Every now and then a new artist comes along that has the ability to shake things up in the music industry, Jonathan McReynolds is that artist. Hailing from Chicago, the prolific singer-songwriter’s debut project “Life Music” hit shelves today via Light Records in conjunction with Tehillah Music Group. Highly anticipated, “Life Music” – which is preceded by the lead single “I Love You“, showcases the singer-songwriter and his own unique artistry that we’ve all come to love.
The Gospel Guru caught up with the budding artist to discuss his new album, challenges of being a new artist, vocal influences, and much more. Get into the interview below…
TGG: What was your inspiration for your debut album?
JM: Um. ‘Life Music’ is really gonna be kinda the story that tells the ups and downs of being a Christian, and actually living as a Christian. You know all the trials, the temptations…all the times you have to go and tell yourself “alright, let’s not do that again” all that stuff Christians go through with Monday all the way back to Monday. That’s what I’m writing about.
TGG: “Life Music” is definitely not your traditional Gospel project, do you feel that consumers will be receptive to your music and ministry?
JM: Well you know I just pray that people will be able to relate to my music, and the fact that it’s different. I pray that people are drawn to that and like that part. I’m not too worried about how many records are sold, I just pray that people be able to relate to the music and see themselves in it. And have it encourage them to live a godly life…not just a godly Sunday or Wednesday, but be godly all week long.
TGG: With your music being different than your typical Gospel artist, do you feel any pressure with releasing this project?
JM: Of course man, it’s always hard to do something different. But this is the only way I can do it, it’s the only way God gave it to me. You can’t be too worried or too mad because obviously He (God) has plans for me and the unique way I’m approaching it and I’m excited to see how it all turns out.
TGG: As we know you’re signed to Tehillah Music Group/ Light Records, how did that come about?
JM: Well, I had an EP, “The Very Unofficial EP” and it was out and it allowed me to travel the country and do certain things. I was in Atlanta for an outdoor event for Bishop Morton, he wasn’t there, but after I sung all his Pastor’s and colleagues ran to him and told him he had to check my music out. And he gave me an opportunity. It was just a a spectacular God moment, It was all God’s doing.
TGG: I’ve previewed the album, and it’s a great body of work. But what’s a standout or favorite track for you?
JM: You know what, I have a song called “Comin’ Out” and It’s simply a song that man you know – we get where we hit rock bottom when it comes to a lot of things. And everybody is coming out of something whether its fornication, low self-esteem, bad financial situations…it just visits a lot of pit falls and holes that we find ourselves in. But the key is that we can’t stay there, we have to come out, we have to get out of there. The song says “It wasn’t meant for me to stay there long, and be content with living wrong so I’m comin’ out” meaning you gotta get outta there. So that’s one of my favorite songs that I wrote. But I’ve got a lot of favorites, that’s just one that came to my mind right away.
TGG: You’re an awesome songwriter, what is your writing process like? Lyrics first, then melody…or?
JM: Man, you know what, I know mine is probably a little unorthodox. But It really kinda comes altogether as one…it normally starts off with a hook and soon as I get it I grab the guitar or go to the piano, whichever is closest and just get to plucking away at the hook. When I keep that going God allows more words to come. It’s my responsibility to sit down and be still and let Him talk.
TGG: Did you do all the writing and production for this project or did you have some collaborators?
JM: I was really blessed to put out an album where I wrote all but one song. And my team and I produced the entire album. It was a real blessing, I was able to work with some great friends of mine…got a couple of features with great singers, Ashley Washington and Corey Barksdale, and they’re from Chicago and they’re just amazing. Of course, Chicago is known for its musicians. I just got a really good chance to do this from the ground up.
TGG: Who are some of Jonathan McReynolds’ vocal influences?
JM: Man, you know I have so many and some of them aren’t Gospel artists. Definitely Kim Burrell, Smokie Norful, J. Moss, James Morrison, Natasha Bedingfield, India Arie, and John Mayer…those two really stand in the forefront. When I got to college I got the chance listen to a lot of the great songwriter’s like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and all of that came together to what you kinda hear, just a really different form of Christian music.
TGG: What’s one of the challenges you’ve faced being a new artist?
JM: Of course there’s always going to be obstacles. But I think the biggest one you’ll ever face is the one in your own head. You know, my type of music doesn’t always start up a shout, it doesn’t always end with what you’re expecting to see in church. It’s always the mind thing “Oh My Goodness did I do that right?” “God were you glorified with that?” And He still has to deal with me even today, because my purpose and charge is to do it the way he gave it to me. Not expecting or looking for a certain reaction. Just that mental obstacle. It wasn’t until I got home sometimes and got on Facebook or Twitter and realized what that song might have done for someone.
TGG: How does Jonathan define or determine success?
JM: Success to me…um…and I’ve already kinda reaped some of it. Success to me is when people are able – when it comes to artistry, when people can say “that’s Jonathan McReynold’s style” it’s not even about how many records you sell or how many people know my name. But to say picking up that guitar is reminiscent to Jonathan McReynolds, that makes me feel like I’ve made my mark in music some kind of way. Just to come home and my family is proud of me, my nephew looks up to me. That’s success, and so much of that I’ve already been blessed to reap. And there’s a lot of commercial things i’d like to do, as far as record sales, and I want people to know me and all that other stuff….and it’s nothing really wrong with that. But my true measure of success is the mark that i’m able to put on people, and the mark I’m able to put on my music, and at the end hearing well done…that I used the gifts and all talents that God gave me and I used them to the glory of God.
TGG: Lastly, what advice would you give to a new artist?
JM: My advice to a new artist is to always do things in God’s time. Just seeing how things have moved for me, If I had gone too early or gone too late I would have missed it. Bottom line is no matter how we do it and how much we push, it’s not gonna happen until God allows it to happen. We have to be patient, we have to understand that He controls everything. So just wait and do your job, and if you do your job you’ve gotta trust that God will do his.
DeVante Arbet successfully garnered the title of The Gospel Guru; being widely sought out as the ‘in-the-know’ guy when it comes to the Gospel music industry. After years of honing his passion for Gospel music from an early age ‘the guru’ became a brand.