Reality hit Jimmy Needham pretty hard as he started work on his fifth studio project Clear The Stage. This record could potentially turn out a disaster. Even with iconic producer/songwriter Ed Cash stepping on board to lend his award-winning expertise behind the soundboard, Jimmy’s task at hand was overwhelming at best.
“I felt so inadequate going into the studio to make this album,” Jimmy reflects. “Not all of the songs were written yet, I was working with a new producer, and on top of all that, I had just become a father. Nothing has proven to demonstrate my inadequacy like fatherhood and leading a family. I remember praying, ‘If I ever needed grace, God, it’s now.’”
In this interview, Jimmy talks to Harry Itie about making this record, how he dealt with his fears and his work with young men back home. Enjoy
YADA: Clear the Stage is the title of the new album. What inspired the name?
JIMMY: This is a record that deals with the heart. Many of these songs are asking the question: “What do you love more than Jesus?” I did a lot of soul searching as I was writing and wanted to make a record that forced myself and others to deal with the things in our life that have taken the place of Jesus.
YADA: What were the challenges you faced while working on this project?
JIMMY: Honestly, a lot of fear. Fear that I wouldn’t have all the songs I needed by the time I went to record. Fear that this album wouldn’t be embraced like I hoped it would be. Fear that I had nothing left to say in song.
YADA: How did you deal with these challenges?
JIMMY: I gave up. Fear is not only exhausting but pointless. Out of that anxiety came a reminder that it is God alone that supplies all my needs. It was in this season that God gave me the song “If I Ever Needed Grace” which still ministers to my soul when I sing it today.
YADA: The first single is “I Will Find You” with Lecrae. Talk to us about that
JIMMY: I wrote this song with my friends Ross King and Lecrae. It was inspired by my neighbour, Jimmy, who had rejected Jesus after I shared the gospel with him. This song serves a reminder to me that it is the work of God alone to save, not me.
YADA: What is your creative process like?
JIMMY: I am constantly recording lyric and melody ideas on my iPhone. Then, every so often I will sit down and prayfully go through them to see which ideas are really resonating with me. I’ll pick one and chase it down for a couple hours and see what comes. Some songs take 5 minutes to write. Others take 5 years. Literally.
YADA: How would you describe your sound?
JIMMY: I call what I do “Soul-Pop”. Honest lyrics and soulful sounds. That’s my goal.
YADA: Which artists are the major influences on this new project?
JIMMY: I grew up listening to soul music as a kid: Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Jackson 5, B.B. King, etc. I just love the passion of that musical style. Lyrically, I’ve really been impacted by folks like Keith Green, Derek Webb, Lecrae, Ross King, Lauryn Hill and Nichole Nordeman.
YADA: Are you involved in any project outside music?
JIMMY: I do discipleship for high school and college guys when I’m home. That’s really my deepest passion, to see the younger generation taste and see the goodness of God.
YADA: Do you have plans for an international tour? Possibly a visit to Nigeria
JIMMY: If you find a place for me to play, I’ll be there!
YADA: Final word for our readers
JIMMY: The goal of my ministry is one thing: That people would get a clearer glimpse of the glorious Lord through my music than they had before.
Songs currently on your playlist
Bethany Dillon’s new EP, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman, “The War Inside” by Switchfoot, and the audio book “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Conner
Book you just finished reading
“A Hunger for God” by John Piper
TV Character most like you
How about a movie character…Robert the Bruce from “Braveheart”.
Peanut butter or jelly