiritual Songs was to try and come with new ideas/song concepts/musical settings that didn’t sound like every other Gospel song I’d heard before. Needed to be original and innovative to a certain degree. It took a great deal of patience and exploration to create my own unique style of writing Gospel….establish my own identity…..but the hard work paid off.

By 1988 I was pitching some of my songs to a few of my favorite Bluegrass bands, and caught a break when the Lonesome River Band recorded a bluesy Gospel number I wrote entitled “Listen To The Word Of God”. Dan Tyminski sang lead, and guest artist Alison Krauss played fiddle on that cut. Definitely a highlight moment for me as a songwriter. That album “Carrying The Tradition” went on to be awarded IBMA album of the year. 

As my catalog of Gospel number grew over time, I decided I’d like to record a Gospel album of my own, featuring songs that no one had recorded yet. It would be an opportunity to express my own Faith through the songs I’d written, and spread the Holy Word of God to the rest of the world. 

Jesse Brock and John Miller agreed to produce the recording and we were fortunate to attract a cast of wonderful musicians and vocalists that included Russell Moore, Dale Ann Bradley, Jeff Parker, Barry Scott, and Junior Sisk among several others. The end result exceeded any expectation I had, and helped land my first record deal with Rural Rhythm Records who were pretty hot at the time. Titled “Look To The Light”, the album went on to be nominated for IBMA Gospel Event Of The Year as well as a GMA Dove Award. The album received a great deal of radio airplay, including SIRIUS XM, and folks all across the country wrote and e-mailed me heartwarming notes about how they were “moved” by listening to this collection of spiritual songs. That was very gratifying for me personally. 

Another highlight in my career as a songwriter was the release of my 2nd Gospel album Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout in the fall of 2018 on the newly established Billy Blue Records labelLike all my releases the songs on the CD are ones I either wrote or co-wrote with some of the top writers in Bluegrass. The title track was awarded 2019 IBMA Gospel Recording Of The Year and the entire album received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Roots Gospel Album.

As a songwriter this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

Attending the Grammy Awards as a nominee is something I never thought possible and is something I will treasure always. 

In recent years I’ve done more collaborating with other writers all over the country, and ironically many of the resulting songs have been Gospel tunes. I can’t help but feel I was meant to write Gospel music, that it is my calling. Have been blessed with cuts by some of my favorite artists including: IIIrd Tyme Out “Just Call On Him”, Larry Stephenson “Best Laid Plans”, Sideline “When The Son Rose Up That Morning”, Daryl Mosely “Do What The Good Book Says” and “He’s With Me”, Rick Faris “See You On The Other Side”

God willing, I hope to record another Gospel album as a follow up to “Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout” someday. As my mom would say: ” If it was meant to be, it will happen”. 

Don’t know what the future holds, but will keep writing Gospel music as long as I can hold a pen in my hand.

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