[ interview with joshua brown | gospel music week 2005 ]
cMW: What is the biggest difference in touring as a mainstream band with touring with a Christian band?
Josh: Right now for us it is probably just venues. As a band, it is the same. Like when you are travelling every day and you know you need this much to live — eating and all those things. And just the camaraderie is about the same. Of course, there are way less drugs. When I toured with Full Devil Jacket, it was drugs and sex and partying. And now it is touring without that aspect and it is touring with a purpose. Like you can have a really hard day out on the road being in Day of Fire. And everything can go wrong all the way up to the time of the show. God brings refreshment. When you go ahead and have the right attitude and you play — not even just play but when you go there to meet people and give and to refresh somebody else — God always refreshes you. In many ways it is the same, except we have a purpose. We are not going to a city just to put on a rock show. A relationship ministry kind of thing is involved. It's cool! I mean, honestly, it is fulfilling. It is way better!
cMW: I have heard about your background. A lot of people who have gone thru similar situations as yours get "converted," then stay with it a while, then they fall back. What keeps you grounded?
Josh: I did not have a "conversion". I have had an encounter with God. I did not just make a decision to decide to change my moral code. I know God is real and I have had encounters with God. A friend told me God is like this. God is like a river. You stick your big toe in the river and you find out that it feels pretty good. Then you wade out deeper a little bit, up to your knees. Then you just step out into the middle of the stream when there is absolutely no way you can hold yourself above water — and only God can hold you above water. That is kind of where I am at in it. There is no where else to turn. So I do not have a choice but to turn away. My whole life is grounded in Jesus and His promises. I do not have anywhere else to get to. I should be dead of disease. I should be alone. If you look at all of the things I did in my life, I really really should not be here at all — even alive. I should be burning in hell. There is just no where else to go and I don't want to go anywhere else.
cMW: This week, one of the Third Day Gomers told me that you go around talking about Jesus all the time.
Josh: And this is the thing, too. This is the way I keep myself accountable. When you do put yourself out there and you boast in God and speak about faith, you have to stay accountable about what you say, too. And believe me, I wish that I had a much stronger character than I do. Not to say that I get it right all the time, but I do know this, God loves me. And the gospel is spread through me and despite me all the time. That is the beautiful thing about even playing music that is inspired by God. Sometimes, we as musicians and as a touring band. We muster up all our strength just to go out there to play a rock show. And that is about all we can give at that time because that is all there is. Because people go to seek God and because God desires to touch people no matter what. He takes our best effort at the time, and He uses that to pour out what he wants to pour out on people.
And speaking of Third Day, this is so awesome how God uses Third Day. The first time I went to see Third Day, I went to go see a rock concert. Seriously. And I thought it was a good rock concert and I was like, "Wow." Because I used to be in the band and I am watching the way they are on stage and listening to the music [thinking], "It's pretty good. I like it." And the next time I went to see Third Day, I was just completely drained spiritually. (This was before Day of Fire came about.) And I needed an experience with God. I needed to encounter God because I had run out of juice. My fuel tank was on empty. And life was still happening.
So I went there just looking for the Lord and then God met me there. God refreshed my heart for an hour and a half. I am talking that I had a major major major encounter with God. It even changed the way I looked at music. Because I realized that is what God called me to do. God has called me to pour out and to be a vehicle for others to get to Him. It just changed the way I looked at music.
cMW: I can definitely relate to that kind of experience in a different but similar way.
Josh: And you figure out that at one time you think that God uses people in that way because the people have it together in such a way and they have a certain formula down in their faith. But in God's eyes we are all on the same level. We are all on the same playing field. And even the guy who has got it together way more than the guy who is struggling, in God's eyes it is all one because one guy's very best is still not good enough. And one guy's very worst is still not bad enough.
cMW: You are working on a new album. How is working on this one different from the first one?
Josh: We are just starting to write the new one. I feel like there is more focus right now in my writing personally on the pain of humanity without God. When I see records — because I used to listen to Pink Floyd, I love Pink Floyd, it is one of my favorite bands — they are all concept records. Every Pink Floyd record is a concept record. I kind of see us as being a concept band. I don't think it was translated as well on this last album.
But I feel like our music is like bridge music for people that are on one side of the fence to walk over to the other side — right now the bridge begins in a troubled place — and to reach people at the troubled place, which is in the darkness, and to bring them over into the light of God. Or at least show them that there is a door that is open and that there is a light shining through and to give them an opportunity to walk through. Right now it is just dealing with the pain that people go through and issues. Dealing with molestation and dealing with cutting and just dealing with things that people go through in life and how God can bring healing in those areas.
cMW: Do you ever have songs that don't make it to albums?
Josh: You know, I do not write tons and tons of music like a lot of people. A lot of people will spit out seventy songs and ten of them make it to an album. I feel most of the songs that I write will make it to records. They mean so much to me. I feel like every song has got to have a distinct purpose and I try to write it like it is the last song in my career. Sometimes the songs that I write you do not want to be the last song in my career because they are not that great. But I just write with the intent for as many people to hear it as possible. That is the way my head is.
cMW: Is there anything you learned from your experience while touring with Third Day and tobyMac?
Josh: One thing with those guys is that they are consistent. Touring is a very inconsistent thing because even though you are pretty much doing the same thing every day, you are running into new situations and new circumstances that are totally altering your day and the way you are going about your business. But really the biggest thing I learned with Third Day and tobyMac was that they are disciplined enough to be consistent. And that is the hard thing for me on the road — keeping that consistency, keeping that prayer life. Those guys have done that.
