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[ by ben forrest ]


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By the time you read this, it will have been at least 12 months since Jeremy Camp released his debut project, Stay. During that time, he has been home for all of two weeks, has gotten engaged, has recorded his second offering, a worship album due in February, and has begun writing for a third. This whirlwind is the life of a devout, ministry-minded artist who got into music by accident and has been running with it ever since. So how is Jeremy Camp feeling about being Jeremy Camp?

"Things are going really well for me at the moment," though "it's pretty sad when you call your hotel room your home." Since releasing Stay, he has been living out of his suitcase, planning for life with his new bride (musician Adrienne Liesching) but telling the story almost every night the story of how he came to meet and marry his first wife, Melissa.

He tells it also on his official website, jeremycamp.com. It goes something like this:

Young Jerms heads out from Lafayette, Indiana and lands at a Bible college in Southern California, not knowing what he will do with his life. For kicks, he plays guitar and is overheard one day by the school's worship leader. Eventually, he is leading worship himself at the college and at various other venues in So Cal. One day, while playing for a small Bible study group in San Diego, he meets a girl who raises "her hands high above her head to praise God." He is struck by the depth of her love for God, and the two begin dating. After four months, however, they call it quits and go their separate ways.

The next time they speak is in a hospital. The girl, only 20, has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "I walked into the hospital," he says on the website, "and she was just beaming. You could tell she wasn't bummed out. She was just trusting the Lord. It was amazing." While driving home from that visit, Camp makes an odd promise. "I drove away saying, 'God, if You want me to marry Melissa, knowing she could die from this cancer, then I will. If she tells me she loves me, I'll marry her.'" She says those words the next time they see one another, and they are married five months later.

By February 5, 2001, the cancer has devoured her, and Camp is left to journey alone.

"The most difficult times are the anniversary of our wedding day, and the date of her death," said Camp in an interview with cMusicWeb.com. I have no regrets at all in marrying Melissa. I loved her with all my heart, and God has used this so much in my life to be able to reach into the hearts of people and share of His faithfulness."

His new fiancée supports fully the fact that Camp shares this testimony nightly and, "loves to see how God uses it." Two-and-a-half-years after her death, God is still making use of the life of a woman who once told Camp that if one person came to know Christ through her illness, it would be worth it.

But, of course, Jeremy Camp concerts are made of more stuff than this. They are concerts, after all, and Camp is a musician. It is to his music that we will turn our attention now.

Stay was well received by some reviewers and panned by others. But a few, like this one, from the All Music Guide, were ecstatic. "Newcomer Jeremy Camp delivers one of the most awe-inspiring performances of any debut Christian artist in the past decade," they wrote. Camp doesn't deny that reviews like that are encouraging, but says he doesn't read his own press. "I read my reviews when I first started, until I received my first bad review and figured I can't base what I feel God has given me on the opinion of man. The fact is, not everyone will like the music. That is why there are so many different styles out there, and [quality] is a matter of opinion."

The new album, which according to Camp has a sound similar to Stay, is actually a return to his roots as a worship leader. "We always play worship songs in our concerts," says Camp in reference to he and his band. "Those are my roots."

As mentioned, a third album is already in the works, and Camp will enter the studio in January in order to record it. The songs for that album will be "more melodic," he says, and showcase more mature songwriting. "There are still pop songs, ballads, and good ol' rock and roll. Lyrically, the songs still glorify God. I have learned things over the year, so there are fresh things the Lord has shown me."

Ah yes, and then there is God. Much as I tried to stick mainly to Camp's music and relationships during our interview, God talk was very much present. He plans to become a youth pastor at some point, considers himself an employee of his Maker rather than his record company, and used the word "God" 15 times. The message, it seems, is that he can't talk about one without mentioning the other.

It's easy to conclude, then, that Camp is in reality what many Christian musicians aim to be: a true servant devoted to doing God's work. Echoing the message of his late wife, Camp says changing one life really is enough. Not only that, it's a privilege. "When push comes to shove," he says, "if God has used [my music] to touch even one person's life, wow, what an honor!"
- Ben Forrest
September 2003
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