Also, Brad will just sit down and teach you some stuff. He told me in the beginning, he's like, "Living on the road it like time management. How do you choose to use your time?" He said, if you will build a routine of positive things — prayer and reading the Word and working out and hanging with your brothers in the band and all that, the road can be a wonderful place. If you get to a place where you do not know what to do with your time, you get away from intimacy with God, he said it can be very, very hard. But he was like, "If you can manage your time, you can be victorious." I am starting to find that. It took me five months to figure out what he was saying.
cMW: What about anything that you have taught or encouraged bands that you have toured with?
Josh: We are touring with Krystal Meyers right now and this is her very first tour. We probably did her first real rock show with her and every one since. I don't know that I have a lot to offer right now. I am still learning myself. Hopefully when they look at me they see some kind of consistency in myself. I guess the one thing — the gift that God has given me — is just being about people. I definitely use the opportunities that God has given me to hang with people because people to me are interesting. It is interesting for me to hear about your life and the way you live and your business and the things you go through. I hope they see that because that is what God is about. That is what touring is about. That is what music is about — it is about connecting with people.
cMW: Some people may have heard you maybe at a Third Day show or have heard a more "radio-friendly" type song and buy your CD and realize, "Whoa. This is not what I expected." How do you reckon with that?
Josh: To me, all of our CD is radio-friendly. Honestly — and maybe they would not come up and tell me anyway — nobody has told me, "Man, I bought your CD and the 'Cornerstone' song is alright but the rest of it is like phew." It is weird because the biggest response we have had is people who thought for sure they would not like that sort of music have come up to us and have said, "Man, I love this CD." It is because it was put together by God. Not to say that I did not have my hands in it. I did have my hands in it. Most of the CD is inspired and put together by God. When God is in the middle of it, it is beyond genre. That is why, originally when I started listening to Third Day, I was listening to harder music. And back in the day I really wasn't listening to music like that. But what they do, and tobyMac, MercyMe, Michael W. Smith, translates because it is beyond just song-writing and it is beyond just the sound of the music. It is like the heartbeat of God. And it translates to anybody.
cMW: It is true. There are a lot of bands or music that I would not listen to, except for the fact of what you just said.
Josh: It draws people in. It is the anointing of God that draws people in.
cMW: I sometimes go to shows and I am amazed, "Oh wow. That was not so bad!" I work at a lot of local concerts so I have to experience a lot of music that I would not choose to go but once I have experienced it, I may say, "Oh. I liked it."
Josh: Me, too. I constantly will judge music. I am not even into real heavy music, but God is using it. And when I find something that God is using, I will listen to it, whether I like the style or not.
cMW: What have you been listening to most recently?
Josh: I have got this heavy record called Killswitch Engage. They are a heavy metal band like scream and hardcore. They have toured in bars and stuff like that. You read their lyrics and it is like hard core Christian lyrics. I never knew it. I really did not like them because they were just too heavy for me. But I started listening to that and I was like, "Man, this is amazing." I have also been listening to the new U2 album. And to me, God really speaks to me out of that.
cMW: That is an incredible album. It is actually the first U2 album I ever bought.
Josh: It's my second. I like it. I guess I am a late bloomer when it comes to U2. It is a wonderful album. Then I went back and I am buying some of my old favorites like Waylon Jennings Honky Tonk Heroes. I just bought that. Soundgarden, Down on the Upside. So I am going back and buying albums that really, really impacted the sound of the music that I like because that is the kind of music that moves me as far as chord progressions and just the emotion behind it. It is where I want to connect with people. I want to play music that I would listen to.
cMW: Can you tell us how the Rock for Food tour is going?
Josh: We are out there with Krystal Meyers and we have done some shows with Overflow and Olivia. We have seen a lot of food raised and maybe some more awareness raised that in every community there is poverty and if everybody can give a little bit, then we can all benefit from it.
cMW: Is that part of the entrance — to bring some canned food or something like that?
Josh: They have it set up like this. It is five dollars at the door to get in, plus a food item. And then they give you a five-dollar voucher toward merch. So the money that you do give already gets you five bucks worth of merch. It gives people incentive to come out. We are all new bands. We are all building a fan base. And we are all learning how to tour on the road. It is giving us all an opportunity to come in contact with people that want to help the community and people that are into rock music.
Also, whoever brings the Rock for Food tour in — the venue or the promoter — gets to decide where the food goes. Nobody knows the city like you do. The area where they see the greatest need — they are able to give the food in that area. It kind of gives it a more personal feeling than just going to the state. It is hands on. It gives people the opportunity to step out and give.
cMW: Do the people that get the food get to come to the shows?
Josh: They would. I guess the greater thing would be to go into those areas and to make sure those people get to come.
cMW: I guess that would be the promoters responsibility to do that.
Josh: Yes, it would be hard for us to. But you know what? Because it is still in its development stages, that is not a bad idea. Do you know what it takes to get anything done? It takes focus and organization. Touring and stuff like that and getting Rock [for Food] dates together, you do not realize what it takes until after you get out there. You get out there and do it and you are like, "Man, we can do this, this and this different. We can do this, this and this better. Next time, let's go ahead and do this." This is the very first Rock for Food tour. So by the third and the fifth one, hopefully there will be greater organization and also greater outreach. Right now we are just trying to get it in motion. Take the first step first.
- Kim Flanders
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